Kel Coslett is synonymous with Saints` great golden period in the 1960s and 1970s. His exploits are legendary and he holds many individual records at the club including most ever career appearances, greatest career and season points total and greatest number of goals kicked in a career or season. Kel was a player who evolved from a full back to the back row in the forwards and at the end of his career moved effortlessly into the prop forward position. His abilities and knowledge of the game were greatly refined over the years and it was natural that he became the captain of the club through the successful first half of the 1970s.
This amiable Welshman became a Saint in the summer of 1962. He was signed from Aberavon RU club after completing a rare Championship winning season with them and gaining three welsh international caps. His first season at the Saints was nothing short of phenomenal. Kel recalls his debut game for the Saints against Salford:
"As soon as the match finished, I knew I could cut it in rugby league."
That first season Kel played in every match from the full back position and scored in all but one. That black hole was towards the end of the season on 20th of April, 1963 (Shortly after the big thaw - when Saints seemed to be playing every other day!). In a home league game against Featherstone Rovers Saints scored 6 tries and won the match by 18 points to 5. Kel valiantly hit the posts and shaved the uprights with his conversion attempts. Kel recalled the match and in his own inimitable style dismisses the occasion as "Just one of those days!" His 156 goals that year demonstrated the accuracy of one of the last great `toe-enders`. That total left him at the top of the RL goal-kicking charts. This haul included two goals in the Lancashire Cup Final as Saints completed a hat trick of wins over Swinton.
The next season was very much a case of `more of the same` as Kel booted over 138 goals and scored five tries in 41 matches to top the RL Charts again. In those days Saints maintained a very high quality squad and competition for places was fierce. Inevitably, Kel was challenged for the full back berth by a red-hot Frankie Barrow. The local lad`s defensive qualities and fearless running greatly endeared him to the terraced crowds. For the next three seasons Frank commandeered the number one jersey as Kel made a steady transition to the loose forward position. The Saints won four trophies in the 1965/6 season and Kel missed out on selection for the Challenge Cup and Championship Finals through an injury sustained in the business end of the season. In the 1966/7 campaign Saints completed a third successive Lancashire League Championship and Kel played loose forward in 11 out of 15 starts. His transformation into the number 13 jersey was complete by the 1977/8 season. A benchmark performance came in the Challenge Cup first round that season when Saints defeated Halifax by 31 points to 2. Kel demonstrated all the craft of a quality loose forward namely shrewd ball distribution, excellent support play and rock-solid defence. In that particular game Kel scored a hat trick of tries and kicked 5 goals in a stunning performance. Coslett also donned `Yorkshire`s unlucky number` in the Lancashire Cup triumph over Warrington.
Kel repeated the performance in the 1968 Lancashire Cup Final against Oldham as he booted over 6 goals in the record 30 points to 2 victory. Coslett also re-established himself as the principal goal-kicker at the club. Remarkably, Len Killeen had taken over the role in Kel`s `low profile transition` years. He ended the 1968/9 season with 317 points from 154 goals and three tries.
The 1969/70 season saw Kel break the 300 points barrier again. On the way to that total was Saints final match of the swinging sixties. There couldn`t have been a finer venue than Central Park to host Kel`s golden boot landing 10 goals in a 53 points to 11 victory. As the Saints fans danced a double Christmas celebration no spectator would have predicted that the vanquished would be Championship contenders just seventeen months later. Before then the Saints had further cause to rejoice as they were crowned `Champions` after defeating Leeds on a wild May afternoon at Odsal Stadium. Kel kicked 4 goals as some `Myler Magic` ripped the Leeds defence apart in the second half as Saints went on to win by 24 points 12. The 1969/70 season had established a personal best for Kel of 160 goals.
