Former St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham has broken his silence on his sacking from St Helens earlier this season: and has accepted the prospect of backing up his heroics as a player for the club was never possible as coach.
Cunningham was sacked by the Saints in April after a 24-year association with the club as both player and coach.
However, he found it difficult to back up his astonishing playing career with the Saints as a coach and, speaking for the first time about his departure from the club, he revealed in this Monday’s League Express just how difficult it was: both on the field and away from it in the town itself.
He said: “It ended how it ended – I got sacked.
“Would the club have been in a different position now if I’d still been coaching them? I’m not sure they would have, but that is the nature of the beast.
“St Helens, as much as it’s a great job, it’s quite a difficult job. Expectation is high at all the top clubs and people can get spoiled with success over a prolonged period of time.
“For myself, I don’t think it was ever going to work with being the ”local hero’ and it was difficult. Living in the town was tough; I didn’t get treated very well but that’s part of life. I knew that was going to happen from the offset, I was big enough to take the challenge and it’s a shame it didn’t work out how we all wanted.”
However, as he embarks on a new challenge with Leigh Centurions as their head of rugby on a three-year deal, Cunningham has insisted that he holds no bad blood towards anyone connected to St Helens.
He said: “I still hold the club in high regard though and all the fans.
“There’s Eamonn McManus (chairman) Rushy (Mike Rush, chief executive), there was no bad blood or anything like that.
“I always wanted to build them a good squad someone could do something with and I feel like I did that. They made the semi-finals, and I feel like I left them in a good spot to be honest.”
It had been reported Cunningham would join Widnes as an assistant, something which has not come to fruition. But he insists he still has plenty to offer as a coach in the coming years.
He said: “I needed a bit of a sabbatical and some time away to reflect on a few things. I’ve never had a rest from the game for 24 years, going from one season to another, so I said to the wife that I’d had a break.
“But I’ve still got plenty to offer this sport as a coach, believe me.”