The Derek Beaumont Column: 11th February 2018

This article first appeared in the match day programme of the Betfred Championship Round 2 fixture with Batley Bulldogs on 11th February 2018.

Ever had that feeling when a circus leaves town? Me neither, until after Sunday that is. I have always been quite big on Karma; maybe it comes from my time involved in Karate. We would always teach people that you never put yourself into a situation where you may find trouble and if you find yourself in such a situation remove yourself from it. You see it isn’t brave or tough to put yourself into those circumstances, it is smart to avoid them. This was the course of action I took on Sunday.

Despite it being our home tie, I decided not to enter the changing room or pitch area as I had nothing to prove there and didn’t want to put myself into a situation where I could arguably have found myself calling on those karate skills. The whole event was like a circus and I am afraid to say that our guys got caught up in that and went off their game. Our team was nothing like the teams that played Wigan and Saints. This was probably largely down to the fact it meant nothing to most of our players, but the ones it obviously did, who had some of that history, got railed into trying to achieve something different than what they are tasked with.

Take nothing away from Toronto. As I said on social media they deserved their win and looked far more dangerous than us with the ball. The positive is we get to put that right and you can rest assured the guys now know what that means and have taken it personal, so it will be a whole different affair next time the two sides meet. I am totally confident that I have a group of players better than Toronto and that I also have a back-room staff better than theirs and that over the season that will shine through.

I liken it to when we went to Catalan in the Middle 8’s. Catalan, in my opinion, had better players than we did. However, on that day everything we touched turned to gold, a little like how it went for Toronto last Sunday. You may recall Cory Paterson plucking a ball from a kick out of thin air and going the length of the field in almost exactly the same circumstances as he did for Toronto against us. Yet when it mattered the same group of players came to our ground and put us to the sword comfortably in the Million Pound Game, relegating us to the Championship.

I believe that this squad is the right group of players to achieve our goal of returning to Super League. We are a new group and will gel and get better as a team the more we play and you will see a different focus and performance today, I can assure you of that. In 2016, the year we got promoted, we started the season with a loss to today’s rivals and then went unbeaten until our last game, a dead rubber against Leeds after we had got promoted. I remember the stick I got then and those criticising me for giving Neil Jukes the job but I stuck to my beliefs and it worked out.

I have to say I find it very insulting some of the things I read on social media about myself, let alone some of my staff and my family find it upsetting, especially when they experience the sacrifices that we make, not only in money but in time for the good of the Club and it really does make me feel like walking away from it. However, I realise that this is a minority of people and that they are not really supporters of the Club. I am happy to be criticised and happy to be accountable. I don’t have a God given right to believe that I have all the answers and my decisions are always the right ones. I value constructive criticism and feedback and I am always open to suggestions. I believe fans of a club should be able to voice their opinions and I understand that it is part of the game I am involved in. However, the one thing that people must accept is that every decision I make is in the best interests of this Club.

It is easy for people to call for a coach’s head after a loss in Round One following a relegation. It would be easy for me to succumb to such requests. But think it through. Think of the consequences. Firstly, Neil is a human being with a family to support. He has a contract and that would need to be honoured financially even if he was dismissed. Who pays for that whilst paying for a new coach? Secondly there are four coaches involved who all contribute. Are they not also accountable for what they do? I am privileged to see what preparation is done and what is expected of the lads and I also then get to see the review. Rest assured the day I believe that Neil isn’t the right person for the job or is restricting our opportunity of returning to Super League and being competitive I will do what is required and replace him and he is fully aware of that. He is a genuine, honest, very hard-working man who lives and breathes this Club and genuinely cares for it, so much so that if he himself believed he couldn’t achieve what I expect he would hand me his contract without a cost and walk away so that the Club could achieve what it deserves and that is the mark of a man I have the upmost respect for.

It’s easy to kick the coach but in the end, it’s the players’ performance that needs to be addressed. To change the coach whom they respect after just one round would destroy everything we have built after months of hard work in pre-season and cause turmoil and disarray. Loyalty is a big thing in sport and the players will want the chance to put that performance right for Neil and each and every one of us and I have no doubt they will. It’s at times like this when you need support and that is why I will give my support to Neil and the rest of the staff and squad. Yes, I was embarrassed, yes, I was annoyed and frustrated losing that game in the manner we did but can I react like a fan? Well if I did the Club would be in a mess, let me tell you that. So, I kindly ask that you keep the faith and trust in me that I am not throwing my hard-earned money away. Trust that I am close enough to see and know what is going on and trust that I want what everyone of you want, which is to return to Super League and have a competitive Club.

