SAINTS have a big announcement to make before the month is out – the captaincy.

Keiron Cunningham’s retirement has left a well-stretched armband to slip into ahead of a massive transitional period.

It appears to be a straight head-to-head between last year’s vice captain Paul Wellens and England’s stand-in Four Nations skipper James Graham.

Is it a big deal? After all the players are well drilled, full time professionals who know and train for every possible scenario. On the pitch at any one time there will be four or five leaders in the red vee.

But of course skippering a club like St Helens remains a massive honour and huge responsibility.

Captaincy is about more than fronting media conferences, tossing a coin at the start of a game and, fingers crossed, being the first one up the steps at Wembley and Old Trafford.

After a potentially soul destroying fourth consecutive Grand Final defeat at Old Trafford the job of those charged with geeing up the players for Super League XVI is important – and having a new coach with a fresh pair of eyes and lungs will assist that convalescence.

But the on-field general and dressing room motivator is important too.

If you look back Saints’ finest two skippers and ambassadors of the past four decades - Kel Coslett and Chris Joynt – were cut from the same cloth.

Although both players were consummate professionals in looking after their own game, their real strengths lay in their selflessness in what they did for the team; calm and clear headed under pressure, tactically astute, respected by their teammates and effective shop stewards when it came to presenting the players’ case to the top brass.

I would imagine that Wellens has learned a lot from the way Joynt, as skipper, helped him integrate into the squad as a teenager.

Although the current Saints side is packed with world class players, Wellens and Graham are the front runners.

Graham has some fine qualities – not least his passionate, heart on sleeve, lead from the front approach. He has also got a fair bit of guile and deceptively soft hands in the style of a Brian Lockwood from yesteryear.

Those qualities have made him hot property Down Under – and he may yet go when his contract expires at the end of 2011.

Giving Graham the captaincy would certainly make it harder for him to leave – but it could also be viewed as throwing in the armband as part of a package like you would upgrade a player’s sponsored car.

Then we have Wellens – Mr St Helens, who has served his apprenticeship as an able deputy over the years and has been a fine ambassador, regularly attending functions across town over the past decade.

He has also found some top form again and last year was the best full back in Super League by a long way.

Articulate and smart, Wellens is from a family steeped in rugby, his knowledge of the game is immense and commitment to his home town team never less than total.

It is good that the coach and management have a tough choice to make, but the new skipper has got to be Paul Wellens.