FROM a primary school in the Rossendale Valley to the Olympic Games – it has been some journey for GB men’s handball assistant coach Bill Baillie.

It was over a decade ago that Baillie was persuaded back into the game to teach youngsters at Haslingden Primary School.

Passions suitably rekindled, Baillie played his part in setting up Haslingden Handball Club where current GB stars Holly Lam-Moores – who will be in action against Montenegro today – and Ciaran Williams first started out.

So when Williams walks out on court tomorrow to face France, Baillie knows that had it not have been for those first sessions at the school, such Olympic dreams may well not have been realised.

“I was contacted by Bob Rawlinson who was one of the parents keen to set up a club in the Valley,” said the Scot, who is assistant to Dragan Djukic. “I had been in the game for about 20 years, both up in Glasgow and in Salford so I wanted a break. But Bob ended all that!

“So I guess Ciaran, Holly and myself have a lot to be thankful for.”

Williams and Lam-Moores were among the club’s first members and Baillie remembers the day he spotted Lam-Moore’s potential to become a top player.

“I went to Alder Grange School to hold a handball taster session and saw Holly,” recalled Baillie who is also head coach of British champions Salford. “I knew after 40 minutes that she could be a very good handball player and invited her to the club.

“She was basically the start of our girls section. I also knew Ciaran from my Salford days and he came along too.”

Baillie said he was immensely proud when the pair were announced in the GB squads having helped nurture their talents.

“When Holly and Ciaran earned their places in the GB squads it was real emotion for me because I have known them from the beginning. I brought both of them to Haslingden and have seen them grow and improve in to top class players which makes me immensely proud.”

With reigning Olympic champions France and runners-up from Biejing, Iceland, in their group, Great Britain are in for a tough test. But Baillie is targeting wins against Argentina and Tunisia to get to the quarter finals.

“We could not have had a more difficult start against France but Argentina in our next game is our real test,” said Baillie. “We have set our sights on beating them and Tunisia. If we do that and get out of the group, that would be a success.”

Baillie believes the sport can become a national obsession.

“I truly believe handball will be the number one legacy sport of the Olympics,” he added.

“But we have to be in a position to react to that – and that means being ready the day after the Games end.”