Wilkin: Cunningham deserved contract reward

Jon Wilkin

Jon Wilkin

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There is no one better qualified to speak about Saints' decision to hand boss Keiron Cunningham a new deal, which runs to the end of 2018, than Jon Wilkin.

After all, the club skipper, who moved to Knowsley Road from Hull KR in the summer of 2002, has played under six full-time coaches in this time - Ian Millward, Daniel Anderson, Mick Potter, Royce Simmons, Nathan Brown and Cunningham himself.

Wilkin celebrates a try with Saints fans. He will be the club's captain again next season

Wilkin celebrates a try with Saints fans. He will be the club's captain again next season

Each has played a significant part in helping 32-year-old Wilko achieve his sporting dream and in Cunningham case a team-mate in that success for more than a decade.

“All have particular strengths but you must remember that Keiron was world class as a player and brings that kind of aura and respect into the dressing room.

“He's a great motivator, as well as a hard taskmaster, and being a local lad want the best results for the club and his players.

“He fully deserves his new contract and hopefully he will be at the helm for many years to come.”

He’s a great motivator, as well as a hard taskmaster, and being a local lad want the best results for the club and his players

Saints’ skipper Jon Wilkin

Wilkin added: “I've worked with Keiron for 14 years as a team-mate, my skipper, and now head coach so I've a pretty good perspective of how he has progressed in this time.

“As a player he was one of the most influential hookers in the game, giving him a unique outlook on coaching and how the sport should be played.

“He has also picked the brains of those he has worked under and developed into an excellent young coach with a great future ahead of him.”

Saints haven't reached the final of the Challenge Cup since 2008 when they defeated Hull FC 28-16 - their third triumph on the trot - but it will again be high on their priority list.

Wilkin - a regular BBC panellist during live coverage of the Challenge Cup - admitted: “It would be nice to play again in front of the TV cameras instead of sitting in the studio commenting on the game.”

Like all the squad, the club skipper has endured a tough pre-season build-up, including several gruelling and energy-sapping outdoor activities.

He said: “It was designed to take the players out of their comfort zone and was a true test of their mental and physical strength and hopefully it will be beneficial to us once the season starts.

“It is good for team bonding and togetherness which is vital to the success of any team.”