Eamonn Writes In M.E.N.

SAINTS Chairman, Eamonn McManus, wrote in the Manchester Evening News last week:

I’m more than pleased with St.Helens’ start to the season. Six from six and top of Super League lays a solid early platform for what is a long and challenging season ahead.

Our new Australian signing Luke Walsh has provided all that we had hoped for with his first rate organisation and kicking.

All of our players have benefitted from his presence and it is no coincidence that we are now putting in the quality and consistency of performance which we have lacked since the Sean Long era.

It is going to be a real test of character for our squad as we look to cope without him due to injury over the next few weeks.

Another aspect that has delighted me has been the excellent form of our very young, local talent which are products of our academy.

Our back three of Tommy Makinson, Adam Swift and Johnny Lomax, along with teenage centre Mark Percival, have brought speed, skill and excitement to our side. That said, the real value of a squad policy was really shown in a really tough away game against Wakefield last Sunday.

We were badly depleted by injury and drew upon academy products Greg Richards, Anthony Walker and Joe Greenwood who were thrown into the deep end of an uncompromising forward battle and came out on top. It is that sort of performance that makes spectators proud as well as happy.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s success at United in the nineties and noughties was largely based around the local academy – produced core of Neville, Scholes and Giggs. They were not just great and committed players but were intolerant of anyone who was not as equally committed.

The culture that it produces is more important than the players it produces and is the key ingredient to sustained success that fans truly appreciate and buy into.

Likewise, although the recent story at City has centred around their expensively assembled squad, it is their substantial investment in their training and academy facilities that will underpin long term performance and which gives fans that added confidence in the real level of commitment of its owners.

It’s no coincidence that the most successful Super League clubs of Saints, Leeds and Wigan are those most committed to youth development. It is the culture that it produces that drives success and the overseas recruits become absorbed in it rather than merely supplement it.

What gives me most pride in our game of rugby league is that it is still absolutely in touch with the day to day lives of the fans which follow us and pay our players.

More importantly, our players recognise and appreciate this and maintain a sense of modesty and reality which commercialism has totally destroyed in other sports.

A large part of that is due to the fact that our players don’t just represent their clubs, but also the towns in which they were born. Long may that continue!

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