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Swinton Lions

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Swinton Lions

Swinton Lions
Club information
Full name Swinton Lions
Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s) The Lions
Website swintonlionsrlc.co.uk
Colours
Founded 1866
Current details
Ground(s)
Chairman John Roddy
Coach(s) John Duffy
Competition Kingstone Press League 1 (from 2015)
2014 RFL Championship 13th
Current season
Records
Premierships 6 (1926–27, 1927–28, 1930–31, 1934–35, 1962–63, 1963–64)
Challenge Cups 3 (1899–1900, 1925–26, 1927–28)
Lancashire Cup 4 (1925–26, 1927–28, 1939–40, 1969–70)
Lancashire League 6 (1924–25, 1927–28, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1939–40, 1960–61)
Second Division 1 (1984–85)
Most capped 15 - Martin Hodgson
Most points 2,105 - Ken Gowers

Swinton Lions is an English professional rugby league club from Swinton and Pendlebury, Greater Manchester. The club has won the Championship six times and three Challenge Cups. From 2015, Swinton Lions will compete in the re-structured Kingstone Press League 1, the third tier of European rugby league (behind the Super League and Kingstone Press Championship).

History

Early years

The club was formed on 21 October 1866 when members of Swinton Cricket Club decided to take up "football" in the winter. Other than an annual challenge against the local Lancashire Rifle Volunteers (the first of which was recorded on 2 January 1869), the only games played in those early days were amongst the club's own membership.

In 1871 they joined the Rugby Football Union, under the name Swinton and Pendlebury F.C., playing at their first ground located off Station Road in the town. Their first game was against Eccles Standard, within 4 or 5 years the team became virtually unbeatable in the Manchester area and beyond. This rise in stature was surprising because Swinton and Pendlebury, at this time, were nothing more than tiny colliery villages with a few cotton mills. However, it also had a large number of local junior teams from which the club drew its talent.

They moved from playing at a field in the Station Road area in 1873 to a ground known as Stoneacre, and used the nearby White Lion public house as changing rooms. They have been known as "the Lions" ever since.

Having gone three years undefeated in the mid-1870s, the Lions gradually sought a tougher fixture list. In 1878 came the club's first ventures into Yorkshire, and fairly soon the club was travelling throughout England taking on opponents as Oxford University. Such was the Lions' success that by the mid-1880s Swinton had become recognised as a national force and were considered the strongest team in Lancashire. The first rugby match under floodlights took place in Salford, between Broughton and Swinton on 22 October 1878.

In 1886 they moved again to their Chorley Road ground, this enabled the club to develop further. The new ground could accommodate much larger crowds and the staging of a couple of County matches added to Swinton's growing reputation. During their rugby union era the Lions produced several England internationals and dozens more who gained representative recognition wearing the red rose of Lancashire.

They were initially reluctant to join the new Northern Union, but did so on 2 June 1896 due to the fact that the majority of other teams in the region had done so, causing financial hardship to the club. The Northern Union was then split into two county leagues, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

In 1900 led by Jim Valentine, they won the Rugby League Challenge Cup defeating Salford at Fallowfield, Manchester.

On Saturday 8 September 1906, Swinton hosted a Pontefract team who arrived with only 12 players. The Lions scored 18 tries in a club record 76–4 victory. This record would stand for ninety years but three months later when the Lions visited Pontefract they lost 5–0.

The period leading up to the Great War was not particularly auspicious for the Lions. Financial crisis followed financial crisis and only the sale of the main stand saved the club from closure during 1917. The war took the lives of 13 Swinton players, but back home the Lions played on throughout in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.

Inter-war period

Lions' directors managed to call upon the support of local businessmen. The signings of Hector Halsall, a centre and future captain, and Albert Jenkins, a Welsh half-back, provided the catalyst. Throughout the 1920s the Lions got better and better, they beat the visiting Australasian team of the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain 9–0. At last they won the Lancashire Cup in 1925 before recapturing the Challenge Cup in 1926.

They then followed this with their first-ever Championship a year later, and in 1928 the team reached its zenith becoming the last team to secure All Four Cups; they were also the only side from Lancashire to achieve this feat (Hunslet and Huddersfield were the two other clubs). In addition to the Championship Trophy, the Challenge Cup, the Lancashire League and the Lancashire Cup; Swinton won a fifth cup, the Salford Royal Hospital Cup, which was competed for by Salford, Broughton Rangers and Swinton. Crowds in excess of 20,000 were commonplace at Chorley Road.

A traditional Swinton jersey design

Under captain, Graham Rees as well as the Cumbrian goal-kicking second row forward, Martin Hodgson who signed for Swinton in January 1927. Hodgson still holds the long distance penalty goal world record with a kick of 77¾ yards (at the Athletic Grounds, Rochdale, in April 1940).

