Tag: The Willows

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (7) – BILL SHEFFIELD PT 2

                     Part 2 –HIS MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

Games against lower league clubs often used to cause the high-flying Reds rather more trouble than they had anticipated, because, for the opposition this was their golden opportunity to make a name for themselves, by overturning the star-studded Salford outfit.  In addition, for some individuals, there was also the added incentive that they might be lured to the Willows with some considerably more lucrative deal than they had hitherto been enjoying.

Thus, it was, that another game in 1974, against the Hornets, this time at their then home of The Athletic Ground, yet again, saw the local side triumph with not one, but two, Rochdale players, Bill and stand off John Butler, (Quality Street Gang No 2) playing their way into the Red Devils’ sights.

“We were both called up to the Directors’ Box straight after the match, and asked to make the move to join Salford, which we were both more than happy to do, because Salford were one of the top clubs at that time.”

The time span over which Bill was with Salford somewhat exaggerated the number of seasons in which he was available as a player, because, owing to work commitments following a significant promotion, he was forced to take a break from the game after three seasons.  This, however, did not prevent his return three seasons later, when pressures at work had eased sufficiently for him to play for a further two seasons.

“I was still working in ‘Parts’, but had risen to the top by getting the job as manager, and all that went with that, so work had to come first for a few years.  I then suddenly got a phone call from Salford asking me to go back there again, which by then I was able to do.”

Back in 1974, Salford had been keen to get both players – Bill to enhance their pack, and John to allow centre David Watkins to move to fullback, upon the imminent return to Cumbria of international, Paul Charlton – while, for their part, Rochdale were in need of the money they received in exchange for the pair.

For Bill and John, with both of them being from St Helens, it was of benefit to each to have the other as company, and they travelled together to their first training session.

“I remember walking into the dressing room for my first training session and wondering to myself what on earth I was doing there, full, as it was, of internationals such as Maurice Richards, Keith Fielding, Chris Hesketh and Colin Dixon. I felt completely overawed by the whole group.

“Fortunately, Eric Prescott, was also there, and that gave it all a sense of reality.  Cliff Evans was the coach, and he was an absolute gentleman, as also were his assistants, Les Bettinson and Alan McInnes, and they were all extremely good to me, which helped me settle in almost straight away.”

Bill certainly did not have long to wait for his first game, which came at the end of that Easter Weekend, on Easter Monday, when he made a winning start to his Salford career over Leigh.

“We certainly were a team to be reckoned with, and we always made good progress and were in contention for a lot of the trophies in all competitions, but the one that everyone really wanted was the First Division Championship, which we won twice, in 1974 and 1976.

“I was in the side that was successful in 1976, and in order to win it, we had to go to Keighley in the last match of the season and beat them, because were we to have lost, and Wigan had won away at Featherstone, the title would have been Wigan’s.  Keighley, for their part, needed to win to retain their first division status, so there was a lot riding on the result for both sides.

“As it turned out, despite the confines and idiosyncrasies of the pitch at Lawkholme Lane, we won comfortably, whilst Wigan failed to overturn Featherstone, so we were crowned Champions.”

Matches against St Helens were still always the occasions which Bill particularly enjoyed and there were two which stood out above the rest.  A year after losing to them in the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy Final, with Rochdale, he travelled to Knowsley Rd, with Salford, to face them in the semi-final of the same competition to extract his revenge.

“I got the same reception from the crowd I had previously received with Rochdale, and again it really fired me up.  I made a break and fed the ball to Chris Hesketh to score and we won.  Unfortunately, I had broken two bones in my foot, which then prevented me from playing in the final, but nevertheless, I had still had the satisfaction of having beaten Saints, at Saints.

“Then, in 1976, after winning the Championship for the second time, we won through to the Pemiership FInal, at the magnificent stadium of Station Road, Swinton, where we once again took on the Saints again.  I always remember that Colin wasn’t in too good a condition, and I was given the task of running up and down the touchline with him, prior to the match, to see whether he could take part, which he did, though not with his normal impact.

