Last Sunday, Salford RLFC Supporters' Trust held an Evening With Ian Watson and guests at The Old Nags Head in Irlam.
The night kicked off with Devil in the Detail and Salford Star reporter, Paul Whiteside, speaking to Mark Lee about his eleven years at the club in the late 80s 90s. Lee's passion for Salford was clear to all, and he made his annoyance felt at recent comments by Tory Councillor Robin Garrido, who told fellow councillors that the club 'did not deserve to exist' (see here). Lee felt the councillor did not understand the club's links to the community.
Ex-referee, Steve Ganson, was the subject of Lee's best anecdote which consisted of a vital game in Paris, Ganson's missing duty free and his awarding of a dubious penalty to find out who had swiped it. The conclusion brought the house down.
After the raffle, where a brilliant picture of Junior Sa'u was the top prize, Paul Highton spoke to Ian Watson about his career. Whilst there were no contentious questions (it wasn't that kind of night), what was clear was Watson's determination to succeed at the club.
When taking his first steps into coaching whilst at Swinton Lions, former Warrington coach Tony Smith mentored him; a fact Watson did not forget after his first game as Head Coach at Salford, when Smith was one of the first people Watson thanked after the game.
Watson also told the audience how the chance to coach at his home town club, and one which he had played at, nearly never happened as he was offered a job at Leeds Rhinos but had to turn it down. Watson found Tim Sheens to be a great help in the latter's time at the club, with Sheen's a former Australian coach and multiple Grand Final wining coach always offering his support and experience.
As a player, Watson's career was mostly around the lower leagues. He did have two spells at Salford and came through the club's youth system, but his best moment on the field was with Wales in the World Cup when they reached the semi final in the year 2000.
What was clear was Ian Watson's work ethic, as he spoke of meeting full time players such as Malcolm Alker for sessions in the gym before going to work. Such a work ethic is something he instils into his players now. He reflected on how when he took over the Salford coach role he had a dressing room full of egos rather than hard work and has strived, successfully last season, to change that mindset and have a team of hard workers and grit which reflect the people of Salford.
Watson is a switched on articulate young coach and he desperately wants to see his home city do well. Whenever I hear him speak such as at after-game press conferences or last night, one cannot help but admire his honesty and commitment. One hopes that the club, going forward, can recognise the talented person they have as a coach and back him without interference.
"Tonight was about bringing together supporters of the club and having some fun in what has been an uncertain period off the field" said the Salford RLFC Trust's Dave Campbell "To see Ian Watson sat telling his story in a community pub with the supporters was great to see.
"I'd just like to thank Ian Watson, Mark Lee and Paul Highton, who made the event really engaging; the feedback from attendees has been really good" he added "Also, a huge thanks for the hospitality and support shown by Josh, John and their team here at The Old Nags Head. They provided the venue and food for free. This is hopefully the first of a number of Supporters' Trust events we will put on around the city as we grow and move forward. Tonight we raised over £300 for our U16s Rising Stars Programme."
The next event for the Salford RLFC Trust is a Junior Reds Christmas Party on Saturday 16th December, which it is hosting alongside Salford Red Devils and the Salford Red Devils Foundation.
The party includes food, entertainment and a visit from Santa and Dr Devil and it is tailored for infants and primary school aged children age 0-11. It is being held at Play Kidd's Children's Play Centre on Moorside Road, Swinton, between 6pm and 8pm and is free but entry by ticket only.
Tickets available by clicking here
Note: Each child must be accompanied and supervised by one parent/guardian with a maximum of two adults per party. All enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
For further details also see the Junior Red Devils Christmas Party facebook event page – click here
The Salford RLFC Supporters' Trust was re-launched in October 2017 by a group of supporters to help bring the fans of Salford Red Devils together and through dialogue re-engage with the club. It is £10 to join the Trust and all the details including the latest news and events are on the ST website www.salfordrlfcst.wordpress.com
Words and photos by Gareth Lyons