A tribute to Heroes
Bill Arthur explains why Castleford Tigers will swap their distinctive home kit for red shirts against Warrington.
Last Updated: 10/02/10 11:49am
Castleford Tigers supporters are in for a surprise when their team runs out onto the pitch for the home game against Warrington on Saturday night.
The Tigers are noted for their distinctive yellow and black playing strip but when they line up against the Wolves at the Jungle they'll be wearing an all red kit.
It's actually Castleford's new away strip and the club had to seek special permission from the Rugby Football League to wear it for the home game.
It didn't take the RFL long to agree to the switch as the new design will benefit a worthy cause and one that is, sadly, very relevant to the small West Yorkshire town.
The Tigers have gone with the all-red outfit to tie in with the colour scheme of the organisation Help for Heroes, which assists British service personnel who have been injured in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
H4H was set up in 2007 and has so far raised around £30 million. Its work includes helping the families of those who have died in the conflicts.
The reason for the club's decision to donate £4 from every away shirt sold is that, among the 256 UK servicemen and women to die in Afghanistan so far were three fanatical Castleford Tigers supporters.
The most recent of those was 19-year-old Rifleman Luke Farmer, from Upton near Pontefract. Luke, who was killed in an explosion in Helmand province last month, was a keen rugby league player; in fact he turned out for the local Upton amateur club.
Castleford's England centre Michael Shenton began his playing career at Upton as well and he donated one of the first of the new red away shirts to the Upton club to auction at a fund raiser held in honour of Luke Farmer.
Another of the local victims was Bombardier Craig Hopson, aged 24, who served with the 40th Regiment, the Royal Artillery. He was killed in the conflict last summer. His funeral cortege actually passed through the gates of the Castleford ground as his family knew how much the club meant to him.
Then there was 18-year-old Rifleman James Backhouse, a Tigers fan from Airedale, just outside Castleford. He died in Afghanistan last July, the victim of a roadside bomb.
James was on the 'phone to his dad Andrew every weekend during the season to find out how his home town team had done and, when he was home on leave, he was a regular at the Jungle.
His funeral procession also made a special detour around the Tigers ground. As his mum Sharon Backhouse told Boots n All this week, James would've been overjoyed at Castleford's win against their big city rivals the Leeds Rhinos last Friday, their first at Headingley since 2002.
Since James's death Sharon has been involved with Help for Heroes and now she has set up the James Backhouse Memorial Trust Fund, with the aim of building a war memorial in honour of James and his comrades. You can find out more about that at the James Backhouse Memorial Trust Fund.
With the conflict in Afghanistan having such an impact on Castleford it's not surprising that Tigers supporters have been backing their club's initiative.
The new kit has been selling well and so don't be surprised to see plenty of red shirts on the terraces of the Jungle this weekend, in honour of the town's fallen heroes.