Featherstone Rovers are relishing the prospect of being thrust into the national limelight this weekend with their fifth round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie being chosen for live TV coverage.
Memories of classic cup ties of the past are being resurrected ahead of Rovers’ meeting with Batley at their old Mount Pleasant ground, now called the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, on Saturday and the players are keen to earn their own slice of history at a club rich in Challenge Cup tradition.
Head coach Jon Sharp has noticed a spring in the step of the players ahead of the big cup tie, which has a place in the last 16 of the competition at stake and gives Featherstone a chance to put the town back on the map in their first televised live game for a while.
“I think the players are looking forward to being in the spotlight this week with the game being live on Sky,” Sharp told the Express.
“With that there’s some obligations to play well and added pressure so we need to be good. We need to play like we’ve been playing all year and it should be a really good game, a tight one I imagine.
“It’s always a good atmosphere at Batley. It’s an old club of mine and I’ve got some fond memories of the short time I was there.
“There’s some good people there, the club’s well run, it’s a champion club.
“But being a Featherstone lad I know the history behind this club and the Challenge Cup.
“I’ve got fond memories of watching Featherstone in cup finals as well so we all know the obligations behind performing well for this club with a rich Challenge Cup history.
“It would be nice to add to that history on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough one, we know that. Batley can play and they have a coach who knows how to get them ready for the big games so we are expecting a close one.”
Sharp believes the Challenge Cup still has a magic about it that players respond to.
He said: “We’re really pleased to be in the Challenge Cup this week and looking forward to playing a team who’ve been in good form this year.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge. They are above us in the league and have been most of the year so we understand how difficult it’s going to be. But we’re excited to be in a knockout competition.
“It’s a fantastic competition to be in and we are a proud club who’s got some great history in the game and the cup.
“But we’re just concentrating on Batley at the minute, there’s no talk of next round of the draw at all.”
Sharp has been impressed with Batley’s performances this year and is expecting a difficult challenge for his team.
He added: “It’s likely to be a physical battle.
“Batley are a dogged team, they play with plenty of heart, plenty of character.
“They have a patience about them that proves they are hard to beat and we need to be good in that area.
“We managed to get a win against them earlier in the season, but conditions were different that day and there were only two points in it at the end so we know they’re a good team.
“They’ve sustained that early season form and they’ve proven to be up there on merit really.
“It’s not been by luck that they’ve beaten some top sides, it’s very much been by real good form and good play. John Kear’s done a great job with them.
“I think their attitude as a team is their main strength. They work really hard for each other.
“They are a team that all work hard and muck in for one another. That’s the greatest compliment I could give them.”