WHILE the past may be another country, Castleford Tigers’ coach Lee Radford has both eyes fixed firmly on his own backyard.
Castleford’s marketing department have stressed the ‘new era’ aspect of this year following nine seasons under Daryl Powell, who is now in charge of Tigers’ round two opponents Warrington Wolves and Radford is also focusing only on what lies ahead.
Some club stalwarts have moved on or retired since the end of Powell’s reign, including long-serving captain Michael Shenton and Radford has refreshed his squad with eight recruits, among them Bureta Faraimo, Mahe Fonua and Joe Westerman who all played under him at Hull.
The change of personnel appears to have captured the imagination of the Castleford public and a near full-house of more than 9,000 is expected in two days’ time.
That brings its own pressures and Tigers will be looking to given them more to cheer than in 2021, when only two of 10 home matches were won and one of those was played behind closed doors, during lockdown.
Tigers would have secured a play-offs spot had they been able to convert only a couple of last year’s home defeats into wins, but Radford insists he has no concerns over his new-look team’s form on their own turf, or what happened in previous campaigns.
“I genuinely didn’t know it was [that bad],” said Radford of last year’s record.
“I have not really looked at too much footage and detail of last year.
“It is a new slate, a new opportunity for every player to work with a new coaching staff.
“If it was an issue, hopefully it’s not going to be moving forward.”
Radford added: “I won’t be looking back at any games, thinking ‘we can do that better’ or ‘we can change that’.
“It is a completely fresh squad, with the eight blokes coming in and the changes we have made in the way we are going to play.
“I am not looking over my shoulder.”
If Castleford can get supporters up on their feet, a passionate home crowd will return the favour with interest, Radford believes.
He has urged his players to keep their emotions in check on Friday, but recalled: “I have been here a few times with Hull and the Hull fans have travelled in masses.
“The place has been bouncing, so to have that 90 per cent in Castleford’s favour is going to be fantastic.
“Salford fans don’t turn out in their droves, but to have that many here will be great and a reward for that would be getting them the win – and not just that, but a good, solid performance as well.
“That would start some momentum and give us some foundation to build on.
“There’s no doubt about it, you play the game to pick up wins and we want that desperately on Friday night, but we want to put a solid performance in as well.”
Radford will name his first 21-man squad this afternoon and admits that has been a far from straightforward decision.
They have some long-term injuries, including Sosaia Feki, Jacques O’Neill and Callum McLelland, but Radford has a strong squad to select from and insisted several players will be unlucky to miss out.
“It has been tough, I am still deliberating now,” he said of his lineup.
“There’s been four or five decisions where if I go the other way it wouldn’t be too detrimental to the side that takes to the field.
“That’s a credit to the squad.
“There’s plenty of factors gone into the decisions – how well they’ve turned up in pre-season, how they’ve responded to what we’ve been doing and obviously performances in [pre-season] games.”