Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez a Salford fan


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Salford City Reds caretaker coach Alan Hunte will prepare for his first home match tonight buoyed by a good-luck message from another interim boss, Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez.

Hunte’s appointment by ambitious City Reds owner Marwan Koukash as the short-term successor to Phil Veivers brought comparisons with the position of Benitez under Roman Abramovich, which caught the attention of the Spaniard.

“I got a text off him saying good luck,” said Hunte. “I thought someone was trying to take the mickey at first but I got somebody to make sure it was the right number.

“I was made up. I phoned my daughters and said ’how good’s that’? I sent him a reply saying ’thank you very much’ and ’well played at the weekend’.

“We swapped a couple of texts. It was bizarre. It’s a strange world you get thrown into.”

Koukash is expected to opt for a high-profile appointment but was sufficiently encouraged by the Reds’ performance in Hunte’s first match in charge - last Sunday’s 23-23 draw at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats - to suggest he could be a serious contender.

Another impressive show - against pre-season title favourites Warrington Wolves at the Salford City Stadium - tonight could improve Hunte’s prospects further, although he is refusing to build up his hopes.

“I want to do well because I’m in the job and, if that means I get to keep it, then I’d be a fool to turn it down,” he said.

“Marwan’s a very ambitious owner and he wants what he feels is best for the club. I have no doubt they are looking at other people.

“To be successful in business you’ve got to look at all the options and see what is best. I’m sure that’s what they are doing but, in the meantime, we still have to do the job.”

The Wolves go into tonight’s match hoping to avoid a third successive defeat for the first time for four years but Hunte, who scored 49 tries in 83 appearances for Warrington from 1999-2001, dismisses any notion that it is a good time to play his old club.

“They’re a good team who have lost two matches,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a stutter.

“They have world-class players and a world-class coach in Tony Smith and we definitely haven’t been saying ’this is the time to get them’.

“There’s no good time to play Warrington. They’re going to be in the mix right through the season and we’ve got to be prepared to play them at their best.”

In tonight’s other games, Wigan Warriors have the chance to go top of the table when they meet champions Leeds Rhinos at Headingley while St Helens will be looking for their first home win under coach Nathan Brown when Wakefield visit Langtree Park.