'It's a massive honour': Craig Lingard's first words after taking over as Castleford Tigers head coach

Craig Lingard is under no illusions about the size of the task facing him at Castleford Tigers but is ready to grasp his first opportunity as a Super League head coach with both hands.

The 45-year-old has taken the reins at Wheldon Road on a two-year deal after making a positive impression in his role as an assistant.

Lingard left Batley Bulldogs following the conclusion of the 2023 season to end his long apprenticeship outside of Super League.

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"It's a massive honour," said Lingard, who will be assisted by Danny McGuire. "It's something that I wasn't particularly expecting to happen when I came to the club such a short time ago.

"It's certainly a challenge I'm relishing and looking forward to. I'm very honoured and proud to manage to get this job at this point in my career.

"I started right at the bottom coaching in schools, junior teams, service areas, scholarships, academies, conference and then assistant coach into Championship and head coach into League 1, and back into Championship as head coach and then Super League as assistant coach.

"I've gone around the houses but I think I've had a fairly good schooling and experienced a lot of different things in a lot of different environments.

"It's a chance I'm going to try grasp with both hands."

Craig Lingard has been at Wheldon Road since May. (Photo: Castleford Tigers)Craig Lingard has been at Wheldon Road since May. (Photo: Castleford Tigers)
Craig Lingard has been at Wheldon Road since May. (Photo: Castleford Tigers)
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Lingard takes over a club that flirted with relegation before eventually securing their safety on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

The Castleford squad has undergone major surgery in the off-season with Luke Hooley, Josh Simm and Rowan Milnes among the nine new signings.

"It's a big challenge – we can't sugarcoat it," said Lingard. "We finished 11th last season and were eight points away from 10th so it's not a case of being four or five places higher with a couple more wins.

"It's a different group, a hungry group that wants to achieve something. That's exactly the same with the coaching group as well. We've all got reasons to succeed.

Craig Lingard has landed his first Super League head coach role. (Photo: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)Craig Lingard has landed his first Super League head coach role. (Photo: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)
Craig Lingard has landed his first Super League head coach role. (Photo: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)
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"Short term over the next six to 12 months, it's making sure we get away from the bottom of the table and get as close to the play-offs as we possibly can.

"It's about changing the mindset of where you want to be and what you want to achieve."

The former Keighley Cougars head coach led Batley to a fourth-place finish in his first full season in charge before taking the unfancied part-timers all the way to the Championship Grand Final last year.

Lingard was added to Castleford's coaching staff midway through this year, a role he combined with his Batley commitments.

Craig Lingard poses with the Championship coach of the year award. (Photo: RFL/SWpix.com)Craig Lingard poses with the Championship coach of the year award. (Photo: RFL/SWpix.com)
Craig Lingard poses with the Championship coach of the year award. (Photo: RFL/SWpix.com)
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Danny Ward was the man tasked with steering the Tigers to safety following Andy Last's sacking but the former London Broncos boss could not come to an agreement with the club over a permanent stay.

McGuire was among the other coaches linked with the top job before eventually agreeing to become Lingard's right-hand man.

Lingard insists he has no qualms about the process that led to his appointment.

"I was comfortable," he said. "I knew I was here for the next two years anyway, whether it was as an assistant coach to somebody else coming in or in the situation I am now.

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"Danny Ward's remit was to keep us in Super League which he did. It was always going to happen that the club and Danny would try to come to an agreement where Danny could stay on. Unfortunately that didn't happen for reasons between Danny and the club.

"Once the process started, I made it clear I'd like that conversation if there was a realistic proposal of me taking on the head coach's job, which I had.

"Three weeks before they appointed me, the club had to do its due diligence and see who else was out there. You don't just speak to one person and bring that person in.

"It's like buying a house. You don't buy the first house you go and view; you go out and look at a lot of different houses and work out the right fit for you.

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"If the board didn't do that, they'd be doing a disservice to the fanbase and the sponsors.

"I was quite comfortable sitting in the background waiting for them to go through the process and fortunately for me I'm sat here now.”

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