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Rovers? Geoff was more worried about his shorts
FORMER Saints skipper Geoff Pimblett has fond memories of Knowsley Road and mixed feelings about leaving the 120-year-old stadium.
It is understandable - the former full back enjoyed many glorious moments at the ground as a player.
Knowsley Road has been a big part of Pimblett’s life for 40 years and although his preference was for the ground to be developed on site, he accepts it is time to move on.
In his playing prime the nimble-footed Pimmer graced the Knowsley Road turf with his link up play from full back and perfect kicking game.
And although he was a relative latecomer to the 13-man code after signing from St Helens RUFC in January 1971 at 26, he soon made up for lost time.
He said: “Rugby league had changed its rules to four tackles from unlimited tackles and so Saints wanted more of a running full back rather than a defensive one like Frankie Barrow.
“I was chuffed that Saints had asked me. You have to have a bit of luck in this game. That year we got knocked out of the cup by Leeds and it was time for a change and I got my chance.
“We did not lose again that year and went all the way to the Championship final where we beat Wigan with Billy Benyon’s late try– from a Johnny Walsh drop goal.
“You need a good start and my first couple of years we did not lose many and went to Wembley the following year.”
The Saints team he joined was one in transition – the 1960s team was breaking up, but new players were making a name for themselves.
And Pimblett found it particularly productive linking up with star centres Billy Benyon and Johnny Walsh – and moved seamlessly into the set-up.
However, he did have more pressing concerns when he made his home debut at stand off in March 1971.
He said: “I remember my first season up here you had to turn up early to get a pair shorts to fit you.
“There was not an embarrassment of riches in the kit department then, you had to go to Wembley for a second shirt.
“If you did not turn up early you were left with all sorts.
“I remember my home debut here against Featherstone Rovers and I spent more time worrying that I had a pair of baggy shorts that did not fit rather than the game.
“There was just one big bath in the middle of the changing room and you soon discovered that if you didn’t get in there early after the game it would just be filthy water.”
Saints were the team of the early 70s, twice winning the Challenge Cup, Championship and Premiership.
Pimblett played his part, winning the Lance Todd in 1976 and completing the double with the Harry Sunderland award the following year.
Fittingly his only international appearance for England was at Knowsley Road in May 1978, and Pimblett responded with nine goals and a try in the 60-13 mauling of a star-studded but ageing Welsh side.
“George Fairbairn was international full back then but I finally got my chance here after Wembley.
“Unbelievably they took us to a hotel in Kirkby for the night - but I only lived 100 yards away,” he said.
Although it was winter rugby, the Knowsley Road pitch was always in pristine condition. And the team knew how to play it.
Pimblett said: “It was a superb pitch here – flat, although you would play to the boys pen end and our home fans in the second half where it runs down a fraction .
“It was always in good condition even though it was winter.”
And although he retired as a player shortly before the end of the 1979 campaign, Pimblett kept his link with Knowsley Road as secretary of the Past Players Association and also his community role which sees him regularly taking school children on stadium tours.
The former Grange Park teacher, now aged 66, still attends every home game, sitting in the main stand.
“I have mixed feelings about leaving Knowsley Road.
“The terracing is great you can see wherever you stand and get 17,500 on. If we had got a bigger stand we would have got away with this ground.
“I have spent a large part of my life playing rugby here and supporting here - 40 years one way or another.
“I may have wanted this old site to be developed – a stand here and there – but after 120 years time for a new piece of history to be written and it us to the lads to create their own tradition at the new ground “There is only glass and rugby here in this town - if we lose the rugby we have had it because we have almost lost the glass.
“They have been marvellous years here but it has to come to an end,” he said.