|Eric Battersby by Alex Service |
This was clearly a case of someone being in the right place at the right time, yet the overall situation proved to be too much. Saints played Bradford Northern in the first round of the Challenge Cup in the 1948-49 season. In those days, it was a two-legged affair, with Saints visiting Odsal in the first match. There was however an injury crisis, with first-choice hooker Reg Blakemore ruled out with a broken finger. There was the possibility of recalling veteran Vincent Dilorenzo, but the decision was made to put a young hooker called Eric Battersby into the fray. The team stayed at Ilkley overnight and actually won the match 4-3, with two penalty goals from Jimmy Stott. Yet the story of the new Saints number nine was unfolded in the St.Helens Newspaper the following week: “Eric Battersby, the Greenacres hooker, who was only picked up on a trial a few weeks ago, looked very small in his bright Saints jersey, thrust straight into big football at a moments notice and one section of the crowd gave him a special cheer for himself. As things turned out, experience was the only thing he was lacking. Confidence he had in plenty, for he took part in the open play with all the assurance of a veteran. True, he did not shine too much as a hooker against the strong and fully experienced Darlison, but perhaps he got possession as much as was good for his side. It was a very big occasion for a newcomer to first class football and, having survived the ordeal, Battersby will probably do better before his new home crowd in the next match.”
Encouraging words certainly. Yet things did not go quite according to plan for Eric in the second leg at Knowsley Road. Basically, Saints were starved of possession throughout the match in the scrums and lost second-rower Dixon for the bulk of the game. There were no replacements in those days. Eric was praised for his work in the loose, but as a hooker he was “Out of his class.”
So there was no fairytale ending for the lad from Greenacres, near Oldham. The two cup ties were the only matches he played in Saints First Team. What a great experience it must have been for him to be watched by over 60,000 fans who attended the matches. It is presumed that he returned to junior rugby in the Oldham area, but we would welcome any further updates on Erics post-Saints career. Eric died in Rochdale in May 2002, aged 74.