In recent weeks many people up and down the country have been gripped by the BBC Drama Line Of Duty. The last time Salford beat St.Helens in the Merseyside town The Professionals was the popular action programme on the television. Bodie and Doyle with their leather jackets and fast cars kept the public safe under the command of Mr Cowley. If Salford are to get a result on Monday evening Richard Marshall is going to have to come up with a professional style plan in what looks a daunting mission.
The Professionals, still makes exciting viewing all these years later.
Forty one years have passed since 12th January 1980 when Salford beat Saints at Knowsley Road 17-18. The world is a totally different place but how much has actually changed in the sport of Rugby League?
It’s fair to say we’ve seen plenty of rule changes and the sport is now played over different months of the year. However since 1980 just nine teams have lifted the top flight League Title and in the summer era since 1996 four sides have lifted the trophy. The cartel of St.Helens, Leeds and Wigan are still the power house clubs of our great sport.
In 2021 Saints are still unbeaten but in recent weeks teams have given them a stern test, in particular Huddersfield Giants ran them close in the Challenge Cup last weekend so perhaps Richard Marshall can find ways to expose what looks a formidable team.
Marshall spent a successful spell working as assistant coach at St.Helens alongside current coach Kristian Woolf and his predecessor Justin Holbrook. If anyone knows the ethos of the Saints club he does. Marshall will be desperate to see his side compete in this match having given a good account of themselves against Saints in the opening match of the season.
Nothing is ever impossible and with a huge effort who knows what could happen. One things for sure Salford need a good start and an eighty minute performance with no clocking off. Concentration, commitment in defence are other key factors. Saints have match winners all over the pitch and are sure to raise the game with the welcome return of their supporters.
Super League away record.
1997 St. Helens 19 Salford 12
1998 St. Helens 48 Salford 12
1999 St. Helens 48 Salford 0
2000 St. Helens 46 Salford 22
2000 St. Helens 50 Salford 28
2001 St. Helens 66 Salford 16
2002 St. Helens 34 Salford 2
2004 St. Helens 40 Salford 4
2005 St. Helens 46 Salford 12
2006 St. Helens 28 Salford 6
2007 St. Helens 48 Salford 4
2007 St. Helens 27 Salford 26
2009 St. Helens 38 Salford 12
2010 St. Helens 58 Salford 34
2011 St. Helens 31 Salford 6 (played at Widnes)
2012 St. Helens 38 Salford 10
2013 St. Helens 14 Salford 10
2014 St. Helens 32 Salford 12
2015 St. Helens 32 Salford 12
2016 St. Helens 34 Salford 20
2017 St. Helens 25 Salford 24
2018 St. Helens 32 Salford 2
2019 St. Helens 32 Salford 30
2020 St.Helens 48 Salford 8
2021 St.Helens 29 Salford 6 (behind closed doors at Headingley)
They played for both.
Over the years there has been so much player movement between the two clubs. The town of St Helens is a real hot bed of the game with some fantastic amateur set ups including Thatto Heath, Blackbrook and Clock Face. In the Super League era Matty Smith, Jordan Turner, Lama Tasi, Tommy Lee and Theo Fages have all moved to Saints from Salford. Willie Talu, Tony Puletua, Francis Meli, Mark Edmondson, Matty Ashurst, Andrew Dixon, Danny Arnold, Alan Hunte, Josh Jones, Bobbie Goulding, Lee Gaskell ,Paul Forber, Mark Lee, Jake Emmitt and Anthony Stewart to name a few in recent years to represent both sides.
Bobbie Goulding had a spell with Salford and won the Super League and Challenge Cup with Saints.
Steve Rule, Eric Prescott, Paul Groves, Paul Brownbill, John Mantle, Ken Gwilliam, George Nicholls and Darren Bloor played for both clubs in the pre super League era. The list could certainly go on as there are many more. Alex Murphy and Shaun McRae have coached both sides.
A match to remember 12th January 1980.
St. Helens 17 Salford 18
After a successful period for Salford in the 1970s as the decade ended cracks were starting to appear. Players were moving on and some getting older but their was still some stalwarts at the club with Mike Coulman, Colin Dixon, Keith Fielding, Kenny Gill, Alan Grice, Steve Nash, Eric Prescott and Maurice Richards all on the playing roster. Between them they had tons of big game experience and hundreds of matches under their belts.
The 1979/80 season would go on to be modestly successful for Salford with a final league position of fourth. Top of the table at Christmas time and unbeaten in the league for the first few months of the season the supporters were dreaming of good times again.
December 79 was a tough month and three defeats against three of the top sides of that period Bradford, Widnes and Hull Kr were a slight set back.
With young star hooker Paul O’Neil on international duty playing for Great Britain under 24s changes were made. Kevin Ashcroft came in at hooker for O’Neil and Sammy Turnbull played right centre.
Scrum halves Dave Harris and Steve Nash were both injured so new signing John McAtee made his debut.
Eric Prescott tackled everything putting in an all action display in the pack.
Mike Coulman ran the ball hard all afternoon against a very tough St. Helens pack that included terrific ball playing forward George Nicholls and big Powerful Eric Chisnall.
The game was nip and tuck all the way. Salford’s three tries came from Coulman, Prescott and Colin Whitfield. Goal kicking full back Steve Rule booted four conversions but the unlikely match winner was veteran hooker Kevin Ashcroft. His drop goal snatched it for Salford in what was a thrilling afternoon at Knowsley Road.
Steve Rule kicked four goals in 1980.
The teams that day;
St. Helens, Brian Parkes, Les Jones, Clive Griffiths, Derek Noonan, Roy Mathias,
Steve Peters, Johnny Smith, Mel James, Graham Liptrot, Eric Chisnall, Chris Seldon, Peter Gorley, George Nicholls.
Subs, Denis Litherland and Roy Haggerty.
Salford, Steve Rule, Keith Fielding, Sam Turnbull, Colin Whitfield, Maurice Richards, Frank Wilson, John McAtee, Mike Coulman, Kevin Ashcroft, Tony Gourley, Chris Mcgreal, Stuart Williams, Eric Prescott.
Referee, Mr J.E. Smith. (Halifax) .
After five rounds of Super League action the current Champions St.Helens lead the way with five victories and are just in front of rivals Wigan on points difference.
Salford have just one victory from their opening matches which came in a home match with Leigh just a few weeks ago. Disappointing results against Hull and Catalans hit the Red Devils hard leaving confidence low. Over the last few weeks their has been a steady improvement and the cup defeat against Castleford last weekend was agonisingly close and could have gone either way in extra time. Richard Marshall seems to be finding his feet now and is starting to work out his favoured starting line up.
Salford still have a lot of work to do with their next three fixtures against St.Helens, Wigan and Warrington, this will be a massive test of resolve and resilience to show exactly where the club is heading in 2021. Last weekend saw Elijah Taylor return from injury along with Dan Sarginson. Taylor has been impressive so far this season and his leadership skills will be important on Monday along with captain Lee Mossop who put in a tremendous effort in the Castleford cup tie.
Salford Captain Lee Mossop has impressed recently.
As well as some seasoned stars Saints possess an exciting crop of young talent to look out for with Lewis Dodd, Josh Simm and Jake Wingfield all challenging for starting spots. Jack Welsby scored the match winning try in that monumental finish in last years Grand Final and it’s hard to believe he’s still only just 20 years of age.
It will be great to see supporters return for this match on Monday. Although no away fans will be present to cheer Salford on at least we are finally moving in the right direction to get back watching the sport we love.
The action gets underway at 7:45pm.
Keep safe and enjoy the match.