Blakeley bids for future role

Dave Hadfield views two clubs perhaps meeting for the last time
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The Independent Online
Salford 46

Workington Town 16

Forget Salford and Workington. Half of Manchester proved too strong yesterday for a quarter of Cumbria.

If the mergers necessary to make Rupert Murdoch's super league work go ahead, these are two of the clubs that stand to lose their individual identity, Salford amalgamating with Oldham and Workington joining forces with Cumbria's three other professional clubs.

For many Salford supporters there is the comforting assumption that they will be the dominant partners. After all, it makes more obvious sense for a club called Manchester to play within walking distance of the city centre, rather than up in the hills at Oldham's distant and dilapidated Watersheddings.

"It's something that I have to start talking about tomorrow to the Oldham chairman," said John Wilkinson, Salford's chairman and the longest-serving in the game. "They have plans for a new ground, but maybe a new ground for us at Agecroft could become a reality. Maybe this is even something big enough for Manchester United to become interested."

Wilkinson has already sampled the difficulty in selling Murdoch's vision of the future to Salford's supporters. "I was stopped by a man who has been coming here for 65 years, telling me I shouldn't let this happen," he said. "I have to try to tell him that it was going to happen and we have to be a part of it."

Workington face even greater logistical problems with the proposed new Cumbrian club having to knit together almost 100 miles of coastline from Barrow to the Solway Firth, although Workington and Whitehaven could be quite prepared to go it alone if necessary.

Almost incidentally, there was a match at The Willows yesterday, almost certainly the last between the two clubs in their present form. Players from clubs destined for amalgamation have more incentive than ever to play for next season's contracts, but only Salford seemed inspired by that fact.

Their loose foward Sam Panapa scored his first hat-trick for the club, but their star was Steve Blakeley, who led Salford to their first win in six matches on his return from injury. He must have had a sniff of the stand-off job with Manchester.

With flawless timing, Salford's next match, on Good Friday, is against Oldham. Winner takes all, with the new club going to that town, perhaps?

Salford: Myler; Evans, Naylor, Martin, Ford; Blakeley (Forber, 76), Lee; Young (Southern, 65),Quigley, Southern (Randall, h-t), Eccles, Forber (M Gregory, 52), Panapa.

Workington Town: Mulligan; Drummond, Burns (Carter, 30), Fawcett, Pape; Ellis, Marwood; Armstrong (Schubert, 64) McKenzie, Schubert (Williams, 30), Holgate, McGinty, Hepi.

Referee: R Tennant (Castleford).