Rugby League: McClennan bails out amid furore: Saints lose coach

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THE ST HELENS coach, Mike McClennan, has resigned from one of the biggest jobs in the British game, amid the furore over his pouring of a pint of beer over disgruntled fans last weekend.

McClennan, always a volatile character, reached his lowest ebb with Saints' supporters after the Regal Trophy defeat by Warrington. He was called into a 90-minute board meeting on Monday to give his

account of events but has now decided to jump before being pushed.

McClennan will take charge of the side he coached for almost four years for the last time in the First Division match against Hull KR tonight.

The nominal explanation for his departure, five months earlier than had been expected, is the illness of relatives in New Zealand. Few, however, will believe that the timing is unconnected with Saints' failure to strike a consistent vein of form this season and the deterioration of McClennan's relationship with fans, players and directors.

Shane Cooper, the club captain, and assistant coach, Frank Barrow, will take over in the short term, but the eventual succession will be a matter for fevered conjecture. Cooper would have been McClennan's nominee and Frank Endacott, the coach of the Junior Kiwis, made a favourable impression this autumn, but the feeling on the Saints' board might be in favour of an English coach.

That would open the way for Phil Larder, who has done an admirable job in difficult circumstances with Widnes.

McClennan has been in charge at Saints since February 1990, leading them to Wembley in his first season and to the Lancashire Cup later that same year. Last season was his most successful, beginning with a victory over arch-rivals Wigan in the Charity Shield and ending with victory over the same opponents in the Premiership final. They also went within points difference of pipping Wigan for the Championship.