Lee Mossop talks leaving Wigan, facing his old club this weekend... and opening his own coffee shop.
You were under contract with Wigan – did the switch to Salford come out of the blue?
It did and it didn’t. Before I moved to the NRL, I was playing 60 minutes every week and I was in the England squad, and when I came back I knew I wasn’t at that level. I had a fifth shoulder reconstruction and the first year took me a while to get back into it. By the end of that first season (2015), I felt I got back to a good level, I had a full pre-season and got my confidence back, but the amount of quality we had at props... there were six or seven players who would be starting props elsewhere. So it came down to the selfish side of me, I just wanted to be playing bigger minutes again, and pushing for the England shirt. A prop playing 20 or 30 minutes every week is never going to do that. Leaving Wigan was the last thing I wanted to do, but I think it was for the best.
Will it be weird facing them this weekend?
Of course it will. The likes of Faz, Micky, Joel, Sam... I’ve played with them for 10 years, and I’ve never played against any of them before. They’re blokes I trained and played with for years, so it’ll definitely weird, but exciting as well.
How are you finding it at Salford?
It’s shocked me in a lot of ways. I didn’t think training would be as intense, but it’s been really tough. They play a different brand, they throw the ball around a lot, Watto (Ian Watson, coach) and Gleese (Martin Gleeson, assistant) want us to play an attractive style, and I’m enjoying it. It’s like starting at a new school, and having to earn everyone’s respect again.
Salford won’t start the year expected to be challenging for trophies...
But at the same time, Watto and Gleese haven’t tried to hide how ambitious they are. Last year, before the points deduction, they were a top-eight team and since then they have signed players who have been around big clubs. Hopefully I can add something to the team from being at a club where you’re expected to win trophies. Looking from the outside in, you may expect it to be laid back, and not bothered if we win or not, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m pretty confident we can surprise a few people this year.
During the off-season, you opened your own coffee shop and wine bar, The Old Bank, in Orrell. Was it a steep learning curve?
Definitely. It was stressful at times. There were days when I thought, ‘Why have I done it?’ But now it’s finished I’m glad I have it. I can enjoy it a bit more.
When did you hit on the idea of opening your own coffee shop?
When I went to Australia (in 2014). There’s a big coffee-culture over there, but they don’t have as many chains – they have a lot more independent, quirky cafes – and so after training, my wife and I would try different ones. We said then we’d love to do something like that, and when this building came up, we decided to go for it. It’s been a team effort – I’ve done all the stressful things, and she’s picked out the lights and tasted the coffee!
Did anything open your eyes about launching a business?
The hardest part was making everything flow. So, for instance, if a plasterer said, ‘I can’t get here today, it’ll be tomorrow’, you’d think it would put everything back a day, but the knock-on would take longer, so then the electrician can’t come for another week, and so on.
And is this the start of a possible chain?
I’m not sure about that! I’ll enjoy this for a while. My wife had our second baby at the same time as we were getting it ready, so it was stressful enough.
Wigan’s training ground is around the corner – have your old team-mates been in?
They have... a few tried it on at the start and wanted freebies! I’ve had a few coming in, it’s good to get them here. We were open in time for December, which was great, January was inevitably quieter, and we’ve picked back up now.
A week after this game, it’s the World Club Challenge - will you be a Wigan fan again?
Without a doubt. I was a fan before I joined the club – I’ve supported Wigan since I started playing the game aged four or five in Cumbria – and now I’m not there, I’ll support them again. I live in the town, a lot of my good mates are there, without a doubt I’ll be hoping they do well.