St Helens head coach Keiron Cunningham says his new contract will enable him to plan a bright long-term future for his home-town club.
Cunningham, 39, who succeeded Australian Nathan Brown in the aftermath of Saints’ 2014 Grand Final triumph, was out of contract at the end of the new season but is now secure in the job to the end of 2018.
We’ve a pretty thick squad and I’d like to think that depth will help us out this yearSaints coach Keiron Cunningham
“It’s great news,” Cunningham said. “To get an extension shows the faith that the club and the board have in me and my coaching staff and it gives me an opportunity to put things in place for a longer period of time.
“I’m not just looking for this year, I’m looking to the future. I made the club a solemn oath that, however long I stay, whoever takes over after me will have a real good squad to work with and that’s something I’m looking to build on.
“I’ve got a real good youthful squad that’s gaining experience all the time. The prospect of working at this club for a long period excites anybody.”
Cunningham, who is immortalised in bronze through a life-size statue outside Langtree Park, made almost 500 appearances for his home-town club from 1994 to 2010 and played a key role in their dominance in the early years of Super League.
“I’ve been here since I was a baby, I don’t know any other club,” he said. “I’m really lucky to work here and I’ve got to enjoy my time here while I can.”
In his first year in charge, Cunningham guided St Helens to second place at the end of the regular season and to within 80 minutes of a return to Old Trafford and, with the addition of Theo Fages, Lama Tasi, Dominique Peyroux and Jack Owens, he believes he has the personnel to win silverware.
“We’d like to think we could do a bit better this year, but every team thinks the same thing,” he said. “Everybody has recruited really well, it’s a bit of a level playing field.
“We’re not a bad team and we’ve recruited pretty well. We’ve a pretty thick squad and I’d like to think that depth will help us out this year.
“We made two semi-finals last year and were probably a 40-20 off making a Grand Final so the boys can take a lot of belief out of that.”
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said: “No one knows the club and its standards and its expectations, better than Keiron.
“The extension of his contract will bring stability to the club and enable him to implement longer-term plans and strategy in addition to seeking immediate success.”
McManus added: “Keiron is a young, talented and ambitious British coach who, even at the very beginning of his career, has already won the absolute respect of his team and of all at his club.
“In his first season he took the team to within a whisker of another Grand Final and against the background of an injury-ravaged campaign. He will continue to gain experience, as will his young side.”