Featherstone Rovers chairman Mark Campbell has opened up on the sacking of Sean Long despite the Championship side’s lead at the top of the table.
St Helens legend Long, 46, was relieved of his duties at the start of August following a defeat to Halifax and was replaced by director of rugby and former York boss James Ford for the rest of the season.
Ex-Great Britain representative Long has since joined Wakefield’s coaching staff under Mark Applegarth in their bid for Super League survival.
Campbell admitted he knew it was a risk appointing Long from the start, having never held a head coaching position role, and advised against appointing former team-mate Leon Pryce as his assistant.
Pryce, 41, reunited with Long for the 2023 Championship campaign as second in command, but was later released in June amid a restructure of the club’s on-field department.
Speaking with host George Riley on the club’s show ‘Up Next’, Campbell revealed all on the duo’s departure and Ford’s appointment.
Mark Campbell reveals all on Sean Long sacking
“It’s always sad parting with a coach because any coach and chairman have got to have such a tight bond and you work so closely with them,” Campbell said.
“It had to be done. I’ve no doubts it was the right decision.
“I did know from the outset that obviously Sean hadn’t been a head coach and he would struggle in some areas.
“I think his choice of assistant didn’t help him. I tried to persuade him to go with somebody with more experience who could help him with structure, organisation, planning ahead, utilising all his staff. But Sean wanted Leon and I just thought the two of them were too alike.
“From that, it’s been a difficult eight months to see the squad we put together and see us not getting the best out of what we’ve got. Any good coach gets the best out of his players and this clearly wasn’t happening.”
Despite those claims, Featherstone had only lost twice under former Leeds assistant Long and have sat at the top of the table all season above fellow promotion-hopefuls Toulouse and Bradford.
But Campbell insists he wasn’t convinced by performances on the field, despite 19 victories, with the 25-22 loss to Halifax the last straw.
“This is the biggest budget this club has probably spent in its history.”
The Rovers chairman continued: “When you look at the way we’ve been playing and how, and you look at the dynamics of the team, we’ve been driving straight through the middle and steamrolling everyone outside the top six. But when it comes to winning games against some of our rivals, we haven’t had a great record.
“We could have lost quite easily to Bradford at home, Sheffield should have beat us if they kept their discipline, Toulouse took us apart in the second half and Halifax have beat us twice.
“They were all worrying signs considering the budget.
“This is the biggest budget this club has probably spent in its history. You put everything together, it’s been a difficult time. We want to be planning with confidence for next year. In Sean’s tenure, I couldn’t possibly do that.
“We brought Fordy in to try and fill those gaps but it just clearly wasn’t working. I came back from a job yesterday and watched half an hour training and I felt genuinely excited.”