5 potential replacements for Ian Watson at Salford

After Ian Watson’s shock departure earlier this week, Salford are on the lookout for a new head coach.

Watson has been in charge for the past six years but departs the club to take up a job at an as yet unnamed rival Super League club.

With his job now vacant, we thought we’d draw up five potential candidates who could replace him at the Red Devils helm.

These are our top contenders…

Paul Rowley

Rowley has been in a coaching consultancy role at Salford for the past 18 months and so has the advantage of already knowing the players, staff and atmosphere. Now it may be a coincidence, but his arrival actually correlated with the Red Devils’ rise in form and it’s probably fair to say he had a big hand in helping them reach the most recent Super League and Challenge Cup Finals. He was promoted with Leigh in 2016 at a time when they were playing a similar expansive style to what Salford do now, so if Ian Blease et al are looking to appoint from within then Rowley has to be their no.1 option.

Richard Marshall

Marshall has long been touted for a top job in Super League after several impressive years at Halifax. His ‘Fax side were regulars in the Championship top six, despite playing on a lower budget than most of their rivals – a situation not too dissimilar to Salford in Super League. He currently acts as assistant coach to Kristian Woolf at St Helens but has said in the past that he has ambitions to be a top-flight head coach.

Danny Ward

Similar to Marshall, Danny Ward has often been tipped to return to coaching in Super League, after working wonders down south with London Broncos. He defied the odds to lead them to Super League in 2018, overcoming the star-studded Toronto Wolfpack in a thrilling Million Pound Game, before claiming surprise scalps over St Helens and Wigan the following season. He is one of several up-and-coming Championship coaches who deserve an opportunity and was even rewarded last year by being named Great Britain assistant coach under Wayne Bennett, alongside none other than Ian Watson.

Brian McDermott

McDermott is the highest profile name on this list but it wouldn’t be surprising if Salford made an approach for him given their lofty ambitions. Toronto’s expulsion from Super League and the uncertainty surrounding their whole existence leaves him available and a Salford side on the verge of major silverware is certainly an attractive prospect. A move to the AJ Bell would also see McDermott reunite with a player he values highly – his former captain at Leeds Kallum Watkins.

Stuart Littler

Littler is, admittedly, an outside bet but appointing him would mean following a tried and tested approach. Like Watson, Littler turned out for the Red Devils, or City Reds as they were then, in his playing days and has spent the past four years cutting his teeth as coach at Swinton, establishing them as a competitive Championship club despite being on a significantly tighter budget. The two clubs still have a good relationship, so it could be considered a natural progression for Littler to make the step up.