Sports editor Mike Parsons has his say on an unsatisfactory start to The Wire’s 2021 season

IT had been brewing.

The first bad Warrington Wolves performance of the season was always going to lead to the noisiest fans clamouring for the coach's head on social media, with him having revealed before a ball was kicked that this would be his last campaign at the helm.

There is history in such an early declaration not working out well, and, despite Steve Price's announcement being made with the best of intentions, the growing level of criticism of his team's under-performance over the past two seasons means a reaction was inevitable at the first sign of trouble.

And for the knockers, trouble came in an unacceptable opening display in which The Wire lacked creativity and penetration against a Castleford side that finished eighth in 2020.

Cas are no mugs and will enjoy more happy days against last season's top four as the season progresses, but they were missing their on-field general in Danny Richardson and were disrupted when his deputy Gareth O'Brien exited with injury midway through the first half.

But not only were Warrington unable to capitalise, they looked nervous and gave away sloppy tries while the promised improvements in attack were conspicuous by their absence. Frustrated fans who felt bored by the style of play last year and have pilloried the club's under achievement from top to bottom were handed more ammunition for their opinions.

An upshot of letting it be known publicly that this is the last year in the job is that it leaves you open to such accusations of being distracted and not as passionate – even if what is certain with conscientious Price is that he will be working harder than ever to complete his mission in the best way possible.

But as a result of all of this, and whether the negativity is justified or not after only one round, Price, who said he was left hurt by Sunday's performance, and his players are now under huge pressure – more so than what is usual for a club whose support base carries immense expectations.

To be going into Round Two in such a position is a sorry state of affairs. Let's not even think about the fall-out if The Wire fail to deliver against Super League new boys Leigh Centurions on Friday.

> Early team news for Warrington Wolves clash with Leigh Centurions

Taking all the frustration and emotion out of the situation for a moment, let's look at the facts.

Price's first season in charge did not start off well and there were shouts of 'bring back Tony Smith' after the 20-6 loss at Huddersfield in the second game of 2018.

Circumstances were different then, of course, as Price was getting used to his new team in what was his first crack at coaching in Super League – and his players were adjusting to his approach.

But the new boss was able to make his mark. It was only a few weeks later that The Wire went on a 10-match winning run in a year that ended with appearances in both the Challenge Cup Final and Grand Final.

The Wire won 13 of their first 16 games in 2019 before standards dropped amid some injury issues and the season was saved by the momentous Challenge Cup Final triumph against St Helens at Wembley.

And last year, in the trickiest of circumstances through the coronavirus pandemic, Warrington went on a 10-match unbeaten run before the Challenge Cup semi-final loss to Salford appeared to knock them for six.

The point being made is that through those periods Price's team looked to some like the real deal, but not for a full campaign. He will feel that his men were inches rather than miles away from doing something special in Super League.

And that is why consistency will be his 'buzz' word this year. The Wire simply have to hit the standards they are capable of on a regular basis.

He set out for the work done in pre-season to make this possible, and it can be seen in the body shapes of his men that they look lean and mobile for the harder grounds and warmer weather that comes with a season that has had a two-month delayed start and is going to feature intense periods of three games per week.

Prop Chris Hill is typical of the trimmed-down look and his workrate against Cas was immense, with his 49 tackles only being matched by skipper Jack Hughes while he also took more carries of the ball than any other player.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but having a heavily strapped Blake Austin, newly appointed captain Jack Hughes, rookie Connor Wrench and Josh Charnley - fresh from pre-season shoulder surgery - defending together on the right edge now seems to have been the wrong call. There was a lot going on in those heads, with Castleford sensing that and making the most of it.

Now Leigh will fancy their chances down that side through their dangerous centre Iain Thornley on Friday.

Price is going to need to turn his team's performance around quickly in order to silence his critics and lift some of the pressure that could weigh so heavily on him and his team in the weeks and months to come.

The players have a duty to bury their Round One showing and get it right from now on for the fans, for the club, for themselves and for their departing coach.