Move On

Erm…what to say about that game. After the Lord Mayors show perhaps? A largely forgettable affair in which Tommy Makinson excelled, the atmosphere was as flat as a pancake and for some reason the game took nearly 2 hours to complete. Even perennial Sky Man of the Match Ben Barba, who sat the game out after the shoulder knock he picked up against Salford, would have struggled to make this game shine – even if he’d brought all the silver plates he’s won over the season and reflected the floodlights onto the pitch off them.

On the field, James Roby completed a decent enough hour stint in his comeback from injury. With Barba missing, Lomax slotted into the full back position with ease and Theo Fages went in to stand off. It’s difficult to single out anyone as having a bad game but it was definitely cut out for the young Frenchman to shine, but unfortunately while doing the basics right, he (and a host of others) didn’t really step up. Fages has looked better at hooker in recent weeks, providing dynamism in the absence of Roby. Maybe he was affected as, once again, early in the game, Jon Wilkin popped up with alarming regularity at first receiver. Wilkin has started the season well, but he is better suited to his second row position and allowing the half backs to dictate the flow of the game.

However, at no point were Saints uncomfortable in the match. It never felt like Catalans could build on their win over Hull the previous week. But when alls said and done, its 2 more points and we still sit top of the pile.


Midweek Madness

The first time I ever watched Saints was when my granddad took me to Knowsley Road in March 1990. We lost against Warrington. Pre-match I wasn’t happy because my favourite player Phil Veivers wasn’t playing full back, instead some young lad called Gary Connolly got the nod there instead (Veivers played at centre).

As I’ve found out by looking back, the game was played on a Wednesday night. I don’t remember much about the game, but I remember the game being played under floodlights. Ah, Rugby League under the floodlights. The open air stadium. The tribal atmosphere. The skill, the battle. Marvellous isn’t it?

Not if you’re playing Catalans. It’s easy for English Super League teams to be followed to the south ofFrance, by a throng of supporters once a year – whether it be 100, 200 or more. And it’s difficult for Catalans to do the same when they have at least 14 trips to England in a season. Not only that, the South Of France is a beautiful place to visit – and who wants to spend a Thursday night in St. Helens orEast Hull or Wigan.

As we’re contractually obliged to play Thursday night games, the Saints-Catalans match is an easy option for Sky. It’s not always a good game, as we found out again last week. The lack of away support leads to an apathetic stadium. I won’t absolve Saints fans of any blame for the lack of atmosphere in the stadium, there could have been more effort from every single one of us in there on Thursday, without exception. Maybe we could have filled the away end with local school children by dishing out free family tickets, to help the atmosphere. Maybe that wouldn’t work for many reasons. But, in my opinion, much of the blame has to lie at Sky’s door.

Thursday rugby doesn’t work for the fans. 7.45 kick off times become moot when we go to the screen so often, I got home after 22.30 and I’d imagine that families weren’t far off that time getting home from the game – if they bothered at all. I’d imagine club revenues are hit with a lack of ‘walk ups’ and refreshment sales. But fans don’t matter, Rugby League has signed up with Sky, we take the money and pay the price.


Get Over Kit

“As a grown man I don’t really consider what shirt St. Helens wear to be of major importance, as long as the Saints home kit is white with a red vee (or even a single thick horizontal stripe).” – May 2017

Right let’s get this one out of the way. I’d prefer to see us play in a traditional Saints home kit when we run out at The TW.

But, I didn’t have a problem with us running out in our alternative strip on Thursday.

Saints haven’t always taken to the field in a white jersey with a red vee, but since the 1960’s this combination has been seen as part of the club’s identity. This is of course with the exception, in my opinion, of the 1991-94 shirt (that wasn’t a vee), the iconic 1996 shirt (a bit Wigany for my liking), the 1997 shirt (predominantly white and black) and arguably the 1999, 2002 and 2004 kits – the 3 of which had more rounded, ‘seagull effect’ vees. When on the road Saints have worn a palette of different colours – unfortunately it’s no longer is it deemed acceptable to simply re-colour the vee blue and have done with it. We’ve played in finals in teal and orange, blue and green, blue, white and red & black with red ‘flashes’ – in the league we’ve worn a plain green shirt, dark grey with red hoops, sky with navy blue & black and yellow and the list goes on. There’s no real constant on the ‘away’ side of things any more – as long as there’s a Saints badge on it, it’s a Saints shirt.

We’re also not the first club to don an away kit at home. Huddersfield have done it in the Super League era, so Saints aren’t the fore bearers on this. Also, if you want tradition, up until around 1980, Rugby League clubs used to use their alternative shirts at home in the event of a kit clash – up until recently in the George pub in town, there was a famous picture of Tom van Vollenhoven, at Knowsley Road, in a plain blue jersey with white collar running past Billy Boston who was wearing cherry and white.

Back to the present day, I’m not suggesting this should become the norm again. However, for one 80 minute performance in as long as I can remember, to please one of our sponsors, I’ve no issue with us wearing the black shirt. We’ve probably not worn the alternative as much as the commercial side would probably like, and let’s be honest, Saints need to make money. We’ve moved away from sports being about just enjoyment and its now about results – both on and off the field. It might be a long term plan from Saints, to show how much we value sponsors, to glean more money, more exposure, more sponsors from a tough environment for rugby league clubs. If you lose an international brand, you may well replace them as a sponsor. But who’s to say it’s not a smaller company who can’t offer as many benefits.

Imagine missing out on sponsorship, because we’re hard to work with as a club, and the knock on effect that would have. Imagine losing a sponsor and not being able to replace them. Imagine the hole in sponsorship being about 5’ 9” and 91kg. Imagine a scenario where Ben Barba stays next season, lovesSt. Helens, his family are happy and he wants to stay – but we aren’t in a financial state to offer him a new deal. All because a sponsor isn’t happy and not only pulls out, but spreads the word that we weren’t accommodating. Or if this is a little far fetched for your liking it could be the difference in being able to take a chance on a project from the lower leagues, like James Bentley or Alex Walmsley. For the sake of one game, it’s a small price to pay.

Finally, I’ve read a national newspaper article bemoaning the fact that Saints didn’t play in their usual home strip in memory of Roy Haggerty and Cliff Watson. I understand this, and the author nodding that this would have been a decision made in advance of these two greats passing. However, Saints lowered the flags above the ground and held a minutes applause in memory of these stalwarts. Surely this, and the win over Catalans, is better dedication than the colour of a jersey?

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