Former Halifax coach Richard Marshall has praised his former teammate - and Shay half back - Ian Watson for the ‘fabulous’ transformation of top flight also-rans Salford into Super League Grand Finalists.
Marshall, now an assistant coach at St Helens, will sit across the Old Trafford tunnel from Watson when the two sides clash in Saturday night’s title decider.
Watson, who spent 2007 with Fax during Martin Hall’s spell as coach, then played alongside Marshall as the pair wound down their on-field careers at League 1 Swinton.
Watson went on to coach the Lions before moving to Salford, his hometown club, while Marshall arrived at the Shay via a stint on Warrington’s backroom staff before leaving in May this year.
“I’ve a lot of time for Ian and I’ve spoken to him in the last few days,” said Marshall, who admitted Saints will need to “handle the occasion” better than they did in August’s Challenge Cup final, when they were shocked by underdogs Warrington.
“He’s really served his apprenticeship as a coach - he’s done development work in schools, League 1, reserves - and he’s done a fabulous job with Salford to take them to this point.
“It’s an example for a lot of clubs, the way he’s built that team.
“He’s had a limited budget, he’s had to let players go along the way, but he’s got a group of players who want to work for each other and who are playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Fax connections don’t end there, with Marshall’s former assistant coach at the Shay, Marlon Billy, on the Reds staff along with Paul Rowley, who packed down in the Fax front row with Marshall in the 1990s.
Billy was released by Fax three years ago after the club implemented wage cuts following their sub-par 2016 season.
“Letting Marlon go was the hardest thing I had to do as a coach,” said Marshall.
“Getting the budgets that year, with no money for staff, meant we had no choice.”