Author: David Clegg

U19S COME CLOSE IN YET ANOTHER TIGHT ENCOUNTER

Castleford Tigers 20  Salford Red Devils 18             Match Report

For not the first time this season, Salford’s U19s College Academy side came within a whisker of victory in a contest so evenly matched that it became one long arm-wrestle from start to finish, with each sides having their periods of ascendency, and the hosts eventually taking the spoils by a mere two point advantage.

That appeared most unlikely in the early stages, with Castleford opening up a six-point advantage within the first three minutes, as a consequence of enjoying an abundance of possession within close proximity to the visitors’ line.  An end-of-set kick was allowed to bounce and ricocheted to the benefit of the advancing Cas attackers.

Indeed, the Red Devils were somewhat fortunate, a few minutes later, when another end-of-set kick was not regathered and Castleford regained possession to work an overlap on their left flank, only for the final pass to be ruled forward.

Gradually the Salford side forced themselves into the game, and with rather more possession were able to build some attacks of their own, gaining some reward with their first try, on 16 mins.  Second rower, Jimmy Shields, hit a good line, and although tackled just short of the line, was able to maintain his forward momentum, rolling over sideways to place the ball firmly over the line, while Charlie Glover brought the scores level with a successful conversion.

There was no gainsaying, however, that the home side had the better of the first half exchanges, with their then going over for two further, unconverted tries, to take the score to 14-6.

There seems to be no writing off of this U19s Salford side, however, and three minutes from half time, after a period of some prolonged pressure of their own, twice denying the Tigers further tries, with, first, a tremendous gang-tackle on the Cas right winger, who at one stage had looked a certain scorer, whilst sufficient numbers were available to prevent another potential scorer from grounding the ball, having crossed the line.

On the back of this, three minutes before half time, a prolonged period of possession brought further reward when prop, Lucas Isles, was unstoppable as he charged towards the line. giving Glover the easiest of conversions to bring the half-time score to 14-12.

The decisive score of the second half, came on 46 mins, from yet another Castleford attacking kick, which eluded the defending players and the resultant try and goal put the hosts two scores back in front.

If the first half had belonged to the home side, it was the Red Devils who dominated the remainder of the second half, as they sought to get back in touch with their hosts, and it was a sucker punch from half back, Sean Murray, who scooted over from a play-the-ball fifteen metres out.  Glover retained his hundred percent record with the hardest of his three attempts, to narrow the gap, once more.

With thirteen minutes left on the clock, there was still ample time for them to have scored again, and they did also have sufficient possession with which to do so, but the closest they came was when winger, Myles Paul was held up over the line in the left-hand corner.

After so many away games to start the season, the players can look forward to a home fixture, on Wednesday evening when they entertain Barrow, at Salford Roosters ground, KO 6.15pm

U19S CLICK FIRMLY INTO GEAR

Wigan Warriors Education Academy 16  Salford Red Devils 52          Match Report

Victories over Wigan, in general, are few and far between.  Victories away at Wigan  are all the more so, but for Salford’s U19s College Academy team to romp up a total of fifty-two points, at Robin Park, was quite incredible, and extremely noteworthy.

Coach, Danny Barton, succinctly summed it up:

“We had worked really hard during the week, and everything just clicked into place, which I was pleased about because it provided a fitting reward for the players.”

The game was as good as over by half-time, when the Red Devils led by thirty points to six.  Prop, Charlie Glover, was first to cross for a try which he was unable to convert for himself, but he was on target, shortly afterwards when stand-off, Mikey Gilligan, went over, and the score promptly went into double figures.

Indeed, the pair of them were to score again later in the game, as also was the next scorer, second-rower, Jimmy Shields, who took the points tally to sixteen.  Both Glover and Shields ended the game with a brace, whilst Gilligan went on to get a hat-trick.

The first of Wigan’s scores came shortly before the interval, but centre George Charnock and winger, Myles Paul, put the Red Devils in total control before half-time.

Shields’s second effort opened the scoring for the second-half, with what was probably the try of the match, after he had scythed through down the left hand side, and then run over the fullback to ground too far out for the conversion to count.

