NEW Saints boss Nathan Brown will come face-to-face with the club who showed him the exit door last season much sooner than he had anticipated.
Brown, relieved of his coaching duties at Huddersfield Giants following a string of of poor results, will pit his skill and wits against his previous employer when the two clubs meet at Langtree Park on Saturday, February 2.
As an opening fixture, it could not have been hand-picked any better and extra spice wil be added to the occasion by the fact that Brown will be trying to outwit his former no. 2 and ex-Knowsley Road prop Paul Anderson - now in charge at the renamed John Smith’s Stadium.
It should be a fascinating tactical battle between two good friends who know each other’s philosophy on the game inside out and is expected to draw a near capacity crowd.
And Brown believes he has inherited a squad blessed with talent and experience.
He said: “There’s plenty of talented players to work with. If we can get a little bit of improvement from every individual in the squad, hopefully we can go further than we have in previous years.”
Brown, however, is open about the problems caused by the recent departure of a number of top players from the club. It’s not long ago that Keiron Cunningham, Sean Long and Paul Sculthorpe all retired and James Graham left,” he said.
“Ade Gardner has played for his country in the past and I’m sure he would like to get back there.
“St Helens provides players with lots of experience, who are generally home-grown players. The English players generally come through their system.”
The first showdown of the season between Saints and their deadly rivals, Wigan Warriors, at the DW Stadium on Good Friday, March 29, while the return fixture at Langtree Park in pencilled-in on Monday, July 22.
Unlike five of the previous six Magic Weekends, Saints will not be facing the old enemy next season. Instead they will bring down the curtain on the first day’s programme (Saturday, May 25) with a mouth-watering clash against neighbours Warrington Wolves
Brown, meanwhile, who began training with the first team squad last week, is delighted with the new signings Willie Manu and Jordan Turner.
“Willie’s career has really blossomed since he’s been in England,” said Brown. “Every time a club plays against Willie, the opposition talks about him and he’ll definitely provide something.
“Jordan is a younger kid who is on the rise and he’s a player that we think will bring plenty to the table.”