Wakefield Trinity 72 Hull FC 10, Warrington Wolves 80 Hull FC 10, Hull FC 12 Warrington Wolves 63, St. Helens 62 Hull FC 16, Hull FC 2 Huddersfield Giants 55. These five games since the back end of last season, to this year’s Magic Weekend make for some pretty ugly reading, and there are a few others that add more to it without getting quite into those realms, particularly a recent home game against Catalans Dragons.
Officially Lee Radford is in the last year of his current contract and score-lines like that are not exactly a ringing endorsement for his chances of taking the club he has led to two Challenge Cup triumphs forward. However, I don’t believe it should be the coach under any threat, I believe the problem lies in the playing group.
As the coach Lee Radford gives the players the game plan to win and the tools to carry it out on the pitch, but once they cross that white line he is powerless, it’s entirely up to the players how they perform. More often than not they get it right, they have definitely had it right in recent weeks with outstanding wins at Warrington, in the Good Friday Hull Derby and with an injury-ravaged team on numerous occasions. There is also an impressive win away to Catalans Dragons to add to that too, a ground where both Warrington and St. Helens have come unstuck this year.
Other evidence of Radford getting it right can be found in the emergence of young players Kieran Buchanan, Jack Brown and particularly Connor Wynne this year, showing that the youth development put in place by Radford and his team is working very well. His discovery of former RU winger Ratu Naulago is another impressive piece of management and there can be no doubt that the future for Hull FC under Lee Radford looks very rosy. But most Hull FC supporters, including me, will tell you that these embarrassments on the pitch are happening far too often and something needs to be done about it very soon.
It’s no secret that the club have several players coming to the end of their current contracts this year. However some of them on Saturday afternoon, and in previous games this year, certainly look like their days have to be numbered because they have looked distinctly like they couldn’t be bothered, and are incapable of playing to the very exacting standards that are expected of them by a proven winner, which Radford undoubtedly is. I’m not going to name names here, but all of us on the terraces at the KCOM Stadium know who they are, and so does the coaching team.
Looking back at the horror shows listed at the start of this article there are some names that crop up time and time again, with the injury excuse not good enough for many fans when trying to explain such embarrassing ‘performances’, if you can actually call them that? Radford said in his Anfield press conference that their preparation had been excellent, they had trained very well and were ready to mete out the sort of score on the Giants that had been expected, not the nearly bankrupt exhibition that the Old Faithful in The Kop had to endure.
Personally I have my reasons for believing that Radford has already signed a contract extension, part of which is the capture of Josh Jones from under the noses of St. Helens, Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos, a coup which I believe they managed because the Salford player knows exactly who he will be playing under next season. Many other big-name players are likely to be arriving at the KCOM Stadium for next season too which certainly gives reason to believe that many of the current group have already been told they won’t be required next season, or have decided to retire in certain cases.
As a Hull FC supporter I’m expecting an absolute roller-coaster for the rest of this season, although it is possible that playing for contracts and possibly silverware could galvanise the players from here on in. But the inconsistent nature of the team at this moment in time means I certainly can’t rule out more humiliations like the one witnessed on Saturday, the other side of the coin being that, at least this season, each time the Black & Whites have been pummeled, they have reacted excellently the following week and if they keep that up, then cup holders Catalans Dragons need to be feeling very nervous right now approaching their quarter-final at the KCOM Stadium this Thursday.
We know that in successful Challenge Cup campaigns in 2016 and 2017, Radford had a habit of building up the team to peak in their cup games. It could be that he’s at it again, although we do all know that what was dished up on Saturday was completely unacceptable, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that it was followed by a dumbfounding excellent performance a few days later. I’ll end by saying that although things are far from perfect at the moment, we have had it a lot worse and in Lee Radford we have a coach that cares wholeheartedly about the future direction of this club. So the ‘Radford out’ brigade need to stay patient with a coach who has been through and come out the right side of adversity many times before.