When St Helens were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Leeds last July, many Saints fans reacted with great optimism.
A 24-14 defeat in the 2015 semi-final meant their wait to capture the famous trophy would have to wait a little longer, but with Saints riding high in Super League and Leeds now tasked with preparing for the final, many expected Saints to push on and grab silverware later in the year.
But their quest for silverware never materialised, and instead, the Saints faithful have witnessed a nine-month period that many would rather forget.
A poor run of form in the Super 8s was followed by a second gut-wrenching defeat to Leeds in the play-off semi-final. Optimism was restored during the off-season, with the addition of Theo Fages particularly impressive, but that hope soon diminished with fans left reeling from a heavy defeat at the hands of Salford and then a number of performances that they didn’t believe were up to scratch.
There has been a sense of discontent on the terraces of Langtree Park throughout the year, but that will have intensified following Sunday’s morale-zapping trouncing at the hands of Hull FC. Even Keiron Cunnigham was almost lost for words following their latest reverse, a seventh defeat in just 15 games this season.
The difference between this year’s cup exit and the one in 2015 is that a section of the support has lost hope in the team this time around. This is a season that needs salvaging badly, and it has to start on Friday when they entertain Salford.
Given the context, and the opposition, the game against Salford is an opportunity. An opportunity to bounce back from last week’s disaster, an opportunity to avenge their embarrassment at the expense of Salford earlier in the year and an opportunity to get their season back on track.
Nothing less than victory will appease the rising frustration levels of the fans, and should the team fail to reach the expectations set, the consequences could be catastrophic.
The irony is that despite such unrest, Saints could find themselves in the top four by the end of Friday depending on the final scoreline between Wigan and Hull FC that evening.
But, for this week certainly, the league standings mean nothing, this is all about St Helens righting wrongs from earlier in the year.