Saints may have jumped too soon

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ST Helens are not a club you associate with instability.

The former residents of Knowsley Road have built their reputation as one of the powerhouses of the sport over the last 20 years brick by brick.

Seven names: Mike McClennan, Eric Hughes, Shaun McRae, Ian Millward, Daniel Anderson, Mick Potter, Royce Simmons. That’s a short list of coaches over such a long period of time.

Which is why it was a surprise when Simmons got the bullet in the wake of his team’s fifth successive loss, at Bradford.

Simmons is one of those coaches that you don’t really hear a bad word about, even in private; rare enough in sport where personal rivalries and old scores are never far from the surface.

He has also had to deal with more issues than any of his immediate predecessors.

Last season he prepared his team to play their home games at Widnes - hardly the home ground advantage that Knowsley Road, one of the great venues in the English game, had afforded - and this year he had to settle them into the alien surroundings of their new home at Langtree Park.

Simmons never had the services of Keiron Cunningham or Sean Long, two of the foundation stones on which success was built.

And this time round, he lost two of the top three players in this country: James Graham joining Canterbury and James Roby recently sidelined through injury.

With so many young players elsewhere on the field, particularly at half back where Lee Gaskell and Jonny Lomax are barely out of nappies, that was always going to take its toll.

I’ve never been massively convinced by Simmons’ coaching record. But I think he’s been hard done by here.

Look at Leeds last year. Okay, Brian McDermott never lost five straight. But he did suffer back to back losses no less than four times, as well as one run of three defeats.

Even so, the Rhinos stuck stubbornly with him and, in the end, won a Grand Final.

Could Simmons have done the same? We’ll never know. But I’d be surprised if the stand-in tandem of Cunningham and youth development boss Mike Rush work a miracle.

Next year, unless hell freezes over, Saints will have Nathan Brown at the helm. But the Australian was quick to refute any suggestion that he would quit Huddersfield early to head across the Pennines.

And why would he? Looking at the league ladder, he’s got more chance of lifting a trophy with the Giants.

I WORKED with Mick Shaw on numerous occasions over the decade and a bit I have been doing this job.

And whether he was playing, coaching or just stopping in a stadium car park somewhere to chat about the prospects for the day, the former Leeds and Halifax hooker was a model of courtesy, manners and enthusiasm.

News of his death late on Monday left me both shocked and saddened, a reaction common to everyone I have spoken to about Mick in the three days since then.

RIP, Mick.