THERE can be nobody in the game who does not feel for Francis Cummins this week.
Even the most heartless of souls has to accept losing the Bradford Bulls head coach job – something he craved so much – was just all too painful and especially considering the sacrifices he has made for that club.
Granted, Bradford’s form has been woeful and the threat of relegation is so very real.
But how much of that can really be laid at the door of the 37-year-old coach whose hands had been tied behind his back for much of his tenure since taking over in 2012.
Plagued by financial problems, stripped of his best players, constantly having to deal with off-field issues which should never be in the job description of a head coach, it is remarkable he still had his sanity at the end of it all let alone a side that still had a chance – admittedly slim one – of survival.
But Cummins, through all the disruptive ownership sagas, those worrying times spent in administration – he worked three months unpaid to aid the broken club in 2012 – and relentless firefighting episodes, always somehow retained a positive, cheerful demeanour offering help and insight along the way to not only his team and staff but the constantly enquiring media, too.
Where others may have squealed at the unfairness of it all, losing six points in the manner they did, he kept his dignity, held his tongue and simply got on with the job in hand.
For him, and his similarly diligent and industrious assistant Lee St Hilaire, to be axed on Monday left a bitter taste for many. If Bradford do survive, their powers-that-be will argue that, for all the unpleasantness of having to make that decision, it was the right one.
But it seems strange they have not yet made an appointment. Time, surely, is of the essence.
Maybe Bradford have resigned themselves to Championship football after all.
Yet, if that is the case, it could be argued that Cummins would have been the perfect candidate to haul them out of that division with a fresh canvas to work on.
Speak to just about anyone who has come under his command and they will say how the former Leeds Rhinos winger has a venerable ability to improve a player’s ability and skill.
He is undoubtedly a lover of the sport and his knowledge is vast given his long apprenticeship since retiring early due to injury.
It is just unfortunate that his first job in the hotseat came at a club in utter turmoil.
It is said that Cummins could have taken on the first-team coaching role at Warrington Wolves under his former Leeds boss Tony Smith and recently taken on by Richard Agar.
But he wanted to stick it out at Bradford, finish what he had started and lead them to survival.
That loyalty seems misguided now but, considering his character, Cummins will probably not complain too much.
One thing is for sure; he will find a role back in the sport somewhere and some time soon.
The spectre of relegation has already seen three coaches removed this season and it seems to be that one cannot go without the other. But Cummins’s time will come again and some club will benefit from his expertise, knowledge and ability.
Bradford was just the right club but at the wrong moment.