“At half time the score was 2-0 to the Saints, and we were well in contention, but in the second half they punished a couple of our mistakes in the last quarter to extend that for a 13-2 victory.  Nice as it would have been to have won, we were nevertheless still the Champions for that season, and had done extremely well, on the back of that, to have won through to the Final.  It just didn’t go our way on the day.

“Another game I remember was an away fixture at Widnes, because, before the game, Les Bettinson took me aside and told me that, although I was playing reasonably well, he hadn’t yet seen the best from me, and this gave me such a ‘gee up’ that I went out determined to show just what I could do, and followed it through with one of my best performances.  After the game, Les came back to me and said that that was just what he had been waiting for.”

As players matured, and perhaps lost some of their initial pace, they would gravitate towards the middle of the field, so for Bill, and his co-second rower, Mike Coulman (Quality St Gang No 1), a move up front to prop, was the logical progression, which both of them did at roughly the same time.  Bill’s move left room for the newly acquired Oldham and international second rower, Bob Irving, to take up the berth Bill had vacated.

Although the number of trophies the team succeeded in lifting was somewhat below the aspirations of the club itself, the quality of rugby, and the entertainment value that the players provided more than made up for that, and surpassed anything on offer from the majority of clubs.

Gaining promotion at work, at the end of three seasons, proved to be a double-edged sword, for Bill, who was in no doubt where his priorities lay, but that did not mean it was an easy move for him to turn his back, temporarily, on rugby league.

“Work had to come first but it was very difficult leaving the game behind, and during those intervening years I really did miss it, but I ensured I kept myself fit, and I did still look on myself as a Salford player, which I was because they had retained my registration.

“In fact, when circumstances allowed, I did go to the ground a few times to watch matches, especially when St Helens were playing there.  To be honest, I always felt that I would, one day, return to the club to pick up my playing career once more”.

During the time he was away there were several changes of coach, which was quite remarkable because over the whole of the previous decade there had been only three: Griff Jenkins, Cliff Evans, and Les Bettinson.

“Les’s time as coach came to an end shortly after I had put my career on hold, he was replaced by Stan McCormack, who had been a highly successful coach of St Helens over several seasons.  The appointment, however, did not work out at all, and he was replaced after only two months.

“Alex Murphy, it was, who had then taken over the reins.  Alex had been the best rugby league scrum half in the world, but things did not go as well as they had at his previous clubs Leigh and Warrington, and it all began to unravel to a degree.  Kenny Gill had already left to join Widnes followed there shortly afterwards by Eric Prescott.   Alan Grice and David Watkins had both gone to Swinton, while Colin Dixon and Chris Hesketh had both briefly had a try at coaching, but then retired from the game.

“By the time I returned, Kevin Ashcroft, was in the hot seat, but his assistant, Alan McInnes, another former Salford player, took a lot of the coaching sessions, and he was very methodical in the way he carried it out.

“All our training sessions were held at our training ground in Urmston.  Having our own training ground was quite a good thing because you were away from The Willows and the club itself, and were free to just partake in a more relaxed environment.”

As for the players who remained in the side, there were still a few, and they continued to endeavour to provide the quality of attacking rugby with which the club had been associated but it was sadly rather less effective than it had been, in terms of winning matches.

“Mike Coulman was still there, along with Steve Nash and Keith Fielding.  A recent addition to the pack had been John Mantle to the second row, but the team I returned to bore little in resemblance to the team I had left.”

There were, of course, a number of new players who had come into the side to replace those who had moved on.  Among them were people such as centres Sammy Turnbull, David Stephenson and Stewart Williams, and second rower David Major, son of former Warrington international, Harry Major.

Things very much took a turn for the worse around the Christmas period of 1983.

