KEIGHLEY Albion have announced that Rob Spencer will be joining the club's senior coaching team ahead of the 2021 season, having been appointed as assistant first team head coach.

Spencer has a strong background of elite athletic performance, having graduated in 2010 with a first class honours degree in Sports Injury Rehabilitation before attaining a postgraduate certificate in Strength and Conditioning in 2014.

He has held a rugby league coaching qualification for 13 years, and is currently applying for a Level Three Award, the highest coaching accreditation in the sport.

With previous experience working at Salford City Reds, Kilmarnock and Manchester City Ladies on his CV, Spencer's appointment will be a boost to the ambitious Albion club.

Having retained the services of highly respected first team head coach Dean Buckler, who previously coached Sheffield Eagles Under-23s - as well as Australian sides Newton Jets and Northern Bulldogs, the club are excited to see the coaching partnership in action, with their sights firmly set on a highly successful season in the Yorkshire Leagues in 2021.

During his rugby league career, Spencer played for both the Keighley Cougars' U18 and U21 academy sides, before joining Super League outfit Salford during his time at the University of Salford.

He played for Eccles & Salford Roosters in the National Conference League, where he won the NCL Division Two League Championship in 2010, and he was also a member of the Oldham RLFC U23s Reserves squad who won the 2011 Grand Final against Widnes.

Unfortunately, Spencer's career was cut short due to a series of repetitive injuries following a serious leg break while playing, along with family commitments and work demands.

No stranger to Albion, Spencer has been coaching junior teams at the club for the past three seasons, and is also a member of the club's committee as media manager, which includes running the club's successful Facebook page, which has over 5,000 followers.

Another positive from this announcement is the strengthened link between the community club and the town’s professional side, Keighley Cougars.

Spencer has been working on setting up the newly-launched Cougars Foundation on a voluntary basis.

The Foundation aims to rekindle the spirit of the 1990s, when Cougarmania swept through the town as the team achieved national success, and matches attracted more than 6,000 spectators.

The wider Keighley community united behind the Cougars brand, inspiring a generation of youngsters to take up the sport of rugby league.

A lifelong Cougars fan influenced by the Cougarmania period, one of Spencer’s claims to fame is that, as a six-year-old, he was the mascot at Old Trafford for Keighley's most famous victory, when they won the Division Two Premiership final in 1995.

He now wants to give back to the club and the Keighley rugby league community, helping to create pathways and opportunities for Keighley players to develop and play professionally for their hometown club.

On the announcement of his appointment, Spencer said: “I’d like to thank chairman Richard Dibbin and head coach Dean Buckler for the opportunity to join the open age coaching staff ahead of 2021.

“The chance to learn and develop under a such well respected and experienced head coach is fantastic.

“Having discussed the opportunity with Dean, I’m really on board with his coaching philosophy, and really excited by his ideas and vision for the club.

“I can’t wait to start working alongside him and the open age lads in the upcoming season as we set our sights on a fantastic campaign and future for the first team here at Keighley Albion.”

On the Foundation, Spencer added: “I also hope my combined role between Keighley Albion and the Cougars Foundation can assist in building a strong partnership, as undoubtedly both clubs working closely together will benefit the entire rugby league community in the town enormously.

“Local community rugby league is thriving, and we now have more clubs, teams, players and interest in the district than in the past twenty years, with Silsden Storm, Worth Village, West Craven Warriors and new boys Skipton Knights all progressing fantastically well, even during the pandemic.

“Albion are recognised as one of the biggest community rugby league clubs in the UK in terms of participation, with over 300 players across 15 age groups.

“Seventeen players from the last five years are now affiliated to professional clubs - including Super League sides.

“From previous conversations with the Cougars Board of Directors, as well as Rhys Lovegrove and his coaching team, they have always been very positive and supportive of working with Keighley Albion and other local community sides.

“So through the Cougars Foundation, I’m sure in 2021 you’ll see the clubs working really closely together, from juniors through to the open age.

“Hopefully in time, more Keighley rugby league homegrown talents will have the opportunity to come through the ranks and wear the Keighley Cougars badge with pride.”