Blackpool excited for Leeds test

Martin Crompton is calling on Leeds Rhinos fans to cheer on Blackpool Panthers against their own team when the two sides meet at Headingley Carnegie on Friday night.

The Panthers coach knows his Co-operative Championship One underdogs are not expected to beat the Rhinos in their Carnegie Challenge Cup fifth round tie.

But Crompton is urging the Headingley faithful to give his boys a boost in the biggest game in the club’s history.

He said: “Playing Leeds is a dream come true for a little club like Blackpool and for some of my players it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Whenever I played at Headingley with lower division clubs I always found the Leeds fans to be genuinely fantastic supporters.

“They are true Rugby League fans, rather than just Leeds fans, and I’m hoping they appreciate what we will be trying to do in this David and Goliath clash.

“I know they will be biased towards Leeds but I’m hoping they will turn out in huge numbers to give us some backing.

“We are expecting to take 150 fans, which is 10 times what we normally take to away games. If we have the Leeds supporters behind us as well, it will be tremendous.”

Former Warrington and Wigan hooker Crompton was labelled as mad when he took over whipping boys Blackpool in 2007.

The club were 36 games into a 45-game run without a single win and the club was riddled with problems on and off the field.

But almost three years on and Crompton is now being hailed as a miracle worker for turning around the club’s fortunes.

They reached the play-offs last year and are unbeaten in Championship One this season and pushing leaders Hunslet every step of the way.

Crompton said: “First of all I know I’m bonkers but as a coach you have a responsibility to take the club forward on and off the field.

“The club was in poor shape when I took over. There was not much organisation and there was poor discipline.

“But I’m a big believer in hard work and honesty and I take great pride in knowing how the club has changed.

“It is flattering getting pats on the back and it’s great to see the club is in a vein of success but it is a massive team effort.

“I was asked to do a job and we’ve come a long way in a short time. But I’m not one to rest of my laurels – I’m still as motivated and driven as I was when I took over.”

Crompton played in three Challenge Cup semi-finals and reached the 1990 final with Warrington when they were beaten by Wigan.

He said: “I played at the old Wembley which was everybody’s childhood dream. It is certainly one of the highlights of my career.”

That might just be eclipsed, though, if his lowly Panthers do themselves proud at Headingley.

He said: “This is the biggest game in the club’s history without a doubt. Playing Leeds doesn’t get any bigger. I just hope Brian McClennan rests a few of his star players!”

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