If anyone is still expecting Wigan to defy logic by beating St Helens in their Powergen Challenge Cup quarter- final today, it is not Ian Millward's fault. Millward goes back to the scene of past glories for the first time today, having realised that his new job is an even tougher one than he had imagined.
The controversial Australian was dismissed by Saints last month and walked right into what would once have been the plum job at Wigan. Since then, though, he has seen his new team lose three of his first four matches in charge - culminating in a record, humiliating, 70-0 loss at Leeds last weekend.
"The size of the job is bigger than I thought," admitted Millward as he prepared for today's Challenge Cup quarter-final showdown with his former team.
"I looked at the Wigan team that played Leeds last season and 12 of those 17 were missing this time. That is taking a lot of experience and leadership out of the side. I know people say that Wigan have played Saints with weak sides in the past and won, but they always had an Andy Farrell or an Adrian Lam - and we don't now."
Those Saints fans familiar with Millward's little ways will no doubt expect him to pull Farrell, Kris Radlinski and probably Billy Boston out of the hat for this tie. The reality is that he will have to rely on some young players who are not ready to play at this level, which could make it an uncomfortable return to the club who showed him the door after six successful seasons, claiming that his forthright language to three officials amounted to "gross misconduct."
Millward is still taking Saints to court for unfair dismissal, but says that he will not be motivated by any talk of revenge today. "I'm going back to a place where I have nothing but good memories," he said.
"I'm not nervous at all to return, because I still have a healthy relationship with the players, the fans and the sponsors. If a couple of other people have an agenda, that's up to them."
Millward says that not even his decision to take the coaching job with arch-rivals Wigan has soured his relationship with Saints' supporters. "They know I didn't walk out on them. I was sacked.
"I can't believe how many letters of support I've had from Saints' fans. I hope to reply to them all, but it's been a fantastic response, and I'm expecting a terrific welcome on Sunday."
How those fans will feel if Millward can inspire a shock Wigan victory today is ano-ther matter, but the coach is playing down the importance of the encounter.
"The tempting thing for me would be to field players who aren't quite fit, but that would be a selfish thing for me to do," he says. "We've got another 10 games to make sure we don't drop out of Super League. I want to make sure that the players are fit for that."Reuse content