CRAIG Lingard has spoken of his shock at being sacked by Keighley Cougars despite a good start to the season.

Cougars have only lost twice in their opening eight Betfred League One games and have clawed back 11 of their -12-point pre-season punishment for a change in ownership.

But Lingard says he was called into a meeting with Cougars chairman Mick O'Neill before training on Tuesday and told his contract had been terminated.

O'Neill says it was one of the hardest decisions he has ever made to part company with Lingard, whose last game in charge was a 40-12 defeat Newcastle Thunder on Sunday.

Lingard previously resigned as Cougars head coach in November last year following the club's unpaid wages row under previous owners Austria Holdings, only to return the following month.

Though massively disappointed to lose his job, Lingard says Cougars will have a special place in his heart.

Lingard said: "I got to training and Mick said they were terminating my contract. I'm massively disappointed. It's a massive shock for me.

"If we had lost seven or eight games on the bounce I could have understood it a bit more. It's something that's a surprise and a shock.

"It's a bit surreal really.

"I can walk out of there knowing that I've done a pretty decent job and got the club through the tough times that they were in. The performances have been good.

"Mick has got his own ideas of what he wants to do, which he is quite entitled to do.

"I was told all the way through the season that we are planning for next season under me. I had had that message all the way through this season, but then my contract has been terminated.

"It happened at Cougar Park before training. Mick was there at the time. He said 'can we have a chat' and he said they were not offering me a new contract.

"I had only sat down with them looking to extend my contract the week before. We spoke about getting players for next year and preparing for next year.

"I didn't think it was a case of getting X amount of points.

"The players have been in touch. It took me about an hour to put it on the group messages. A lot of players thought I was taking the mickey. They could not believe it. The players were as shocked as I was. I have personal relationships with the players, there is a strong bond with each other.

"I'm as disappointed for the players as much as for myself.

"It's one of those things. I don't know what else we could have done as a group.

"I now think, was I stupid going back? But the bottom line is the club is still there. If Mick had not taken over there would not be a club now."

Lingard added he will take some time out to reassess his future in the game and see if he wants to make a return to coaching.

He also wished to praise the Cougars fans, adding he will always look back fondly on his time at the club.

He added: "I had a lot of good times at the club and I will not let the end there leave a sour taste in my mouth.

"I had two-and-a-half really special years there. It will always have a special place in my heart.

"The majority of fans have been good, but you can't please all of the fans all of the time. I will miss them. There are some massive characters down there."