Why I appointed Iestyn Harris – Koukash reveals all

Dr Marwan Koukash today introduced his new coach Iestyn Harris to the assembled media at the AJ Bell Stadium, the Red Devils’ home ground.

He explained in the media conference why he had decided to appoint Harris to replace his former coach Brian Noble, with Noble offered the new post as Director of Football. These are the words that he used.

Where did it all go wrong? Koukash lost patience with Noble after only three wins in eight games. ©RLPhotos
Where did it all go wrong? Koukash lost patience with Noble after only three wins in eight games. ©RLPhotos

“I have no doubt everybody wants to know the circumstances that led to the sudden change of head coach. Over the last 12 months I have worked very closely with Brian and the club invested a vast amount of money in assembling what I believed to be a very strong playing squad. My investment could be the biggest investment made in a single year in the history of Super League.

“And it doesn’t take a genius to see the amount of money spent on infrastructure around the club in support of the players. We have also invested heavily in sending the players to South Africa for pre-season training.

“The season started seven or eight weeks ago, and the simple fact is that we haven’t done well at all. We have won three games, two of which we were expected to win against London and Wakfiield. We struggled against Wakefield and we conceded too many tries against London. We were humiliated against St Helens, although they are the strongest team and we should have showed a better performance against them.

“We were beaten by Warrington, and I criticised the team then. For me the tipping point was the defeat against Hull, which we lost 30-8. For me it was very embarrassing for our fans to lose that game by that amount.

“As an owner of the club I have to make big decisions. When I look at the performance of the seven weeks, and I look at the three teams that have scored the lowest amount of tries, they were London and Bradford, and in each case I can understand why. The third team was Salford, the team that we made a massive investment in. I couldn’t understand or accept that we should belong to that group.

“I had to make a decision, and the decision was to change direction. I have worked in many organisations before in which you have to look at your staff. If you think a certain function could benefit from a personnel change, you do it. In this case I thought it was better to move Brian away from the coaching side into another role, which is the Director of Football.

New Salford Red Devils coach Iestyn Harris. ©RLPhotos
New Salford Red Devils coach Iestyn Harris. ©RLPhotos

“The Director of Football is a genuine role that has been offered to Brian. I want to make absolutely clear that Brian has not been sacked. He has been moved from one function in the organisation to another to fulfil a role that we are desperate to fill.

“I am reminded every day about the importance of putting a youth structure in place. We need an Academy that functions very well, and which will be a supply line for the first team. When I looked at the Academy set-up, it looked like we have two different organisations, the Academy and the first-team set-up. None of the coaching staff from the club have been involved with the Academy, and that is not acceptable.

“So I have offered Brian a Director of Football role that oversees the development of the Academy and integrates it into the first team. It is very common that if you want to get rid of your coach, you move them upstairs. But this is a genuine offer of a genuine job. It is up to Brian.

“I am going to wait until Friday at 5.00pm. If I don’t hear from Brian there are other targets I want to speak to, and there is one in particular who I am waiting to speak to who is possibly one of the biggest names in the Rugby League world. I will bring somebody in, and I want that person to help us build a club, and not just build a team.

“As for the team, and I go back to the appointment of Iestyn, we had been speaking to Iestyn for a number of weeks for him to come in as an assistant to Brian. Unfortunately every time we set up a meeting for the four of us – our CEO Martin Vickers, Iestyn, Brian and myself – Brian had an emergency dental appointment.

“Eventually I made the decision myself that we were going to go in two separate directions here. Iestyn is going to come in as the head coach, and Brian is going to be the Director of Football.

Dr Marwan Koukash. ©RLphotos
Dr Marwan Koukash. ©RLphotos

“I have now said enough for now. Today is all about the appointment of Iestyn as a head coach. People may ask why I have appointed Iestyn. He has a good pedigree. He played both codes of rugby. He served in a brilliant environment at Wigan. Wigan is a club with a great culture and he benefited from it and I hope he will be a successful coach for us.

“The only target I have set for Iestyn is for him to try his best, and for him to try to increase the tempo and intensity of training. I could understand a little why the team has not been performing that well recently, because I also believe that if you train hard, then you play hard. This is the message that we both agree.”

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