Cougars player-coach Paul March is looking forward to crossing swords with Bobbie Goulding this weekend but is expecting see his former team-mate in the dug-out rather than on the pitch.
Goulding was recently appointed as head coach of Barrow last week and will bring his side to Cougar Park on Sunday (2pm) in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup fourth round.
Goulding is one of the most successful players to have competed for rugby league’s oldest and most coveted trophy, winning it four times as a player, and hopes to pass that experience onto his players.
The former St Helens and Great Britain playmaker has also signed playing terms at Craven Park and has not ruled out a comeback at the age of 42.
But March, who played with Goulding at Wakefield, said: “I’m glad Bobbie is back in the game but, regarding him pulling his boots back on, I think it’s more him saying that in frustration at watching his side perform last weekend (losing 37-12 at Whitehaven).
“I don’t think Bobbie playing again is a realistic prospect.
“Obviously he was a world-class player but the game has moved on and he won’t be physically in shape to play.
“I can see where his frustrations lie because as a coach you always want to do the best for your side but in this case I think it’s more frustration than realism.”
March is now hoping that the return of personnel will strengthen the side going into this weekend’s match, where victory could see Cougars land a plum tie in the fifth round.
Ash Lindsay is set to be out for around two months with a broken leg but other players are coming back into the reckoning, including himself following a four-match ban.
March said: “There are players to come in now.
“I’m coming back from suspension, James Haley’s ready to go and also Daley Williams and Lewis Graham, so we’ll take a look at the video and we will make those changes if we need to.
“It’s a massive boost having James Haley back. He’s a quality player and he strengthens us up in the centres. We’ve missed him and him coming back into training over the last few weeks has lifted everybody.”
Cougars have already beaten three Cumbrian sides this year after dispatching Whitehaven and Workington in league combat and Wath Brow Hornets in the Challenge Cup.
March is expecting an improvement from his players following last weekend’s 42-24 home defeat at the hands of Sheffield Eagles.
He added: “Yes, we are slight favourites but it’s going to be a tough game because Barrow are going to be enthusiastic.
“They’ve got a new coach so they’ll give it everything.
“We’ll do the same again and we’ll concentrate on what we do and we need to fix things up.
“If we do that, the game will go our way, but if we don’t it’ll be a dogfight again and we’ll have to earn it.
“We just need to learn from the little things we did against Sheffield and make sure we put them right.
“If we do that then the scoreline will take care itself.”
Meanwhile, Cougars Under-20s side lost 30-28 at home to the Midlands Academy on Saturday.
Liam Darville, Taylor Stott, trialist James Han-son, Ben Blackwell and Chris Unsworth scored for Cougars.