Tag: Wembley

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 2

Part 2 – MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

The abundance of talent within the St Helens team, during the first couple of years of the 1970s had reached levels that were almost an embarrassment with highly ambitious players vying with one another for places within the team, the back couple of rows in the scrum being of particular concern, as Eric discovered.

“We had players like Eric Chisnall, John Mantle, and Kel Coslett, all of whom would have commanded places within any team, so I was finding myself confined to the bench, where a position in those days would not necessarily mean you would get a game.

“Substitutes back then were there solely to cover for injuries, and if no-one actually got injured, the two bench players might go for weeks without getting onto the field.  I began to become frustrated at not getting much game time, so went to the St Helens Chairman to request a transfer.

“He didn’t want me to leave at all, and to this end he put me on the list but at the price of £15,000.  That didn’t deter Salford, though, and chief scout, Albert White, came and asked whether I would join Salford to which I readily agreed knowing the quality that was present in the rest of the team.  The whole backline, from one to seven, were internationals, and with the likes of Mike Coulman and Colin Dixon in the forwards I knew I was joining a great team.

“I already knew one or two of the players, but turning up for my first training session, I was made really welcome.  The whole group of players was more like a family than a sports team.

“I already knew coach, Cliff Evans, from his days at St Helens, and I knew the way he wanted his teams to play, which was particularly helpful, because there was certainly a similarity in what he was advocating at Salford.”

Salford had brought Eric to the club with the firm intention of playing him at loose forward.  There was, however, already a regular incumbent of that position.

“Colin Dixon had been playing there for quite a while, and I really felt sorry at moving him from his position, but he was a real gentleman – you couldn’t wish to meet anyone better – and he just accepted the situation with the utmost grace.  For me, having players like him alongside me was just absolutely marvellous.

“My first game with them all was against Rochdale, which we won, 46-18, at The Willows, all within the same week as my signing for them.  When you sign for a new team, there is always a settling-in period as you get to know everything, and there is no way that you can possibly acquire all that in only two training sessions.

“Salford had a lot of moves which they would deploy at various times in the game, which made for a really good setup.  They would call these moves out and everyone really needed to know their part in them.

“Defending teams, at that time, were kept only three yards back, which meant that they were able to get up onto the attacking team very quickly, and so having their practised moves enabled them to fox the defence in some way.  Nowadays, being up to ten metres apart moves are rather less effective as there is so much time for defences to read what is happening.

“Salford played really good football and the ball always went through a lot of hands in every match.  We were always at our most dangerous in our own half of the field because when the other team were lying up on us, Kenny Gill or John Butler would put a kick through for Keith Fielding, and there was no-one going to catch him.

“Everyone had their own job within the team.  I liked tackling.  I liked the physicality involved, and also in aiming to get my technique just right on each occasion.  There was also the benefit of limiting the effectiveness of the opposition’s attack.

“Tackling round the legs was probably the best way of tackling in those days, because you can’t go without your legs.  Nowadays, it is regarded as more important to stop an offload, so tackling has drifted to the upper body.  Elbows, back then, were far too discouraging to make that type of tackle worthwhile.

“I got my nose broken in my early days, in a match against Warrington.  I was just getting up from a tackle to play the ball, when someone came in and smashed me across the face breaking my nose.  You have to learn from those incidents.”

As with many of his teammates, Eric still regrets the fact that the team never managed to fulfil its promise of winning trophies, and having come from a club like St Helens, this sat a little more uneasily on his shoulders.

“We should have won a whole lot more than we did, considering the talent that we had in the team, and having left St Helens to come to Salford, I had to sit and watch their success from afar.  They went to Wembley in 1976, and against all the odds won the Challenge Cup, and I remember thinking to myself that I’d missed out on that one.

“One of the reasons for my coming here was that, with the team packed with all those internationals, I was expecting much the same from us, but we just couldn’t get through those early rounds of the Challenge Cup to get to the final.  One season we were knocked out by St Helens themselves in what was, for us, a home match.  That really hurt.”

