Exclusive: Mike Aspinall to leave role as Harrogate director of rugby

Walking away: Mike Aspinall is leaving Harrogate to focus on property developments
Walking away: Mike Aspinall is leaving Harrogate to focus on property developments

Director of rugby Mike Aspinall has confirmed his intention to leave Harrogate at the end of the season.

After months of consideration, the former Leeds and Saracens scrum half has opted to step away from Rudding Lane and pursue a career in property.

Mike Aspinall joined Harrogate as a player/coach in 2005

Mike Aspinall joined Harrogate as a player/coach in 2005

The coach guided Harrogate to glory in the Yorkshire Cup 12 months ago in his greatest success in an 11-year association with the club.

But results have been mixed during the current season and Harrogate look set for a mid-table finish.

Aspinall said: “It’s been on my mind for some time.

“I think it’s the right time. I have got a good opportunity outside rugby and we want to spend a bit more time on that.

People don’t want me to go, and that’s not a bad time to get out for the right opportunity.”

Mike Aspinall

“It has always been my ambition because I don’t want to really progress up to the Premiership or Championship until, as a family, we have financial stability.

“People don’t want me to go, and that’s not a bad time to get out for the right opportunity.”

Aspinall has been a popular figure at Rudding Lane since joining as a player/coach in 2005.

After the despair of a final day relegation in the 2011/12 season, ‘Gate made an immediate return to National Two North under Aspinall and team manager Graham Siswick by winning a play-off against Sutton Coldfield.

Aspinall enjoyed a fine playing career with Harrogate before turning his focus to coaching full-time

Aspinall enjoyed a fine playing career with Harrogate before turning his focus to coaching full-time

Aspinall was then promoted to director of rugby at the start of the 2013/14 campaign and helped the club stabilise itself in National Two.

He was at the helm as the club left its home of 119 years, Claro Road, guiding the club to a fourth-placed finish in the final year at the ground.

But the crowning glory came at the end of last season when he guided the Cockerels to a historic glory in the Yorkshire Cup with victory over Wharfedale at West Park Leeds.

Harrogate can still retain the county trophy this season with the upcoming derby against fierce rivals Otley acting as a league and cup double on April 30. Such a success would act as the perfect way for Aspinall to bow out but the squad will have to turn round a poor run of form.

Struggling South Leicester gave Harrogate their third defeat of their last five games 36-21 on Saturday to dent hopes of a top five finish.

Following Caldy’s victory over Sedgley Park, a 14-point gap now exists between seventh-placed Harrogate and the top five.

Aspinall added: “The club has to keep moving forward but I have taken this group, with this budget, as far as it will go.”