Former Saints player John Stankevitch believes St Helens have lost the winning culture that made them one of the world’s elite clubs.
Stankevitch, a Grand Final and World Club Challenge winner with St Helens during his five seasons with the club, claims that Saints have failed to maintain the high standards that were set during his five-year spell with the club at the start of the millennium.
Keiron Cunningham, a former teammate of Stankevitch at St Helens between 2000-04, was relieved of his duties following a poor start to the season that has left them seventh in Super League after eight games.
Although Stankevitch believes that Cunningham is partly accountable for his own departure, he believes the club has become a shadow of what it once was.
“Saints seem to have lost that winning culture,” he said.
“I firmly believe if a club has momentum on or off the field, it’s up to the club to maintain that. I believe the success Saints have had as a top club and as a club that strives for success has waned away. It’s unusual. I don’t put the blame at Keiron’s door for that.”
Stankevitch was particularly critical of the club’s recruitment over the years, that has played a part in their relinquishing of superiority above many of their league counterparts.
“I don’t think some of the signings made are Saints quality, I really don’t.
“What Saints had at the time I was there was an unbelievable leadership group from the senior players. You had the likes of Kevin Iro, Paul Newlove, Sean Hoppe, Keiron, Longy (Sean Long), Scully (Paul Sculthorpe), Tommy Martyn, Chris Joynt, Sonny Nickle, Vila Matautia.
“If you keep the momentum behind the club you sign players of that quality or develop people of that level. But you can’t even compare. If you look at Saints’ players that they’ve got now, it’s a different league. You couldn’t even compare the two.
“They’ve got some good, young talented players coming through and they need to be able to follow in the footsteps of some real leaders, but I don’t think they’ve got that.”
Cunningham was removed from his position following two seasons without silverware and a difficult start to the campaign.
Stankevitch claims that he had struggled to get the best out of his squad, but believes the players must also take responsibility.
“I think some of the performances have been nothing short of garbage,” he said,
“Speaking to fans, I think their biggest issue if the style of rugby. Keiron and Longy are two of the most attacking players you could ever imagine, but there’s nothing like that at the minute.
“But I think the players have let him down hugely. Mark Percival has been outstanding and Alex Walmsley has looked head and shoulders above, but some have really let him down.
“His job was to get the best out of the players, and you could argue that Keiron hasn’t done that. You can argue he has got the best out of Alex Walmsley, Theo Fages has done well, Mark Percival has been outstanding, but after that?
“I’ve just seen the press release from Eamonn and he said that with the quality of players they’ve got Saints should be fighting for trophies, I can’t see it. I can’t see what he is seeing.
“Are Saints in the position they should be with the squad they’ve got? There’s no way in the world they are a top two team. A top four team? Doubtful. For the squad they’ve got they’re slightly worse than they should be, but not hugely.”