Part two (of three) of Steven Downes’ interview with Paul Sykes, ahead of Sunday’s testimonial match against Bradford Bulls.
Sykes stayed in the capital for five years, before a move back up north, and back to Bradford, came calling.
With a wealth of experience under his belt, the fullback moved back to the Bulls in 2008, where he went on to make more than 100 appearances for the club.
“My partner was pregnant at the time and we both wanted to move back up north,” Sykes explained.
“Bradford came in for me and I thought at the time that it would be great to go back to the club where I grew up as a young lad, so I jumped at the chance really.
“I had a great first year back at the club, and it was so good that I got a call up for my country, and got to go to a World Cup, which I am immensely proud of.
“The club then started to go on a slide and there were a few turbulent times at the Bulls, which isn’t nice at any club.
“A lot had changed around the place when I first went back, and there were still a few old faces that I knew when I first signed, but then people started to filter out and then the financial troubles hit.
“As a player, you can’t think about that; you just have to focus on playing and doing your best on the field.
“Players are aware of the problems that are happening because, obviously, we are just normal people; we have bills to pay like the regular fan.
“But a player doesn’t know how the club has got into that state or what has caused it.
“There isn’t a lot of money in rugby league; it isn’t like football, where a few million here or there could sort out problems.”
Sykes moved on from Bradford in 2012, and signed first on loan with Wakefield, before joining them on a permanent basis.
“I loved it at Wakefield. I had fallen out of favour at the Bulls, so a move was inevitable.
“There was a great set of lads at Wakefield and they really made me feel welcome, and we actually got into the play-offs at Bradford’s expense, which was quite weird for me at the time.
“When I do retire, I think I’ll look back on my time at Wakefield as one of the best periods in my career. I loved everything about being at the club at that time.
“We won seven games in a row to get into the play-offs. when everyone before that was saying we’d go down.
“We showed that wasn’t going to be the case. It was a great achievement at the time and obviously the club has gone on since – and now look at them.
“At Wakefield, the expectations were slightly different. They have a passionate support, and they can slip a little bit more under the radar.
“But when I played in my first Wakefield v Castleford derby, I soon got a taste of what it was like, and I must say that even though I have played in many Bradford v Leeds derbies, the Wakey-Cas derby is certainly on a par.”
After leaving Wakefield, Sykes signed for Championship side Featherstone Rovers.
“It was tough leaving Wakefield at the time, because I loved my time there,” he explained.
“But they were selling players due to circumstances off the field, and they were in a rut – a bit like what happened at Bradford.
“I moved to Fev, where I had to go part-time as a player, and to go from full time, which I was for many years, was a shock to the system, for sure.
“I had a good year at the club and scored a lot of tries that season. Plus we won the Championship shield, which was a good achievement.
“But I only signed a one year deal with the club, and so when that came to an end, we parted ways.
“I got a call from the Rams, and I have always said that I wanted to finish my career at my home town club, so I just couldn’t turn the opportunity down.
“I have always watched the team whenever I’ve had time off from playing, even when I was in Super League, and it was always an ambition of mine to pull on the shirt.”
Read the third and final part of Steven Downes’ interview with Paul Sykes tomorrow.