A week today we embark on our 2018 Super League campaign against the ever present Wigan Warriors.
Supporters’ Trust member Paul Whiteside gets us in the mood with a rewind to Friday 25th April 1997.
Our record over the last 40 years against Wigan is not the greatest but over that time we’ve had some real memorable clashes with the boys in cherry and white.
As the 1980s came to a close Wigan were the leading lights in English rugby league. The Challenge Cup dominance continued in to the 1990s and at times they seemed invincible. That cup run came to an end at The Willows in 1996 but today we’re going to look back at the Super League clash from 1997 at Salford.
After two fantastic seasons outside the top flight Salford Reds were promoted to the Super League. It was a fantastic start with victories in our first five games. After the famous cup win this was Wigan’s first visit back to The Willows 14 months later. Reds stand off, former Wigan player Steve Blakeley was inspirational along with half back partner Ian Watson.
Salford Captain Blakeley had been sold by Wigan four years earlier for a bargain fee of £28,000. Another former Wigan legend Andy Gregory made the Warriors suffer as Salford chalked up there 17th successive home win. The home sides work rate and support play was phenomenal with the visitors breaching the water tight defence once all night. The 34 year old David Hulme took the man of the match award.
The Reds playing their best rugby of the season took the lead in the 9th minute when Nathan Mcavoy sent Darren Rogers in at the corner. Daryl Cardiss grabbed a try to put Wigan back in the game. Salford got a crucial try two minutes after the break Blakeley’s grubber kick was hacked on by another ex-Wigan man Scott Naylor and a young fresh faced Ian Watson followed up to score. Blakeley with four goals and a hand in both tries played a huge part in a special night under the lights at The Willows.
Salford came out winners 14-4. We got the double over Wigan in 1997 with an excellent 14-21 victory at Central Park later in the year. When you look back at the job Andy Gregory did at Salford it really is heart warming. Some fantastic wins over some of the best sides around at the time. Friday 25th April 1997 is a night I’ll certainly never forget.