JUSTIN Holbrook took over the coaching reins at Saints at the end of May - and that has given us time to reflect on bosses the club has had in the past and what they brought.
The Star's Mike Critchley has reflected on all the club coaches since he began watching, but we would like to ask readers for vote for their favourite Super League coach.
We have narrowed the choices down to the coaches that actually won the Super League title.

WHEN I first trotted up to Knowsley Road as a schoolboy there was never any doubt who was boss. The writing on the Popular Side wall screamed it out at you with the words ‘Eric Ashton’s Red and White Army’ daubed in white paint and block caps.

Ashton, one of rugby league’s big personalities immortalised in the statue outside Wembley, had that distinguished look about him and had a presence that commanded respect. He had earned that through actions, having skippered Wigan to six Wembley finals and starring in a genuinely ‘Great’ Britain side in the late 50s and 60s. Unlike some playing greats Ashton transferred those into the coaching role and guided the Dad’s Army team to a Wembley win in 1976 after taking the league title the previous year.

He could spot a player and weigh up their qualities– something he took on to the board with him, and as chairman between 1993-94.

But as coach he guided Saints to one last hurrah in the Premiership in 1977 and another Wembley, were they agonisingly lost 14-12 to Leeds in 1978.

However, it was not all plain sailing as coach during his last two seasons between 1978-80 and he had to deal with that difficulty that afflicts all great sides when they break up. Time and tide waits for no man and during his tenure that team of John Mantle, Kel Coslett, Billy Benyon, Tony Karalius and Geoff Pimblett grew old together, moved on or retired, and were never adequately replaced.

After two trophyless campaigns he passed the baton on to Welshman Kel Coslett in 1980, a man who had won the lot at Saints since moving north in 1962, skippering the side to two Wembley wins.

He had assisted Ashton towards the end of his own playing career before taking coaching posts at Rochdale and Wigan.

On the face of it Coslett was dealt a bad hand – charged with stewarding an ageing ship that included many of his playing contemporaries; Eric Chisnall and George Nicholls were still there, as were wings Les Jones and Roy Mathias.

A Challenge Cup run to the semi-final in 1980-81 disguised a lot of frailties in a year that saw Saints flirt with the now brutal looking four up, four down relegation zone. Wigan had gone through that trapdoor the year previously so nobody was suggesting such a dire prospect was unthinkable.

The quality replacements were not there to strengthen the side. In a recession-hit Britain of the early 80s, with unemployment topping a staggering three million, attendances were down across the board and only the two Hull clubs boomed crowd wise, with Saints pulling in less than 3,000 for some league games.

The answer, eventually came from within, with youngsters like Steve Peters, Chris Arkwright and Roy Haggerty establishing themselves alongside team leaders Harry Pinner and Graham Liptrot as the last members of the old guard moved on.

Alas, it was too late for Coslett, just as he felt he was getting the house back in order, he was moved on at the end of the 1982 campaign.

In his place came Billy Benyon, who had been a terrier of a player since breaking in to the side in the 60s and had been around to see the transition from the four cups side of 1966, through to Wembley in 72 to the Dad’s Army side of the 76. Benyon may have been small in stature but had the heart of a lion. He had earned his coaching spurs at Warrington where, but for an instruction to play nine games in 23 days would have seen the Wire win the league – something they have still not done in 60 plus years.

Benyon nurtured the youngsters – with Pinner, Liptrot and Neil Holding play making they expressed themselves. But, alas, his judgement on recruits was never backed at board level. Packmen Ian Potter and Brian Case would have added the finishing steel to the side that had a soft underbelly.

When the board finally did splash the cash, in spectacular style on Mal Meninga, it paid dividends. The Saints trophy drought was over as Saints defeated Wigan on their own midden to win the Lancashire Cup and Premiership.

However, Meninga’s departure left a void that Brett French and Ross Conlon could not fill.

Saints floundered as Wigan began to dominate and the coach, harshly, carried the can and he was sacked in November 1985.

In his place came Alex Murphy. It had been a long wait. One of the best as a player, Murphy’s coaching CV had been equally impressive since leaving Saints in 1967.

He guided Leigh to an unlikely Wembley win in 1971 in his first stint there and on his return steered them the League Championship in 1982. He won plenty of cups at Warrington and had even, for his sins got the ball rolling at the sleeping giant at Wigan before being axed as they lay on the verge of greater glories.

Big things were expected - Murphy the Messiah screamed the back page of the Daily Mirror the day after he had joined. But initially the performances remained poor. The astute signing of veteran Eric Hughes from Widnes sparked the back end of the year into life. A strong winning run saw them only just miss out on the league title to Halifax. That gave them optimism for the year ahead - a year which opened with a 112-0 defeat of Carlisle.

And Saints went on the march with Murphy’s army only to lose to Halifax at Wembley in 87. It was a heartbreaker, but with the Wembley money – he brought in prop Stuart Evans for Paul Round, as well as Les Quirk, Shane Cooper and Paul Groves.

The season promised much, but the John Player Trophy win over Leeds that would be only silverware Murphy won at Saints.

The inability to compete with Wigan on and off the field shackled Murphy’s ability to weave his magic. The promising 1987-88 campaign unravelled off the field with the fall-out from losing the Adrian Shelford court case to Wigan meaning the end of season loss of Andy Platt to Wigan That weakness off the field was translated to performances on it, and after a surprise semi win over Widnes in 1989 Murphy’s mob were trounced 27-0 by Wigan at Wembley. Murphy’s response was to shout at the players in the dressing room and slap most of them on the transfer list.