Trust me that if and when the time comes to make the call to change the coach that I will do it, if it is in our best interests and trust me that if ever anyone comes along who can do a better job than me and take this Club forward quicker than me I will hand it over to them without hesitation as in the end I only ever want what is best for Leigh Centurions.

Talking of handing things over I mentioned in my last programme column Marwan’s departure at Salford. I make no secret of my fondness of Salford. I am Leigh through and through, make no mistake about that, but Salford will always have a place in my heart. It therefore saddens me to see what I believe is going to happen to the club. Marwan had to hand the club over. He is a businessman and knew what he needed to do commercially to try and make it work as a business but understandably that met fierce resistance and people voted with their feet. It is a mark of the man that he was big enough to accept and understand that and to hand over the club at no cost to people capable of running it and perhaps no one more qualified than a person that specialises in business recovery.

So why do I feel sad about what I believe is going to happen to the club? I was at the game on Friday against Wigan. Now if ever there was going to be a big crowd of people to support the club it would have been this game. New era, new owners, Marwan no longer in charge, all the talk of the community and various incentives surrounding that. If there was going to be a buy-in then this was the game. However, what I saw was a crowd that was significantly made up of a large travelling support from Wigan. Add to that those who left early in disappointment from the result who may have already decided that there is no chance of a successful season and I don’t see the numbers stacking up for the club to survive without Marwan’s money.

For me the new owners, whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, have missed a trick. I know Marwan is a big, bold character and they would want to put their own identity on things and not be in his shadow but the guy has got money and is extremely well connected in the game. I would have made him a life member and kept him as involved as I could behind the scenes, keeping him close to the players, almost keeping him committed and obligated to the cause so I could call on him for advice and help and not least of all financial support when needed as even at clubs that break even there are always cashflow pitfalls.

Instead I have felt that he has been distanced from the club and almost cut adrift, which I find bizarre and sad. I may be talking out of turn here but whilst I was at the game I never saw anyone from the new board interact with Marwan or even visit his room to make sure everything was in order perhaps more so given Nigel Wood was a guest. I also sensed from Marwan that it was the start of the end of any emotional contact with the club and that is what would have been necessary to keep intact if they were to be able to call on him. On the field I saw a team blowing hot and cold that looked good in spells and far away in other parts. I almost sensed that there was no real belief and that could be down to losing a strong leader and the thought process that there is no real future without a character like Marwan or not least someone with his finances.

I hope I am wrong but the vultures are already circling and I suspect that Salford will need to succumb to offers for players in a few months’ time unless one or all of the new owners can collectively stump up the significant sums of cash needed to keep everything together with the crowds they look like they will get. They have started with no luck losing a big player in Manu for the season and Ian Watson the one man they desperately need to keep at the club to steady the squad and give them a focus has already publicly stated he needs more players but the finance isn’t there. Very often coaches become deflated when they cannot get the support they need to fulfil the expectations placed upon them in a pressured environment. As for Marwan, I genuinely hope he stays involved in the game as he has so much to offer it. He is a very intelligent man, much more so than people give him credit for. Where he will end up time will tell. I often get asked will it be at Leigh? Well I can tell you I would welcome him with open arms as to half my burden on time and money needed this year would be a real blessing. However, I think he is going to enjoy his spare time with his family for at least a year and to spend the money he now doesn’t put into Salford on spending that time around various beautiful places in the world and you can’t blame him for that.

Looking forward to today we welcome the Batley Bulldogs, their players, staff and spectators and their chairman Kevin Nicholas who is a real passionate and hardworking man who is Batley through and through. Last time they visited LSV it was in front of a record crowd for a Leigh game as we celebrated our promotion to Super League with free entry. I doubt very much that we will have anywhere near half that crowd today but that is to be expected I suppose. Batley are a tough side to take on as we found out in Round One in 2016 and Matt Diskin is an intelligent coach who will have them well prepared. We will need to be focussed and on top of our game to get the two points.

Batley had a taste of the top four in 2016 and will be working hard to try and return to that position so we certainly won’t be expecting an easy ride. The thing I like most about our fixture against Batley is that one of my biggest customers in Park Leisure’s member of staff, Emma and her boyfriend Dom, are staunch Batley supporters. He still hasn’t stopped smiling from that Round One victory in 2016 and he will be hoping he gets to smile again here today. If he does I will probably have to do a runner with Neil Jukes to a secure place of shelter based on the reaction of last week. Joking apart here’s hoping for an enjoyable game with a good atmosphere that sees both sides come through injury free.

Enjoy the game.

Derek

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