The 1927–28 season saw the Lions sweep all before them. They topped both the Championship and the Lancashire League, having already defeated Wigan in the Lancashire Cup. In a tense Challenge Cup Final they squeezed past Warrington 5–3, and three weeks later the Holy Grail was achieved when they comfortably eased past Featherstone Rovers 11–0 to take the Rugby Football League Championship.

A rent dispute in 1928 caused the club to search for pastures new. In 1929, the club then moved to a new stadium back near their original home off Station Road, taking the old stands with them. This new stadium's name was simply named after its nearby location, Station Road. In March 1929, a 22,000 thousand crowd saw the Lions defeat Wigan in the first match on new turf. This soon became a favoured ground for major fixtures such as Test matches, Challenge Cup semi-finals, Lancashire Cup finals and Championship finals.

Further Championships were won in 1931 and 1935.

Swinton won the Lancashire Cup again in dramatic style against Widnes in 1940, but thereafter the war curtailed the promise of further progress. In 1941–42 Swinton abandoned the Lancashire League due to the Second World War and did not return until the 1945–46 season.

Post war

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Lions strove unsuccessfully to repeat former glories and often flattered to deceive, but the appointment of Welshman Cliff Evans as coach signalled a renaissance. Concentrating on a youth policy and training methods beyond his era, Evans began to model an exiting, young Swinton team.

A proposal in 1960 to create a Manchester rugby league club at the former White City Stadium on Chester Road received strong opposition from Salford and Swinton. Their protests were renewed when a match was staged there between a Manchester XIII (Salford & Swinton players) and the New Zealand tourists in September 1961 and the idea was subsequently dropped.

Swinton made it to the final of the Lancashire Cup in three consecutive seasons 1960–61, 1961–62 and 1962–63 plus 1964–65 but lost to St Helens on each occasion at Central Park, Wigan.

Swinton became Champions of the Rugby Football League Championship in the 1962–63 season. Led by coach Cliff Evans and inspirational skipper Albert Blan, the team recovered from a slow start to complete the final backlogged 18 games (delayed due to the severe winter weather) of a 30-match league calendar undefeated to walk away with the Championship. The Swinton's 6th Championship was retained in style 12 months later (1963–64).

As Swinton coach in the late 1960s/early 1970s, Albert Blan guided the team to a fourth and final Lancashire Cup success in the 1969–70 final against Leigh by 11–2 at Central Park, Wigan.

When two divisions were reintroduced in 1973, Swinton were out of the top flight, and have struggled to regain their former glories ever since. By the end of the 1970s the club had hit rock-bottom, even though Station Road continued to host semi-finals and finals.

Initially under Frank Myler, and then under Jim Crellin, the Lions briefly threatened a revival during the 1980s. Players such as Les Holliday and Danny Wilson offered great hope for the future, but despite a Second Division Premiership success in 1987, three separate promotions simply brought about three immediate relegations.

Swinton offered Leigh the option of a ground share at Station Road in June 1991 but they turned it down. In 1992, financial mis-management necessitated the sale of Station Road for property development. The club moved to Gigg Lane, Bury, the home of Bury F.C.. In the Lions' last season at Station Road they were drawing crowds of 3,000 but this sudden move caused the club to lose many supporters. [1]

Swinton were saved from liquidation by a consortium headed by former chairman Malcolm White in January 1993.

Summer era

In 1996, the first tier of British rugby league clubs played the inaugural Super League season and changed from a winter to a summer season.[1] The rest of the professional game in Britain would follow this move to summer.

In 1996 Swinton officially added 'Lions' to their name. Peter Roe led Swinton to promotion from Division Two in 1996. The former Great Britain captain, Mike Gregory was the head coach of the club between 1998 and 2001.

The financial failure of major creditor and de facto owner Hugh Eaves in 2002 put the future of the club in jeopardy, the chairman and benefactor Malcolm White resigned. The Swinton Supporters' Trust began life on 14 February 2002 in the White Lion public house and set about raising funds for the club. Shortly afterwards, Swinton were forced out of Gigg Lane by the financial problems of their landlords, Bury FC. [2]

In August 2002, the club were brought the club back to within one mile of the Swinton and Pendlebury border when they played their first match at Moor Lane in Kersal as tenants of Salford City FC, after travelling to Leigh and Chorley to play 'home' matches. Unfortunately the football club would not grant Swinton a ten-year lease which would be required to enable much needed funding to bring the ground up to standard.

In 2003, the Lions moved to Park Lane, Whitefield, home of Sedgley Park R.U.F.C..

