RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 13 – TERRY OGDEN PT 3

Pt 3 He Relates The History Surrounding The Willows Social Club

Not only did the team on the field develop throughout Terry’s time, with the club, so too the environment at The Willows changed completely over the years, from the rather stark surroundings of two end sets of terracing, both uncovered, the partially covered part of the east side known then as the Popular Stand, and a wooden edifice which was the main stand with seating in the centre on the west side, to what became the star-studded Willows Variety Centre, which proceeded to develop in marked phases.

“I was involved in providing advice to the club in each stage of the development.  It all started on a Friday night back in 1965, when two of the panels at the back of the north stand were removed, and a marquee, containing a bar, was put up on the cricket ground behind to celebrate the very first Friday night fixture to be played, and also televised, under floodlights at The Willows.  That became the catalyst for what was going to come; it was the moment that Salford became a ‘party’ club because of the party-like atmosphere they always generated thereafter. 

Discussions around the social club project were mired in considerable detail all of which had to be decided upon.

“When we were working on the cellars of the new venture, instead of having the beer stored in barrels, we had four tanks put in, into which we poured the beer whenever we had a delivery.  The plan was to have three of the four containing bitter, and one lager, though I tried to argue for two of each.  In the event we all turned out to be wrong because demand proved to be for three lager and one for bitter.

“There were also differing points of view as to whether the main bar at least should be carpeted, with Brian Snape arguing that it would encourage people to treat it with respect, about which he proved to be absolutely correct.

“A later stage was the opening of the new Stanneylands Restaurant, which, when viewed from the pitch, was situated upstairs and at the righthand end.  It was extremely popular before and during games.  My mother always used to go in to enjoy a meal beforehand, which was a considerable change from the little white tearoom at the top of the North Stand, which had preceded it.

“There also used to be a little bar under the Popular Stand, alongside the players’ dressing room.  One of my responsibilities was going around each of the bars and taking stock-control, each week, but we very soon closed it down and centralised everything in the club.

“There was even a full-scale casino underneath, at one stage, prior to the changes brought about by the Gambling Act, which gave a totally different dimension to anything in place at any other club.  Brian not only had restaurants, he also had Bingo halls and cinemas, throughout Manchester, all of which ensured he had considerable connections throughout the entertainment industry.

“We also converted all the bars at Lancashire Cricket Ground, with Stanneylands then going on to provide all the catering services there, whilst I became the licensee to the club, though I only ever worked there at big occasions, when it literally was all hands to the pump.  I never once regretted my move to Salford and my days working for Stanneylands were among the happiest of my life.”

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