Lucas Isles completed the list of scorers, apart from Adam Tierney, who added to the total number of goals, whilst Glover was being given the customary breather part way through the half.

Having found the form which had eluded them in their first two outings, this will undoubtedly stand them in good stead for the remainder of their fixtures in the run up to Christmas.

U19S MISS OUT IN CAS THRILLER

Castleford 22  Salford Red Devils 20                          Match Report

Journeys over into Yorkshire seldom bring great rewards for Lancashire teams in general, but Salford Red Devils’ College Academy came extremely close to doing so, on Wednesday afternoon, when they travelled over to take on Castleford, in their first away fixture of the season.

The closeness in standard of the two teams is clearly evident from the score, and was equally evident by the way the game swung from one team to the other.  For the Salford players it must have been most heart-breaking to have come so close to victory, having taken a late 20-16 lead, to then fall behind by two points from a converted try, and then finally just failing to add one final try of their own, in the dying stages of the match.

It was approaching ten minutes into the game before the first try was scored by Castleford, to give them a four-point lead, but the Red Devils replied almost immediately with second rower, Jimmy Shields, going over, and Adam Tierney converting to put them in front.

It was proving to be a ding-dong battle as the teams went head-to-head, and next it was Castleford who restored their lead with two tries and one conversion to take the score to 14-6.

That would have been a fairly satisfactory lead for them to have taken in, at half-time, but the visitors had other ideas, and dummy-half, Luke Elliott, crossed to bring the Red Devils back into contention, with Tierney again adding the extras.

It was all to play for, then, in the second half, and it was Salford who dominated much of what proved to be a much tighter contest, opening the scoring with prop forward, Lucas Isles, crossing, near to the posts, but surprisingly, Tierney, who has been so reliable so far this season, was off the mark with his attempted conversion, leaving the scoreline reading 14-16.

Those two points proved to be important, for, when the home side was awarded a penalty close to the Salford line, they went for goal and succeeded in drawing level.  The irrepressible Tierney, however, compensated in full by going over for the Red Devils’ final try, too far out for him to be able to add the goal, and Castleford’s conversion to their final try was enough to deliver them the win.

The Salford players will not have long to wait before getting the opportunity to wreak revenge, however, as the two teams will meet again, next week, in the first round of the Cup, and with the Yorkshiremen once again having home advantage.

POWERFUL WOLVES PROVE TOO STRONG FOR YOUNG REDS

Salford Red Devils 12  Warrington Wolves 24       Match Report

With up to nine first year players within their ranks, this season’s new look College Academy U19s side were made to struggle against a much more experienced Warrington side, but nevertheless put up a determined resistance, once they had adapted to the intensity of the game.

The not insignificant slope on the Cadishead pitch also played its part in how the encounter unfolded, with the visitors enjoying the advantage it provided for the opening forty minutes, which served to make the young Red Devils’ task all the more challenging, with the Wolves running in back-to-back tries on the seventh and tenth minutes to open up an 0-8 lead.

That, however, only served to galvanise the Salford players and the quality  of their defence improved most markedly, from that point onwards, and their opponents suddenly found themselves being thwarted at every turn, so much so that it started to look as though the lead that they would take into the second half might be insufficient to provide the victory, especially with the incline favouring the Red Devils for the second period.

Sadly, those hopes proved to be overly optimistic as Warrington ran in two further tries on either side of the interval, the second of which they converted to give themselves a rather more comfortable eighteen point lead.

The home side were, however, sufficiently cohesive that they were able to muster a response of their own, with two converted tries of their own, sandwiching the Wolves final score, both of which proved to be the most entertaining of the game.

The first came on 44 mins when Mikey Gilligan put prop Euan Haynes through on a barn-storming run from inside his own half, with Gilligan in support, and he continued the move before handing on to Isaac Wheatley who scored by the posts and promptly converted his own try, to bring the score back to 6-18.

Haynes, again, it was, who repeated the fete with another magnificent break from within his own half, and looked at one stage as though he might be able to score himself, but then was grateful to be able to set up the supporting Myles Paul to complete the score towards the left-hand corner.  With a rather more difficult conversion, Wheatley, most impressively, succeeded once again in extending the score by a further two points.