Invariably, though, it was a trip into Yorkshire, to face Leeds or Castleford, around Rounds two or three, which put Salford out of the competition.

“Another problem was that, then, virtually all the teams were of a similar playing standard, so whilst we were one of the top sides, and, on our day, probably the most entertaining of them all, the remaining fifteen teams in the first division were not far behind.  If we had an ‘off’ day, any one of them could have won.  I remember Rochdale coming to the Willows and beating us, on one occasion.  That sort of thing hardly ever happens nowadays.

Wembley may have had a hoodoo cast over it as far as the Salford team was concerned, but the calibre of the side was twice reflected in their winning the First Division Championship, in 1973/4 and 1975/6.

“That was certainly handsome compensation and probably worthy of greater notoriety than it received at the time because the equality in standards throughout the league made it all the more challenging and difficult to achieve.  Doing it twice, and so quickly after each other was a tremendous achievement.

“The first time was at the expense of St Helens, for once.  It was a late Easter Weekend at the end of the season, and we needed to win at Wigan, on the Easter Monday, and then for Widnes to beat St Helens, later that evening, in order for us to lift the Trophy.  We did all we could for ourselves in defeating Wigan, and then we all went over to Naughton Park, Widnes, which was so packed that we had to stand behind the posts to watch.

“It was quite absorbing because the game was so tight, with Saints in front at half time, but Widnes, with nothing but pride to play for, came back in the second half to win.  Saints were such a good team at that time we couldn’t really have expected anything other than for them to win, but they came unstuck and we became Champions.

“We also won other trophies.  We lifted the BBC2 Floodlit Cup, in 1972, with a win over Warrington, at Wilderspool, after drawing with them the week earlier at the Willows.  That came very shortly after I had moved to Salford and was a real reward for my having done so.

“The Lancashire Cup and the John Player Trophy were other competitions in which we also had successes, at least in reaching the final and semi-final.  I think it is a loss to the game that these competitions have gone by the board, because they brought a bit of variety to the season, whilst as a player you always wanted to win something, and there was something there to be won.

“The Lancashire Cup win was one of my best memories.  I had been injured just before, and came back to play in the final, against Swinton, at Warrington.  We controlled the game well, and apart from the first twenty minutes of the second half, when they really came at us, we were on top throughout, and fully deserved the win.”

By the later years of the seventies, there was a fairly noticeable deterioration in the team, as players got older, some retired, and others moved elsewhere.

“The mid-seventies were extremely good, but standards did start to decline over the coming seasons.  I still had the hankering to play at Wembley and still felt we had a good team then, but we just couldn’t get past those three or four clubs which had always been our downfall.  As time moved on, I began to realise this was not going to happen at Salford, so I started to look round for another club.

“Working, as I did, for Widnes Council, I sounded out the possibility of my moving there, because it was a club which was making significant progress, by then.  The response from them was that they were quite willing to take me on board, if I were willing to play in the second row, which I was, and so I made the move to join them.”

Nothing is for ever, though, and a couple of seasons later he returned for one more spell, with prop, John Wood, transferring over to Widnes, in exchange.

“Salford approached me with a view to returning, and because I had been so very happy there, for so long, I agreed.  Coming back again rekindled the memories of all those good times, and even though it was different this time around, I had absolutely no regrets in having done so.

“I liked the type of rugby Salford have always played, and alongside that, the people who were there were all so very friendly and approachable.  I also still believed that we could have made up for the lack of trophies previously, by winning something this time around, but sadly this was not to be.”

“I’m enjoying my rugby” – Rhys Williams extends contract

Salford Red Devils are pleased to announce that winger Rhys Williams has extended his contract until at least the end of the 2023 season. 

The Welshman joined the club from London Broncos ahead of the 2020 season and helped Salford reach their first Betfred Challenge Cup Final in 51 years, scoring one of the most standout Wembley tries in the history of the competition.

