THE latest pick for our ‘Great Saints for February’ just has to be Challenge Cup winning centre Eddie Cunningham, who today celebrates his 70th birthday.

One of three brothers to don the red vee, Cunningham (Heritage Number 904) learned his rugby on the fields of Rivington Road School and Pilkington Recs.

St Helens Star:

Cunningham had plenty going for him, skill and ability wise, with his strong running, fine turn of pace and offload game.

Saints initially missed out on signing this proud son of the Grange Park/Thatto Heath area, with Cunningham joining Wigan from Recs.

But Saints coach Eric Ashton put that right in February 1975, paying Wigan £5,000 for his services.

Cunningham made 13 appearances before the end of that Championship-winning season, mostly in the second row. Although Saints finishing top of the pile by nine clear points, Cunningham missed out on a medal, which was then reserved for a set number of players.

He made up for it the following season, winning the BBC2 Floodlit for starters.

He was switched into the centres mid-season, with his pace and evasive running being keys asset in his new role.

Cunningham excelled on the biggest of rugby league stages – the 1976 Challenge Cup Final against Widnes at Wembley.

St Helens Star:

It was his first time at Wembley and was highly motivated. And he made a big impression; with 12 minutes on the clock Cunningham instinctively revved up in support of a fine break by veteran stand off Billy Benyon to put Saints in the lead that they held and then extended.

Cunningham missed the Premiership Final the week later, but collected that particularly medal the following season when he grabbed one of the late match-sealing scores in the win over Warrington.

The 1976/77 saw Cunningham show his finishing prowess, topping the scoring chart with 25 tries from 32 matches.

It would be his last winning medal in the red vee, with Cunningham in the second row when Saints were edged 14-12 by Leeds in the 1978 Challenge Cup Final.

St Helens Star:

He was sold to Leeds in the summer of 1979 for £25,000 – leaving with a tally of 75 tries from 141 matches from the centre or second row.

Cunningham had won caps for Wales and Great Britain while at Saints.

He would later return to the west of the Pennines, winning the Challenge Cup and the Lance Todd with Widnes.

Cunningham, whose brothers Tommy and Keiron also played for the Saints, tells a great story of his own time in the game.

So online from this week, we will run a series of interview pieces covering Eddie's early career, joining Saints, Wembley success and agony, as playing for Wales, and leaving Saints.