This Saturday, we make the short journey to play our old friends at Birkenhead Park.
“Park” is a well-established club who can trace their origins to the nineteenth century and, in their heyday, had a fixture list that was nationwide. In recent years, they have alternated between levels 5 and 6 of the RFU league structure.
Birkenhead Park are currently fourth, having won 14 and lost 9 of their 23 games. They lost their first game of the season at home to Warrington, but successive one point wins against Waterloo and Northwich and impressive, high-scoring doubles against De La Salle and Burnage saw them march up the table. In addition, they are unbeaten at the Upper Park since December, when Manchester narrowly won. Last weekend, however, they lost at table topping Carlisle, 47-13.
In 2014-15, they were North One West champions but were relegated from the, then, National League 3 the following season. In 2016-17, they were promoted again, having finished second to Kirkby Lonsdale. However, they finished 12th last season, and as the only north-west club in the bottom three, with Morley and Pocklington, they began this season in North One West.
Connections between Malone Field and the Upper Park are as old as Anselmians itself and numerous players across the decades have represented both sides. Years ago, the route for promising and ambitious players was to start at a “junior” club and then transfer to a “senior” club. In the Wirral, that meant New Brighton or Birkenhead Park. In the professional era, the distinction has been blurred and this is only the second encounter between the two sides at a league level. The first being our 9-32 defeat at Rivacre Road last December.
Saints need to erase the memory of defeat against Broughton Park and recreate the valiant spirit they showed, albeit in small patches, last week. We may be leaving this league but our players have considerable pride and would dearly love to have local bragging rights.