Written by Louise Woodward-Styles (@MsCityRedGirl)
The Salford Red Devils returned home from their pre-season training camp in Pretoria today (Tuesday 21st January) and the signs are positive for the big kick-off in just over 3 weeks time. Brian Noble has been impressed with how his new-look squad have been training and promises the long-suffering Salford supporters that this will be a season to remember.
With 14 new faces in the squad, the trip to South Africa was instrumental in enabling the new-look Salford team to bond and get to know each other ahead of a hugely important campaign.
They say pressure makes diamonds and Salford will need to handle the pressure as it was announce that 2 teams are to be relegated this season after Super League clubs last week gave the go-ahead for a convoluted new format for 2015. Where two 12-team divisions will be split into 3 of 8 after 23 rounds to play off for the rest of the season, while the top 8 jostle for positions ahead of a top-four play-off - culminating in the Grand Final - the bottom four will join the top four teams from the Championship in a middle tier which will determine the make-up of Super League for the following season.
Three teams will qualify automatically for the elite division, with the 4th and 5th clubs set to play off in a winner-takes-all clash for the 12th spot in the 2016 Super League.
Whilst the news of the 2015 season format has been causing huge debate, Salford are busy preparing for the first of 3 friendly fixtures before the season kicks-off on the 16th February. The first of these friendly fixtures takes place on Friday 24th January at The Leigh Sports Village as the Red Devils take on the rejuvenated Championship side, Leigh Centurions.
The Centurions, like Salford, faced the threat of extinction in 2013 and just like Dr Koukash saved Salford, it is through the vision and commitment of Chairman John Roddy, Chief Executive of The Shield Group - Total Security Solutions, that has brought stability and professionalism back to the Leythers. Since taking over as chairman, Roddy has witnessed a Northern Rail Championship Trophy and launched numerous initiatives including Leigh Centurion TV, The Leigh Community Foundation and assembled a squad capable of achieving promotion in 2014.
The man to lead the Centurions out on Friday night will be no stranger to the Salford faithful. Stuart Littler, voted 3-time Championship All Star Centre, is in his 4th season at his hometown club and despite leaving his beloved Reds in 2010 still finds it strange facing up against the club he gave over 12 years sterling service to since signing as a 17-year-old back in 1997.
Littler who made the most consecutive appearances ever for Salford (163), surpassing Red Devil legend David Watkins, remains a persistent danger in the centre. Whilst half back duo, Martin Ridyard and Ryan Brierley, will offer the Devilish Duo, Rangi Chase and Tim Smith, a stern test.
The burning question on everyone's lips is just who will be in the Salford Red Devils starting 13? With all squad positions looking strong, the heat is on to grab that first team shirt and keep it.
You can see the new-look Salford Red Devils in action this Friday 24th January away to Leigh Centurions, 7:30pm Kick-Off at The Leigh Sports Village.
Tickets start from: £14 Adults, £8 Concessions, £2 U16
Salford Red Devils kick-off the 2014 Super League season against Wakefield Trinity on Sunday February 16th (3pm). Tickets available from www.thereddevils.net
Join the Devil Talk on Twitter: Salford Red Devils @SalfordDevils, Leigh Centurions @LeighCenturions, Stuart Littler @StuartLittler3, Dr Marwan Koukash @DrmarwanK & Louise Woodward-Styles @MsCityRedGirl
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