“It was in the week leading up to the New Year; I had a phone call informing me that there was an ‘A’ team game at Warrington, and asking whether i would I fill in to help out.  When I arrived, I walked into the dressing room and totally failed to recognise a single player, so much so that I thought I had gone into the wrong room.

“It turned out that they were all amateur players who had been drafted in.  We went out and did our best but unsurprisingly we got absolutely murdered.  Losing pay for the ‘A’ team was quite low, and this was accentuated when I went out and found I had been given a parking ticket, which more or less took care of it all.

“That proved to be my last professional game of my career, but nothing could ever, in any way tarnish the marvellous times I had throughout it, especially being a part of that wonderful team of the mid-seventies, which did so much to enhance the image of rugby league throughout the country.”

Event | Salford Red Devils Foundation to host Willows Memories Evening

Salford Red Devils Foundation are inviting you to join us for a night of nostalgia on Wednesday 5th December in the Salford Red Devils Museum at the AJ Bell Stadium from 7pm up until 9:30pm.  
This will be the final chance for supporters to see the brilliant Willows Memories DVD which showcased at The Lowry last year.
We will have tonnes of Salford Red Devils memorabilia for sale including watches, posters, photos as well as Willows Christmas Present Packs which include a Willows DVD, Willows memory brochure and a programme from the final game at The Willows.
Old Salford Red Devils merchandise and a retro goods stall will also be open to fans and there will be a grand memorabilia raffle and Willows treasure hunt on the evening.
There will also be questions and answer sessions with ex-Willows players and staff to help everyone take a trip down memory lane.
Tea, Coffee, mulled wine and mince pies will be available on the night.
Tickets – which are very limited – are £5 and are available from John Blackburn or at the Salford Red Devils Foundation Office.
Please contact John.Blackburn@salfordreddevils.net or call 07762 732790.

Willows Wall | Paul Charlton named at full-back

Paul Charlton has won the voting for the fullback position in Salford’s ‘Heritage Team’ which will take place on the ‘Willows Wall’ as part of an initiative between Capricorn Security and the Salford Red Devils Foundation. 
Charlton made 233 appearances for Salford, scoring 99 tries and kicking two goals totalling at 301 points. The dynamic Charlton set the world record for tries in a season from full-back crossing for 33 in the 1972-73 campaign. 31 of these were for Salford while he also scored for Great Britain and Cumberland from this position.
The try-scoring full-back joined Salford from Workington Tow in October 1969 in a deal worth £13,000. In his time at Salford, Charlton won a Championship title in 1974 as well as a Lancashire Cup winners medal in 1972.
Charlton earned 19 caps for Great Britain and a member of Great Britain’s World Cup winning side in 1972; which was held in France. Charlton would return to Workington Town fin 1975 following six successful seasons at The Willows and went on to also play for Blackpool Borough.
The Championship winner saw off sturdy competition from some other great full-backs to win with 34.48%.
The voting finished as below:

  1. Paul Charlton – 34.48%
  2. Gary Jack – 16.64%
  3. Gary Broadbent – 16.30%
  4. Steve Gibson – 15.27%
  5. Paul Fletcher – 13.55%
  6. Steve Rule – 1.37%
  7. Arthur Gregory – 1.20%
  8. Harold Osbaldestin – 0.51%
  9. Colin Whitefield – 0.51%
  10. Ken Gwillam – 0.00%

If you’d like to get your names alongside a host of Salford Red Devils legends contact John.Blackburn@Salfordreddevils.net and get your name on the ‘Willows Wall’ for £25. 
All of your money will be donated directly to the Salford Red Devils Foundation.

