For everyone associated with Salford Red Devils Rugby League Club, the last two years have been nothing short of remarkable.

A club that is usually associated with relegation battles, financial uncertainties and has been deprived of any major success since its last RFL Championship in 1976, has endured a meteoric rise under the stewardship of Head Coach Ian Watson, Director of Rugby Ian Blease and Managing Director Paul King.

43 years on from its historic Championship win, the club stunned both critics and supporters alike last year to reach the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford, coming within inches of causing one of the greatest sporting upsets as St Helens eventually lifted the trophy.

Salford defied the odds to reach the Super League Grand Final in 2019.

Following the occasion, many doubted if Salford could replicate such success, especially after losing a number of their star men, including Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings.

However, powered by Watson and Blease, who is an alumnus for GISMSc Sports Directorship degree, the Red Devils have rebuilt and emerged once more.

2017 World Cup finalist Kevin Brown was drafted in to fill the void left by Hastings, England international Kallum Watkins was a mid-season arrival following the collapse of the Toronto Wolfpack, whilst former Wigan Warriors backrower Dan Sarginson has also been a classy addition.

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GIS alumnus Ian Blease and Head Coach Ian Watson have been key to Salford's recent success.

This year Salford have silenced their doubters yet again, and despite toying with the very real possibility of losing their existence due to the financial uncertainties caused by COVID-19, Watson’s troops have done the unthinkable to reach a second major showpiece final in as many years.

On Saturday 17th October, Salford will contest in the Rugby Football League’s flagship event, the Challenge Cup Final, a fixture which is annually held at the iconic Wembley Stadium, the home of UCFB Wembley.

Standing in their way of a first Challenge Cup title since 1938 are Leeds Rhinos, a club whose fortunes are polar opposite to Salford’s in every way possible. Leeds have lifted the Challenge Cup on 13 occasions, their Greater Manchester opponents just the once.

The Rhinos are widely regarded as one of the sport’s greatest clubs, both at home and abroad, and boast a wealth of international experience amongst their squad. The likes of England internationals Luke Gale and Tom Briscoe and Tongan powerhouse Konrad Hurrell are notable inclusions, Salford on the other hand have only spent 75% of the permitted salary cap due to their lack of a financial benefactor.

This year’s final, which is being dubbed as the ‘No Fans Final’ due to the government’s current restrictions is naturally going to be different, but that won’t dampen either set of supporters’ spirits.

For Leeds it’s an opportunity to move back towards the success they became so accustomed to under the likes of Tony Smith and Brian McDermott, but for Salford it’s a chance to compete for a trophy for the first time since 1969 and truly make rugby league history.

If the Red Devils are able to emulate their 1938 success, their long-awaited happy ending will have, finally, arrived.

The 2020 Challenge Cup Final takes place at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 17th October.

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