- Leek set for Trowbridge test
- Gittens to pit coaching skills against Ojomoh
Ian Gittens has spent most of his rugby career playing under or working with some of the best coaches in England but on Sunday (May 4) he will have the chance to show what he can do when Leek take on Trowbridge in the RFU Intermediate Cup final at Twickenham Stadium (3pm).
Gittens played alongside Kevin Bowring, a future Wales national coach and now the RFU head of elite coach development, at London Welsh, was coached by Bev Risman, a dual code rugby internatonal, at Borough Road College in Isleworth, then by Fran Cotton and Steve Smith at Sale and Mike Slemen at Liverpool St Helens.
When Gittens moved into coaching he worked alongside Steve Diamond at Macclesfield before Diamond returned to Sale Sarks.
Gittens’s coaching career has since taken in spells with Derby and Stoke but his five years stint as head coach of Leek has proved particularly productive. A five-year plan to develop youngsters who have progressed through the ranks at the Staffordshire club has already brought the Midlands Two West (North) title and the Midlands Intermediate Cup.
A win over Aspatria in the national semi-finals helped Gittens to compensate for the disappointment of a defeat at the same stage of the competition when he was at Macclesfield and a meeting with Trowbridge, who are coached by former Bath and England back-row forward Steve Ojomoh, now awaits Leek at Twickenham.
“I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career to have played for and worked with some outstanding coaches,” Gittens said.
“Bev Risman was a massive influence on me but I’ve had the chance to work with other coaches who also did well in their playing careers and to see what methods worked for them.”
Gittens, who lectures in sport and exercise science at Stoke on Trent College, has made his mark at Leek who held their nerve to beat Newbold-on-Avon and Bridgnorth in thrilling contests on their way to the Midlands title.
Fly half Gary McDermott kicked last-minute conversions in both of those matches and won praise from Gittens.
“The whole McDermott family eat, live and sleep Leek RFC,” Gittens said. “Gary’s father John is a central figure in the club and his brother also plays for us.
“Gary had a dabble at a higher level with Macclesfield but work meant that he was not necessarily able to commit himself.
“But he is a person that the other players respect and they respond very well to him on the field.”
Since Leek beat Asptaria, Gittens has been busy preparing for the final and the biggest day in the club’s history.
Part of those preparations included a reconnaissance trip to Twickenham to assess a stadium that none of his players have played at before.
“I’ve been down to Twickenham to have a look at the place and the view when you come out of the players’ tunnel is amazing, it’s a bit like looking at the north face of the Eiger,” Gittens said.