In 38 appearances, Williams has scored 11 tries for Salford and has been one of the most consistent players in the squad since his arrival last year.

Speaking on why he decided to extend his stay, Williams said: “I’m enjoying my rugby. As long as I’m happy and I’m enjoying being around the team and working hard for them, then that’s good enough for me.

“I pride myself on my consistency and professionalism, and I aim to continue bringing that every week to put in a good performance come game day.”

The 31-year-old has had little experience of the Salford faithful before COVID-19 hit, so Williams is looking forward to playing in front of unrestricted crowds again.

I’m very excited. It was hard times with no crowds, especially at Wembley, so to get out on front of the fans is such a buzz and another reason why I wanted to commit to another 2 years.”

Speaking on Rhys’  contract extension, head coach Richard Marshall said: “I’m delighted to have Rhys extend his stay here at Salford, as one of my main goals for 2022 and onwards is to keep the core of our squad together.

“Rhys is an established international player and is consistently good on the wing each week. I’m looking forward to building on the great relationship I already have with him.”

Director of rugby and operations Ian Blease added: “I am delighted in getting Rhys to agree a new deal with the Salford Red Devils. Rhys has been up there as one of our best players for the last few years and has been a tremendous acquisition for the club since we signed him.

“An ultimate professional with ambition to win every game, he is a player with an exemplary attitude, with total and absolute commitment for our club.  I am so pleased that I’ve been able to agree the deal that will keep Rhys at the club for the next two years.”

Join Rhys at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday 13th August when we host Huddersfield Giants for Round 19 of the Betfred Super League. Buy your tickets HERE.

Rugby league fans urged to follow the Wembley template

Today’s fourth step in the UK Government’s Covid roadmap allows for venues returning to full capacity, with no social distancing. 

That means another significant step back to normality for rugby league clubs and fans in this week’s fixtures, starting with the Betfred Women’s Super League match between York City Knights and Wigan Warriors at Odsal tonight – and continuing through the Betfred Super League, Championship, League 1 and the Community Game. 

Throughout the pandemic, the RFL has been working closely with Government and with clubs and other stakeholders – and that has continued in the preparations for Stage 4. 

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s Chief Regulatory Officer, said: This week is another big step back to normality for our clubs and fans, and it comes at a positive time for the sport as we reflect on the success of the weekend at Wembley. 

“We have been grateful since the limited return of fans to grounds in recent weeks for the way our clubs and fans have worked together in a responsible manner, and the weekend was a great example of that. 

“To be included in the Government’s Events Research Programme allowed us to welcome a much higher crowd to Wembley than would otherwise have been the case, and the supporters of the four clubs involved – Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, St Helens and York City Knights – as well as the thousands of neutrals who attend our Challenge Cup Final weekend were a credit to the game. 

“This year that involved providing evidence of either a negative Covid-19 test or of having had a double vaccination to gain entry to the stadium – and while that won’t be required to attend regular league matches this week now we have reached Stage 4, we would still encourage supporters to bear in mind Government guidance where possible. 

“The Government refers to Stage 4 as ‘a new phase of continued caution whilst managing the risks of COVID-19’. We all owe it to each other to be as safe and responsible as possible to restrict the spread of the virus. 

“The same applies to all involved in the Community Game, whether as players or spectators. Again, Stage 4 of the Roadmap involves the removal of a number of restrictions – and again, we are urging clubs and players to implement these changes cautiously and responsibly.” 

Rugby League is joining other sports in requesting supporters to bear the following in mind before attending games: 

·       Do not attend if you have symptoms or are in any doubt about your health. 

·       Please vaccinate where possible to maximise protection to fellow supporters and members of staff.  Vaccination remains a key priority in the response to the pandemic. 

·       Use the Government’s offer of free lateral flow tests; consider taking one before you travel. 

·       If travelling via public transport, please adhere to the relevant guidance. 

