WOLVES fans had every reason to be excited at the start of 2008 - the fifth season at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Adrian Morley took over the captaincy and the arrival of four NRL stars – Louis Anderson, Chris Hicks, Matt King and Michael Monaghan – presented reasons to be optimistic but, in truth, it was something of a let down.
Consequently, club legend Paul Cullen lost his head coach’s job six years after saving the first team from relegation, and his right-hand man Jimmy Lowes took up the baton.
Wolves’ best start since 1999, with four wins from five games, had not suggested the season would pan out as it did.
Monaghan endeared himself to the home fans immediately, his man-of-the-match display at scrum half in the opener against Hull included a sensational long-range try straight from a kick off that was started by him and finished off by King with some help from Kevin Penny in between.
A fourth consecutive win against Wigan – Wolves’ best sequence against Warriors since the early 1980s – kept momentum going.
Strangely, Wolves only won four of their next 12. Things seemed to go downhill after a dull 8-6 home loss to Harlequins in front of a miserly 7,444 crowd in a season in which the Super League average dropped to 9,500.
A 40-34 loss at St Helens in the Challenge Cup, albeit after a mighty effort and a wonderful Penny try, was followed by a 38-14 defeat at Wigan, with those defeats to the fiercest of rivals preceding a disastrous night at home to basement club Castleford Tigers on May 26.
Wolves were winning 28-14 with 10 minutes to go but conceded four quick tries to a Cas side gaining their first away win of the season. That was the end for Cullen.
Former Bradford Bulls and Great Britain hooker Lowes was put in temporary charge and he talked about putting smiles back on faces again.
Seven wins in the next eight outings earned Lowes the job permanently but the season petered out to a sixth-place finish with five straight losses, including their first at home to Hull KR at the new den.
In contrast, Liverpool’s second string secured the Barclays Premier Reserve League title to cap off their first campaign as tenants at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The highlight was a stadium record turnout for a football match when 10,546 crammed in to see Liverpool beat Manchester United Reserves 2-0.
Xabi Alonso, Harry Kewell, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel featured for Liverpool, and Gary Neville for United.
Myler shows off his potential
RICHIE Myler scored his side’s third extra-time try as Salford City Reds sealed the National League One Grand Final against Celtic Crusaders at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on September 28, 2008.
Doncaster edged out Oldham 18-10 in the curtain raiser to determine the National League Two Grand Final winner.
The two finals were attended by an aggregate 7,104.
WOLVES’ Super League home win against Huddersfield on March 21, 2008, marked two club records.
Winger Chris Hicks, recruited from Manly, became the first player to score in seven successive matches at the start of a season.
Hooker Mark Gleeson, younger brother of Wolves’ Great Britain centre Martin, could claim to be the club’s first player to make 100 appearances off the bench.
While it was the start of a new era for Hicks, it was the ninth and final season in primrose and blue for Gleeson.
Bentham allowed to take charge
THE Super League clash between Wolves and Catalan Dragons on March 2, 2008, was a first for Warrington referee Phil Bentham.
A rule change that season allowed whistlers to take charge of their hometown clubs for the first time.
Chester makes Halliwell history
BIRCHWOOD’S James Chester became the first Warringtonian to appear in a professional football match at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
He replaced Manchester United’s England defender Gary Neville in the second half of their side’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool Reserves on February 26, 2008.
Home tries in 2008
Chris Hicks 11
Kevin Penny 8
Matt King 7
Martin Gleeson 7
Chris Riley 6
Jon Clarke 5
Vinnie Anderson 4
Lee Briers 4
Simon Grix 3
Paul Johnson 3