RIVINGTON Road often gets overlooked as a big rugby school - but from Duggie Greenall through to Neil Holding and Roy Haggerty the school has provided plenty of future stars.

It was on the playing field here where Eddie Cunningham first got to grips with rugby league - and starting a journey which would see him eventually run out at Wembley, winning the Challenge Cup with his home town Saints and then with Widnes.

Cunningham also won the Lance Todd Trophy whilst with the Chemics for heroic try-scoring feat in the 1982 showpiece - despite a debilitating back injury.

Eddie, who turned 70 this week, tells plenty of good stories - so we would like to share these with the readers and will do so in parts over the next couple of weeks.

St Helens Star:

This week will focus on his life playing at Rivington, starting at Pilkington Recs and why he signed for Wigan - despite being a huge Saints supporter.

His love of the oval ball game started and was nurtured by his teachers, who had a good way of dividing up the class - and that made his history lessons ‘different’.

He recalls getting the 606 bus from Portico every day to start his education in the classroom and on the playing fields.

He said: “Their first job in the first year was to get us out on to the rugby field – and they got us passing the ball, running with the ball at other people, kicking and catching.

“That is how they sorted you out – and we was the A class and between us we could not have spelled out Rivington Road but that is how the teachers separated us.

“Our gym teacher also taught history so when we had history he used to take us out on to the field and we were out there doing moves at 13 years of age.

“They wondered why we won so many cup, winning finals every year.

“It was a rugby school. Allan Bishop was the year above me – at dinner time we played seven-a-side with a tennis ball. Allan was nimble and always dodging and weaving.”

After school he went straight to playing at Pilkington Recs with the first ever under 17/19s team, started by Danny Allender – his next door neighbour – and Eric Tierney.

“The backbone of that team was Rivington Road players – about 10 of us who went down.

“We were only about 15 and 16 but we were training and playing friendlies. We got some good hidings but we were playing against some big lads at that age,” he said.

St Helens Star:

David Hull

“Davy Hull was our captain at school and he came down in the second year – the year we joined the league. And we beat Saddleworth and Langworthy, who were both big names then.”

Despite his youth, Cunningham ended up moving to the first team at Pilks at the age of 17, joining Geoff Gormley and Kevin Whittle and playing in the second row.

He was in the team that won the town cup, along with his good mate Bob Bolan.

It earned him a selection for St Helens under 17s, which was mainly the Saints young players and a couple from Pilks.

“We got to the final of the Lancashire Cup and played Widnes at Naughton Park.

“I played second row, with John Butler at loose forward.

“Widnes had Mick Adams, Mick George and Alan Dearden playing – a shed-full who signed pro after.

“We turned them over good style and I scored a hat-trick that night.

“That was a big night for me – the start of my career really.”

He was picked up by a Saints scout after the game - but to this day it remains a mystery as no words were spoken on the journey and he was not offered a contract.

“There was only one thing that I wanted and that was to come and play for my home town,” he said.

St Helens Star:

Eric Chisnall

“I was training down at Pilks and in the close season Eric Chisnall came and trained with us.

“I was playing touch and pass with him and managed to come off him a couple of times with a nice couple of passes – I was trying to impress him to get my name up.

“I said to Chis…'What is it like when you walk out the tunnel at Saints?’ and he said you can’t explain it – you have to do it to understand.

“After that final word had got around…there were scouts there and they were coming to the house in Penrith Road, Portico.

“Oldham, Swinton and Leigh all came in and then Wigan came.

“I would say Wigan then had the biggest name in the world when it came to rugby.

“They were synonymous with being a massive club – but they were a club that I hated because I loved Saints.

“Every time I went out for training or for a drink and come back there would be a big jag or Bentley outside our house. Even at half past 11 at night.

“The window would wind down and it would be a couple of directors from Wigan…I had an excuse every time.

“The third time came I said I was not ready….that is because I was waiting for Saints to knock on the door.

“I was offered a better contract by Swinton, double the money Wigan offered.

“When I asked Wigan for more - they agreed and shook hands and then they produced a cheque out of his pocket with the amount I had asked for already written. I don’t know how many cheques they had – but he knew which pocket this was in.”

He explained that it was a difficult transition into the Wigan A team but he won his first medal by beating Widnes in the final.

“Dougie Laughton had told Eric Ashton to give me a run.

“Eric said he wanted me at Warrington for a Tuesday night BBC2 Floodlit Cup match.

“I only knew Dougie Laughton and John Stephens who was prop – my dad was so excited that I had been picked,” he said.

“I went in the changing room you could hear a pin drop because nobody knew me.

“I was sat next to the door – and thought these blokes don’t want me here. I had never met these blokes and felt uncomfortable.

“Eric read the team out – and then when it got to the bench I was sub forward. Eric said, ‘Don’t fret about giving him the ball because he can run.’

“That was my introduction – once he had done that the changing room livened up.

“Colin Clarke came over and shook my hand, and said I hope you get on. I felt seven foot then – and it all got exciting.

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“That was the start of my career with the first team and did all right when I came on and showed that I had the confidence."

That confidence made him do what he had done instinctively at amateur level with Pilks - and that got him a roasting.

Cunningham said: “One occasion I kicked over the top towards and broke to get after it. Their full back got to it.

"As I was coming back thinking I hadn’t done bad when Dougie said ‘Kick another ball and I’ll break your leg!’

"So I thought I will leave that alone – I realised that I was playing alongside Bill Ashurst so if there is any kicking to be done we gave it to him.

"If they had had 40/20s when Bill was playing they would have taken that rule out as he could kick from one corner of the field to the other.

"He was a great footballer, he could run and once he got into his stride, he had a step on him and could put them down too.

"I signed for Wigan in 1969 and when we played at Saints myself and a lad called Brian Ramsdale were the youngest second row pairing they had had, I was 18 and Brian was 17.

It did bring its difficulties, playing for Saints’ big rivals.

“After we had beaten Saints in the Floodlit Cup replay…I went to my local the Grapes.

"I walked in with my hands up and a couple of my mates, who I used to go to watch Saints with, threw their pints over me. I had changed colours,” he said.

Part 2 on Sunday will cover Eddie's move to Saints, Wembley and making history.