Before St Helens’ terrific victory over Warrington, discontent was lingering around Langtree Park.
Fans haven’t been truly satisfied all year, with supporters perhaps still reeling from the embarrassing loss to Salford and another heavy defeat in the World Club Challenge.
The team has come in for plenty of criticism, not only from their fanbase, but the media too. League Express columnist Garry Schofield was particularly critical earlier this season.
But the reality is that Saints are just four points off the top of Super League at the mid-way stage of the season and have picked up victories over the likes of Warrington, Widnes and Castleford.
When you consider the fortunes of their regular rivals at the top in Leeds and Huddersfield this year, Keiron Cunningham has done an adequate job in maintaining Saints’ status as one of the competition’s powerhouses, despite the best efforts of clubs such as Hull FC and Catalans to dethrone the regular suspects at the top of the division.
There is little doubting that this year’s competition is tighter than last year and perhaps the most competitive in Super League’s history. So inevitably, most clubs will suffer more defeats.
That mauling at the hands of Salford was inexplicable, but the other major clubs in the competition have suffered a similar fate. Leeds were pummelled by Widnes, Hull FC, who are currently third, were also thrashed by the Vikings while the Saints faithful have probably taken great satisfaction in what happened to Wigan last week.
For years, Saints have been the big boys in the competition and have produced some of the finest teams in the history of British Rugby League. But the reality now is that other clubs have the financial support and the infrastructure to compete with Saints on and off the field, and as a result, success and silverware will be harder to achieve.
St Helens should take pride in the fact they were trendsetters and the benchmark for where clubs needed to be. The challenge ahead of the club now is to find a way to get one step ahead of their competition again, but it’s increasingly difficult to achieve as the standard gets higher and higher.
But gradually, Cunningham is putting together a squad that can enjoy long-term success. The acquisition of Theo Fages is a major component in achieving that sustainability while the likes of Jack Owens and Morgan Knowles add to that too.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition, but over the next year or so, the club’s support need to stay realistic.