Welcome back to From The Terraces, the weekly column where I choose a hot topic within the rugby league community, and discuss my opinions. This week I look at St Helens, and talk about the prospect of them missing out of the play-offs for the first time in Super League history.
Only a week after losing away to the Leigh Centurions. St Helens were on the wrong end of a 14-12 loss at home to Wakefield Trinity. These two results, while coming very early in the season, are ones that Saints fans should be worried about.
After three games this season, Saints sit in the bottom four, with just one win, having only scored 34 points. Only three years ago, Saints were crowed Super League Champions and now they look a side that won’t be making the play-offs this season, which would be a first in Super League history.
But what is the reason behind this dramatic drop?
While the players need to take some blame as it is them who go out there each week and perform, much of the blame is at the doorstep of coach, Kieron Cunningham, as this St Helens freefall has only happened since he took over, back in 2014.
Saints fans have been calling for the head of their club legend this season, feeling he has run his course as head coach of their club.
It’s always a tough one having such a club legend become the coach, as if it doesn’t work out, like it hasn’t for Cunningham so far, then it can get real sour. The feeling is that Cunningham is unsackable at Saints and it would take him to walk away, which I’m guessing, wouldn’t be in his mind-set.
Cunningham has in fact guided Saints to back-to-back play-offs, while in charge. However, during those seasons they were far from great and even further from lifting any silverware, which is the most worrying thing for Saints fans.
When you look at the Saints squad so far this season, they have a lot of ageing players, such as James Roby and Jon Wilkin. Now, while they have had superb careers, at their age now, there is only so much they can offer to the team. The recruitment at Saints in the last couple of years has been very lacklustre, and they haven’t tried to find replacements for these players.
This season, Saints have looked so poor in attack, not really offering much in the final third and become very weak in defence. This isn’t St Helens. Saints have always been an attractive side to watch play rugby. They were a side who could be 10 points behind going into the final 10 minutes, and you’d still fancy them to win.
It’s tough to just blame Cunningham, but he is very quickly ruining his legacy at the club, and it could become real nasty, real quick for the head coach.
St Helens have a real problem on their hands, as if they stick by their coach, then it could be a very long and disappointing season. However, the board could try to fix it now and get a new manager in before their season is over.
I think either way they’re in for a very tough season, as there are now teams such as Hull FC and Castleford who are getting better and pushing others for the play-off spot.
What doesn’t help Saints is their next few games. They have got Hull FC away, Catalans away and then Warrington at home. Then a very tough Easter schedule which sees them go to the DW Stadium on Good Friday, followed up with a home game against Castleford on the Easter Monday.
It’s a ridiculously hard run of games, one of which could decide their season. Come 5pm on Easter Monday, they could be still sat in that bottom four, what could seem a million miles away from a potential play-off spot.
There is every chance that they could go on a good run of games now, like they did towards the end of last season. But the feeling amongst the Saints fans is that they won’t and they don’t have it in them.
So, is it time for Cunningham to go and for Saints to change things at the club? Or does he deserve more time to try and turn things around?
This concludes the seventh edition of From The Terraces. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on Saints’ chances on securing a play-off spot this season, in the comments below.