For a first match of the season, the players can look back on it with a certain level of satisfaction, in the knowledge that they have stood up to one of the stronger sides in their group, and in having done so have increased their level of intensity and execution to the standard that they will require on a week-by-week basis throughout the coming season.

TRIBUTE TO DENNIS BROWN

Salford Red Devils have been saddened to learn of the passing of their former centre, Dennis Brown, on 28th September 2022, at the age of 83.

Dennis signed for Salford in 1963 from Thames Board Mills Club, Warrington, and made his first team debut away at St Helens in March 1964, in his recognised centre berth.  Over the four years he had with us, he made a total of forty-nine appearances, of which four were as substitute, and he crossed for eight tries bringing him a total of twenty-four points, since one try was worth only three points at that time

His final appearance for the Reds was away at Huddersfield, in the last match of the season, on 25th April 1966,  and owing to a long term injury, which prevented his continuing his playing career with any further professional club, was sadly forced to retire from the game.

Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this time.

SALFORD’S WORLD CUP SAFEGUARDING REPRESENTATIVE – MATT CARR

SALFORD’S WORLD CUP SAFEGUARDING REPRESENTATIVE – MATT CARR

Everyone at Saford Red Devils is delighted to learn that our own Matt Carr has been selected as one of a team of six safeguarding officials to operate at Rugby League World Cup games, over the coming five weeks, and his first outing in this role will be this evening, at the Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens, for the Tonga v Papua New Guinea match, to be followed up on Saturday, with the England v France encounter.

Matt joined Salford twelve months ago, having gained his first safeguarding qualifications – later updated to those pertaining to rugby league – and experience at the grassroots level of football with a well-known local club, and he, together with Director, Paul Trainor, established the safeguarding setup which has been in operation since the start of last season.

“I joined Salford last November and feel we have made good progress over the season, as has been confirmed by the RFL on their visits here,” he justifiably claims.

His responsibilities are quite wide-ranging, including the care and guidance of our younger players, vulnerable adult spectators, unaccompanied minors, and dealing with safeguarding incidents.

“The match day role was quite new to me back in February but includes liaising with match-day security, looking after any groups, or children with specific needs, who might be attending, and managing any safeguarding incidents which might occur, such as a missing or lost child.  There were very few such occurrences, last season, and those which did manifest themselves were speedily and satisfactorily resolved,”

His twelve months experience here now has to be transferred to what could, potentially, be a much more challenging environment, especially at Saturday’s England fixture.

“I will have a lot more responsibility with mascots, flag-bearers, community groups, and the role will be quite a big one, as can be seen by the number of us who have been appointed.  We will operate within our own regions.

“The World Cup is the pinnacle of any sport, and I was extremely proud to have been selected, despite a few nerves at the responsibility it brings.  Hopefully those will dissipate once I get through the first game tonight, because it won’t come much bigger than Saturday’s.  The risk will increase rapidly with what should be a sell-out attendance, but fortunately the RFL Head of Safeguarding will also be there.

Matt will certainly be well prepared for the occasions coming his way as he spent a full day last week being fully trained up.

“The day focused specifically on reporting and recording procedures should any incident occur, but the greatest learning will come through my involvement at the games, starting with tonight’s, though it will mainly consist of applying my knowledge and skills acquired over the years, and then building upon that.

“I believe that the work I have done at Salford has stood me in good stead throughout the application process and am hoping that I will learn a whole lot more from my forthcoming involvement, which I can then introduce here at Salford.”

RED DEVILS’ DREAM START NOT ENOUGH TO SEAL CHAMPIONSHIP

RED DEVILS’ DREAM START NOT ENOUGH TO SEAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Salford Red Devils 14  Oulton Raidettes 33                            Match Report

After the most wonderful inaugural season for Salford Red Devils ladies’ side, their hopes of finishing as champions were dashed, at the Provident Stadium Odsal, on Sunday last, when, despite getting off to a dream start, they lost their way in a disappointing second half, to go down to a more spirited and composed Oulton Raidettes team.

No-one would have remotely expected that in the early stages, however, with the Red Devils getting off to a dream, early start to proceedings, notching up ten points in as many minutes to send hopes of victory sky-high.

