Hull FC coach Lee Radford believes that under-pressure St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham will probably be glad his side are playing away from home tonight – before encouraging Cunningham to ignore the spotlight on him.
After back-to-back defeats to Leigh and Wakefield, the pressure appears to be on Cunningham and the Saints heading into the game at the KCOM Stadium tonight.
But Radford – a man who is no stranger to fan pressure himself in the past – says he thinks coaches need to be able to ignore the external pressure: appearing to express sympathy for Cunningham’s predicament.
“I think that’s (the pressure) probably two weeks earlier than last time, and he managed to get them to within five of ten minutes from a Grand Final,” he said.
“I think as a coach you have to try and stay above it, not read the paper or go on social media because in a matter of a fortnight things have changed. We couldn’t attack a fortnight ago and our attack was terrible, our halfback couldn’t pass. Seven days later we’ve hit our straps and everyone is flying. I think what’s important for any coach is to just try and stay above it.”
Radford continued: “Things have changed in a fortnight for us; we had a half-back who couldn’t pass two weeks ago and we couldn’t attack, but seven days later we’ve hit our straps and everyone is flying.
“It’s a long old season and I think it’s important for people like Keiron to stay above it and stay focussed on the job at hand. You might need earplugs and sunglasses at times because it is difficult and it causes apprehension amongst the group but that’s team sport.
“It’s always happened, it’s nothing new, but because of the success Saints had earlier in Super League their supporters become accustomed to the trophy cabinet. But the power has shifted somewhat.”
However, Radford did say that the Saints will be grateful to be away from their Totally Wicked Stadium for the game, in which Hull will be looking to make it three wins from four this season.
“I think they’ve got the old Crystal Palace syndrome where if one thing goes wrong the speccys are on them. They’ll probably be pleased to be away from home. It’s probably to their advantage that we’re at home tomorrow.”
And Radford wants to see his side exploit the weakness he has identified in the Saints – their slow starts.
“They’ve openly admitted their starts to the games have been poor so the opening exchanges will be important for both sides.
“With us being at home we need to make sure we come out of the blocks flying and quicker than they do. We need to put some added pressure onto the pressure they’re under at the moment: the last thing we want to do is give them a shot in the arm because when they hit form they’ll be a quality side.”