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Rugby League: Cullen in frame for Vikings top job.

Byline: BY MARTIN LACE Daily Post Correspondent

FORMER Warringotn coach Paul Cullen last night emerged as the favourite to take over as the new coach of Widnes Vikings.

The club parted company with Steve McCormack one game into the 2009 Championship campaign yesterday.

The Vikings dropped the bombshell decision to axe the former National League coach of the year following an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Oldham last Friday evening.

Vikings' Chief Executive Alex Bonney said the decision to part ways was met 'amicably' but it appears that the club's hand was forced following the 22-20 home loss against a team in the division below which has upset and disgruntled fans.

McCormack has described the decision as 'disappointing'. He said: "It's a disappointing day but I have really enjoyed my time at Widnes.

"The club has suffered many ups and downs both on and off the field and I hope that eventually it achieves its goal of a return to the top-flight competition."

McCormack's Widnesian assistant John Stankevitch has stepped in for the short term but he could well emerge as a candidate for the job if the Vikings dispatch Gateshead on Saturday evening and kick-start their season in style.

However, the likely favourite for the post comes in controversial fashion in the shape of Cullen, the former Warrington Wolves boss and once arch rival of the Widnes club.

Cullen has been out of a job since the backend of last season when the Wolves dismissed him after a poor run of results. He was rumoured to be in the frame last time the Vikings were on the look out for a new boss after McCormack handed in his resignation following the Vikings' Grand Final defeat at the hands of Castleford, but chairman Steve O'Connor only spoke to McCormack and persuaded him to come back after learning of O'Connor's elaborate plans for Super League.

Cullen has the Super League experience and profile which would suit the Vikings and is available now.

Another free agent is Dancing On Ice star Ellery Hanley.

The former St Helens boss left his job at Doncaster after gaining promotion to the Championship in the final game of the season.

Karl Harrison is another name being mentioned and the ex-Salford coach originally told the Daily Post last season that he 'fancied the Widnes job'.

One old face that won't be coming back is former Widnes fans' favourite and current Leigh coach Neil Kelly.

The club say an update on the situation will be given in Saturday's programme notes, written by O'Connor.

Meanwhile Super League newcomers Celtic Crusaders have re-signed winger Paul Ballard.

The 24-year-old former Leigh and Widnes player, who scored 40 tries in 49 appearances for the Welsh club in 2007 and 2008, said: "I'm delighted to have re-signed for the season.

"Obviously I've a lot of friends here, I get on well with the players and I want to see how well I do in Super League. I'm looking forward to challenging for a place in the side."

Crusaders coach John Dixon said: "Paul has played very well for us over the past two seasons and we're excited to see him get his chance in Super League."

Cullen has been out of a job since the back end of last season

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Paul Cullen is reported to be a target of Widnes
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 17, 2009
Words:560
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