Salford’s Smoky Tops And That


“If history is to repeat itself, I should think we can expect the same thing happen again” – Terry Venables.

We don’t quite think the former England football manager had Warrington RLFC in mind when he gave the world his, er, philosophical insights, but it doesn’t half fit.

There seems to be a common theme so far this season and we’re sorry for constantly repeating ourselves. Suppose it can’t be helped with such a limited and selective pool of competition that trends appear amongst results.

We play pretty much the same teams every year and odd quirks are probably everywhere if you look for them.

A whole generation of wire fans, for example, grew up having never seen their team win away at St Helens until they left Knowsley Road, while getting turned over by Cas on Sky has become a sort of tradition for the club.

Another tradition that we seem to cherish is putting in an absolutely abysmal performance in at Salford.

The score line wasn’t as bad as other memorable defeats such as Good Friday 2005 or our first visit to their new ground in 2012, but the performance was just as dire in parts and, in truth, Salford were only marginally better.

On the theme of history repeating itself, eight years ago this weekend, we travelled to Wakefield to watch a thoroughly disgraceful performance which saw the third defeat from three opening matches and the end of James Lowes’ woeful spell in charge of the team.

In came Tony Smith and turned the club’s fortunes around, but on the eighth anniversary of his appointment, there are some murmurs on social media that he may no longer be the man for the job.

That’s bollocks, as far as we’re concerned, based purely on the context of the two situations. In 2009, we had been watching a talented, but undisciplined and inconsistent, Warrington side underperform and, on many occasions, just churn out shite for three years before Smith came in.

Admittedly, we haven’t won a major trophy since 2012 and we are certainly not saying that Smith is above criticism or blame free, but three narrow defeats at the start of the season to three sides who will probably do well this year isn’t the time for a knee-jerk reaction.

The problem, of course, is that having guided us to finals and elevated our status to be one of the top clubs in the league in his time here, Smith has raised expectations and standards and, rightfully, we’re no longer content to be second best and also-rans.

It’s that expectation and knowing what this team should be capable of that makes performances like Saturday so frustrating.

The City Reds, for their part, fucking hate us and, in the absence of a proper regular fixtures with their true local rivals Swinton, seem to have turned their sights onto us for their ‘derby’.

So much so, that they even built their new stadium closer to Warrington just to emphasise the geographical proximity of this fixture.

Perhaps it’s the ‘cup final’ affect that sees them raise their game whenever the Wire are in town.

The afternoon was summed up in the opening five minutes as the Trafford Centre Reds took the lead when Junior S’au crossed in the corner and Warrington sent the restart sailing out on the full.

Both sides traded errors and incomplete sets for the next 20 minutes or so, frustrating both sets of fans, before Joe Westerman provided one of only two highlights of the game with an absolutely filthy offload that released Dec Patton to level the scores.

Westerman had previously come close to scoring himself, when a kick to the corner was tapped back by Atkins to Lineham who popped a neat chip through but his fellow ex-Hull man was millimetres away from touching down.

Again, wasted opportunities and silly errors allowed the Sale Roosters to get a foothold back in the game and a teasing Mick Dobson kick was palmed back to George Griffin to force his way over for a rare try.

A bit of soft defending – the Irlam Sharks defence looked like they were playing touch rugby – saw Jack Hughes bust onto a flat pass from Gidley and cross just before the break, Patton’s goal giving the Wire the lead for the only time in the game.

It was a lead that was gone before most of the away end had returned to the stand with their half-time pint, and the Manchester Red Socks never looked back.

Despite a Jack Johnson score in the corner levelling things again, you just never got the feeling that we would repeat the dramatic victory of last season’s trip to Barton.

Gareth O’Brien, the Red Army’s most popular player since Tex Evans, slotted over two penalty goals that sandwiched a second S’au try to take the game past the Wire, who by this time had kicked the ball out on the full on another two occasions, just to put an exclamation point on another dismal afternoon.

Those travelling fans that stayed to the bitter end weren’t in great spirits, but thankfully for the players, most were too distracted by the second highlight of the day and another throwback to that 2005 defeat – the game of ‘keep the ball’ that was still taking place from O’Brien’s second penalty – to give them the stick they were probably expecting.

As the stewards and ball boys stood on looking gormless and begging for their ball back, it was thrown around by the crowd better than it was by our half backs until finally it landed down the concourse exit and went home with a Wire fan who at least had one souvenir from the day.

It really was De Ja Vu all over again.



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