They gained early territorial advantage, having received the kick-off and then being awarded a penalty, and Steph Gray, returning to the team for the first time since breaking her wrist back in June, looked to have scored with her first touch of the ball, in the third minute.  The luxury of having attendant touch judges, however, worked contrary to her hopes, with the near side official ruling a forward pass in the build-up.

This was to matter little, however, with the Raidettes coughing up possession on the second tackle, and a swift move of the ball to the right put winger Lauren Ellison clear in acres of space, to score close in, to which Demi Jones added the conversion.

It was a mere six minutes before Ellison had doubled her account, following a beautiful, flowing passing move along the line giving her enough room to get in towards the corner, too far out for Jones to improve upon.

Comfortable as this all appeared – and there will have been many Salford fans sitting back and anticipating a Salford onslaught of tries – Oulton had hardly touched the ball, and this had been instrumental in the game to this point.

That all changed on the resumption with a Salford handling error in the own half of the field giving the Raidettes their first opportunity to test the Reds’ defence.  Well as this stood up to the challenge on this occasion, their opponents were able to maintain their field dominance, and on 21mins an end-of-set cross-field kick with a rather awkward bounce caught the Red Devils out and Oulton took advantage to open their account, 10-6.

The first sense that this was not going to be Salford’s day came ten minutes afterwards, when they twice were prevented from scoring tries which would have restored their lead and dominance.  For a second time, only three minutes after, Gray, playing on the left wing was denied by a melee of defenders forcing her over the touchline before she could ground the ball.

This misfortune was replicated five minutes later.  Demi Jones was first to the ball, following a loose pass from Oulton on the half-way line, and she twice kicked ahead only to be thwarted by the bounce of the ball in the in-goal area.

A score on either of these occasions would have regained momentum for the Reds, but sadly, this was not the case and it was Oulton who drew level with the first of four tries coming down their right edge, thanks to some extremely well-angled running by their strike players.

Just as it looked as though the teams would be retiring to the dressing rooms level at half-time, events took a most surprising turn in the Red Devils’ favour.  With only three seconds remaining on the clock the ball emerged from the back of a scrum just inside the Salford half to Demi Jones, who fed it to stand-off, Louise Fellingham, by which time the hooter had sounded.  Fellingham responded with a marvellous kick which was hotly pursued by fullback, Alex Simpson, and several Oulton defenders, but Simpson’s pace got her to the ball first, which stood up nicely for her, and she crossed to put her side back in front, 14-10, at the interval.

The story of the second half was a quite different one, and one which was so completely foreign to the Salford Red Devils.  Careless handling coupled with a lack of concentration in defence crept in, and the Raidettes, who had quite clearly used their fortieth minute setback to motivate themselves further, took advantage of each Salford error, scoring a total of twenty-three points without reply, quite deservedly to take the spoils.

The seeds for this below par performance will probably have been sown in previous weeks, not least the one before, when they had suffered a number of injuries in the contest with an extremely physical Hull KR side.  Although there were not many who failed to make the squad this week, many will have been carrying considerable knocks, which inhibited them at times.

In addition, this encounter was the finale to a long and demanding season.  Indeed, our players had played more matches than any other side in the league, not just because of their winning run in the League Cup but also in being one of the very few sides to complete all their league fixtures.  Against a side high with the self-confidence in having been the only team in the league to have beaten Salford, it would seem that the Reds just had no more reserves of energy left to cope with the occasion.

Nevertheless, nothing, not even this disappointment, can take away the incredible success of the side, which has landed two of the three trophies – League Cup and League Leaders’ Shield – available and has provided such wonderful entertaining rugby, in the process.  They can, each and every one of them, hold their heads high and take pride in their totally unanticipated achievements, including participating in yesterday’s Final of this season’s play off competition.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, , Brogan Evans, Steph Gray, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Sarina Tamou, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Luci McKeown, Darcey Price, Hannah Wickes, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 5

Part 5 – THE PROUD FATHER OF STEVE PRESCOTT MBE

Fondly as Eric is remembered and respected, it also has to be borne in mind that he is only one of a whole family of Prescotts, of which his uncle, Alan Prescott, was  the famous St Helens prop, who, when on international duty with Great Britain in 1958, suffered a badly broken arm, but who, because this was in the days before substitutes were allowed, chose to stay on and, despite his impediment, succeeded in helping The Lions to Test Match victory over the Australians.

