McManus has high hopes for Wellens’ future

Paul Wellens (left) with Saints chairman Eamonn McManus (right)
Paul Wellens (left) with Saints chairman Eamonn McManus (right)

SAINTS chairman Eamonn McManus thinks Paul Wellens has the ability to become a top coach as the full-back makes the transition from player to mentor.

Wellens called time on a celebrated 17-year playing career on Wednesday morning and is looking ahead to beginning life in the coaching set-up at Langtree Park.

The 35-year-old will initially begin in the club’s academy and junior set-up, giving St Helens prospects the chance to learn from one of the club’s greatest full-backs, but McManus doesn’t see why Wellens can’t go on to be one of the games master coaches.

“He’s certainly capable of doing so,” said McManus.

“Keiron (Cunningham) started at a similar sort of level to Paul although the job description is slightly different. “Paul absolutely has the capabilities... if that’s his ambition, to become a senior coach in super League.”

Head coach Cunningham was in a similar bracket to Wellens as a player. A team-mate of Wellens’ before retiring in 2010, such is his status in the town, his statue stands outside Langtree Park.

He will be here for a lot longer than I will - I’m sure of that

Eamonn McManus

And former half-back Sean Long is also on the coaching staff, giving back-room operations at the club expertise gained from one of the most successful eras in the club’s history.

On Wellens’ potential to become a top coach, McManus added: “Without wishing to be premature, he certainly has the capability of doing so.”

“Initially he will work with the academy junior set-up and I think with his capabilities that will evolve into greater things in the future - and he will be here for a lot longer than I will - I’m sure of that.”

The chairman paid tribute to Wellens after he did ‘everything imaginable to get back onto the field’ and continue his illustrious career.

“That’s proven medically impossible and now Paul needs a major operation on his hip which curtails his participation in the rest of the season. And he’s come to a difficult but considered decision to retire from the game,” explained McManus.

“I don’t need to re-iterate the achievements that he’s earned at the club which are really quite staggering - not just in terms of the trophies he’s lifted whilst present during two great passages of St Helens sides,” he said.

“(It’s) As a player for the club and as a person within the club. I could go on at length but you all know what he’s done.

“I would point out his captaincy period. It’s something that goes unnoticed but Paul took over as captain during a very challenging time for the club both on the field when an number of great players had retired and when the club was moving - we had a year at Widnes and then came to a new home. It was a disruptive time for the club on the field and off it and he led with style and dedication.

“It really resulted in that phenomenal Grand Final victory at the end of last season.”