sport

Koukash targets big name

Marwan Koukash has identified one of the "biggest names in rugby league" as Salford's director of football if Brian Noble turns down the job.

The no-nonsense Salford chairman has replaced Noble as head coach of the Red Devils with former Wigan assistant Iestyn Harris and given him 48 hours to take or leave his offer of alternative employment.

Koukash told a news conference held to unveil Harris that he has identified a high-profile Australian to take on the role of football director if Noble fails to meet his deadline.

The millionaire racehorse owner declined to identify his target but speculation immediately linked Australia national coach Tim Sheens with a move to Super League.

"The person is currently in a high-profile job," said Koukash, who is also close to securing the services of Cronulla head coach Shane Flanagan as a consultant on a three-month contract during his ban from the NRL.

Noble appears unlikely to accept the change of role, having said at the weekend that he was taking legal advice, while Koukash told Wednesday's news conference that the former Great Britain coach has not been answering his telephone calls.

The change of coach comes in the wake of Salford's thrilling Challenge Cup win at Hull but Koukash revealed he made his decision in the aftermath of a 30-8 Super League defeat by the same opponents a week earlier which left the side out of the top eight.

"The club invested a vast amount of money in assembling what I believe is a very strong playing squad and the simple fact is we haven't done well at all," he said.

"The tipping point was the defeat against Hull. It was very embarrassing for our fans to lose by that amount.

"As the owner of the club I have to make big decisions and I decided that decision was to change direction.

"I felt it was better to move Brian away from the coaching side and into another role, which is director of football which we are absolutely desperate for.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that Brian has not been sacked. It is genuine role.

"But I can't wait forever. I'm going to wait until 5pm on Friday because there are other candidates I want to speak to.

"And there is a particular one I'm waiting to speak to who is possibly one of the biggest names in the rugby league world.

"I want that person, whether it's Brian or somebody else, to help us build a club."

Harris left his job at Wigan last Friday and started work at the AJ Bell Stadium on Monday, preparing for Friday's game against his old club Bradford.

He has signed a contract to the end of the 2016 season and, in the meantime, will step down as head coach of Wales, a post he has held for the last five years.

Koukash insists that, despite the appointment of a director of football and the imminent arrival of Flanagan, Harris will be the man in charge and that will not be interfering with his job.

The one-time Palestinian refugee also said money would be made available for new signings, which because the club have already spent up to the salary cap, would have to come from rugby union - players with no previous rugby league experience are exempt from the cap.

"I don't think I'm a tough person to work for," Koukash said. "I'm ambitious and there is nothing wrong in wanting the best for my club and our fans.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that Iestyn is the boss. He will have the final say about everything and he will only use Shane Flanagan if he needs to use him.

"As I did with Brian, I will fully support Iestyn with whatever decisions he makes.

"He will probably need a period of time to evaluate the current players and, if he comes to me in a few weeks' time and says he needs one or two more players, I will provide him with the funds to do that.

"Iestyn is aware that Brian spent the cap and what we might have to do is bring in union players and we've discussed that this morning."

Harris, who also succeeded Noble as head coach of Wrexham-based Super League Crusaders in 2010, admits taking over a team a quarter of the way through the season is not ideal.

"There are some challenges ahead which I'm looking forward to," he said.

"The players been really responsive to some of my philosophies and visions and they've and trained exceptionally hard for the last two days.

"This week is about getting our preparations right for Bradford. It is always difficult coming into a new job part-way through a season so it's about improving as we go forward over the next five or six weeks."