New ground blow for ‘Gate

19/1/04   Claro Road  the home of Harrogate Rugby Union club.
19/1/04 Claro Road the home of Harrogate Rugby Union club.

HARROGATE travel to Cumbrian battlers Kendal tomorrow (3pm ko), as club officials reel from a fresh blow to their hopes of staying at Claro Road.

Harrogate chairman Paul Barnard reacted angrily this week after developer Crest Nicholson announced plans to take over the site from June 1.

The club is playing at the ground under lease and thought it had a five-year agreement to remain there, only for Crest to operate a break clause.

The rugby club is offering the developer “well in excess” of £1m to buy back the ground.

Stephen Stone, Chief Executive of Crest Nicholson said: “At the moment all we are doing is taking possession of the site, as agreed many years ago. The future use of the land has yet to be determined.”

But Barnard feels this is unacceptable: “This announcement is profoundly disappointing,” he said.

“The actions taken by Crest have put in jeopardy the future of the club, the 300 senior playing members, the 400 juniors and the supporters and employees.

“They’re playing with people’s lives here and I think their tactics are fundamentally unprofessional and unacceptable.”

For more on the story see page three of the Harrogate Advertiser.

Back on the pitch, the now annual trip to the edge of the Lake District proved a disappointing one last season.

‘Gate were pipped 13-12 and team manager Graham Siswick is desperate for history not to repeat itself at Mint Bridge.

He’s also staying wary of a Kendal side currently in the middle of a National Two North purple patch.

Back-to-back wins over Luctonians and Morley have given will hold them in good stead for three on the bounce.

“It’s never an easy place to go but at least the weather will be good this time,” said Siswick.

“They’re also a well supported side. When the team is going well they get a lot behind them and it really helps them out.

“They’ve been on a good run I expect a good crowd there which can only be good for them.

“It should be a good atmosphere.

“It’s going to be another battle. Sometimes when you are playing mid-table side’s it is a lot more easier than those down the bottom with commitment and desire.”

Centre Sam Bottomley is set to return to the starting line-up tomorrow.

Full back Ed Smithies and player-coach Mike Aspinall are unavailable.

‘Gate will then have six games left with the season now stretching to May 21.

On Saturday Harrogate pulled off a 37-19 victory over Yorkshire rivals Morley.

Siswick was delighted with the display against their Yorkshire rivals.

“It was a good performance,” he said.

“We’ve picked up 23 points from 25 available so we’re in good form at the moment.”