It was quite difficult to gauge success and progress as the curtain came down on the 2020 season. All the teams felt the struggle and strain as the matches came thick and fast. For Salford it was a thrilling ride to Wembley but the bittersweet afternoon in the capital was hard to swallow with an agonising one point defeat to Leeds. Add to that the long suffering supporters being denied the chance to attend the match due to the global pandemic.
In the Super League Salford started slowly with defeats at home to Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield. Just before the country went into lockdown in March a fantastic comeback against Wigan at the AJ Bell Stadium to win 18-14 got the season back on track.
It was then a long wait for the next match in August, a thumping win over
Hull FC. Salford continued the season behind closed doors at neutral venues with some impressive performances. The final league table was settled on a percentage system of wins from games played. All the teams had played a different amount of matches. Catalans finished fourth after playing just thirteen matches. Wigan finished top from seventeen games and Salford’s final position after playing eighteen games was 9th, despite being deducted four points.
It certainly was a strange old season and hopefully in 2021 some normality will return.
A lot has happened to the Red Devils since the final whistle went on their 2020 season. On the 6th of November at Headingley Stadium Salford beat Wakefield 20-28 in a pulsating encounter to sign off for the winter.
A number of players have left the club. After giving great service Kris Welham left to join Featherstone Rovers. Long serving full back Niall Evalds has signed for Castleford. Gil Dudson has moved to Catalans, pack stalwart Tyrone McCarthy has joined Leigh, Connor Jones has gone back to Featherstone and Mark Flanagan has retired. Flanagan has been immense for Salford, a real leader on the pitch his professionalism and experience has not only rubbed off on the players but the club as a whole.
One of the biggest stories of 2020 saw Salford coach Ian Watson reject a move to Hull Fc live on television. The Red Devils supporters relief was short lived as Watson announced a few weeks later again live on television that he was leaving to join Huddersfield Giants. After working wonders at Salford it came as a big surprise to many. The club had soaked up the stability and safety of Watson’s leadership in the previous years as well as seeing some tremendous days and matches the fans will remember forever. Also joining Watson at Huddersfield for 2021 are conditioners Greg Brown and Carl Foulstone. If this wasn’t hard enough for the supporters to take it was then announced that star forward and pack grafter Luke Yates would also be leaving to join the Giants. The Australian had enjoyed a very good debut season with Salford in 2020 and became an instant hero with the supporters.
New head coach Richard Marshall.
After much speculation about the new coach at Salford, Richard Marshall was announced at the start of December. Marshall had spent the previous two years working as the assistant coach at St Helens under Justin Holbrook and Kristian Woolf. Both campaigns were hugely successful with two Grand Final victories. Marshall has also worked under Tony Smith at Warrington Wolves as well as being the head coach at Championship side Halifax. Despite his boyish young lucks he has a huge amount of experience having served a very exciting apprenticeship in Rugby League. Marshall deserves his big chance and has already become an instant hit with the fans. His engagement with the supporters trust shows his character and listening to his early interviews you can’t help being enthralled by his enthusiasm especially to develop young talent. Ultimately results on the pitch will determine success but despite some pundits predictions Salford will be well respected by opposing teams in 2021.
French fullback Morgan Escaré takes the number one jersey which was previously worn by the departing Niall Evalds. Escaré is an exciting player and has previously played in the Super League for Catalans and Wigan as well as spending time on loan at Wakefield Trinity. He has a very impressive try record and can also kick goals. An accomplished French international who will wear the number one jersey in 2021.
Another great story is that of Connor Aspey. After a successful trial this very exciting youngster has signed a first team contract for 2021. The Salford Supporters trust helped fund the trial and will sponsor Connor this year. He’s a very special player with bags of ability and talking to him just before Christmas he was excited but always very down to earth. Good luck young man.
When chatting to my Devil in the detail and Salford City Radio colleague and friend Rob Parkinson recently he described Joe Burgess as a Rolls Royce winger. When this signing was announced it was a real coup for the club. Burgess is an England international winger and at the age of 26 should be hitting his prime years. His try record for Wigan was absolutely outstanding and he’s also spent time in Australia playing in the NRL in 2016. An injury has scuppered preparations for the new season and coach Richard Marshall will be watching his progress in rehab.
Joe Burgess knows where the try line is.
Elijah Taylor has joined Salford from Australian side Wests Tigers. At six foot three Taylor is at home in the back row or at loose forward. The 30 year old New Zealander made his first grade debut in 2011 for New Zealand Warriors in the NRL. Along with time at Wests Taylor has also played for Penrith Panthers. In 2013 he played in the Rugby League World Cup final against Australia at Old Trafford in front of a crowd of almost 75,000.
Scottish international Danny Addy arrives with a wealth of experience having played over 200 career games. Addy can play in a whole variety of positions and in his time at Bradford he was quite an accomplished goal kicker. After three seasons at Hull Kingston Rovers a move to Leigh in 2020 was quite frustrating due to the pandemic. An all action player who works hard in defence, Addy is going to play a key part in 2021 for Salford.
