Marwan Koukash is disappointed with Salford’s start to the Super League season. Despite twelve off-season signings, including Rangi Chase, Gareth Hock and Adrian Morley, the Red Devils have lost four of their opening seven games, the most recent a 30-8 defeat at Hull FC. They currently sit ninth in the table, just outside the play-off places. And so, Dr Koukash has announced a change of coaching staff.
However, heads are not yet rolling at Salford. Koukash’s plan is to bring in Iestyn Harris from Wigan and Shane Flanagan from Cronulla to assist rather than replace head coach Brian Noble. Harris, who has been given permission by Wigan to speak to Salford, could be part of Noble’s coaching team, while Koukash reportedly envisions Flanagan helping with the development of younger players.
“If we do decide to bring someone in then it will be done to simply strengthen Brian’s hand,” Koukash told the Manchester Evening News, and given his habit of speaking his mind without holding back we can assume that this chairman’s backing of his head coach is genuine.
Koukash deserves credit for not simply sacking Brian Noble and seeking a replacement. It would not be fair to appoint a new coach, give him an almost-entirely new set of players and not give him a reasonable chance of moulding them into a team. Salford were always going to have some issues at the beginning of the season as the individuals brought in by Noble and Koukash were transformed into a unit.
There is a temptation for club owners, especially those who have put such massive amounts of money into their club, to take out their frustrations by sacking coaches or managers. This has especially been the case with Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, who went through managers at a ridiculous pace following the departure of Jose Mourinho. The most egregious example was Roberto Di Matteo, sacked in November after a poor run of form. This was only six months after Di Matteo had guided Chelsea to the FA Cup and the club’s first and only European Cup.
That sort of culture dominates professional soccer. Liverpool fans campaigned for the removal of Brendan Rodgers through 2012/13 – a year later and Rodgers has put Liverpool in pole position to win their first league title for well over two decades. Man Utd fans currently want to see the back of David Moyes, even though he hasn’t even been at the club for 12 months. It’s worth remembering that Alex Ferguson was appointed to Man Utd in late 1986 and didn’t win a thing until the FA Cup in 1990, only winning a league title in 1993.
Koukash would do better to follow the example of two rugby league clubs: St Helens and Widnes Vikings. The Saints endured a horrible season in 2013, from the opening day 40-4 defeat by Huddersfield, to their first ever Super League to Widnes, defeat at London Broncos and three losses to Hull KR, including in the Challenge Cup fourth round. Coach Nathan Brown was deemed to be the culprit, especially for playing players out of position (overlooking that much of this was the result of a lengthy injury list) and Saints fans wanted him out.
The club, however, stuck by their man, and it’s a good thing they did. Given the perhaps knee-jerk sacking of Royce Simmons at the beginning of 2012 St Helens could have become the Chelsea of Super League – and, besides which, Brown has built Saints into genuine title contenders this time around. The signing of Luke Walsh was an excellent one, but arguably with Walsh injured and others unavailable the hard-fought win over Leeds has been the most impressive thus far. The selection of Lance Hohaia at stand-off and Paul Wellens at scrum half brought back unpleasant memories, but victory against the Rhinos shows just how far Saints have come.
Denis Betts has been in charge at Widnes since the end of 2010, but was dogged by criticism after a 2011 campaign that saw losses to Hunslet, Batley and Barrow, and an eventual fifth-place finish. The Vikings’ performances in Super League didn’t improve Betts’ standing among the Widnes fans – losses came regularly and Widnes ended their first season back in the top flight bottom of the pile. However, despite pressure to do otherwise the club stood by Betts, and now Widnes are fourth in the league having won five of their opening six games, with many predicting a top-eight finish.
The message here is to stick with coaches and give them a chance. If they’re tasked with re-building a squad or guiding a club into the league above it’s no good to give them six months to have a crack at it and then try somebody else. Sometimes coaches need time and stability can be beneficial to any club. It’s good to see Koukash still giving his support to Brian Noble. Hopefully that will continue.
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