One day like this... fans make a welcome comeback

ELBOW’S One Day Like This was an obvious tune to play at Wheldon Road as fans started filtering back into the old stadium last night for the first time in 428 days.

Back in the game: Fans look on at Castleford playing Hull KR with spectators coming back to rugby league for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Picture: SWPix

It certainly was a beautiful day across rugby league and beyond.

Sun and blue skies even emerged from the darkened clouds behind the Railway End. The gloom was lifted.

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Rarely can people have been so excited to visit somewhere so familiar.

The look of sheer glee from Castleford Tigers fans (you could see their faces once they had found their seat or spot on the terrace and were able to then take off their masks) was bliss.

Selfies were taken. Waves to friends. Or a simple knowing nod from some. They were back home. Their colours were on. Black and amber. Never so proud.

They had strode down Wheldon Road with a little extra hustle in their step.

There was something tangible waiting for them at the end, not – as had been the case for the last 14 months – just a nostalgic but futile, distanced look at their old regular haunt.

This time they were inside the citadel and ready for action. Forget the live streams and box watching. This was the real deal again.

When the players came out for their warm-up, there was an instant mutual appreciation.

Fans rose to applaud and the squad – with Derrell Olpherts literally bouncing and Peter Matautia raising his arms aloft – reciprocated: it was hard to decipher who was most pleased to see who.

When they re-emerged for the kick-off, however, it was remarkable to think 3,600 people – around a third of the ground’s normal capacity – could create such noise.

The stirring Gladiator theme, as ever, brought the players to the pitch but, finally, at last, it was not echoing around a soulless, empty stadium.

And at the end, after a thrilling 80 minutes?

There was no Sweet Caroline rendition. Hull KR’s late try saw Tigers lose at the death. But that’s sport. And no one would have it any different. Not now or ever.