Harvey Livett is another very exciting signing for Salford. A player that has always really impressed me in his time at Warrington and Hull Kingston Rovers. Harvey played in Warrington’s Challenge Cup Final defeat to Catalans at Wembley in 2018. A surprise move away from Warrington saw him move to East Hull where he continued to impress. At the age of 24 you sense his best years are in front of him. He can play in the back row but can easily play well in the centres. Harvey is definitely one to watch out for.
Matty Costello is 23 years old and is from Billinge. Matty made his debut for St.Helens in 2018. In 2018 he spent time on loan at the Sheffield Eagles where he went on to pick up the 2018 Championship Young Player of the Year award after an impressive season with the Eagles. After signing a three year deal with Salford Matty joins an impressive set of three quarters in the 2021 squad. After learning plenty of good habits in his time on Merseyside coach Richard Marshall will know how to nurture this talented player.
In December 2020 it was announced that Jack Wells would be joining the Salford for the 2021 season; his hometown club and the club he supported as a boy. Jack has signed from Wigan Warriors and has also spent time on loan in recent seasons at Swinton Lions and Toronto Wolfpack. A strong running back row forward, Jack has great potential to keep progressing and Salford could be the perfect environment for his development. At just 23 years of age now is the time to force his way into the first team.
Geordie lad Sam Luckley joins Salford from Newcastle Thunder. Sam was due to sign for Canadian side Ottawa Aces before their problems developed. Speaking to Sam recently his enthusiasm and desire to succeed is infectious. You can’t help but want him to succeed. A player with a very high work rate and fantastic physic his potential is massive. Working under Richard Marshall Sam will certainly develop and I think he’s got a great chance of nailing down a first team place in what looks a very aggressive and mobile pack.
Sam Luckly is excited to get his chance in the top flight.
Joey Lussick became a huge favourite with the Salford supporters and after joining at the back end of the 2018 season two very consistent seasons in 2019 and 2020 earned the Australian a chance to move back to the NRL to play at Parramatta. Joey’s brother Darcy has joined Salford for 2021. Darcy has a wealth of NRL experience having played at Manly and Parramatta. He joined Toronto Wolfpack in 2018 and was part of the side that gained promotion to Super League. Darcy won his first professional boxing bout in 2019 against former Rugby League player Justin Hodges. Salford will be hoping for plenty of biff from Darcy this season in the front row from this tough prop.
Last but by know means least Declan Patton has joined from Warrington Wolves. Patton is a very clever player and I was very surprised that Warrington allowed him to leave. Patton has played in two Grand Final defeats at the Wolves and also played twice at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final. In 2018 Warrington were beaten at Wembley by Catalans but in 2019 masterminded a superb win over St.Helens to lift the trophy. Patton can play in the halves or at hooker and is a very useful goal kicker. Richard Marshall will have some difficult decisions to make when picking his half backs. Patton is sure to be challenging for a starting place.
Salford’s Super League Final positions.
1997 6th place
1998 11th place
1999 12th place
2000 9th place
2001 10th place
2002 12th relegated
2004 9th place
2005 9th place
2006 5th, playoffs
2007 12th relegated
2009 13th place
2010 12th place
2011 11th place
2012 11th place
2013 14th place
2014 10th place
2015 11th place
2016 10th place
2017 4th place regular season, 7th after playoffs.
2018 11th place
2019 3rd place, Grand Final runners up.
2020 9th place
An opening day match to remember from yesteryear.
Sunday 16th March 1997 Salford 4 Castleford 0.
After two excellent seasons outside the top flight, a day Salford supporters will remember for ever in the cup against Wigan and a Divisional premiership victory at Old Trafford 1997 saw our first step in to the glamorous new world of The European Super League.
Salford Reds had started 1997 in good form with a resounding victory away at Castleford in The Challenge cup. Progress was made to the cup semi finals with a 8-4 win over Paris and a 10-29 win at Warrington. It’s fair to say The Reds went in to this league encounter in top form.
It was a very nervous affair with both side defending well not giving much away. The Tigers were led by power house forwards Lee Crooks, Nathan Sykes and Dean Sampson came up against Salford’s formidable pack which was big and mobile. The vast experience of Peter Edwards, Andy Platt and Paul Forber along with the tough as teak David Hulme lined up for The Reds.
Salford’s first Super League try scorer Phil Coussons
The match was Settled by local winger Phil Coussons try in the corner.
A late kick and chase from Castleford three quarter Simon Middleton had the Salford faithfuls nerves jangling. The ball ran dead at the Variety club end of the ground as the hooter sounded.
Things got even better for Andy Gregory’s side with four more consecutive league victories to make 1997 a season to remember.
Referee, Stuart Cummings.
Hopefully it won’t be long now before we can all get back watching the sport we love. It seems a long time since the Wigan match last March where a crowd was present. We are starting a new era under a new coach and it’s all going to be very exciting. Take care everyone and enjoy the season.