BRADFORD Salem’s future has taken an unexpected turn.

The Counties One Yorkshire season ended on March 25 and a 23-23 draw at home to West Leeds confirmed the club’s best league finish (sixth) in five years, but the outcome of the campaign still hasn’t deterred those at executive level from making a change.

Neil Spence who took over as the men’s first team Head Coach in 2017, and Glenn Morrison who joined Spence in an assistant role in 2019, will both be relieved of their duties following the conclusion of the Yorkshire Shield – where Salem were set to host Dinnington in the first round of the competition today, however the fixture has been cancelled due to the visitors being unable to raise a side.

The decision from those at board level, who wanted to “freshen things up,” has come as a surprise to both coaches.

Morrison said: “I was shocked with the decision because we’ve developed the young boys through, and we’ve had some very successful years. We thought we’d got the team in a good place and we were really looking forward to next season.

“Unfortunately, there was a little bit of politics creeping into the set-up with people wanting to select the team for us, but we weren’t really happy with that. There was certainly a bit of frustration there for me and Neil because at the end of the day, coaches shouldn’t really be told who they have to pick. However, we are professional, we’ve accepted the decision to move on and we wish the club all the best going forward. There’s a good group of boys there and there’s a solid second team up and running again, so we’d like to think that we’ve left them in a better place than when we took over.”

Spence, like Morrison, admitted that he wasn’t expecting to be delivered this news.

He said: “Yes, it came as a massive surprise to me and Glenn. It happened a week before the players’ dinner and I was told over the phone that I would no longer be required for next season due to the fact they wanted to freshen things up. I was extremely shocked considering the work we’ve done to develop the team over the last few years, particularly through a difficult period like Covid. We’d taken the group to a good level; we finished sixth last season and we thought that we’d be able to take them even further next season.

“Even the words of the chairman (Neil Klenk) at the club dinner pointed in the right direction for Bradford Salem. He said that if results had gone our way this season, then we’d have probably finished second, so that resonated with me because he clearly thought we had a solid season, despite saying he wanted to freshen things up a week before. As far as I’m aware, and I would be aware because I have a great relationship with the squad, there has been no consultation with the players to ask if they thought the club needed a change. They’ve been pretty honest with me and said they weren’t asked. A lot of the players seem shocked and confused about the decision because they have seen the work we’ve done since being here. We’ve developed these players into playing for the club for the right reasons.”

Spence added: “We are both puzzled to why the club are making changes. I know Glenn has discussed the politics involved and why that might be one of the reasons they decided to get rid of us, but I’m not going to dwell on something like that because they’ve made the decision as a club. However, at the end of the day, the coaches need to pick the team. I do know the coach who is coming in, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.”

Reflecting on his time at Bradford Salem, Spence said: “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a very different club to the one that I took over seven years ago, which was very much a team of rugby league players that had been brought in from all over. Through the massive help of Simon Markey (Under 16s Head Coach) with the junior’s section, we’ve been able to develop some home bred talent to compete for a spot in the men’s first team. The massive thing for me is that those players are playing rugby for the right reasons instead of a load of players being shipped in from other clubs. It has certainly added to my experience here and I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”

Chairman of Rugby, Chris Robinson, confirmed the club’s decision to part ways with the coaching pair to the Telegraph and Argus.

He said: “It is true, yes. What I can say is that over the last five years when Neil Spence and Glenn Morrison have been with us, they’ve had a huge impact on what they’ve delivered. They are held in very high regard and I personally, along with the chairman, have a huge amount of respect for both men after giving so much to the game both as players and coaches.

“This has been a very hard decision to make because the chairman and I have discussed how to move forward for several months now. We sat on it and had many sleepless nights over whether it would be the right decision to go down a different route. Ultimately, we made our choice a few weeks ago and we came to the executive decision that next season we would look to go in a different direction after having Neil as our Head Coach for the last five years.

“The final league standings have not been good enough over recent times, and this is the first time we’ve finished inside the top half of the table in five years, and without a shout of pushing for promotion. With that in mind, we decided to go down a different route and I intend to announce the names of the new coaching team in around a month’s time.”

Assistant Head Coach, Morrison, pointed out that “politics” had slowly begun to creep into the coaching set-up and the decision making around the first team, and Robinson didn’t deny those claims when asked.

He said: “Ultimately, the coaches pick the teams and occasionally, as the Chairman of Rugby, I will question some of the team selections because I think that it’s absolutely right that sometimes we as people are challenged in our decision making.

“I think I know what they are referring to when speaking about the politics of it. Ultimately, the coach picks the team and if I feel that I want to challenge any of those selections, which has only happened on a couple of occasions, then I will do. There are going to be some politics involved and some underlying reasons as to why I want to ask these questions about team selection. It’s nothing new in rugby and as Chairman of Rugby at Bradford Salem, it’s not a puppet position, so if I disagree with something then I’m going to politely and respectfully ask for the reason why they have selected this player or line-up.”

Despite making the decision to let both Spence and Morrison depart, Robinson was full of praise for the pair, saying: “Kudos to both Neil and Glenn for the work they’ve done here. They’ve built a brilliant platform for us to drive forward with a balance of youth and experience, and we will be forever grateful to them for doing that. Although performances on the field sometimes haven’t been as good as we wanted, Neil and Glenn will always be welcome back at Salem anytime because their efforts and outcomes should never be underestimated. We’d like to wish them both a very successful future.”