Carl Ablett: Iconic South Stand holds many memories as a player and a fan

Leeds 
Rhinos fans in the South Stand.
Leeds Rhinos fans in the South Stand.
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I AM a South Stander. Before I signed for Leeds I was a fan in the South Stand, and I know what it means to so many people who have been watching games from there for years and years.

We used to get to matches early so I could get a good spot to sit on the wall in front of the South Stand.

South Stand.

South Stand.

You can’t beat the atmosphere a full South Stand generates, especially for a big game under floodlights on a Friday night.

Tonight is going to be the last time that happens and it is the end of an era. I have been joining in the reminiscing this week, but you can’t halt progress and I think redeveloping the stand is the right thing to do.

It would have been nice if it could stay as it is, or at least be replaced by something similar, but the club has to live in the 21st century.

The South Stand hasn’t changed much, apart from a new roof, since it opened in 1931 and it needs updating.

Danny McGuire rallies his troops at Wakefield.

Danny McGuire rallies his troops at Wakefield.

I have seen the plans and I know what the club are wanting to do and I think when the new stand is finished it will be a special place to play in front of and for people to watch games from as well.

I know people are worried about the atmosphere suffering, but I don’t think it will. There will be a standing terrace in the South Stand and I’m pleased about that. I imagine the same people who make all the noise in the South Stand now will be doing it from the new structure in a couple of years’ time.

Whenever a club move to a new ground that’s what you worry about, how do you recreate the atmosphere? The new South Stand will be different to the present one because it is going to have seats on the top tier but there’s still a standing section and I am sure that’ll be just as vibrant as it is now.

I am looking forward to seeing it develop and I think when it’s done it will be a world-class facility. It is going to hold a lot of history. I know there’s plans for a John Holmes statue and a bit of a museum and that will be great to see.

The club aren’t upgrading the ground for the sake of it. The South and North Stands are both ‘past their sell-by date’ and other clubs have overtaken Headingley in terms of facilities.

Leeds is a big club and Headingley is a great ground and it should be staging semi-finals and Test matches every year, like it used to.

The big events generate more money and that filters down to the rugby side of things. It is a business, at the end of the day, and they have to maximise their income.

To do that the club has to move with the times. The new facilities will allow that to happen. Corporate facilities and more seats are needed for the big occasions and I think the plans will provide those without losing the stadium’s traditional character.

The aim, for us, is to send the South Stand out on a high. It’s really important we play well against Saints and get back to winning ways.

It’s going to be a special night and a celebration before and after the game for the fans, but for us it is about reacting to last week, which was one of the worst performances of the year.

Whenever we’ve had a dip in form this year we’ve not let it linger and we’ve turned in some good performances afterwards. We have to continue that and make sure the fans have something to cheer. We have had a good look at last week’s video and learned some lessons and we will be ready to play tomorrow.

It wasn’t much fun watching last week’s game again, but it’s important to do that and understand where we went wrong and why.

We’ve looked at it individually and as a team and there’s a lot of stuff we need to be better at.

Wakefield were good on the night, but we should have done more and been better. Everyone loses games, it’s how you react that counts.

It will be good to get back home in front of a big crowd and get the two points.

It is a very big game in the Super-8s table, but we aren’t wasting too much time looking at that; it is all about improving and playing the way we know we can.

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