·       Respect the rules of the venue you are attending and check in advance to see what is required. 

·       Wear face coverings in busy indoor areas  

·       Ensure you are familiar with social distancing restrictions where these apply  

·       Treat stewards with respect and respond to their requests. 

The RFL is continuing to work with clubs to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all. 

Salford Red Devils’ next home game comes on Thursday 29 July, when we welcome Hull Kingston Rovers to the AJ Bell Stadium.

Community | Paul Highton on the UK Red Ride to Wembley

He’s grown accustomed to going the extra mile for Rugby League Cares and in August Paul Highton will once again attempt to go the distance for the charity on the UK Red Ride to Wembley.
The former Salford, Halifax, Oldham and Wales back row is the seventh Rugby League international to sign up for our epic fundraiser, which sees 26 riders cycling over 300 off-road miles from Old Trafford to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
Paul was a one of 12 riders who completed the inaugural Ride to Wembley from Headingley to the national stadium last year, just 12 months after he cycled 3,000 miles from London’s Olympic Stadium to Rio de Janeiro on behalf of RL Cares.
This year he will join Gareth Ellis, Andy Lynch, Robbie Hunter-Paul, Chev Walker, Mick Cassidy and Nathan McAvoy for a challenge which involves avoiding roads wherever possible and cycling along forest trails, canal towpaths, bridleways and the occasional ploughed field.
An eighth former Rugby League international, Keith Senior, will also be involved in the ride driving one of the support vehicles.
“I had a bit of a Steve Redgrave moment last year when we reached the Wembley Legends statue after five gruelling days because I would have given permission for someone to shoot me if they saw me get back on a bike again! However, I’m really looking forward to doing it all again,” said Paul, who is currently the Football and Player Welfare Manager at Salford Red Devils.
“We raised over £20,000 for Rugby League Cares last year and I’m sure we’re going to smash that total this year, which will be brilliant.
“As well as my role with Salford, I help deliver fixtures for RL Cares on their hugely successful Offload men’s wellbeing project and I see at first hand the amazing difference the charity is making.
“Rugby League Cares is not just changing men’s lives, it’s saving lives as well, and to keep doing what it does it needs as many people as possible to get behind the Ride to Wembley.
“If I’m honest, there’s also a purely selfish motive for taking part again: as tough as it was last year, the banter was bang on and I can’t wait for another week of non-stop laughter, despite the saddle soreness and all the nettle stings!”
The 2018 UK Red Ride to Wembley leaves MediaCityUK in Salford at 8am on Monday August 20 and after riding around Old Trafford heads out across the Peak District bound for Wembley. The riders are scheduled to arrive at the Wembley Legends status on the stadium concourse around 2.00pm on Friday August 24, the eve of the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
If you would like to support the work Rugby League Cares does across the whole sport please sponsor the riders on the 2018 UK Red Ride to Wembley by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ride2wembley2018.
Save 10 per cent on tickets for the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 25 by purchasing before June 19. Tickets start from £20 for adults and can be purchased by calling the Rugby League Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113 or by visiting www.rugby-league.com/tickets .

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.

Salford legend Jackie Brennan to present the ball on Thursday

Salford Red Devils legend Jackie Brennan is set to present the ball tomorrow night before our final game of the 2017 season.
Brennan captained the side during Salford’s last visit to Wembley in 1969 as the Red Devils fell to a 11-6 defeat to Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup final. Brennan made 317 appearances for the Salford between 1959 and 1970 scoring 70 tries from half-back. The half-back also features in the Salford’s Team of the Century.
CEO Ian Blease and Head Coach Ian Watson went for a meal with Salford legends Brennan, Graham Jones, Hugh Duffy and John Cheshire last week at Alberts in Worsley which has led to Brennan presenting the match ball before tomorrow’s game against St Helens.
Make sure you give this Salford legend a warm reception on Thursday evening as he brings out the match ball.
The match ball for our game against St Helens will be sponsored by Advanced Steel.
 
