Castleford Tigers boss Craig Lingard discusses growing bond with fans ahead of London Broncos test

In a season and a half of few highlights for Castleford Tigers, the sight of Craig Lingard jumping into the crowd to embrace the travelling supporters after a famous win at St Helens stands alone.

It was a moment of unbridled joy, one that provided further evidence of the growing bond between Lingard and the Tigers faithful.

"I got a bit carried away," said Lingard with a smile.

"I've always said that I probably take the defeats to heart more than I enjoy the wins.

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"It's something that I need to be better at so I think last week went a long way towards me doing that."

The gritty 8-6 victory in the backyard of Super League's most successful club underlined Castleford's progress at the start of the Lingard era.

It has been slow – owing to a modest budget as well as injuries – but the Tigers look like a team again following last year's brush with relegation.

Chants of "Craig Lingard's barmy army" show that the supporters appreciate his early work – and the respect is mutual.

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Craig Lingard celebrates the win at St Helens. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)Craig Lingard celebrates the win at St Helens. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)
Craig Lingard celebrates the win at St Helens. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)

"I've had a connection with the fans wherever I've been because it's really important that we recognise their involvement and commitment," said Lingard. "Without the fans, we haven't got a club.

"I was a fan myself growing up so I know how important it is for the coaching staff and the players to appreciate what the fans do.

"They follow us across the country week in, week out so if we can say thank you, take a few photos and shake hands, that's really important. It's something I'll do whether we win, lose or draw.

"There have been some tough days this year for Castleford fans and it's been difficult at times to go around the pitch. It's easier when you win and difficult when you lose but you've got to do it as much when you lose as when you win.

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The Tigers faithful are starting to enjoy their rugby again. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)The Tigers faithful are starting to enjoy their rugby again. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)
The Tigers faithful are starting to enjoy their rugby again. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)

"Walking around when you've had 50 or 60 points put past you is very, very difficult so it's nice to be able to do that after a win at St Helens."

The Tigers had threatened a statement victory in their previous two outings against Wigan Warriors and Hull KR.

A second win at Saints in the summer era could prove to be a seminal moment in Castleford's rebuild.

"That's the first time we've beaten a top-four side this season," said Lingard.

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Castleford must back up at London after the high of last week. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)Castleford must back up at London after the high of last week. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)
Castleford must back up at London after the high of last week. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)

"The previous two games gave us that belief and knowledge that we were there or thereabouts and that on our day we could compete with a top-four side.

"For us to actually get over the line and beat a team like St Helens at their own ground is massive for us and gives us really good belief."

The fixture schedule has been kind to the Tigers – and not because Friday's opponents London Broncos are rooted to the bottom of Super League with a solitary win.

Lingard is about to find out a lot about his team's mentality.

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"We've got to handle the expectations of going down there as favourites," he said ahead of the trip to Ebbsfleet.

"There were no expectations on us at St Helens because nobody expected us to go there and get the win. All the pressure is on us this week so it's about how we handle and react to that.

London pushed Leeds close last week. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)London pushed Leeds close last week. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
London pushed Leeds close last week. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

"We've certainly not sat back this week. If anything, we've focused even more on being better this week than last week.

"We've not won back-to-back games so far this season so it's a challenge for us to do that and maintain the professionalism and focus that we've shown in the last three games. There's been no sort of complacency from us this week.

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"Back-to-back wins would show that the trajectory we're on is the right one and what we've tried to do with them all season is starting to pay dividends.

"For us as a coaching staff, it gives us that reinforcement that the messages we're giving the players are the right ones."

On the face of it, Castleford have little to play for in the remaining 11 rounds.

The Tigers appear to have done enough to avoid the wooden spoon but are too far adrift of the top six to make a dart for the play-offs.

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Eighth-placed Huddersfield Giants are within sight, though, which is a fact not lost on Lingard.

"We want to see how high up the table we can get," he said.

"Hopefully Friday is a positive outcome for us and we can start reeling in some of those teams above us.

"We finished second bottom last year and knew that anything better than last year was going to be a success for us with the development squad we've got.

"We're third bottom at this moment in time and if we can get higher than that, that would be outstanding for us.

"Let's not forget as well that the higher we finish, it helps our IMG score so we've got an eye on that as well."

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