SAINTS legend Kel Coslett – the club’s record appearance and points scorer,  dual-code Welsh international and gent – turns 80 today.

Given his extraordinary long service to his adopted town as player, captain, coach and football manager it felt only right to give the supporters and people of St Helens the opportunity to send him their birthday wishes and to perhaps share their favourite Kel moments.

The Bynea-born Welshman has been a hugely popular figure in his adopted town for nearly 60 years and his playing record in a career spanning 1962-76 is quite remarkable.

St Helens Star:

Certainly not something anyone would have predicted in July 1962 when the freshly capped Welsh rugby union international, aged just 20, took a leap into the unknown to switch codes and signing for Saints – admitting that he did not even know where St Helens was.

He went on rack up a record of 531 club appearances, scoring 45 tries. His tally of 1639 goals and 3413 points are also club records.

After packing up as a player, Kel returned as a coach and then as football manager.

Although he played his last game in the red vee back in a landmark treble winning season in 1976, Kel’s number of club records are complemented by so many fond memories.

He was barely out of his teens when he was called up for Wales for the Five Nations match against England at Twickenham and he would play twice more.

But with the prospect of a glittering union international career mapped out in front of him, the Aberavon full back returned from an afternoon shift at the steelworks to find Saints directors Lionel Swift and Basil Lowe having supper in his front room.

They wanted him to sign on the dotted line – and after talking until four in the morning, he finally put pen to paper despite admitting to not knowing the difference between both codes.

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Signed as a full back he joined a team of legends; Alex Murphy, Tom Van Vollenhoven, Mick Sullivan and Dick Huddart.

Although there were always stories of players taking the professional ticket being shunned as turncoats – Kel left south Wales with only good wishes.

His family, friends and neighbours in Bynea were brilliant, with his street having a collection to buy him an electric razor as a leaving present, turning out to wave him off.

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1962 Lancashire Cup winners - Kel on back row, second left

Saints needed a goalkicker and Kel went straight into the side star-studded team at full back, playing in every game in 1962-63, kicking 156 goals and failing to score in only one of them. He consolidated that record the following year.

But three games into the third season he broke his leg against Rochdale Hornets and did not play again that season. He also lost his place to local hero Frank Barrow – and had to convert into a forward towards the end of the 1965/66 season.

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BBC2 Floodlit Cup Winners

He missed Saints’ 1966 Challenge Cup final win over Wigan, but six years later he skippered an injury-hit team to a 16-13 Wembley win over Leeds, collecting Lance Todd in the process.

Graham Rees scored the opener just before 3pm with Les Jones going in for Saints’ second, with the rest of the points coming from the trusty boot of loose forward Kel.

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Saints in the early 70s

Four years later Saints were back beneath the Twin Towers, this time beating cup holders Widnes 22-5 in the baking heat.

Kel, who by this stage had moved to prop, with Widnes motivating them by calling them the old men or Dad’s Army.

It was the swansong for that side with Kel, compatriot John Mantle and scrum half Jeff Heaton all moving on.

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Derek Noonan and Tony Karalius

But they had a small matter of wrapping up the Premiership with a win over league champions Salford first – followed six weeks later the first unofficial World Club Challenge game against Eastern Suburbs in a three-game tour Down Under.

His move into the player-coach’s role at Rochdale followed before a spell coaching Wigan and then back to take the helm at Saints.

It was a tough time to come back at Saints, with the team of the 70s ageing and breaking up and there being no money to bring in recruits to compete with the Hulls and Widnes.

He had just begun to bring the youth through – with the likes of Roy Haggerty, Chris Arkwright and Barry Ledger establishing themselves – but he was let go.

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Kel did return to Knowsley Road and took on the role of football manager in the Super League era – a career that has really transcended the ages of the club itself.

The quote from Saints chairman Eamonn McManus on the back of Kel's autobiography - A Welsh Saint - sums it up perfectly.

"If there was a person I would single out as the most consistently dedicated servant to Saints at every level of the last three or four generations, then it would surely be Kel Coslett." 

Very many happy returns, Kel!