ICYMI, yesterday the last six rounds of the #NRL draw were revealed.
24 hours ago
Like a gallon of Greenalls,
Like a kebab from Geno's,
Like a good sniff of glue,
Like a night out at Martine's,
Like a split, fish and curry,
Ohhhh St Helens rugby,
Come thrill me again.
The popularity of this chant is based on the traditions of St.Helens, a small industrial town lying in the North-West. It could be argued that no other club in the league has a song about the many traditions of their town. From the Greenalls brew to Geno?s kebab shop to the town?s delicacy of the ?Split Supper? (a fish split down the middle, filled with mushy peas and served with curry. A dish that Barry Ward inparticular enjoyed over here). And even extending to the reputation that St.Helens got years ago for being a dying town full of glue sniffers.
It?s a song that sends shivers down the spine. It?s what being from St.Helens is all about. Of course there are some features that aren?t mentioned in the song. The famous glass factories and museums. The legend of ?Purple Ackie? ? a bogeyman like figure that kids were terrified of and who every lad in the area seemed to have a wild tale about (contrary to popular belief though this huge, intimidating figure of a man was actually more than a make belief character that kids shared stories of). Anyway, aside from bogeymen and glass makers, there is another place that makes up a huge part of the town?s culture. That place is of course Knowsley Road, home to St.Helens RLFC.
The ground is the last of a dying breed of traditional rugby grounds. Fans can happily roam around the ground with no restrictions on them and without having to sit in a set place. The seated area contains hard, wooden seats.....none of this plastic crap in modern stadiums! The scoreboard doesn?t do any flashy tricks, nor contain multi-coloured lights. It just does it?s job (well actually, I tell a lie, it often struggles to get through the 80 minutes without breaking down on us).
For 15 years now, since my first game as a young whippersnapper, we?ve parked in the same streets a mile?s walk away from the ground. We cross the always busy Dunriding Lane and make our way towards the turnstile. There have been some subtle changes since my first game. We now have a big red vee and ?World Champions 2001? on the front entrance of the stadium and where I kicked a ball over to Anthony Sullivan as a kid on the training field outside the ground before one game, there are now bouncy castles and other such facilities that can now be enjoyed with the change to summer rugby.
Inside the ground, you can see why rival fans refer to the ground as a shed. Sadly the stadium is dying on its feet. It?s a constant battle to keep the capacity above 17,000, women have to queue for anything up to 20mins+ to use the toilets (and whilst they may complain about the toilet facilities, spare a thought for us blokes who don?t even get a roof above ours!).
But I love it all, even the bad points. It?s home to so many great victories and memories and although things change and we?ve been trying to move stadiums for so long now, it?ll be weird not standing next to my mates in the same spot every week. But times are changing and we must move with them. To provide fans with proper facilites, to find a better location in town, to give our attendances a boost. My heart says, ?No, let?s stay.?. But my head accepts that the sooner we leave, the better.
An old friend wrote in my high school leaving book, ?The St.Helens lads - same place, every home game - FOREVER?. Sadly nothing lasts forever. The atmosphere and chanting in ?The Scaff?, the smell of muscle rub walking into the ground and cheering the lads through their dressing room windows whilst leaving the ground will one day all be distant memories.
There may be no bogeyman about in the future, the glass factories may die and Knowsley Road may become a housing estate. But as long as we still have our Split Supper, our pint of Greenall?s and a kebab from Geno?s after a night out at Martine?s (but erm maybe not a sniff of glue), the Knowsley Road spirit will never die and will live on wherever we play.
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