Younger rugby league fans may not be aware of the rich history that Swinton Lions boast due to the lowly league positions they have found themselves in for the past couple of decades.
Even with it being such a long time ago that they rubbed shoulders with the top teams in the country, Swinton are still fifth in the all-time list of Rugby League Championship (top level) winners, having been crowned champions a total of six times and Challenge Cup winners three times.
The Lions last Championship success was way back in 1964, but the decline that the club finds itself in today did not come until after the 1980’s, in which they regularly flitted between the Championship and the Second Division in what was a moderately successful era.
Looking back, although the club did spend a season at the highest level in 1991-92, Swinton’s last real moment in the spotlight was their Second Division Premiership final win at Old Trafford in 1987.
Their opponents in the final were a talented Hunslet side that were coached by Leeds legend David Ward and included the likes of Sonny Nickle. Swinton proved too much for the Yorkshire side though and they secured a 27-10 victory.
Mark Viller was part of the victorious Lions side that day, and he remembers the experience well:
“It was the first ever Finals day at Old Trafford so it was a very exciting time, although in my eyes, as a Manchester City fan, it could’ve been somewhere better,” joked the former full-back.
“Seriously though, stepping out into the middle with all those fans packed in to watch was very special, and something I’ll never forget.
“We had some quality players that year and most of them were local lads as well, with the likes of myself, the Holliday brothers (Les and Mike), Steve Snape and Mark Meadows.
“Then obviously on top of that we had Danny Wilson at stand-off and then Derek Bate on the wing, who finished top try-scorer in the league that season.”
Unfortunately for Swinton they did not last long in the top flight and when the 1990’s came, due to financial mis-management, they had to sell their iconic Station Road stadium.
The Lions soon began to lose their identity with their so-called ‘home’ matches having to be played at a number of different grounds. There has never been a re-location back to the Swinton area and they are currently based at Leigh Sports Village – a crying shame for a club with such an illustrious history.
Talks of a new 6,000 capacity stadium at Agecroft have been rumbling on for several years, but appear to be no closer to returning to the boundaries of Swinton.