Tickets are on sale for our final home game of the season against St Helens and can be purchased over the phone, at the Club Ticket Office or online here. Fans can also watch our end of season awards for an extra £5 in the 1873 suite post-game. Season Tickets are valid for all Super 8s home games.

Support Paul Highton on his ride to Wembley

Former Red Devil Paul Highton is cycling from Leeds to Wembley Stadium for Rugby League Cares. The cycle started at Headingley Stadium, 8am on Monday 21st, and the team of 15 riders are set to arrive at the Wembley Legends statue on the eve of the 2017 Challenge Cup final – Friday 25th August.
Highton, speaking to Rugby League cares, said: “Cycling to Rio was one of the best experiences of my life and though the ride to Wembley is shorter, it’s going to be a fantastic five days.
“We may not have to cross the Pyrenees to reach our destination but this ride isn’t about mountain ranges or distance, it’s about overcoming the challenge of negotiating a testing off-road route.
“I’m expecting it to be tough: the bike is heavier for a start; I’m a year older and the nettles and brambles along the way are really going to hurt!
“Firstly, I’d say that nothing is going to be as tough as that first day when you don’t know what to expect your body is going to react to spending eight hours and more in the saddle.
“That feeling is like nothing else,” he added.
“Secondly, it’s important to keep your head up and take in what’s around you: how many people get to experience the beautiful countryside we have in the UK at such close quarters for five days? Soak it up!
“Finally, make sure you have a laugh: yes, there will be dark moments, and days when it feels tough, but the sun always comes out again and riding as a team is a real breeze, especially when you know you’re doing it for such a worthy cause.”
‘Highto’ has made big contributions to the men’s health and wellbeing project ‘Offload’ and has worked in conjunction with club foundations at Salford Red Devils, Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves.
Highton said: “Some of the impact Offload has made to the people involved has been nothing short of amazing.
“No-one was quite sure at the start whether men would buy into it but it’s been a transformational experience for a lot of people.
“The bonds that have been forged between the participants are really uplifting to witness. At Warrington, one member of the team said he was worried how he’d fill the void in his life after his 12 fixtures were up and they’ve all agreed to carry on meeting to support each other.
“It’s made a profound difference to the lives of a lot of men who previously felt they had no-where else to turn.”
To sponsor Paul, please visit his Just Giving page –  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Paul-Highton.
 

Chris Hesketh (1944-2017)

Salford Red Devils are deeply saddened to hear of the death of club, and Rugby League, legend Chris Hesketh.
The centre made 452 Salford appearances scoring 128 tries for the club in an illustrious career of which he spent twelve years with the Red Devils.
Salford signed Hesketh for a fee of £4000 from his hometown club of Wigan in June 1967 and he excelled in the Red Devils jersey.
Hesketh was part of the last Salford side to play at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final back in 1969 as the Red Devils lost to tonight’s opponents Castleford.
Despite losing the Challenge Cup final Hesketh helped the Red Devils win two Championship titles, a Lancashire Cup and a Floodlit Trophy.
The iconic Red Devil didn’t just impress for Salford but on the international stage, also. He was a member of the Great Britain side that won the World Cup in France in 1972. However, his career highlight came in 1974 as he was named as captain of the 1974 Touring Side alongside a handful of fellow Salford players.
His final match for Salford was on May 13th 1979 at St Helens. Hesketh was awarded with an M.B.E in the 1976 New Years Honours as a tribute to his tremendous service and dedication to Rugby League.
Hesketh defied the odds in his search to become a professional Rugby League player battling polio at the age of seven however by the age of 11 he was playing at Central Park, Wigan in the Schools Cup Final.
There will be a tribute to remember the life of one of Salford’s greatest ever players prior to tonight’s game against Castleford.
Hesketh will be missed by all at Salford Red Devils and the thoughts of everyone at the club are with his friends, family and associates.