“He was quite exceptional in doing that, even then, because he had absolutely no use in that arm whatsoever; it just hung there, while he had to do all his tackling with the other one.”

More recently, Eric was followed into the game by his son Steve Prescott, MBE.  As father of someone who commands such admiration as Steve does, for all that he has done, firstly as a player, and then in both his fight against his own personal illness allied to his work in raising awareness of the condition, Eric, understandably, has very mixed feelings.

“I loved helping him along as a young, up and coming, player, going along to matches with him and giving him encouragement and guidance along the way.  Probably not all my advice was as helpful as it might have been, because he was a different type of player from me, with him being predominantly a back, whereas most of my career was spent in the forwards.

“He and his older brother, Neil, used to come training with me, in their early playing days, as teenagers, when I was playing at Runcorn Highfield, and I can remember Geoff Fletcher coming to me with the suggestion of Steve’s playing on the wing, on one occasion, but I considered he was far too young for that then.  That shows, though, just how talented he was, even at that young age, but it would, nevertheless, have been really nice for us to have played alongside each other.”

Neil started out playing rugby league, but then went on to play soccer, and later rugby union, eventually becoming an Iron Man Triathlete in the fifty to fifty-four age group.  Steve, meanwhile, stuck with rugby league, signing, much to his father’s pride and joy, with St Helens.

“Like many a lad, he always wanted to try to improve on what I, as his father, had done, and he certainly got one over on me by winning his way to Wembley, in 1996, and not only winning the Cup, but also scoring two tries.  No father could have been prouder than I was, and not just on that day.

“He stayed at St Helens for four years, and also won the Regal Trophy and the First Division Championship with them, in the final season before the inauguration of Super League.  At the end of his time with Saints, he moved over to Hull, along with Alan Hunte, which made it more difficult for us to get to see his every game, though we did our best to do so.”

One remarkable similarity Steve has with his father’s career is that just as Eric returned to Salford after having played with Widnes, so Steve, returned to Hull for a second stint, having had a season away playing for Wakefield.

“He never seemed to mind who he was playing for.  So long as he was enjoying his rugby and getting good game-time he was perfectly happy, wherever he was.  He finally sustained a serious knee injury, playing for Lancashire, during his second spell with Hull, and that proved to be his final game.”

It was shortly after this, in 2006, that Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given only a matter of months to live.  Such tragic news was very hard for Eric to take.

“I just wished it could have been me because I’d had most of my life; Steve should still have had his in front of him.  It just never works like that though.”

What Steve achieved in the remaining time he had left, which proved to be considerably more than the few months originally estimated, by means of the Steve Prescott Foundation, was absolutely phenomenal, and he was awarded the MBE for his services to rugby league and charity, in the 2010 New Year’s Honours List.

“It really was phenomenal what he achieved, particularly in aid of Manchester’s Christie’s Hospital.  He loved doing it though, which, when you consider that his body by this time was well past anything like its physical peak, is incredible.  I did a marathon in four hours and ten minutes, and his immediate response was that he was going to beat that, which he did, not at the first attempt, because he was very low with the cancer at the time, but at his second attempt.”

Living with the illness he had, and all the inevitable consequences which go with it, understandably brought out a different side to Steve’s character.

“He became more open in his conversations with me, and he had a greater awareness of others, because he relied on other people for the support he needed to undertake all he was wanting to do.  The way the rugby league community rallied round was absolutely superb.  They were all totally brilliant.

“The fact that he was so actively involved in all the challenges he undertook did go some way in providing us, his parents, and Neil, his brother, with some element of comfort, that he was achieving so much.

“It’s also rewarding that the Foundation is still going strong, under the direction of his wife, Linzi, and also that since 2014, the top individual rugby league award has been known as the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel.  In addition, the bridge leading into the Totally Wicked Stadium is named after him, which is utterly brilliant because you can never forget him, every time you go over that bridge and into the ground.

