CRAIG Lingard hopes his former side Keighley Cougars can enjoy a push for promotion next season after he made his coaching return to rugby league.

The 42-year-old, who was sacked as head coach at Cougar Park in May despite a good start to the Betfred League One season, has been appointed as the boss of Championship side Batley.

Lingard, who is the Bulldogs' record try-scorer with 142 tries in 206 appearances from 1998-2008, was assistant coach under John Kear at Mount Pleasant before joining Cougars in September 2016.

He replaces former Bradford Bulls and Leeds hooker Matt Diskin, who parted company with the club last week.

Lingard was dismissed by Keighley after guiding the club through a difficult period which saw them suffer a 12-point deduction due to off-field issues.

He says he enjoyed his four-month break from coaching, spending more time with his family and being a radio pundit.

Recharged and refreshed, Lingard says he is on good terms with everyone associated with Cougars, as he looks to resume his coaching career.

He said: "It's good to be back in.

"I have been doing a lot of radio commentary work on games. Some Super League and League One games. I kept in touch with the game.

"I was enjoying a bit of a break. I enjoyed eating and drinking too, so I've been going to the gym.

"I needed a break, as I only had one after I retired from playing and I have been involved in rugby league since I was nine or 10 years old. I have a wife and four kids. It was nice to spend a bit of time with them as well.

"I went down to Cougars for the last game of the season against Newcastle. I spoke to Mick O'Neill. He made a business decision. I'm not one to hold grudges. We shook hands.

"I stood on the terraces at Cougar Park. It was really humbling, people saying thank you for what I had done for the club.

"It was always going to be a transitional, rebuilding season for Cougars.

"Not finishing bottom after the points deduction was a massive achievement for the club. Rhys (Lovegrove) is an absolutely fantastic coach and a great bloke. Hopefully they will give him time and they can get some quality players down there for next season and have a push for the Championship."

Lingard is also under no illusions of the task which lies ahead of him at Batley, but is looking forward to the challenge.

He added: "It's a difficult division.

"There are three or five full-time teams and strong part-time teams. It's going to be a difficult season."

Meanwhile, Cougars player Matty Nicholson will be joining Lovegrove's coaching staff for the 2020 season.

Lovegrove said: "For me, appointing Nicho to a coaching role was a no-brainer.

"He's been helping out behind the scenes in training and on gamedays since he got injured and he's a good man to have around and is well liked and respected by the coaching staff, the players and those involved behind the scenes."