Dave Craven: Pearson's patience pushed to limits by poor Hull

IT ONLY seems like yesterday that Hull FC seemed handily-placed to push for a third successive top-four spot yet now '“ broken, rudderless and utterly humiliated after another record defeat '“ the club's furious powerbroker is talking about a major overhaul of the squad.

Warrington's Ben Murdoch-Masila is tackled by Hull FC's Jordan Abdull during last week's 80-10 thrashing by the hosts.
Warrington's Ben Murdoch-Masila is tackled by Hull FC's Jordan Abdull during last week's 80-10 thrashing by the hosts.

It just shows how quickly things can turn in professional sport but understanding why it has happened is another matter entirely.

The beleaguered Airlie Birds host Castleford Tigers on Friday bidding to avoid an eighth successive defeat.

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During that miserable run they have twice suffered record defeats, first a 72-10 loss at Wakefield Trinity and, even more alarming, Thursday’s 80-10 embarrassment at Warrington Wolves.

It was that pathetic display that led to irate chairman Adam Pearson publicly stating he was ready to significantly revamp the playing rosta for 2019.

He even threatened to move on players who only signed new deals just a few weeks ago, while insisting others who did not want to leave would instead be sent on dual-registration to League 1 Doncaster.

Given head coach Lee Radford has had his squad in place for next season for some time – no new arrivals were initially expected – it shows just how irked Pearson has been by this desertion of both form and, it appears in some quarters, even basic effort.

It will be intriguing to see who Radford names in his 19-man squad tomorrow and if there are any glimpses who the immediate casualties could be.

Established players such as Sika Manu, Josh Griffin, Fetuli Talanoa and Danny Washbrook are among those who have agreed new contracts of late with the currently sidelined Mark Minichiello another.

In terms of why it has gone so badly wrong for a team who won the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in each of the previous two seasons it would be easy to point at injuries.

Crucially, they have been without key playmakers Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly for large swathes of this season, compounded recently by the loss of another creative talent in Jake Connor, the new England cap ruled out for the rest of the campaign after tearing a hamstring against St Helens in mid-July, just two games into that losing sequence.

The loss of Joe Westerman so soon after his signing was damaging, too, but certainly none of this warranted the sort of meek, pitiful surrender witnessed in recent weeks.

Indeed, the starting 13 against Warrington – aside from the relatively rookie halves pairing of Liam Harris and Jordan Abdull – was full of experience and nous which made the manner of that atrocious loss even more disconcerting.

Moreover, considering Wolves came in just four days after the mentally and physically-draining experience of losing a Wembley Cup final against Catalans Dragons, it illustrates just how bad Hull truly were.

There is a misconception that, for some weeks now, the East Yorkshire club has had nothing to play for as their hopes of reaching the Super League semi-finals disintegrated.

However, that should never be an excuse for some of these recent performances and, for a man as proud as Radford, it will not be accepted.

Clearly, he is under pressure as well but has the full backing of Pearson which is only right given the way he has helped improve them in so many areas since taking over at the end of 2013.

Undoubtedly, his side are in a rut and it is imperative there is some sort of positive reaction against Castleford. Those fans who trekked to Warrington deserve that, at least.

But, on the back of his achievements, the 39-year-old deserves the chance to try and get them back into form. With Gareth Ellis set to relinquish his football manager role to help coach the forwards next term, Richard Horne doing the same with the backs, his coaching set-up will be strengthened.

It remains to be seen whether that overhaul of his playing squad will materialise. Or even truly be needed.

Being so late in the day in terms of recruitment for 2019, it will be difficult signing players who could improve this Hull side even if Pearson, as suggested, starts writing cheques.

Will some be playing for their futures in the final four games? Will that stinging criticism only make matters more difficult as they strive to rediscover form and confidence? Or will it have the requisite positive effect?

There is now definitely plenty to play for for everyone at Hull but maybe it is only a reboot rather than redesign required.