After an eerie twelve months lodging at Widnes’ Stobart Stadium, Friday saw the first league game at St Helens RLFC’s new Langtree Park ground. Costing £20m and being twelve years in development it would be an understatement to say this occasion was eagerly anticipated by all associated with the club.
With a generous provision of terracing and unique touches around the perimeter, thankfully this doesn’t feel like so many of the McStadiums that have popped up around the country. Granted, there is the obligatory Tesco Extra and retail park nearby, but within the confines of the stadium there is a real feel of home about it.
The ground is well positioned for those coming from outside of the town as it is a leisurely ten minute walk from the central train station and car parking in plentiful supply.
Whilst the previous home of Knowsley Road held character and rough-around-the-edges charm, this new construction feels a great deal more fitting to a club at the summit of the sport in this country. A sport, incidentally, which receives the second highest viewing figures on Sky Sports, which would surprise many who dismiss it as only of interest to those in the M62 corridor.
A guard of honour stocked with old heroes from the 1960’s through to players recently departed shepherded the St Helens side to the pitch. The match ball was then ceremonially placed on the centre spot by the great, in name and reputation, Tom Van Vollenhoven; as ex-Saints character Sean Long – a man who earlier in the week described rugby having left him with a face like ‘a smashed crab’ – looked on from the touchline in his role at coach at opposition Salford.
As the game settled down after the distractions of the build up it was the time for the multinational plethora of stars to assume responsibilty for the entertainment. Aussie Josh Perry, he of the wide shoulders and his own brand of muesli, assisting local lads James Roby and Lee Gaskell in seeing the home side to a 38-10 win.
Priced at just £18.50 for a standing ticket there is certainly value for money, with both experts and novices catered for by the multi-faceted nature of the game and the passionate yet friendly atmosphere.
Details of forthcoming fixtures can be found at www.saintsrlfc.com.