Updated: Friday, 23rd February 2018 @ 4:59pm

Salford City Reds gear up for historic day in new stadium

Salford City Reds gear up for historic day in new stadium

By Ben Burrows

This Saturday will see rugby league history made in Salford.

After more than 110 years the Salford City Reds will play their first ever league game away from the Willows.

Last season they closed the doors on their historic home in favour of the brand new purpose built Salford City Stadium.

The new 12,000-capacity arena will play host to the Castleford Tigers on Saturday for round one of the Stobart Super League.

The off-season saw assistant coach Phil Veivers promoted to head coach replacing the outgoing Matt Parish. It was no secret that Veivers was itching for an opportunity at the big job when Shaun McRae left in April but now he has the chance to make the team his own as the Reds begin a new post-Willows era.

He will be joined on the coaching staff by Sean Long. Long, a household name in rugby league circles and one of the few known well outside of them, joins the Reds after ending his illustrious 17-year playing career last year with Hull.

Reds fans will be hoping that Long can bring some of his trademark flair from his playing days to an exciting backline which already boasts an array of talent. Despite this being his first foray into the world of coaching, Long will bring a wealth of experience that will no doubt add to a Salford team with bags of youth and enthusiasm.

It was a pre-season full of change with a new captain joining the new coach and new stadium combination. Experienced loose-forward Stephen Wild will lead the Reds this year replacing outgoing captain Daniel Holdsworth.

New South Welshman Holdsworth, who was the Reds top goal and points scorer in both 2010 and 2011 can now concentrate fully on his game and can hopefully continue his Club Player of the Season form into the 2012 season.

Veivers said: “They’re both leaders in their own right, and this is no detriment to Daniel as a captain. It allows Daniel to concentrate on playing footy without any other outside influences affecting his game.”

On the pitch pre-season did not begin well with a disappointing loss at home to Championship side Leigh Centurions.

But the Reds’ fortunes, and more importantly performances have improved since with an excellent 46-16 win over Halifax followed up with a very narrow 16-10 loss to Challenge Cup holders Wigan Warriors.

Speaking to the Club website after Tuesday’s game with the Warriors, Veivers was full of praise for his improving side. He said: “We upped the ante on last week’s game and yeah I’m really happy with that. We have changed structures throughout the club which takes a while and I don’t think we will be the complete article until Round Six or so. We have 10 days until Castleford and at the moment we are full fitness and no injuries. Happy days!”

One of the most exciting elements of pre-season has been the thunderous form of prop Iafeta Palea’asina.

The veteran Samoan, signed last year from Wigan Warriors, has always been characterised by his powerful and uncompromising style but having returned from the off-season over two stone lighter he seems an even more dangerous offensive threat this year.

Used primarily as a high-impact (in all senses of the phrase) interchange option it looks like a big season for the man simply known as ‘Feka’.

Reds fans will be hoping scrum-half Matty Smith can continue his development with another influential year. The former St. Helens academy graduate will need to have another standout season in the halves alongside Daniel Holdsworth if the Reds are to achieve their goal of playoff rugby at the end of the season.

Smith has hailed the impact of Sean Long on the team already despite only a short time in the job. “He is fantastic, he knows the game inside out. It’s fantastic to have him on board this year. Our attack has gone through the roof – we’ve shortened everything up and the passing is more crisp. He’s fantastic!” Smith told the Club website.

The Reds face Castleford Tigers on Saturday. It will be tough opening test against a Tigers side which narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last season and should be revitalised under new coach Ian Millward. If the Reds are to come out on top they will have to minimise the impact of 2011 Man of Steel Rangi Chase.

The Cas number 7 had a fabulous season ending with international recognition with England and will pose a constant threat to the Reds on Saturday.

There will also be a treat for all X-Factor fans on Saturday with 2011 finalist Amelia Lily performing at half-time with a pre-match funfair and other entertainment also in store.

Tickets are still available for the game and can be bought online, at the Stadium Booking Office or over the phone on 0844 888 0200.