LEIGH coach Eric Hughes today sensationally quit the club after just 17 matches in charge and is poised to join Super League giants Wigan.

Hughes has been released from his three and half year contract with the second division club by mutual agreement as speculation linked the former St Helens boss with a possible move to Central Park.

In his brief five months stay at Hilton Park Hughes has become increasingly disillusioned with life in the lower division and frustrated at Leigh's lack of progress.

With Leigh's promotion bid never taking off Hughes struggled to turn the club's playing fortunes round, hampered as he was, by being unable to enter the transfer market.

Recent rumours of Hilton Park takeover bids have had a further unsettling effect and things came to a head last week when he had an emergency meeting with chairman Mick Higgins and asked to be released from his contract.

Leigh were very reluctant to allow a coach of proven quality to leave but finally accepted the inevitable.

"Eric made it quite clear in our talks that he was completely disillusioned, had personal problems and felt that he couldn't make a significant contribution. In those circumstances it was best for all concerned if we released him from his contract," said Higgins.

It all leaves Leigh searching for their 18th coach in the last 20 years. They want to make an appointment as quickly as possible and are already drawing up a list of potential candidates.

Wigan want Hughes to take control of the Academy team and become Youth Development Officer as well as working alongside head coach Graeme West.

But Wigan may face competition from another Super League club, a leading Australian side and a rugby union club.

Chairman Jack Robinson said: "We have spoken to Eric and although we have not agreed anything I expect he will join us.

"Our Academy needs new impetus and we feel Eric is the right man for the job. He has great enthusiasm."

Former Academy coach Ray Unsworth takes the new role of skills and apprentice coach with the Alliance job, currently held by John Pendlebury, becoming a part-time position.

Wigan coach Graemne West stressed the importance of the appointment when he said; "There is not a great number of players available and it is vital we concentrate on a good youth policy."

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