Mick Cassidy: Wigan-St Helens games are just like Cup finals

Cut Mick Cassidy open and he bleeds Cherry and White.

Born and bred in Wigan, playing for the Warriors for 14 years and now back at the DW Stadium as head of youth, the 45-year-old has lived and breathed every moment of their past three decades.

So when it comes to talking about the Good Friday Derby and a fierce clash with St Helens, passion means passion for a Wigan fans’ favourite – both on and off the rugby pitch.

“When I first started playing, it was regimented that this would be the key game to look out for in your season. You get fired up for the season by looking at that fixture,” he explained.

“It’s more than a rivalry, there’s a big connection between the two towns and you’ll have often played against these players back in the day at amateur level.

“Fans would let you know if you didn’t beat the Saints, the older lads in a team when you first come in will tell you that as well, it’s all you talk about all week.”

Two rugby league giants they may be but Saints and Wigan have had rather contrasting starts to the season.

St Helens currently sit top of the Super League pile with nine wins from ten.

That marks an exemplary start to a campaign in which the Saints, winners of the League Leader’s Shield last year, are trying to right the wrongs of last season’s play-off exit.

Wigan, meanwhile, sit tenth with just six points to their name and with a Super League title to defend, expectations are high for similar standards to be set.

Yet with St Helens dominating the immediate attentions a victory this Friday is all that matters for now for Cassidy, a man who enjoyed and endured more than 40 derbies against the Old Enemy.

“You can try and talk it down and pretend it’s just another game, but when I started it was all about making sure you knew this was your early-season Cup final,” he added.

“This type of intensity is what you get in a Cup final so it’s about sticking with the pace of the game, doing what you do best – just 50 per cent better than what you normally do.

“Getting to know what the crowd was like early on was a big part of it and getting that development.

“I’m really chuffed to have played so many derbies – but my body is feeling it now! The people in the street remind you if you lost your last one, but you reminisce about the memories you made on the pitch.”

Underdogs the Warriors may be but when it comes to the Good Friday ferocity, form isn’t a word that’s even considered in the eyes of their hometown hero.

Cassidy added: “There’s always a spice in it every year, and this year we have nothing to lose – we’ll go out there and play it tough, hopefully taking our chances along the way.

“That underdog position is a good one to be in, people aren’t giving you that expectation and you’re in there wanting to upset them.

“These games are massive, the confidence you can get from beating Saints is the sort of thing that can turnaround a season, and we believe this can happen this week.”

Wigan Warriors take on St Helens in the fiercest rivalry in rugby league at the DW Stadium on Friday April 19th, kick-off 3pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or by visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets.

By Ross Lawson

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