SO JUST what was life like for the Saints of 100 years ago?

Well before kick-off it certainly wasn’t with all mod cons like the current squad’s plush air-conditioned coach to travel in.

Back then the players changed at the Talbot in Duke Street and piled in the back of a horse-drawn carriage to make the short dash up to Knowsley Road.

1909-10 was the St Helens club’s most successful season, both on and off the field, since becoming a Founder Member of the Northern Union in 1895.

According to one newspaper, the ground was in particularly good shape: “The banking and general accommodation for spectators at Knowsley Road is now beaten by very few in the country and a splendid view can be obtained of the game from any point of the enclosure. At least 20,000 spectators can now be housed in comfort.”

Yet one aspect in urgent need of improvement was “the accommodation for ladies, as the ‘fair’ supporters of the club have increased very considerably during the past season. Would it not be possible to build a small wooden erection alongside the present stand for Ladies only?”

The only stand was just a small affair, to say the least and there were no dressing rooms for the players – just a hut for them to put their coats in!

The club’s headquarters was at the Talbot Hotel (now the Sportsmans) in Duke Street.

Both teams changed there before being taken to and from Knowsley Road by horse-drawn wagonette, a situation which remained up to the construction of the Pavilion in 1920.

It is interesting to note that St Helens Recreation, who were playing soccer in the Lancashire Combination by this time, had a fully-inclusive ground at City Road, with a Main Stand, dressing rooms and offices!

The 1908 Ordnance Survey map reveals the somewhat under-developed state of the Saints’ enclosure, with two entrances to the ground itself - a footpath from Dunriding Lane, with further access over the railway bridge which led eventually to Home Farm on Knowsley Road. Indeed the railway (LNWR Eccleston Branch line) had preceded the rugby club, having been constructed in 1856.

The bottom end of Dunriding Lane was void of buildings and rugby supporters would have a full view ‘up the slope’ of the larger houses in St. Anns Road backing on to Taylor Park!

The gasometer in Knowsley Road would be the dominant landmark in the area. It would be more than a decade before the ground would start to be surrounded by new buildings and thus lose its ‘out of town’ feel.

As for the rugby, the team finished in 10th place in the Northern Rugby League, out of 28 teams; fifth from 12 in the Lancashire League.

Most of the visitors to Knowsley Road would be familiar to followers of the game today, with the exception of Treherbert from Wales, Broughton Rangers and Runcorn.

The match against Runcorn, otherwise known as the Linnets, was the first home fixture of the campaign and ended 5-5.

There was a record crowd of over 10,000, primarily to see new signing New Zealand full-back Hubert ‘Jum’ Turtill for the first time.

Not only did he play in every match, but he became the first Saints player to score more than 50 goals in a season (52) and became an instant crowd favourite.

Yet the real star of the show was Jimmy Flanagan, a home-grown winger, who scored 31 tries from 35 appearances.

The crowd record was broken on December 27, when Wigan won by 6-7 in front of more than 15,000 spectators.

IT was an exciting time for the club in many ways, although the main problem of improved stand accommodation would not be solved until 1914 and even then progress was curtailed by the ‘War to end all Wars,’ but that’s another story!