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Salford Red Devils Crash And Burn

salford red devils


Before the season, much was expected of Salford.

Their expensively-assembled squad, championed by bold and brash owner Dr Marwan Koukash, were tipped to at least make the play-offs, and potentially trouble those established at the top of the league, and one pundit, SKY Sports' Phil Clarke, even predicted that they'd win the whole thing.

Yet with two rounds still left of the regular season, the Red Devils are done. Out of the play-off running, thumped 42-6 by Wakefield, a club who was in turmoil in the close season, gripped by financial troubles that forced them to sell all but one of their star players, including ironically Tim Smith, who went to Salford and has since made a return to the Wildcats having failed to sufficiently impress Koukash and his coaches this year.

Koukash has responded to that thumping by cancelling Salford's player of the year event, clearly unhappy at how his so-called star team have underachieved this season.

One of those big names, Gareth Hock, has now had a transfer request accepted and is expected to leave the club soon. Hock was tempted out of an agreed deal to move to the NRL with Parramatta to join Salford from Wigan, and just a year later is now planning his next move. He and the aforementioned Smith probably haven't delivered what Koukash might have expected, but in truth very few of the Salford squad can be happy with their performances over the season.

They started the season under Brian Noble, before he was replaced by Iestyn Harris mid-way through. The change in coaching set-up will have done little to help numerous new signings settle in, although there had been hope in recent weeks, particularly since the arrival of New Zealand international Kevin Locke and London younger Mason Caton-Brown that things were turning for the better.

As it is, Harris has a job on his hands. Having invested so heavily, Koukash would have expected to have at least been dining at the top table in the first round of the play-offs, and in reality, Salford have never come close to even troubling the top eight. Contrast to Castleford, who have done excellently this term, and even Widnes, who in only their third season back in the top flight have occupied a play-off place for the entire year.

Given the failings of the scattergun approach - signing a raft of top players - perhaps we might see a change of tact this close season, enabling Harris to plug the gaps he needs and concentrate more on their style of play - something with which Castleford are renowned for now - or the team spirit - which is something Denis Betts is big on at Widnes.

The play-offs will happen without Salford, but are likely to include both Castleford and Widnes, after the Vikings defeated Wigan last week. They now need just a point from their final two games to finish in the top eight. Castleford find themselves second in the table after a few unlikely results last weekend, and that would give them home advantage in the play-offs. Below St Helens, who will finish first, the teams second to sixth - Castleford, Warrington, Wigan, Huddersfield and Leeds - can finish in any order, meaning the play-off picture probably won't be known until the end of the season. Catalan and Widnes are all but  confirmed to be joining them.