sport

Veivers has signings on ice

Salford head coach Phil Veivers has up to 10 players waiting to sign for the City Reds once the Super League club's takeover goes through.

As talks with potential buyer Dr Marwan Koukash, the St Helens-based multi-millionaire racehorse owner, continue to progress, Veivers has expressed his optimism that the cash-strapped club can be saved.

Veivers, who has had a telephone conversation with Dr Koukash, is expected to remain in position under the new owner and is stepping up his preparations for the new season, which is just three weeks away.

"I've had a chat to see where we're at," said Veivers. "I don't want to reveal some of the stuff we spoke about.

"I'm not counting my chickens but I'm very positive there's going to be a positive outcome."

Koukash, owner of global executive training company EuroMaTech, flew back from Dubai earlier this week to hold talks with development company Peel Holdings and Salford Council, the joint landlords of the Salford City Stadium, who are both keen to keep the ailing club afloat.

A further meeting was held at the stadium on Thursday morning between outgoing club chairman John Wilkinson, RFL chief executive Nigel Wood and former chairman of New Zealand Rugby League Andrew Chalmers, who is expected to play a role in the new management.

It is thought a deal could be completed within days, which would be a major relief for Veivers, who has endured a traumatic pre-season.

"I'd be a liar if I said it had run smoothly," he said. "What I can say is that the players have rolled their sleeves up got and stuck in.

"Obviously there's been some blips when the players have had down days, wondering whether they're going to have a job or not.

"It's been very tough. I've had the same fears as the players but we've had to be there to pick them up.

"Through the whole pre-season, there's probably only been one day when I was deflated and felt the worst.

"I went home and said to the wife I needed to sort myself out. It wasn't something I needed the players to see."

Veivers advised his players and coaching colleagues to find a "plan B" in case the club folded and that led to rumours that assistant coach Sean Long was set to join a Super League rival.

The former Bradford and Wigan assistant boss insists his right-hand man is staying and hopes they will both sign new contracts with the club.

"Myself and Sean are contracted for another year and before all this started we were in negotiations to extend our contracts," he said. "I am hopeful that the discussions can carry on."

Veivers lost nine members of his first-team squad at the end of last season, including the spine of his team, and, because of a signing embargo, has been unable to add to sole recruit Andrew Dixon, the St Helens second rower.

However, former Great Britain centre Martin Gleeson has shaken hands on a two-year deal and Veivers has lined up more potential recruits to add to the 24 players currently on the books.

"I've still 10 on my wanted list," he added. "The (takeover) deal has not been finalised but I'm planning as if it's going to be done.

"If that's the case, I need to be ready to move forward to make this team a competitive one.

"The season is three weeks away and I think when the Wigan game comes around we'll have some new faces on board."

The RFL lifted their restrictions on the club so they could play Swinton in a friendly last Sunday and will do likewise to enable a trial game against Wigan to go ahead at the Salford City Stadium next Thursday.

By then, the club could be under new ownership and Veivers will be able to put the dark days firmly behind him.

"I said to Longy, it's never going to get tougher than what it is now," he said.

"I told him if you come through the other side, any other club you go to will be a walk in the park."