‘Top of the league and having a laugh!’ Well they may not quite be laughing, but Saints can take some satisfaction from their lofty position, particularly given the extent that injuries have played again this term.
The dismissal from the Challenge Cup and defeats by Wigan at Easter and Warrington at Magic have left some fans with lingering doubts and cast a shadow over the real achievements and progress made so far this season.
It is understandable – the fans crave two things: beating Wigan and getting to Wembley. And so prior to the last two wins the ‘crisis’ talk and ‘Brown out!’ chatter was being muttered again approaching the half way point of the season.
- Saints performed poorly in the Magic weekend defeat to Warrington
The Saints boss takes the criticism in his stride and deals with the huge pressure of the job in his own way.
He said: “The thing with my job – and I have been going a long time now – is you basically try to, along with some of the senior players, educate the younger ones as to what is required. It takes a process – I don’t like losing the big games, but that is part of where we are at.
“We are all under pressure as coaches, whether it is at the top, with a team trying to get into the top eight or a big club like St Helens that has not won a trophy for a while now.
“In the initial part of the year we were far better than the start of last year. We have similar injury problems, but what we gained last year, through experience, and what we have recruited makes us a far better team.
“We have improved a lot, but that needs to continue.”
In a world in which everything is scrutinised, dissected and thrown about on social media, Brown’s personality, as much as his style of coaching, became the biggest focus of attention of some fans.
They contrasted the heart on sleeve approach of Wigan’s cherry and white blooded Shaun Wane to that of Brown’s ‘two points is two points’ approach.
- The Saints skipper Paul Wellens has been rolling back the years
Although Brown accepts that some people did not like his comments about the Wigan game, he hammered home that trying to draw some of the emotion out of that match should not be equated with him not being bothered.
But he is not about to change his style, or for that matter take a leaf out the Ian Millward book of match day etiquette.
- DIFFERENT STYLE: Brown's approach contrasts to Millward, who the current Saints coach says had some of the best players in Saints' history
“You have different coaching styles and you also have different playing groups.
“Basil will probably tell you himself that he had four or five players that made the Saints team of the century. They were in a different place to this group – and if the young players in this side saw me jumping up and down that is not going to help them.
“Just because I don’t jump up and down during the match and whatever it does not mean I don’t care as much as the last bloke.
“I know some people were critical of me because I did not see the Wigan game as any more important than the Leeds game or the Huddersfield game because my job is to prepare the team the best I can for every team.
“I have to take the emotion out because every game is important and we have to prepare the best we can to beat every team. I know people don’t like that, but that is the reality of my job. Every game is important and I focus as hard on Wigan as I do on Leeds or London.
“Once upon a time I used to jump up all the time and then a senior player at St George said to me, ‘How do think we are feeling when we are looking at you carrying on down the sidelines?’ “And I thought that was a fair point.
“I might not show some things but that does not mean I don’t enjoy the winning or get disappointed by the losing. You need to focus on the game – as a younger coach, when I used to get caught up in the emotion of it, I could miss something in the game, maybe a valuable tool that could help you win that game.
“You see some of the soccer managers jumping up and down, but Sir Alex remained pretty calm and United fans have not been bagging him for 20 years have they?”
Anyone who saw Brown after the miserable defeat by Warrington at Magic could not accuse Brown of being emotionless and not bothered.
That did, however, produce a response, with a fine win over a full-strength Huddersfield followed by victory over big spending Salford.
There are big games to come and Saints will hopefully have a cluster of players back in time for the tough run of Catalan away, Castleford at home and then the trip to Wigan.
Brown is adamant that the ingredient missing from those big games needs to be added if the club are to end their trophy drought.
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“We don’t want to be running fourth or fifth and then getting knocked out a round short of Old Trafford. The club doesn’t want it, the fans don’t want it and after five years the chairman is probably fed up of not getting to Wembley too.
“We are in a great spot, we have some great players, we’ve had a lot of bad luck but have fought hard to get to where we are. But there’s one (missing) ingredient: we need to get better in certain games.”