Everywhere we go, people wanna know, who we are, and where we come from. So we tell ‘em…
Well, first of all, whilst the site uses the common terms of ‘we’ & ‘us’, let me attempt to prevent any confusion: this site is a one-man operation, and the long held ambition of a lifelong Wire fan, Neil Ormston.
Please indulge me for a moment, whilst I explain how I got here; I’ll try and be brief, which might prove a challenge.
As a young boy my inauguration to sport was via Liverpool football games at the end of their glory years in the mid-1980s. However, rising prices and difficulty actually getting tickets, meant my father decided to take his lad along to the top team in his hometown. That meant a switch of codes, and a drop down in expectation of success, but at least a guarantee of being able to attend games when desired. So, on 27 November 1988 I was taken down the Causeway to Wilderspool to see the Wire take on Bramley in a John Player Trophy game.
Sporadic games followed, with the early highlight being the visit of the 1990 Kangaroos, shortly after a trip to Wembley, when my old man had to follow through on a promise he never thought he’d have to deliver on, that he would take me if we made the final. However, 1993 saw two events combine to hook me for life: the signing of Johnathan Davies, and the launch of the £10 Wolf Pack season tickets. The Davies inspired success of the 1993/4 season had a long lasting impact on an impressionable young teenager, and whilst it took a while for Warrington to get back to those heights again, youthful optimism meant that I kept coming back for more (indeed, the family motto soon became “there’s always next year”).
The switch to summer rugby came along, making a relocation across the Pennines to Leeds more tolerable than the prospect of winter trips on the M62 would have proven. Motorway traffic did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm, and the season ticket was renewed year-on-year, as the likes of Vagana, Langer & Johns came and went, all to no avail on the honours front: not that it mattered, as there was always next year… Eventually, not through lack of success, but rather the ever increasing pressures of other competing demands on my time, I opted out of renewing my season ticket, but still came ‘home’ regularly for matches, with the added advantage that the Yorkshire games were always easier to get to anyway. Ironically, my first year in 16 without a season ticket was 2009, when glory was finally achieved with the never to be forgotten first cup win of the Smith era.
The subsequent successes were witnessed with much satisfaction by a member of the generation of Wire fans brought up on regular whippings at the hands of the likes of Saints, Bradford & worst of all Wigan, where a bottom-end play-off slot was likely to define a good year; there weren’t many good years! Attendance at live games was increasingly difficult though, as life took a hold, with babies, a house move & subsequent renovation, work and a new found passion for endurance sport all competing for a slot in an ever busier day. And so it remains today, where I’m faced with the challenge of passing on the torch to the next generation as my father did: the difference being, I have both a gender divide & some low lying hill to cross (to mention nothing of a local team who may well provide a strong temptation for any young impressionable rugby league fan in the making).
But none of that explains this site. Plenty of sports fans are happy to support their team, without feeling the need to spend hours in a library poring through old newspapers to research its origins, or frittering a lot of hard earned cash amassing a collection of memorabilia that requires its own room in their house. For that I guess the usual influences of nature & nurture are to blame: obsessive tendencies, an inquisitive nature, and a few key events have all laid the foundations for this site and my collection.
I had always got a programme from games I attended (or at least, Dad had bought one for me), so when I didn’t get one at the last game of the inaugural Super League season I had a problem. In tracking one down, I was introduced, through my saviour in this matter, Tony Lazenby of Yorkshire Programmes as it was then, to the programme catalogue. I was intrigued by the various abbreviations for competitions that the programmes related to, and simply had to know what “WD”, “CM” or “BBC” meant. There followed a period of working all this out through buying programmes, and reading more into the intriguing history of the game, that opened a whole new world to me.
An interest in modern history fired this passion further, but it soon became apparent that robust research by pedants like myself was generally missing. Warrington were fortunate for the work of Ernie Day, but it seemed the tendency amongst all rugby league historians was to view 1895 as a ‘big bang’, and I soon craved to know more of the origins of the club. As I dug further, typically into the microfilm copies of the local newspapers at the Warrington library during weekends visits for matches, I began to doubt the accuracy of the only real work that seemed to exist narrating the early history of the club, namely Bill Garvin’s “Centenary” book.
My own research, together with fellow enthusiast* Gary Slater, eventually led to the club’s decision to revise its date of formation from 1879 to 1876 – a minor point, maybe, but a source of great pride for me, topped off by the fact that the article confirming this was written in the programme for the Huddersfield play-off game in 2011, when the Wire received the League Leader's Shield for topping the table for the first time in my lifetime.
Along the way I had gathered stacks of data, and gone through the arduous task of converting all of Ernie’s hand written match facts into electronic form. I have long hoped to make this publically available, through a book or website, in the hope of inspiring others to learn more about the rich & fascinating history of this great sport and my hometown club. The final push came from reading Neil’s Dowson’s 140 Years of the Wire, the realisation that a website was likely to prove a more suitable format, and the observation of a maxim that “Done is better than perfect”. I recognised I would never have the time to do this to the standard I really wanted, but that it was better to put something out there, than wait for a time that will never arrive. As a result, I resolved at the start of 2017 that this would be the year I launched a site dedicated to preserving the history of rugby league in Warrington. Shortly afterwards, Warrington Rugby Heritage was born.
A key driver of using a website, rather than a book, was the desire to showcase the equally rich & interesting diversity of programmes and other memorabilia I have acquired over the years. I hope to supplement this with the images of others’ collections too, if they are willing, to fill in any gaps I have, with the ambition for this to be the authoritative visual record to the history of rugby league in Warrington. If you are able to help in this regard, please use the contact us page.
Which hopefully explains all you wanted to know, and probably a lot more besides! As expected, brevity was not achieved, but as you’ll probably find out as the site expands, I do like to be comprehensive. This will drive the ambition of the site over the coming months and years, and as delivering the content will have to compete with the various other interests and commitments I’ve mentioned above, progress might be slow at times. But keep an eye on the latest updates page, and I will do my best to keep things progressing. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the site, and please get in touch via the contact us page with any comments of what you would like to see, or ideas of how I can improve things.
Now the Wire.
* I believe this is the correct term to use when talking about someone else; if I was referring to myself, I would probably opt for ‘nutter’