Soccer Magazine

Oh When the Saints…

By Stuartnoel @theballisround

Oh when the saints…On the eve of the biggest day in the history of Lewes CFC’s year, since, well last week really, James Boyes (Lewes Man of the Year, programme editor, official photographer, website editor and head of the ginger revolution) and myself found ourselves in Widnes.  I would say that few people had ever put those words down on WordPress until this point.  Friday night’s in Widnes are not high on many people’s agenda.  In fact when I told TBIR’s glamorous Northern assistant, Christa, she laughed and made her excuses not to join us.  “I’m watching the box set of Supermarket Sweep and de-fungusing my toenails”  were her words.  So James and I with the whole night ahead of us, in Widnes.

My only memory of Widnes was from an interview I once heard with singer Paul Simon.  When asked whether it was true he wrote the song Homeward Bound based on his experience of Widnes he responded:-

“If you know Widnes, then you’ll understand how I was desperately trying to get back to London as quickly as possible. Homeward Bound came out of that feeling”

Their most famous modern day resident is Mel Chisholm, aka Sporty Spice, who gave the world the fashion of tracksuit bottoms, vests and “zigazig-ha”.  So we set out to try and find some life in the old dog (the town, not Mel C as she lives in Chepstow).  And we didn’t have to look very far.  The plethora of red and white shirts walking down Lowerhouse Lane suggested there was the ultimate entertainment just about to start – Rugby League.

Oh when the saints…
At the far end of Lowerhouse Lane is the Stobart Stadium Halton.  Home of Widnes Vikings and Everton Reserves, this season the 13,500 stadium is the temporary venue for St Helens until their new 18,000 seater ground is ready in the town in time for the 2012 season.  The twelve times champions of Rugby League are traditionally one of the biggest teams in England and this year of exile has seen some of the newer kids on the block push the traditional powers of Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls all the way.

In fact, with the regular season drawing to a close, five teams were challenging for the top spots.  Wigan and Warrington Wolves had traded places at the top all season long but also in the pack along with St Helens were Huddersfield Giants and the Catalan Dragons.  And tonight the team from the French/Spanish border were swapping the culture of Girona and the beaches of Perpignan for the Silver Jubilee Bridge of the Widnes Riviera.

But we didn’t care.  We were two young chaps, freed from the shackles of wives and children for a night.  Rugby League, followed by a night in a Premier Inn. Woof! We were about to live life on the edge. Even Patrick Marber was jealous and made some remark about the scene being almost Cooganesque.  We just laughed, not knowing what he was talking about.  He often tries to fool us with those big words of his.

We approached the ticket office and asked “two of your finest seats please.  Not in the loud part but close enough to see the whites of the players eyes”.  The very kind lady realised that we were from out of town and showed us on the screen where our seats were.  ”Do they play rugby in Canada?” She asked, confused by our combined lapsed cockney/posh Sussex broage.

Oh when the saints…
We felt a bit out of place as well.  James had decided for once not to dress from head to toe in pink, and as (un)luck would have it, the game had been designed a “pink” game as a gesture towards breast cancer.  The Saints would be wearing a special white and pink shirt which would be auctioned off for charity.  Feeling rather out of place we bought lottery tickets for the draw at half time hoping we would win said shirt.

St Helens 40 Catalan Dragons 18 – Stobart Stadium, Halton – Friday 15th July
For ten minutes in the second half of this game it could have gone either way.  Those were the ten minutes when Saints winger Jamie Foster didn’t touch the ball. Often you hear the saying that one player made the difference.  Well for the Saints it was that man Foster.  He helped himself to a hatrick of tries and kicked 16 more points to leave the final score Foster 28 Dragons 18.

Oh when the saints…
Whilst this season the Dragons have been enjoying some fine results, they tend to start games far too slowly and it was the same here as they lacked pace or endeavour in the opening half an hour and found themselves six points down when Foster scored his first in the corner.  The Saints choir burst into life with a version of Depeche Mode’s “I just can’t get enough” and if truth be told nor could James and I.  This was top stuff.

The Dragons scored themselves plunging the stadium into silence but before the half time hooter the Saints extended their lead to 14-6.

The second half started with both teams trading scores.  With the game poised at 18-14 it seemed that the Dragons recent run of 11 wins out of 13 games could be extended to 12.  But that man Foster had other ideas scoring two excellent tries to put some breathing space between them and the Catalan side.  It could have been so different if the Catalans had been braver when give the breakaway chance.  Their players seemed more concerned about when they would be hit rather than if, and consequently lost possession.

Oh when the saints…
In the final few minutes Shenton and Meli gave the score an inbalanced view at the end but that is the cruel nature of the game. The Saints fans went home feeling content that they had blown away one of their rivals for the third spot.  The Dragon fan (well, we only saw one) headed off to rebuild ready for a final push. Rugby League is a top game, one which we do not appreciate in the saarf.

We headed off into the night, looking forward to a night in a Premier Inn hotel in Stafford.  Who said we didn’t know how to party.

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Oh when the saints…

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