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GARDNER WARY OF LONG FACTOR; Former Saints legend now on staff at Salford.

Byline: JOHN LAWLESS

ST HELENS winger Ade Gardner is wary of the Sean Long factor as his side face Salford in the first ever Super League game at Langtree Park tonight (ko 8pm, live Sky Sports).

Long, a Saints legend and teammate of Gardner's for eight trophy-filled years, is now on the coaching staff at the City Reds where he assists another St Helens old-boy, Phil Veivers.

Gardner is keenly aware that his old mate will be out to play the role of party pooper.

He told the ECHO: "Obviously, Sean Long as assistant-coach speaks for itself.

"He'll know all about many of our lads' strengths and weaknesses.

"So I imagine they're going to be very well prepared.

"There are some quality players in Salford's team and Phil Veivers is a quality coach.

"We've watched a bit of video and they're a useful side.

"I'm sure they're going to want to come to Langtree Park and put on a good performance.

"Teams are going to enjoy coming to our stadium.

"It's a big ground, with a nice pitch and good facilities.

"It's up to us to make it into a bit of a fortress so teams think 'we don't want to go there'.

"We're going to have to be on our mettle."

A non-playing substitute for the 34-24 win at London Broncos last weekend, Gardner is expected to return to the Saints starting line-up tonight following Jamie Foster's withdrawal through injury.

He is excited at the prospect of being part of the occasion and is fully aware of the importance of getting off to a good start at the club's new home.

"Playing in the first Super League game at Langtree Park is a big motivation.

"You try to take each game as it comes but there's no doubt this is a big game.

"It's a big game in the history of our club and it should be at the forefront of everybody's mind.

"It certainly is with me, having been part of the club for ten years.

"We're going to be near to full capacity and we've got the legendary Tom Van Vollenhoven leading the side out.

"It's a massive motivation for me and I'm sure it is for the rest of the boys.

"We have prepared well this week and we want to put on a show in our first home game."

Saints skipper Paul Wellens looks set to miss out with injury along with centre Michael Shenton and back-rower Mark Flanagan.

However, forward Chris Flannery has been passed fit to return and coach Royce Simmons is hopeful Tony Puletua will make the cut.

Foster's absence will see youngster Tommy Makinson assuming the goalkicking duties.

In addition to Long, Salford second row matty Ashurst will be another looking to put the skids under his former team.

St Helens (from): Gardner, Soliola, Meli, Hohaia, Lomax, Perry, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Puletua, Wilkin, Flannery, Laffranchi, Clough, Wheeler, Dixon, Gaskell, Makinson, Hale, Ashe.

STAT ATTACK .

? Salford are seeking their first away win against St Helens for over 30 years - and the first in the summer era.

They have previously lost all 15 matches at Knowsley Road since 1997, and one game at Stobart Stadium halton in 2011.

? Salford last won at St Helens on 12 January, 1980 (18-17). Saints have won 27 consecutive home meetings since then.

? Last 10 meetings: St Helens 31, Salford 6 (SL R26, 2/9/11) Salford 22, St Helens 56 (SL R2, 18/2/11) St Helens 58, Salford 34 (SL R19, 25/6/10) Salford 42, St Helens 34 (SL R14, 15/5/10) Salford 20, St Helens 10 (SL R18, 3/7/09) St Helens 38, Salford 12 (SL R5, 13/3/09) Salford 20, St Helens 32 (SL R24, 17/8/07) St Helens 27, Salford 26 (SL R16, 1/6/07) St Helens 48, Salford 4 (SL R9, 9/4/07) St Helens 28, Salford 6 (SL R18, 24/6/06) .

? Super League Summary: St Helens won 25 Salford won 4 St Helens highest score: 66-16 (H, 2001) (Widest margin: 58-4, A, 2000) Salford highest score: 42-34 (H, 2010) (Widest margin: 39-26, H, 1997)

CAPTION(S):

FAMILIAR FOE: Ade Gardner celebrates with Sean Long in their Saints days
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2012
Words:704
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