Kel`s resilience was again demonstrated in the following season (1970/1) when he played in 49 matches collecting a fabulous goal tally of 193 goals. Unsurprisingly, Kel topped the RL goalkicking Charts that campaign. Twelve of these goals came in the 42 points to nil victory over Bradford Northern on the 19th. of October 1970 when Kel landed a perfect 12 goals out of 12 attempts from all parts of the pitch including three 50 yards penalty goals. At the end of the season it was Wigan who challenged Saints in the Swinton sunshine for the right to be named as RL Champions of the 1970/1 season. In an enthralling contest Kel kept Saints` noses in front at half time with three well taken penalties. In the second half the brilliant Bill Ashurst took control for the Riversiders as Wigan notched up an apparently unassailable 12 points to 6 lead. With only seven minutes of the match remaining, the Saints lacking a dismissed John Mantle, maintained their open attacking strategy and a slick crossfield move sent Bob Blackwood in at the left hand corner. Coslett calmly converted the try from the touchline to take the Saints` deficit to a mere single point. The conversion raised the tension to cliffhanger proportions and re-engaged the Saints` section of the crowd. As the game ebbed and flowed a last minute drop goal attempt by John Walsh bounced back into the grateful cradle of Billy `the bandit` Benyon and the never say die centre plunged over the Wigan tryline. Coslett was on hand to seal the match with a cool conversion. As Cliff Watson had been ruled out of the Final with a broken arm it was down to Kel Coslett to lift the Championship Trophy aloft - a manoeuvre he was set to repeat several times over the next six years!
With the departure of Cliff Watson to Cronulla-Sutherland in the summer of 1971, Kel became club captain for the 1971-2 season and what a season it would prove to be. Kel`s men brought the Saints spectators an early Christmas present as the Saints carried off the BBC TV Trophy for the first time with a hard fought 8 points to 2 victory over a gutsy Rochdale Hornets. In a tryless match Kel kicked all the Saints` points. As this incredible season unfolded the classy Saints side were sweeping all before them. The 1972 Challenge Cup Final was a battle of the Roses as Saints took on a powerful Leeds outfit. Kel played a marvellous game in the loose - directing the team and holding out the lethal Leeds attack. His five goals haul in the Final, included a magnificent 30 yards drop goal that soared ten yards above the uprights, always kept Saints in the lead throughout the match. This great all round performance brought Kel the Lance Todd Trophy as the man of the match. Although Saints did lose to Leeds a week later in the Championship Final, it did not take the gloss off a fantastic season for the Kel and the Saints. In total Coslett played an incredible 54 matches that season scoring 8 tries and kicking 214 goals for an unbelievable tally of 452 points. The goals produced the game`s third best total of all time (behind David Watkins 221in 1972/3 and Bernard Ganley 219 in 1957/8).
The next two years were a `trophy free zone` for the Saints. In the 1972/3 season Kel was top of the appearances for the club scoring 162 goals and 330 points in the process. The 1974/5 Championship winning side played some of the greatest rugby ever seen at Knowsley Road under Kel`s shrewd leadership. In the entire league campaign Saints only lost three matches and topped the table 9 points ahead of nearest rivals Wigan.
Kel`s final season in a Saints` jersey more than lived up to the town`s expectations. Coslett captained the side for the fifth successive season and many pundits had written off the "old codgers" at the start of the campaign, laying all the plaudits at the feet of a youthful and talented Widnes team. As it happened an exciting Salford team ended the season as Champions. Coslett`s men however had already lifted a trophy when they defeated Dewsbury in the BBC TV Floodlit Trophy. Having dispatched Salford on their way to Wembley, few outside St Helens fancied their chances as Saints were paired against Widnes in the 1976 Challenge Cup Final. The press had labelled the Saints as `Dads Army` but as the Final unfolded it was the Saints pack, led by Coslett who battered Widnes into submission. A marvellous try from Jeff Heaton and a brace from Peter Glynn in the last 15 minutes presented Kel with the honour of receiving the cup for the second time from Margaret Thatcher. A fortnight later Saints battled with Salford for the Premiership Trophy. Saints played in a similar fashion as Saints killed off the `Red Devils` in the last 15 minutes to seal their third trophy of the season.
Geoff Pimblett is full of praise for his former team mate:
"I played for five years with Kel as my captain. He was a great leader, who could organise on the field, distribute, kick for touch and kick goals."
On the international scene Kel gained 12 caps for his native Wales. After coaching spells with Rochdale Hornets and Wigan Kel took over the coaching reins at Knowsley road. A very young squad, limited resources and a lack of big named stars were the inhibiting factors that led to a relative decline in the Saints` fortunes. His contract was terminated after two years just as Kel thought matters were on the upturn.
Kel did return to the club in the 1990s where he first worked in the marketing and corporate department and then became Team Manager during the great Super League era of Saints` success.
Kel Coslett has played more matches than any other player in Saints` jersey. He has also kicked more goals and scored more points than any other Saint - some 1409 ahead of Paul Loughlin. These records could well stand the test of time as will the name of Kel Coslett in rugby league folklore! It is indeed also fitting that he is now the President of our famous club.
Player match listings are a work in progress. Competitions: