IT WAS 30 years ago that schoolboy Paul Anderson headed into Castleford town centre to buy tickets for one of the club’s most famous wins.
He ventures back to his hometown tomorrow but, rather than searching for Wembley tickets, he has a totally different agenda in mind.
Instead, the Huddersfield Giants’ head coach is searching for an all too elusive victory with his struggling side – who have won just once this season and are bottom of Super League – against his boyhood heroes who spurned him as a teenager.
Anderson, who became one of the sport’s finest props with Bradford Bulls, St Helens and Great Britain, admits he was an ardent Castleford fan.
“They were always my club as a kid,” he recalled, ahead of tomorrow’s game at the familiar Wheldon Road.
“I can remember Dennis Hartley (Castleford’s fearsome Great Britain prop from the Sixties) was my coach at district level.
“Around Cas’ back then the Under-16s played at Redhill, the 17s at Lock Lane, the 18s at Redhill and 19s at Lock Lane. You just kept swapping.
“Him and John Hay – Andy’s dad – were coaches and I remember getting man of the match for something like nine games on the trot.
“But Dennis had a disagreement with Cas’ as they wouldn’t sign me. I don’t think he coached after that.
“Darryl Van de Velde was boss at the time and I got the opportunity to train with them eventually.
“But he sent me a letter saying I’d never make it. I went and signed for Leeds the week after,” he added.
Anderson, who says he nearly joined Castleford after leaving Bradford in 2005 and again while at Saints two years later, continued: “I’m a Cas’ lad, but don’t live in Cas anymore.
“But I was there just the other day. The wife’s decorating at the moment – notice it’s the wife and not me – and we ended up walking through Cas’ town centre as there’s somewhere where you can get branded paint cheap.
“Anyway, I said ‘I can’t remember the last time I walked down here like this – there’s Wallace Arnold. That’s where I got my tickets for the ‘86 cup final and me and my dad went down on the bus.”
Castleford, of course, won at Wembley that day, defeating Hull KR in their last Challenge Cup success.
It would be fitting for Anderson if Huddersfield can revive their season at Wheldon Road tomorrow, although, in their current predicament, they would accept victory of any sorts anywhere.
Having finished fourth last season, just ahead of tomorrow’s hosts, they are usually more akin to challenging at the other end of the table.
Anderson, in charge of Giants since 2012 and having led them to the League Leaders’ Shield the following year, knows he is under scrutiny
They endured a miserable Easter, losing at struggling Wakefield Trinity Wilcats on Good Friday and then falling at home to Salford Red Devils on Easter Monday.
Granted, Giants have been beset by injuries, but those problems are easing now and they have to start winning soon if they are to have any hope of challenging for the top four again. Asked about those pressures, the 44-year-old conceded: “It’s hard.
“It’s my job as head coach to try and shield the players and get them back to fundamentals.
“My job is to make sure we win. If we’re not winning ultimately I know I have to take responsibility for that. I’m not worried by that – it is what it is – but we need to show more composure and do the basics right.
“And I’ve spoken to my chief exec (Richard Thewlis). He reminded me of what I said a couple of years ago – it’s just about running hard and hitting hard; run as hard as you can every time and making every tackle count.
“Sometimes people need reminding of that. Me personally as well. Rugby league’s a very simple game at times that can be made too complicated by trying to do things you don’t normally do when under pressure.”
Huddersfield will be aided tomorrow by the return of Joe Wardle after a two-game ban, which bodes well for his side; the impressive second-row, without doubt, runs hard and hits hard, too.