“I can’t say it was a shock, when Steve passed away in 2013 because we had seen him going downhill for a while, but it still takes some coming to terms with, because we are not ‘programmed’ for anything like this to happen.  It is just so very sad, but there are memories of him all around.  Even when I do the National Lottery each week, I can still hear him deriding my chances of winning it.  He just always wanted to be better than me.”

Eric, therefore, was the yardstick by which his remarkably splendid, younger, son, measured himself, and what greater form of flattering acknowledgement can there be, for any father.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 4

 

Part 4 – HIS POST SALFORD RUGBY CAREER

Even after his final departure from the Willows, in 1983, it turned out that there was still a considerably lengthy role left for him as a player, with Runcorn Highfield (formerly Liverpool City, and Huyton), in the second division.

A chance meeting with Geoff Fletcher, a former prop forward with Leigh, Oldham, and Huyton of whom he had become coach, later moving with them to Runcorn in the same capacity, led to Eric’s being invited to join the playing staff, there.

“It was a little different from what I had been used to with Salford, Saints, and Widnes, but I soon settled in and we did really well at the start.  We won the first seven games, and became top of the league, for a while, as a result.

“This, however, caused some significant problems, as we found out when Geoff Fletcher came into the dressing room and told us that we couldn’t win any more matches as the club couldn’t afford to pay us any more winning money!

“Not that we allowed that to influence our performances out on the field.  I, for one, always wanted to win every game I played in, and that never changed, irrespective of whether there was any significant money available at the end of it.”

Despite all the uncertainties which went with playing for Runcorn, who later changed their name solely to Highfield as a consequence of one final move more, this time to the Prescot area, Eric stayed with them right through to 1989, when he eventually played his last professional game, against Keighley, thereby bringing down the curtain on an incredible twenty-year playing career.  In that time, he had played over 570 games, a feat of which he is most justifiably proud.

“There are not many players will be able to that nowadays, because it is all so very different, but I enjoyed playing no matter who it was for.  It was just great, and I wish I could still be playing now.

“I still watch the game on TV, and I do go to matches.  In recent years I have been to the Lance Todd Trophy Presentation Dinner, as well as attending the seventieth birthday celebration of Steve Nash, at a Salford home game, a few seasons ago.”

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 3

Part 3 – HE REMEMBERS SOME OF HIS FORMER SALFORD TEAMMATES

The strong camaraderie, which existed throughout his time at the Willows, manifested itself in many ways over the seasons.

“John Butler (RL Quality St Gang #2), Bill Sheffield (RL QSG #7) and I, all lived in St Helens, and we had all played for Saints before ending up at Salford, so we did all our travelling together, both to training and matches.  We all got on really well together, and the friendships which developed between us have continued ever since.

“We would get to The Willows, on a Friday evening at around quarter to seven, in readiness for the seven-thirty kick off.  With only around half an hour in which to get ready, you were out on the field before you had had time to think about what was happening.

“After the game you’d go back into the club and meet spectators who would come up to you for a chat.  It was like a family, all with the same motive. All the players used to enjoy this, and they would all talk to people at some length, because the fans were always so complimentary.”

Unbelievably, despite all of this attention that they all received, Eric insists that none of them ever felt in any way like the stars, which was how all of the supporters truly regarded them.

“To us, it was just a case of each one had had a job to do, and we had just got it right.  We didn’t claim to have anything more than that.  The most crucial thing to us was that this was a team game, and everybody just got on well together.  The involvement of the spectators, after the game, was just an extension of this.  We even got requests to go along to amateur clubs or youth teams to present awards to their players, which was also really enjoyable.”

In common with many of his colleagues, Eric subscribes to the view that the redoubtable Colin Dixon was one of the mainstays of the team, at that time.

“Although he was without doubt a gentleman, he was an extremely good player.  Whenever you looked at a newspaper report of any of our matches, Colin was always mentioned; that was how good he was.

“He was also good at explaining himself well.  I was a bit more reticent in speaking up, but Colin had such an assuredness that he was always willing to put his suggestions forward for people to consider.”

Alongside Colin in the pack was his second-row partner, Mike Coulman (RLQSG #1), who was to move up to prop, shortly after Eric’s arrival on the Salford scene.