Factfile | Halifax RLFC vs Salford Red Devils | Sunday 2nd September

Ahead of this weekend’s huge Qualifiers clash against Halifax – for which Salford will be taking a large away following – we take a look at some interesting facts behind the fixture.
Previous Meetings
While Salford Red Devils did win the last meeting between the sides back in 2015 thanks to a 50-28 victory in the Qualifiers – which you can read more about here – they haven’t enjoyed much luck against Halifax over the years.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BnJjT63F-ri/?taken-by=salfordreddevilsrlfc
Prior to this, the Red Devils hadn’t met Halifax since 2002 in a season where they lost twice against the West Yorkshire side but did earn a 15-12 win at the MBi Shay in April of that season.
The 2001 season also favoured Halifax. Two high-scoring affairs at The Willows saw Halifax win 34-50 and 30-41 in addition to a 30-18 win earlier in the season. In fact, you have to go back to 2000 to find the last time Salford won consecutive games against Fax with the first of those coming thanks to a Martin Offiah drop-goal on 23rd July.
Salford won the first two meetings following the move to the Summer era but would then lose six consecutive matches against Halifax between 1998 and 2000.
Home vs Away
In the build-up to this weekend’s game, Salford Red Devils Head Coach Ian Watson pointed to Halifax’s terrific home form throughout the 2018 season as an indicator of how tough Sunday’s match will be.


Halifax have won 11 home games in the Betfred Championship this season including victories over full-time opposition like Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions. A 22-22 draw with Dewsbury Rams and two losses to Toronto Wolfpack – with the most recent coming in Round One of The Qualifiers – are the only blips on this record.
On the other hand, Salford’s away form this season has been a contrast to that of Fax’s home form. The regular Betfred Super League season saw the Red Devils notch just one away victory over Huddersfield Giants in April, but they did win their last match on the road against Hull Kingston Rovers in Round One of The Qualifiers.
The form book – in terms of home vs away – will need to be thrown out the window if the Red Devils are going to make it three from three in this season’s Qualifiers.
Played for Both
Salford prop-forward Daniel Murray has actually featured for both clubs this season following a short loan spell with Halifax at the start of the year. Murray made five appearances for Halifax in 2018 powering his way over for two tries in this time.


Last year the two clubs worked a dual-registration agreement which saw a number of Salford players take to the field for Halifax. Murray, Ryan Lannon, Josh Wood and Jake Bibby all featured for Fax in 2017 and have now made themselves regulars in the Salford first team.
Halifax centre Steve Tyrer – who will miss this weekend’s fixture through injury – enjoyed a season with the Red Devils back in 2010. The centre made 20 appearances for Salford crossing for six tries including a hat-trick against Harlequins – now known as London Broncos – in just his third outing.

Gold Line Draw | Long-time Red Devils win big

The Gold Line Draw continues to crown £500 winners and we recently visited Mary Vaughan who was one of our lucky winners! 
Mrs Vaughan said: “Myself, my husband and son all supported the Club while they were at The Willows.
“This is my way of continuing to support the Club, I pay every week through Direct Debit and it’s paid off for me now.
“I think this prize money is going to go on some ‘retail therapy’.
“I’m so happy to have won and can’t wait to spend my money already.”
You can join the Gold Line Draw by simply E-Mailing SalfordSuperDraw@gmail.com with the subject ‘join’.
We have recently launched our new ‘Supporters Pack’ for the Gold Line Draw with full details here. 
To sign up for the Gold Line Draw via Direct Debit click here.
To sign up for the Gold Line Draw via Standing Order click here.
You can also subscribe to the results directly to your inbox each week by E-Mailing SalfordSuperDraw@gmail.com with the subject ‘subscribe’.
For the latest Gold Line Draw results click here.
Join us for the 8s!
You can save by purchasing your tickets for our upcoming games against Widnes Vikings and Toronto Wolfpack by buying online in advance – JUST CLICK HERE!

