Huddersfield Giants v Salford Red Devils: Ian Watson welcomes old employers and home fans to John Smith’s Stadium

HUDDERSFIELD Giants coach Ian Watson still knows Salford Red Devils’ players “inside out” but will not let emotions hinder his thinking ahead of a first meeting with his former club.

The Great Britain assistant controversially left Salford – whom he had led to the 2019 Grand Final and 2020 Challenge Cup final – last November to take up a deal with their Super League rivals.

They face each other tonight at John Smith’s Stadium but Watson insists it does not feel different to any other game.

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He said: “Not at the moment it doesn’t. The prep’s been the same.

“Obviously, I live in the area but I keep to myself anyway and I don’t really buy into social media and all that stuff so I’ve not seen if there’s anything going on there.

“For me, I’ve just been planning for the game. Obviously, we’re aware it’s Salford we’re playing but the big thing is you can’t let that emotion override anything else.

“You have to go about preparing the team as normal as you would do.”

That has been hard for Huddersfield who saw seven players contract Covid-19 last week which forced them to shut down and see last Friday’s home game with Wigan Warriors postponed.

Now - Ian Watson in charge of Huddersfield Giants (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

That said, Watson has still been able to name a very strong squad with captain Aidan Sezer and forward Owen Trout added to an initial 19-man squad yesterday.

Salford have won just once in Super League this term under new coach Richard Marshall.

Watson said: “We’ve looked at Salford and it’s interesting that they are still using a few things from last year. I know the players inside out so I’ll know if they’re going to run something before our players.

“I know Salford will be really competitive as they go forward and they’ll be better as a group.

Then - Salford Reds Head coach Ian Watsonlast season (Picture: PA)

“Richard has to get his own philosophies across and it takes time. I know that here. They’ve had injuries, too, and hopefully they don’t click tomorrow

“But we have to focus on our job. If we perform to the best of our ability, I’m confident we’ll get the result.”

Watson is likely to give full-back Ash Golding and prop Oliver Wilson chance to impress after they enjoyed successful loan spells at Bradford Bulls.

It will also be the first time Giants have had fans in their stadium in 15 months.

Watson joked: “I’m glad it’s here with all the Huddersfield supporters rather than the Salford ones at the moment….!”