ALAN Brown insists he is “excited and raring to go” for the new season at Hartlepool Rovers – despite a spate of summer defections.
Rovers have lost a third of their First XV but Brown refuses to be downcast about the club’s prospects.
Andrew Lilley and Darren Smith quit to join former Rovers and West star Gareth Foreman at Boys Brigade Old Boys before Stewart Grazier, Ian Pinchen and Steve Smith all left to go to play National League rugby.
Grazier and Pinchen have signed for West while Steve Smith (no relation to Darren) has joined their National Three North neighbours Billingham.
To lose one would be a blow but to lose five is, on paper, as damaging as the events of two summers ago when the Foreman brothers exited, especially as four of the departed are forwards.
It comes as something of a surprise considering Rovers finished the 2011-12 programme on a high, beating Durham Northumberland One runners-up Alnwick on the final league Saturday before defeating Middlesbrough in the centenary RF Oakes Memorial Game.
The brilliant cup run of the club’s U17 team to the semi-final of the RFU National Bowl also gave the Friarage outfit cause for optimism.
Brown remains positive and believes Rovers, who start the campaign tomorrow in a friendly against Seaton Carew, are better prepared to cope with their current woes.
“It’s been disappointing to see players leave this club,” Brown told SportMail.
“We finished fourth last season – starting and ending strongly with a bad bit in the middle period.
“We spoke at the end of last season about pushing on and if we had not lost this personnel I am confident we’d have been challenging for second or hopefully top spot.
“My aim is still for top four and I think we’ll surprise a few teams this season.”I think some clubs might view what’s happened and say we’ll do nothing.
“But the lads we have here now are totally committed to Hartlepool Rovers and will give their all.”
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