Commercial | Red Devils link up with Club13 as partner

Salford Red Devils are delighted to announce Club13 as its Official Business Club partner.
After a number of highly successful events since the start of the season, Club13 – whose aim is to promote the sport of rugby league to businesses and professionals across the Salford and Greater Manchester region, together with providing business and networking opportunities for ex-players of the sport, will link up with the Betfred Super League Club who will provide stars of past and present to future events.
Other than a monthly event Club13 have launched a matchday networking event ‘Club 13 at the Willows’ which will be held in the Willows Suite at the AJ Bell Stadium when the Salford Red Devils are playing at home. Here former stars of the Club will be invited along to mix with businesses on the night.
For more information on how to join Club13 please visit www.Club13.biz or on Twitter at @club13_official.

Murray Metals continue their sponsorship into 2018

Long-term sponsors and partners Murray Metals will continue their support of the Club throughout 2018 as player sponsors of Gareth O’Brien.
Murray Metals have been associated with the Club for well over a decade now through both Austin Trumann and Murray Metals.
Barry Gregory, Director of Murray Metals and lifelong Salford supporter, said: “We’ve been sponsors for fifteen years now consecutively.
“Austin Trumann’s which is part of the Murray Metals group in fact used to sponsor the stand at The Willows and we were the founding sponsor of the Platinum Club.
“We’ve had a good connection with the Club for all those years and obviously we’re regular attendees who bring clients to games.
Salford Red Devils CEO, Ian Blease, said: “We’re thrilled to have Murray Metals on board again for the 2018 season.
“They’ve been long-term sponsors and partners of the Club as have quite a few of our sponsors and we’re looking forward to working with them again this season.”
Gregory added: “Gareth O’Brien is a great player to have and is always good for brand awareness particularly with his Million Pound Game drop-goal a few years ago.
“We’re looking forward to watching Gaz in action this season and seeing our advertising on the LED boards.”
 
There are still sponsorship opportunities available with Salford Red Devils in 2018 with a handful of players being available as well as match sponsorship for our Betfred Super League games up for grabs.
There are also advertising opportunities available with us this season with programme ad space, perimeter boards and time on state of the art LED boards all available.
If you’re interested in any of the above please contact us on 0161 786 1590 or E-Mail Fiona.Woods@SalfordRedDevils.net.

David Watkins MBE wins special award at Wales Sports Awards

Last night Salford Red Devils legend and all-time top points scorer David Watkins MBE received the Special Recognition Award at the Wales Sports Awards 2017.
Phil Bennett, when presenting the award, said: “This gentleman is up there at the very top.” 
Watkins featured for the Red Devils between 1967 and 1979 making over 400 appearances for the Club and racking up a staggering 2907 points while at The Willows.
The Welshman captained Salford in their last Challenge Cup final appearance against Castleford at Wembley in 1969 and also earned caps for both Wales and Great Britain. Watkins went on to finish his career with Swinton.
The Club legend was a star in both codes playing for Wales and the British and Irish Lions in Rugby Union after spells with several Welsh Rugby Union sides.
In the 1986 New Year Honours, Watkins was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to Rugby League.
Everyone at the Salford Red Devils would like to congratulate David Watkins on a most deserved award.

Willows Memories Film to be shown again

After a large demand from Salford Red Devils supporters the Willows Memories film will be shown again at The Lowry Studio Theatre on Thursday 23rd November at 7:00pm.
While there will be no live show productions this time there will be an ex-player panel to question and reminisce about The Willows alongside.
In addition to the Willows Memories film, there will also be a short film showing the recent training camp at the Prestatyn Holiday Camp for the Salford Red Devils Education Academy players.
Finally, this will be the one and only opportunity to purchase the Willows Memories DVD – don’t miss out.
Tickets are priced at £12 per person. If you are interested
There will also be a short film showing the recent training camp at the Prestatyn Holiday Camp for the college academy players.
Finally there will be the one and only opportunity to purchase the Willows Memories DVD on the night.
Tickets for the showing are £12 per person. If you’re interested in purchasing a ticket contact John Blackburn on John.blackburn@salfordreddevils.net or phone John on 0161 786 1591.