“Mike was a mountain of a player, and he was so powerful; his legs were immense.  Opponents were totally in awe of him.”

Although fullback, Paul Charlton (RLQSG #8), returned to his native Cumbria a couple of seasons after Eric joined the club, they played together long enough for Eric to enjoy the opportunity of having such a skilful player in the side.

“His speed and his fitness were exceptional, and he could accelerate so quickly from an almost standing start.  He was also really tough, as are many people from that part of the country.  Tony Gourley, who played in the second row for us, was equally so.

“As a loose forward I would have to do a lot of covering across the field when we were defending, and so that provided me with many occasions on which I could do nothing but marvel at the way that Paul would seem to come from nowhere to effect last-ditch, try-saving tackles on wingers who were convinced that they were on their way to a score.  He just had that off to a tee.”

Another remarkably tough individual was the centre who went on to captain not only the Salford side, but also Great Britain, Chris Hesketh,

“Chris’s defence was uncompromising.  When he tackled a player, they knew about it, and he became a very good captain for us.  He not only would talk to people to reassure them, ahead of the game, he would do what he could to help you out, and then give you encouragement during it.  He certainly helped a lot of young players who came into the side. I would say he was the best captain I ever played under.

“His running style, with an incredible sense of balance, was such that it really confused opponents, and his hand-off was so powerful and effective that, all-in-all, it made him so difficult to tackle.  He just seemed to have everything you could possibly want in a player.”

Alongside Chris in the three-quarter line were some of the fastest players in the game, including David Watkins, who had been club captain, immediately prior to Chris.

“David was of a very similar style, as captain, and really eloquent in the way he put his points across. Keith Fielding (RLQSG #6), on the wing, just had out and out speed, and he used to put himself in a position to get on the end of a break from the likes of John Butler, or myself, to score try after try.

“Maurice Richards, on the other wing, was a quite different style of player.  He would just run at people and then, at the last minute, deploy his remarkable footwork to wrong-foot them and sweep past them.

“Everything on attack, though, used to come from Kenny Gill, at halfback.  We were well off for stand-offs, because John Butler was an international stand-off, but he played at centre for us, which was really good because he could read a game extremely well.  With so many former rugby union players in the side, he gave the team the stability that it needed at times of pressure, because, like Kenny, he had played league all his life.”

Another quite long-serving of the many second-row forwards of that period to play for Salford was John Knighton, who had come from rugby union into the ‘A’ team, and subsequently the first team, where he became a regular in the starting line-up.

“He was a really good player, was John, and, once he had secured an opportunity to play in the first team, he kept his place.  He did a considerable amount of tackling and grafting, which often does not get recognised on the terraces as much as wingers racing through to score tries.  As players, we just turn up to play in the way we are told, and then at the end of the week that is what we get paid for.  So, we forwards had to make the chances to get the ball out to the backs for them to score tries.

“Out of the whole time I was there, the player with whom I was most friendly, was centre, Frank Wilson.  We had known each other whilst we were at St Helens, and then rekindled our friendship, when Frank came to Salford in 1979.  We played in the Centenary game together, against Widnes.”

Over his first period with the club, Eric played, in the main, under the direction of two coaches, Cliff Evans and then Les Bettinson.

“They were both extremely good coaches, and in much the same style as each other.  Everything was kept interesting for us because they varied things so much.  In addition, they were both extremely approachable and had a good relationship with the players.  If something was going wrong, we would talk it out calmly and sensibly, there was none of the bawling and storming that used to go on with coaches at other clubs.

“When Les eventually decided to finish, Alex Murphy was one of a number of coaches who came in to try their hand with us.  I was absolutely made up for the club that we had been able to get someone of his rugby league stature, and he had done so well with both Leigh and Warrington.”

Over the years he was in the game, Eric won a total of six medals, whilst with Salford, but the one he really wanted, which was, of course, the Challenge Cup winner’s medal, eluded him, until eventually he went to Wembley as a Widnes player and helped them to lift the cup, to get even that one.

The success of the team, throughout the seventies, in his view, was thanks, in part, to the great team spirit that existed throughout the whole squad.