Book of the Week

The Lions Of Swinton - A Complete History By Stephen M Wild Self-published pounds 29.99
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The Independent Online
SWINTON CANNOT claim to be the biggest name in rugby league - although, as Steve Wild would be the first to remind us, there were times in the 1920s and 1960s when they could - but they now have the biggest history.

At 644 pages, it is the size of the Manchester (North) telephone directory and weighs as much as some of the club's prop forwards. The physical feat of reading it is more strenuous than training sessions under some of the club's coaches; but, as Swinton's story shows, life isn't meant to be easy.

Wild devotes 78 pages to the years before the split from rugby union, but this is the work of a completist and, among the sheer bulk of information, there are some real nuggets.

The title, defines Swinton and their era, they are "The Lions because they used to get changed at The White Lion pub down the road".

Those who know it as part of the Manchester and Salford urban sprawl will find it hard to imagine Swinton as the pit village it was when it first began to produce and attract outstanding rugby players.

There was a long history of Welshmen, like Billo Rees and Bryn Evans, the half-backs that won everything in 1927-8. But perhaps the greatest of the lot was the Cumbrian second-rower, Martin Hodgson, who, apart from his all-round ability, kicked a goal measured at 77 yards in 1940.

Wild's great hero - ahead even of 50s giants like Alan Buckley, John Stopford and Albert Blan - is Danny Wilson, now remembered as the temperamental dad of Ryan Giggs, but, on his day, a fully paid-up sporting genius in his own right.

If Wilson is the hero, then those who dragged Swinton into exile in Bury are the villains. For a man whose grand-dad helped to build the Station Road ground, it could hardly be otherwise, although even Wild concedes that, if they are doomed never to return, there would be some sense in them becoming the Bury Lions or the Manchester Lions.

That is pragmatism rather than sacrilege, but if you want a symbol of continuity it is perhaps the old Station Road goalposts, once the tallest in the game. They refused to come out of the sacred soil when the demolition men arrived and had to be sawn off. They now stand, slightly truncated but still enormous, on Eccles' pitch by the M60; life goes on.

Available from Stephen Wild, 70 Swinton Hall Road, Swinton, Manchester M27 4BJ (0161 728 1068).

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