Castleford Tigers boss Craig Lingard on Batley Bulldogs return, upset talk and Mount Pleasant mind games

At the bottom of Batley Bulldogs' infamous slope stands the Craig Lingard Terrace.

Lingard is Batley's all-time leading tryscorer after spending his entire playing career at Mount Pleasant and took the unfancied part-timers to the brink of Super League during his four-year spell as head coach.

In between times, Lingard served as an assistant under John Kear.

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Given Lingard's service to the Bulldogs, it was almost inevitable that he would be handed a return to Mount Pleasant in the Challenge Cup with Castleford Tigers.

Lingard suddenly finds himself on the other side trying to avoid the type of upset he became famous for as Batley boss.

The 46-year-old made Mount Pleasant his home but he is only interested in giving the Castleford fans in the Craig Lingard Terrace, or elsewhere, an overdue victory to celebrate.

"The occasion is nothing to do with me," Lingard told The Yorkshire Post. "It's about getting Castleford their first win of the season and into the next round of the cup.

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"I'm not being disrespectful when I say I'm not thinking about it. The club has played a huge part in not only my rugby life but my general life. A lot of my lifelong friends are from my time there and it's formed me into the person I am today.

Craig Lingard heads back to Batley as Castleford head coach just months after his departure. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)Craig Lingard heads back to Batley as Castleford head coach just months after his departure. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)
Craig Lingard heads back to Batley as Castleford head coach just months after his departure. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)

"I can maybe think about that and have a drink with a couple of people after the game if we've done the job we need to do.

"I just want to be respectful to the club I'm at now and the job we need to do. It's about us kickstarting our season."

Lingard left Batley at the end of last season to take the reins at Castleford following a spell as an assistant, a role he combined with his duties at Mount Pleasant.

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It has been a challenging start for the new-look Tigers at a time when the club are focusing on off-field matters to boost their IMG score.

Craig Lingard celebrates Batley's play-off win at Featherstone Rovers in 2022. (Photo: Neville Wright)Craig Lingard celebrates Batley's play-off win at Featherstone Rovers in 2022. (Photo: Neville Wright)
Craig Lingard celebrates Batley's play-off win at Featherstone Rovers in 2022. (Photo: Neville Wright)

After five straight Super League defeats, an away date with Batley is viewed as a banana skin for Castleford.

"It's going to be that way," admitted Lingard.

"Batley have played well so far this season. They got pipped at the weekend in pretty much the last play of the game against Featherstone. They're always going to be difficult to play against, particularly on their home field.

"Everyone is going to be quite rightly seeing this as a potential upset but we've got to make sure we embrace the challenge. A lot of our players won't have been to Batley before, let alone played on that field.

Craig Lingard with his 2021 Championship coach of the year award. (Photo: RFL via SWpix.com)Craig Lingard with his 2021 Championship coach of the year award. (Photo: RFL via SWpix.com)
Craig Lingard with his 2021 Championship coach of the year award. (Photo: RFL via SWpix.com)
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"We've got to prep as we would do if we were playing Wigan or Saints away. If we turn up thinking it's only a Championship club and we're going to win easily, we'll get beat. You can't underestimate them at all.

"I know very well how tough and resilient these guys at Batley are. Once you think you've seen them off, they just keep coming back and keep coming back. It'll need to be a real professional performance from us."

Lingard is well accustomed to running up the hill at Mount Pleasant – and knows what it takes to master it.

He has told his Castleford players that a lot of it is in the mind.

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"Some of our players can't look at the field when they get there and be shocked by it," said Lingard. "We're giving them as much information as we can so it's not a surprise.

"Batley have always wanted to play uphill first half and most visiting teams like to do the same. Having been there for that long as a player and a coach, it's more mental.

Jacob Miller, left, and Josh Simm show their disappointment after Castleford concede a try in their 50-8 home loss to Huddersfield. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Jacob Miller, left, and Josh Simm show their disappointment after Castleford concede a try in their 50-8 home loss to Huddersfield. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Jacob Miller, left, and Josh Simm show their disappointment after Castleford concede a try in their 50-8 home loss to Huddersfield. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

"You've got to play 40 minutes uphill and 40 minutes downhill. For me, it makes no difference whether you play uphill or downhill first.

"Sometimes when you play downhill first, you think you've got to score a lot of points so it changes the way you play; if you play uphill and the scoreline is tight or you're winning at half-time, you can sometimes think you've got it easy coming down the hill and that can ruin you as well.

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"It's these little mind games you've got to deal with at Batley. People make the hill out to be more than it actually is."

Castleford have conceded 36 points per game in the early stages of the Super League campaign, most recently going down 40-14 at Catalans Dragons.

It was a marginal improvement on the previous performance against Huddersfield Giants but Lingard is realistic about the situation at Wheldon Road.

"There are still loads of areas we need to improve on," he said.

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"Attitude and effort – the non-negotiables – were there. It's just about being smart and learning from the mistakes we're making. At the minute, we're still making the same mistakes.

"There are periods in the game where we look alright for 10-15 minutes and then we have a 10-minute period off and get punished for it.

"I don't want to sound defeatist but it's where we are as a squad in respect of the lack of experience we've got in certain positions.

"It's frustrating but it's a process we need to go through."

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