Koukash: We have unfinished business

Salford owner Marwan Koukash is confident his club is in the right hands this year with former players Ian Watson and Ian Blease in charge.

Both coach Watson and CEO Blease are local products who played for Salford in the past.

“People ask me what’s the difference this year from previous years and I say the fact that we’ve got two Salford boys who played for the club at the helm of the club,” Koukash told Love Rugby League.

“Both guys are really here for the right reasons, they want the club to progress, they’ve both got unfinished business here and want to take the club to that one step higher.

“For once because of their appointments I feel happy to take a back seat and just enjoy my rugby.”

Salford open their 2017 Super League season at home against Wigan on Saturday.

The Red Devil have sold more season tickets this year than in 2016, but Koukash and the club are aiming for more.

“We’ve sold probably more tickets than we did last year but the job is not done,” Koukash said.

“We still need to have a lot more people coming to watch the team then we ever done before because the club needs to start operating in such a way that it can stand on its own feet and not just through the owner’s money.”

Salford ensured their Super League survival last year through the Million Pound game.

The Red Devils fought back memorably to edge Hull KR by a drop goal in golden point extra-time.

Koukash describes the finish to that as an “absolutely crazy, incredible experience”.

“It’s very hard to describe because with three minutes to go we were gone,” he recounts of that fateful day.

“It wasn’t till I came down from my box where I was watching from and came down to the touchline and spoke to Ian Watson, he said to me this game is not over yet and I’m thinking is he serious?

“There’s three minutes to go and we are eight points behind. I’m thinking he’s just saying it but he spent a few seconds with the boys on the bench, he spoke to Junior Sa’u and they were all really believing it wasn’t over and it’s almost like he hypnotised me.

‘I said to my daughter, who was accompanying me at the time, I said lets go up, it’s almost as if they had hypnotised me into believing that the game is not over.

“So I went upstairs to my box and as soon as I sat down we scored the first try and the people around us, the Hull KR people, we’re saying this is just a consolation try.

“I really thought oh guy’s there’s more to come, it’s not a consolation try, so when the second try was scored you saw clips of it on TV I was banging on the window and thinking ah yeah U told you this was going to happen.

“Although Gaz missed the conversion I knew it was going to be just a matter of time with us and our boys, although they wanted to take a few minutes rest between, they looked like if you looked at their bare faces, their body language, we looked like the team that was going to win it and that’s us.”

Salford surprised many with the shock signing of Todd Carney a few weeks out before the start of the season.

Koukash said the former Catalans stand-off has bought into the club’s culture.

“I’ve known Todd for a couple of years and I’ve been talking to him for a number of months about a possible move to here,” he explained.

“It wasn’t until I believed that he could buy into that culture that I introduced him to Ian Watson.

“He spoke to him a number of times on the phone and said this is a totally different club from the past and if you’re going to come here there’s no favouritism regardless of what your name is and regardless of what you’ve done in the past.

“You’re going to have to prove yourself fighting for a place. Wev’e got Dobbo, Gaz O’Brien could play in the halves, Josh Wood, there’s a number of players and just because your name is Todd Carney doesn’t mean you’re going to jump straight into the team.

“You have to work hard to earn a place in the team so it’s that kind of mentality and culture that Todd is coming for.”

Koukash started his reign at Salford in 2013 with the signing of a number of high-profile players, including Rangi Chase, Tim Smith and Gareth Hock. All have since left the club.

Koukash believes Carney will give the Red Devils an X-factor.

“I look at Todd Carney and I always think competition’s need X-factor players and teams do need X-factor players, whether it’s in rugby or football,” he said.

“Providing that you only have one in a team, one can be managed and one can be dragged from his culture to the club’s culture.

“You look at the past when Manchester United signed Eric Cantona he took them to another level but he bought into their culture.

“So what he did was he brought his X-factor into that culture as well, he was just one of the boys and that what we hope Todd can do for us.”


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