Talking Sport: Let’s keep champions on their perch

Sean Long is a great addition to Saints coaching staff
Sean Long is a great addition to Saints coaching staff

Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know. This seems to be the philosophy of Saints’ new head coach Keiron Cunningham as he builds a team around him ahead of the 2015 First Utility Super League season.

Only a week or so after he had brought Ade Gardner on board as an assistant s
trength and conditioning coach, he turned to another member of Saints all-conquering team of the early to mid years of the new Millennium to complement his backroom staff.

Like Gardner, the latest arrival (the legendary Sean Long) played along side Cunningham during one of St Helens most successful period and it is hoped their combined experience - and not to mention camaraderie - will rub off on the current crop of players around them.

It goes without saying that Longy has always had a Jack the Lad image, whether justified or not, and you only need to read his biography to draw your own conclusions.

But one thing you can’t question is his immense talent as a player and no doubt Cunningham is confident he can play a crucial role in the club’s bid to retain their title.

That in itself won’t be easy as every other club will be hell-bent on knocking the champs off their perch.

Only time will tell...

So near yet so far ... that’s my first reaction to Dave Chisnall’s gallant failure to overturn Phil Taylor in the Champion of Champions darts final in Wolverhampton on Sunday night.

The St Helens-born player did his home town proud, despite a 16-13 defeat, and maybe he can go one better next month when competing in the world championship.

Remarkably, two other St Helens players, Michael Smith and Stephen Bunting, reached the latter stages of the competition and that in itself represents an amazing achievement for a far from large sports-loving town.

Bunting bowed out 16-9 to Mervyn King in the quarter finals, while Smith suffered a 16-3 mauling by Taylor in the semi-finals.

I don’t know what was preying on Smith’s mind but he was far from his best on the night and seemed to surrender far too meekly.

Congratulations to Rainford CC teenager Ellie Threlkeld who was named girls’ player of the season at the Lancashire Cricket Board’s

Development and Excellence presentation night at Old Trafford.

Ellie, who keeps wicket and opens the batting for the county’s U15 side as well as the Lancashire Women’s team and has recently been selected for the England U19s Development Programme, received her award from England cricketer Kate Cross.

My long-time friend, John Williams, secretary of the Lancashire Schools’ Cricket Association, opened proceedings and being chairman of

Rainford CC he took extra delight in seeing Ellie’s outstanding performances justly rewarded.