It didn’t work, Murphy was sacked again.

In came former New Zealand tourist Mike McLennan. He was certainly a character - his Star column gave the impression that he had swallowed a dictionary.

But he had a bagful of new ideas, from giving the players royal jelly to working out outlandish ‘head the ball’ moves with assistant Frankie Barrow.

Under McLennan Saints built a competitive side with Tommy Martyn and Chris Joynt coming in from Oldham. Runners up to Wigan in 1991 at Wembley, Saints got one over their neighbours in the Lancashire Cup the following autumn en route to winning it.

Full time Wigan were kings - but Saints produced a terrific effort in the league in 1993, only to be denied on points difference. They did, however, win the Premiership, beating Wigan in the final.

The good times did not last and after a bad run in the league, he threw a pint over a supporter from the club house and that was the end of him. Although Saints had won none of the major pots, they had begun to move forward again.

Eric Hughes took the reins and he gave youth their chance. Hughes had been an outstanding player at Widnes - a hard man, but skilful with it. And he oversaw the building of team with Steve Prescott, Keiron Cunningham and Bobbie Goulding in there.

Saints were about to blossom, and really challenge Wigan’s dominance. But just as Hughes was about to reap the fruits of his industry he was gone - with the battling Regal Trophy final defeat to Wigan being his last game.

In came Australian Shaun McRae – first of club’s seven Australian bosses. Bomber added that extra bit of steel and professionalism.

He oversaw a double winning season in 96, another Wembley win the following year and then disintegration.

The images of bottle-blond players returning from a tonking in the ill-fated World Club Championships in Australia gave a visible impression that discipline needed restoring.

Ellery Hanley provided that – for one year. He made some inspired signings at first, like the return of Sonny Nickle and bringing in Kevin Iro.... and a booze ban. He was always forthright and was sacked by the board during the 1999 campaign before mass protests and sit-ins at Knowsley Road and pressure from ISSA saw him restored. He proved he was a winner and against the odds Saints won their first Super League Grand Final, beating Bradford.

The build up to the new century had heard a lot of talk about the Millennium bug. It must have afflicted Saints because they got off to a lousy start, with unsuitable players signed and commencing with a lop-sided World Club Challenge defeat by Melbourne and a Challenge Cup knock out. An outburst at a sponsors evening did not go down well, and the board sacked him and this time there was not a whimper.

In came Ian Millward; a relative unknown, who had steered lowly Leigh up the lower divisions.

Millward put a smile back on people’s faces – although he probably did not have to do a great deal with Messrs Long, Martyn, Joynt, Cunningham and Sculthorpe on the park. They won the league again in fine style.

Under Millward you never really knew what you were getting. They could win well, throw the ball about like the Harlem Globetrotters or stink the place out.

Fans will remember the good times, the carefree style complemented by desire to never give up. The Wide to West try in his first season or the Warrington game of three tries in the final six minutes of 2005.

When he was fired in 2005 the fans chanted ‘Ian Millward’s barmy army’ for duration of the game against York.

Anger dissipated, Saints started wining and Milward went to Wigan and it became Ian who? That did not stay like that for ever.

But in the immediate aftermath Daniel Anderson came in and poured oil over trouble waters. He brought discipline, and an attention to detail in defence. He moulded the side, bringing in size and they were invincible in 2006.

Saints finished top of table every year Anderson was here, winning three Challenge Cups in a row.

The last two Grand Final defeats by Leeds left a slight blemish but Anderson left the club of his own choosing, for family reasons, at the end of 2008.

Mick Potter took over after being coach of the year at Catalans.

Similar to Coslett, he had to manage a team that was ageing – Sculthorpe had succumbed to a knee injury, Sean Long and Lee Gilmour were soon to be moved on. The quality of the side was not as strong as it had been, and the slow rucks led to a dour brand of rugby. The fans hated it and never really warmed to Potter’s quiet personality.

The club had already transitioned from off the cuff, to more regimented structure under Anderson.

Potter got the side to Old Trafford twice – only to see defeats by Leeds and Wigan. They were workmanlike in 2010 during the last days of Knowsley Road but largely carried by James Graham and Cunningham.

Saints wanted something different and in came Royce Simmons – the Australian assistant who had played for the unbeaten 1986 Kangaroos team.

Simmons was a character - but he had plenty to deal with not least Saints playing out of Widnes, the Kyle Eastmond saga, his father dying shortly after arriving, a skin cancer scare, the scars of a heartbreaking 2011 Grand Final defeat and the pressure of the move to Langtree Park.

Murmurings of Nathan Brown coming had already begun before a dreadful run of games, culminating in a shocking defeat at Bradford saw him shown the door and the temporary appointment of Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham.

Brown was clearly given a task to clear out and rebuild in that troubled first year. And that looked like it was playing dividends when an injury depleted team got to Old Trafford in 2014.

But in the week of that final he dropped the bombshell that he was going home. There had been plenty who wanted Brown out, but after steering them to the League Leaders Shield and the Grand Final success over Wigan, plenty wished he had re-considered.

Given the lack of continuity in coaching and recruitment the team went backwards. In the aftermath of the 2014 Grand Final they lost mature personnel and struggled with leadership.

That said with Cunningham at the helm they were twice bad semi final calls away from Old Trafford.

But after being the first coach since Coslett not to get a team to a final, the pressure was on. No pots and a conservative brand of rugby saw the fans get on his case. A sad end to a man who had given body and soul, and sweated blood and broken bones for the red vee cause.

That has opened the door for Holbrook to show what he has in his bag of tricks to take Saints forward.