This week sees the widely anticipated and crucial showdown between Matt Parish, Coach of the Salford City Reds and the Reds Board who lauded his abilities when appointed towards the end of last season.
Before the new Super League season starts the Red's campaign may be in tatters and the club, before its crucial move to Barton, labelled as a laughing stock. Will Parish be backed with the support he needs to make Salford City Reds a competitive force? Or is all the talk of the club aiming to go forward, just talk?
Parish's openness and honesty, whilst winning the backing of the supporters, has alienated certain sections of the Red's board and senior officials. It is an open secret that they were angered by Parish's comments that the club needs to change its day to day running from the top down - something any honest Salford fan would and has admitted to.
Parish further angered his employer when he was reported as saying that he had been told white lies whilst being interviewed in Australia by Chairman John Wilkinson, Director Howard Clague and Director of Football Steve Simms. It seems what he was told in Australia, and what he found on arriving at the club differed.
It is strange that this old news has been rumbling on through the off season. The club's hierarchy could have drawn a line on this by acting swiftly, either by releasing a statement backing Parish or by sacking him for publicly criticising his employers. What is even more baffling is that the club has appointed Sean Long as Parish's assistant. Why, if they don't want Parish?
The club finds itself on the brink of a new season with a coach and board in conflict and Parish being undermined by the conflict. Different unconfirmed sources claim that certain players are not happy with Parish…
Perhaps this is from the Australian contingent, made to report back to the club at the start of preseason training with the rest of the squad, rather than after Christmas as in previous years. Or perhaps from the players who Parish told last season were not required but who have not been moved on. Or is it perhaps that Parish is a hard task master, used to working with the best players in the game and a winner? The reasons are not clear. But player power has been a problem at the Reds in recent years with dressing room rifts coming more often than wins.
Former coach Shaun McRae was seen by players as a lame duck when it became clear that he was not going to have his contract renewed, obvious from early performances last season. McRae was blamed by many on the terraces for the club's problems. But, having walked into a job created for him at Hull FC, and seeing his recovery from his stress related illness, many should now question the conditions McRae had to work with and under at The Willows. It would be interesting to hear his views on Parish's comments. One does have to wonder how McRae, someone so highly regarded and experienced in the game, found working at the Salford City Reds.
Parish it seems is exactly what the fans want and the sign displayed last season at The Willows which read `In Matt We Trust'…displayed for the Directors in their main stand eyrie shows this. If he goes it may signal the end of the club, as there are no credible replacements to be brought in to fill his position.
Who would come to a club where the previous incumbent was so obviously frustrated by its workings and lack of ambition that he questioned it openly within weeks of starting the job?
Parish maybe a godsend to the fans and club, a man who is willing to drag the club kicking and screaming into this era of professional sport, something the Reds have failed to grasp since the advent of summer rugby in the mid 90s, and something many disgruntled and disillusioned fans wish for, on the medium of message boards.
It is true he will bruise egos, upset some players and shake directors from their comfort zones, but that is what the club needs. For too long failure on and off the field has been rewarded and worse, accepted. Parish could be Salford City Reds' Alex Ferguson, but will he get the backing and support he needs from those at the club to make these changes?
Does Mr Wilkinson have the nerve or interest, to sweep the deadwood from the club to support Parish? We wait with baited breath as this city's flagship sports team wavers on the edge of an abyss.
Another bad season could spell the end for the Reds. It is difficult to imagine the Rugby Football League awarding the club a franchise in three years time, when the club's ambition and professionalism has been publically challenged by the coach.
The move to Barton itself is fraught with difficulties, and comments expecting supporters to turn up are downright stupid. Is there no conception that you have to make people want to attend matches by providing entertainment? The belief that a new stadium will make things alright is incredibly naive and those who point to Hull FC and Warrington's successful moves should remember, both clubs invested in their squads before and after the moves as well as investing in their infrastructures. Both clubs' moves were geographically short distances and not to an almost out of town site such as Barton.
For every Hull FC and Warrington there have been a Leigh and Doncaster where new stadiums have not brought success. Combine this with the inner squabbling at the club, the players openly bitching and a 35 year losing culture and you will surely agree this week's meeting takes on a massive significance, for the club and this city.
It all rides on the egos of a handful of men. Will they put the good of the club and the city before themselves or will they get rid of this upstart Australian who has ruffled their feathers by being man enough (if not diplomatic) to tell them what they need to do?
There is a whole thread of Matt Parish mania on the Salford Reds fan forum Scarlett Turkey – click here to follow it all.
OFFICIAL COMMENT FROM SALFORD CITY REDS
"Salford City Reds can today confirm that Matt Parish has resigned his position as Head Coach for personal reasons, with immediate effect.
Matt leaves the club in a much stronger position than he found it on the field, with what the club believes to be one of the strongest and most innovative coaching setups in Super League ready to take the club on into the new stadium at Barton.
Everyone at the club would like to thank Matt for his efforts whilst at the Reds, and we wish him well in his future coaching career.
Matt would like us to pass on his thanks and appreciation to the Reds' fans for their fantastic support during his time in England, and to the players and coaching staff for their hard work and dedication.
There will be no further comment on this issue.
Announcements regarding the coaching staff will be made in due course."
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