Peter Roe quit as coach of Swinton Lions in September 2003, after less than a year in charge. He rejected a two-year contract to continue as the coach and general manager and left the National League Two club. [3].

In 2006, the return to Swinton and Pendlebury was taken one step further when club chairman, John Kidd, announced on 9 August that the club had acquired a site to build a 6,000 capacity stadium with training facilities and community use in Agecroft, Pendlebury.

In May 2007, Swinton Lions went into administration for about 48 hours to restructure the club from top to bottom. A new company Swinton Lions Rugby Club was set up to remove problems with shareholdings from the previous administration. Currently the club are under the stewardship of chairman, John Kidd and fellow directors Paul Kidd (chairman's son), Dave Roberts and Ben Jones. During the autumn of 2009 director Paul Kidd stood down as head coach and moved to his new role as director of rugby. It was also announced that the new player/coach for season 2010 would be Paul Smith with Ian Watson as his assistant player/coach. During the season, on 25 May 2010, Paul Smith announced his resignation from his head coach role and left to play for Leigh. He was replaced by Paul Kidd and Ian Watson.

On 26 September 2010, former Barrow coach Steve McCormack was confirmed as the head coach for the 2011 season with Ian Watson and Marlon Billy continuing in their roles as assistant coaches. Swinton played their home games for the 2011 season at the Willows, Weaste, Salford. Swinton went on to win promotion to the Co-operative Championship as Champions of Championship 1.

With City Reds moving to a new stadium in Barton, Eccles, Swinton will ground-share with Leigh in the Co-operative Championship from 2012 onwards whilst they await permission to build their own ground at Agecroft.

On 18 March 2013 the club announced the appointment of Gary Chambers as head coach. Gary, a teacher at Harrop Fold School in Walkden, joins the Lions. At the start of the 2014 season former Director John Kidd resigned and a new board of directors was formed under David Jones. Ian Watson took over as coach.

In June 2014 Ian Watson left to join Salford Red Devils and John Duffy replaced him as coach.

The return to M27

In 2006, a return to Swinton and Pendlebury was given credence when club chairman, John Kidd, announced on 9 August that the club had acquired the lease on a site to build a 6,000 capacity stadium with training facilities and community use at Agecroft, Pendlebury.

In May 2009, Mr Kidd announced that he hoped to be in a position to apply for planning permission from the local council by the autumn. Once given the thumbs up from Salford Council it was envisaged that construction could be completed quickly. The proposed design was said to be of a modular construction, which would allow for quick and easy erection and future development if crowd numbers dictated.

Director, Dave Roberts outlined that £50K was needed to fund Phase 1 and that funding possibilities from central and local sources were being investigated. Chris Martin from Pendlebury United F.C. spoke of the need for a base not only for the Lions, but a base for all local sports teams, and that the Agecroft Development must be supported by the local and sporting community as a whole in order to generate the necessary funding.

As of 7 June 2011 when the club hosted a fans' meeting at Moorside Social Club, Swinton, Mr Kidd stated that he expected that the building of the stadium should commence no later than New Year's Day, 2012 with completion set for the end of April (2012). However, the predicted return date of spring 2012 proved to be a somewhat optimistic and premature forecast. Ultimately the funding did not materialise and the club later relinquished its lease on the Agecroft site.

By late 2013 the club was found to be in severe financial difficulties. Chairman John Kidd announced his resignation and hopes of saving the club were left in the hands of director David Jones and the Supporters' Trust. A new company was formed with a commitment to pay the debts of the pre-existing company under the terms of a CVA. It was hoped that this course of action would buy time and secure the club's membership of the RFL, as well as avoid a points deduction for season 2014.

Alan Marshall and Stephen Wild were nominated by the Supporters' Trust to fill two positions on the new Board of Directors. They were later joined by John Roddy, the former CEO of Leigh Centurions RLFC, who arrived in the summer of 2014 as an investor and Commercial Director.

After losing player-coach Ian Watson to local rivals Salford, the club appointed John Duffy as head coach in July 2014. A difficult season combined with drastic restructuring of the league structure has left the Lions in the third tier of Rugby League for 2015. In October 2014 the club announced its intention to return to Park Lane, home of Sedgley Park RUFC as its home base for season 2015.

In the meantime, in January 2014 Salford City Reds owner Marwan Koukash announced his intention to revolutionise Swinton town centre via the development of the now redundant St Ambrose Barlow RC High School site off Shatesbury Road. His plans were to include a 3,000 capacity ground for the Lions on the site of the old school playing field on Stanwell Road, alongside new housing, restaurants and a hotel. It is hoped the council embrace this wonderful vision to give by the town and the club an exciting identity and viable future.

