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Off the ball: Saints need to make a statement at Magic
"Only half a dozen games that really, really count and we have failed two of them."
That was the brutally honest and accurate account from the Saints chairman Eamonn McManus in Thursday's programme notes after a disappointing Easter.
And although the target was the playing and coaching staff, a by-product of that comment tells you everything that is wrong with the current league system.
And yes - I think we can all identify those games and I think we can safely say, without being too disrespectful, last week's against London and this Sunday's at Bradford are not among them.
After a traumatic Easter, it could be argued that back-to-back ties against the two teams occupying spots in the relegation zone provide a nice soft landing, giving the players time to regroup, regain their confidence and the coaching staff time to iron out weaknesses.
I'm not sure I agree. These are games the team is expected to win and are therefore are on something of a hiding to nothing.
Bradford will be no easy game - and Saints have form at Odsal, the name of which is etched into the coaching epitaph of Royce Simmons and, rather ironically, the playing careers in the red vee of current Bulls Lee Gaskell and Jamie Foster.
Without taking Bulls for granted, Saints should be looking beyond that game and setting short-term targets, staging posts in a gruelling season, that will help the team build some momentum and re-create some of that early feelgood factor on the terraces.
The first of those landmark games has to be Magic.
True, I've never been a fan of the concept and I've been like stuck record over the years bemoaning about the unfairness of the fixture card and how it deliberately distorts the league table.
Senior personnel at Saints have never really sang from the RFL songsheet on this in the past and maybe that negativity has fed into the past four or five encounters.
Discounting the 54-0 walkover against Hull KR, Saints’ displays at Magic have been woeful with the last two games at the Etihad being over by half time and resulting in 40 plus point mullerings at the hands of Wigan and then Warrington.
The same cannot happen this year.
Saints have a single competition focus – with no Wembley and no Challenge Cup semi final. With that in mind, Saints have to adopt the mentality that Warrington used to do in the years before they started winning things and treat this like a mini-cup final.
The players will have their job to do, and although it is marginal in the grand scheme of winning the match, the supporters on this one need to take a leaf out of the Wire following’s book and get their early, establish themselves as a block in one part of the ground and give the team their visible and vocal backing for the afternoon.
It won’t get our place back in the cup, but it will ensure bragging rights are restored over one of our other big club neighbours and could be a springboard to more positive outlook in the summer ahead.
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