Kel Coslett: End Of An Era

KEL Coslett’s recent decision to retire from his position of gameday manager brings to an end almost half a century of direct involvement with St. Helens R.F.C, writes Alex Service.

He will, however, still remain as Honorary Club President, so we haven’t quite seen the last of him just yet!

It all began after his high-profile signing from Welsh Rugby Union in 1962 and a senior debut for the Saints at the Willows against Salford on August 18 1962.

From his accustomed full-back position, Kel kicked four goals in the visitors’ 35-24 victory and it is interesting to note that he was one of seven former rugby union players in the thirteen. The others were Tom van Vollenhoven, Len Killeen [who both scored hat-tricks], Keith Northey, Mike Knowles, Cliff Watson and Ray French. How times have changed!

At the end of his first season, Kel lead the rugby league’s goal-kicking charts with 156 and won his first honour as a Saint when the team beat Swinton in the Lancashire Cup final at Central Park.

It has been well-documented that Kel went on to win virtually every honour at club level from 1962-63 until he left Saints at the end of the 1975-76 season and holds a number of seasonal and career records that will probably never be broken:

Most appearances in a career [519+12]; most goals in a career [1,639]; most career points [3,413]; most goals in a season [214 in 1971-72] and most points in a season [452 in 1971-72].

Those achievements alone make him peerless as a Saint, but there are many other qualities that helped Kel achieve so much in our game. He had the determination to succeed after coming up north in his new code and it is to his credit that he embraced the town of St. Helens where, of course, he has lived ever since.

In the beginning it wasn’t easy, with an early ankle break hindering progress. After his own position in the number one jersey was in jeopardy, he had the adaptability to re-invent himself as a loose forward and become an integral member of the Saints who became one of the game’s most dominant teams in the late 1960s to the mid 1970s.

He was a great leader, on and off the field, who commanded the utmost respect of his team-mates. To hear one of his former team-mates [and great friend] Geoff Pimblett still call him ‘Skip’ after all these years is testimony to all that.

Everyone who watched or who was a team-mate of Kel’s during his playing days will have their own memories of the Great Man.

For me, it was Wembley 1972 and lifting the Challenge Cup against Leeds, when he produced that towering drop-goal and won the Lance Todd trophy for a magnificent overall performance.

He scored a belting try in the [re-played] semi-final against Warrington too.

What about that towering conversion that put us back into contention in the 1971 Championship final at Station Road and the sight of Kel packing down in the front row in the memorable Dad’s Army final of 1976 – another example of his adaptability.

Indeed, his deeds at club level meant that he was a ‘nailed on’ member of Saints’ Greatest 17, announced in that last season at Knowsley Road and no-one could possibly argue against his inclusion!

He has played with and against the greatest players in Rugby league at club and international level and he also coached the Saints for a spell at the start of the Eighties and laid the foundations for future success. Despite all his achievements, he is a very modest and approachable man and is always willing to have a chat with the supporters about the game he loves.

As Football and latterly Gameday Manager, Kel has had the chance to put his great experience and organisational ability to good use. He is extremely popular with the playing and coaching staff at Langtree, who are the first to pay tribute to his hard work.

Another Saints’ legend, Paul Wellens, paid his own tribute: “It goes without saying that Kel is a person who’s held in the highest regard by all at St Helens RFC. His achievements as a player for the club speak for themselves and you don’t do what he has in the game without being an exceptional character. He’s such a great person to be around and the rest of lads enjoy his company very much”.

Indeed, there are many things that Kel does that are ‘above and beyond’ his remit, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Kel Coslett has embraced St. Helens and we have embraced him. Our Club President remains a well-respected and popular ambassador for St. Helens throughout the rugby league.

Methinks he’ll still be a popular figure around Langtree Park for many years to come.

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