New chief Gill plotting way forward for struggling Castleford

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FOR 80 minutes today, Steve Gill might finally get chance to relax in the sanctuary of an actual game.

In his own words, this past week has been a “bit of a whirlwind” after he was appointed Castleford Tigers’ CEO following an interim spell in charge of two months.

One of the first tasks to drop into his in-tray involved the sacking of the financially-struggling West Yorkshire club’s head coach.

Gill had watched the faltering side stumble to a seventh successive loss against Huddersfield Giants last Saturday in front of a frighteningly meagre crowd of just 3,222.

With deflated Castleford rooted to the foot of the table, the “club decision” was made the following morning to remove Ian Millward and his assistant Stuart Donlan.

It means when the Sky cameras arrive at Wheldon Road for a second successive week this afternoon to broadcast their game against Widnes Vikings, former captain Danny Orr, 34, will be in temporary charge hoping to arrest that slump.

“I don’t think anyone could have expected this,” admitted Gill, the 53-year-old ex-miner who has enjoyed his own meteoric rise having – until Steve Ferres’s sudden resignation in February – been Tigers’ head of youth development.

“But, I think the club has dealt with it fairly and responsibly. I spoke to Danny Monday morning. He’s a great club man, well-respected in the game and coming through nicely.

“But I think we have a duty to look after him as Danny could be one of the next top Super League coaches. We have to guide him through this.”

With that in mind, Orr – who only retired as a Castleford player in September before joining Millward’s staff – is not seen as heir apparent.

However, it is hoped his charisma, love of the club and energy will spark some sort of reaction from players and restore pride in the jersey that was perhaps previously waning.

Castleford fans know their rugby and, while they have never been one of the sport’s kings, they at least demand 100 per cent effort. “The players are enjoying a bit of freedom Danny’s given them and they’ve really responded to him,” added Gill, who had seven applicants for the post in the first two days after Millward’s dismissal became public, including some “very impressive” candidates.

“I speak to them and all I know is there’ll be 17 lads busting a gut for Danny Orr on Saturday. Sometimes it brings a lump to your throat.”

Names are obviously being bandied around for the vacant position although it is easy to see why many will be put off by Castleford’s perilous position, not just on the field but off it.

Ferres quit amid talk of frustrations with directors and chairman Jack Fulton and their “inability to support the multitude of changes” he felt must take place.

But Gill believes his own plans can come to fruition and transform a club that has been on its knees for some time.

“We’ve changed the marketing team pretty frequently over the last few years and now I’ve put a different marketing strategy together,” he explained.

“I had to have a few guarantees from the board and Mr Fulton as well before I took the job and they’ve been granted so hopefully I can move forward now.

“I will listen to people but ultimately I’ll make my own decisions on what is best for Cas Tigers.”

Generating more money must surely be imperative?

“I think it’s a bigger picture than that,” added Gill, initially invited to the club in 2002 by then head coach Graham Steadman having coached the likes of current captain Michael Shenton, Brett Ferres and Andy Kain at Smawthorne Panthers juniors.

“Successful teams also generate income. People want to be associated with successful sides. If you’re losing, like the game last weekend, the frustrations are shared by everybody.”

With regards the coach, Gill would “prefer English if I’m brutally honest” and does not want anyone using Tigers as a “stepping stone to the NRL” which is where ex-Man of Steel Rangi Chase is backed to be in a fortnight with St George-Illawarra reportedly having agreed a fee.

Gill, who played as a junior with Castleford until breaking his leg at 17, remains coy but admits there are “emails flying left, right and centre” and they would be “fools” not to consider any bid.

For those who question his credentials as a chief executive, he did once manage million pound contracts for a German company and was also a financial advisor but added: “I don’t think it’s too important as a CEO.

“I spoke to (Leeds Rhinos) Gary Hetherington about it and there’s probably only me and him in the RFL who are football-minded (CEOs). I don’t think he’s done a bad job has he?”