Past coaches

2015 squad

* Announced on 3 December 2014:

2015 Squad Numbers

No Player Position Former club
1 Richard Hawkyard Full Back Bradford Bulls
2 Shaun Robinson Wing Dewsbury Rams
3 Stuart Littler Centre Leigh Centurions
4 Mick Nanyn Centre Rochdale Hornets
5 Alex Hurst Wing London Broncos
6 Ben White Stand Off Leeds Rhinos
7 Chris Atkin Scrum Half
8 Mike Morrison Prop, Second Row
9 Andy Ackers Hooker Warrington Wolves
10 Ben Austin Prop Wigan Warriors
11 Grant Beecham Second Row Wigan Warriors
12 Darren Hawkyard Second Row
13 Tommy Gallagher Loose Forward Dewsbury Rams
14 Lewis Hulme Hooker Widnes Vikings
15 Dale Cunliffe Second Row Australia
16 Jimmy Rowlands Half Back Oxford RLFC
17 Iain Morrison Prop York City Knights
18 Aaron Lloyd Hooker Barrow Raiders
19 Jack Morrison Prop Barrow Raiders
20 Matt Pendlebury Half Back Leigh Centurions
21 Andrew Ball Utility Back Rochdale Hornets
22 Chris Rothwell Utility Back Ashton Bears
23 Connor Dwyer Second Row, Loose Forward St Helens
24 Ryan Powell Prop Wigan Warriors
25 Harry Aaronson Full Back Huddersfield Giants
26 Liam Coleman Utility Forward Leigh Miners Rangers
Callum Hughes Wing Halifax RLFC

2015 transfers

Gains
Player Club Contract length Date
Andy Ackers Warrington Wolves - Permanent 2 Years September 2014
Iain Morrison York City Knights 1 Year September 2014
Shaun Robinson Dewsbury Rams 2 Years September 2014
Stuart Littler Leigh Centurions 1 Year September 2014
Callum Hughes Halifax RLFC 2 Years September 2014
Chris Rothwell Ashton Bears 2 Years September 2014
Harry Aaronson Huddersfield Giants 1 Year September 2014
Matt Pendlebury Leigh Centurions 2 Years September 2014
Ben White Leeds Rhinos 3 Years September 2014
Aaron Lloyd Barrow Raiders 3 Years September 2014
Andrew Ball Rochdale Hornets 1 Year October 2014
Jimmy Rowlands Oxford Rugby League 2 Years October 2014
Alex Hurst London Broncos 1 Year October 2014
Jack Morrison Barrow Raiders 1 Year October 2014
Grant Beecham Wigan Warriors 2 Years October 2014
Ryan Powell Wigan Warriors 2 Years November 2014
Ben Austin Wigan Warriors 1 Year November 2014
Tommy Gallagher Dewsbury Rams 1 Year November 2014
Connor Dwyer St Helens 2 Years November 2014
Liam Coleman Leigh Miners Rangers 1 Year December 2014
Losses
Player Club Contract length Date
Luke Menzies Salford Red Devils 2 Years September 2014
Zach Johnson Dewsbury Rams 2 Years September 2014
Josh Barlow Dewsbury Rams 1 Year September 2014
James Brown Batley Bulldogs 1 Year October 2014
Danny Halliwell Sale Sharks 3 Years October 2014
Martin Ainscough Retired N/A October 2014
Ed Barber Released
Anthony Bowman Released
Jack Cooper Released
Liam Fishwick Released
Liam Hulme Released
Steve Lewis Released
Mark Thomas Released
Freddie Walker Released
Ben Warrilow Released
Joe Worthington Released

Honours

Players earning international caps while at Swinton

Other notable players

Records

Player records

Team records

  • Biggest victory: 94–0 vs Gateshead, 22 August 2010
  • Heaviest defeat: 0–112 vs Warrington Wolves, 20 May 2011
  • Highest attendance:
    • Club: 26,891 vs Wigan, RL Challenge Cup 1st round replay, Wednesday, 12 February 1964 ( at Station Road – score Swinton 13 Wigan 8 )
    • Station Road: 44,621 for Challenge Cup semi-final Warrington vs Wigan, 7 April 1951

2012 Player Awards

  • Player of the Season: Darren Hawkyard
  • Leading Try Scorer: Martin Ainscough (16 Tries)

References

  1. ^ Dave Hadfield (20 December 1995). "Rugby's pounds 87m deal gives Murdoch transfer veto". The Independent. Retrieved 6 May 2009. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Swinton Lions Supporters' Trust
  • Swinton Lions TV
  • Swinton Lions forum on RugbyLeague.org
  • National League website
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