Dark days all in the past now for Redcar; PETER GRIFFITHS throws the spotlight on the local rugby scene.
"I NEVER realised just how many people read the Gazette," says Redcar's captain Neil Young.
"The number of times I have been stopped in the town and congratulated about our success so far this season is unbelievable. I can only assume it's because of our coverage in the paper."
Young was talking about the club's awful year when they were pitched into Yorkshire One by the Northern RFU but then returned to a realistic level.
It was patently obvious to all in the know that this league was a bridge too far for them and they spent a season losing match after match, travelling many hundreds of wretched timeconsuming miles and being dispatched to Durham and Northumberland Two at the end - at last a balanced decision by blazer brigade.
Young asserted it was hard at times to get through those dark dismal days of defeat and disappointment.
"It got to the stage that we had to major on purely the social side of rugby life and make life as pleasant as we could for the players," he explained.
"Every away match we had a bus and - how shall I say nicely - a social experience?
"Training suffered, people were falling away, players disappeared and then injuries crept in.
"But at times like that a few heroes shone through. Both long-term official Steve Cooke and coach Adrian Evans were terrific. Adrian gave up lots of Saturdays to be with us when the chips were down.
"I kept positive knowing that at the end of it all something had to happen and it did."
Importantly they then kept spirits up during the summer months with some fun rugby, stuff the lads wouldn't feel fazed by.
"We decided beach rugby would be different," he said. "We hosted some competitions and won a few. Basically training just ticked over - maybe a mile run, no more."
So now Young is looking at a different scenario and one tinged with early season top of the table success.
"To be honest we want Durham and Northumberland One and we feel we can do it," he said.
"Now the first string is propped up by a good junior section and some good individuals playing in secondary sides.
"I am delighted that Greg Unthank is the second team captain and the Colts coach - that's a marvellous combination in my book and can only do good for the club."
After a spell with the RFU set-up at Teesside University under Dave Reed, Young has recently returned to Redcar and Cleveland Council as a further education sports co-ordinator, a new position set up nationwide ahead of the London Olympics.
He is a former pupil of Rye Hills School and his claim to fame there is that he taught his sports master Danny Nightingale to play rugby.
His mentor has always been Paul Beal, the ex-West Hartlepool and Redcar front row forward, and he speaks highly of the current club coach Neil Cook.
Marty Challenor, again a front row man of yesteryear left words with him which he will never forget.
Simple really but back to basics: "Train as hard as you play" - it seems a pretty good attitude to life as well.
"None of this would have been possible without massive home support from my wife Kerry," said Young.
"She has a pretty demanding job but never complains. I probably devote five days a week to the club but she backs me 100%. I suppose it helps that she is interested in sport as well playing hockey at Guisborough."
Neil pays tributes to the off-field men at Mackinlay Park as well.
"My father is the steward at the club and is committed beyond normal requirements - he even buys beer for the squad and quite honestly it's his life.
"Official Andy Rogers has brought in sponsorship beyond anyone's expectations. Every team member is kitted out in fabulous match and social gear and that makes us look and feel good.
"Dave Reed has been terrific lifting the club back from the doldrums with his twice week coaching alongside Neil Cook and Rob Bryce."