In recent weeks, criticism has hit Daryl Powell for the way the Tigers have started the new season. But, Castleford's transformation under Powell has been one of the club's greatest turnarounds and, for this, fans should remain firmly behind him.

Since Daryl Powell took over at Castleford midway through the 2013 season, the change in the Tigers' form and credibility has been remarkable. After just three wins, one draw and an embarrassing ten losses under former boss Ian Millward at the start of the 2013 season, Powell was called in to steady the ship. With Powell at the helm, Castleford won six - the same amount of wins the Tigers won throughout the whole of 2012 - drew one and lost six in the remaining 13 games of 2013.

Instant transformation

The Pontefract-born man then took the Tigers' fans into dreamland in 2014. A fourth-placed finish - the Tigers' highest-placed position since Super League began - and a Wembley visit for the first time since 1986 etched Powell's name into Castleford folklore. The difference in under two years was quite unbelievable.

In 2015 and 2016, the Tigers finished fifth. Though fifth was perhaps disappointing after their fourth-placed finish in 2014, it was still a dramatic improvement from the Millward era. But, it was 2017 where Powell underlined his credentials as a top-class coach, steering Castleford to a first-placed finish for the first time in their 91-year history. The Tigers were not finished there however, as they reached their first-ever Super League Grand Final in fantastic and nailbiting style with a 23-22 victory over St Helens.

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Though the week leading up to the showpiece event was marred by the revelation that Zak Hardaker had been dropped from the side - to be revealed later that he had failed a drugs' test - Powell was unable to inspire his chargers to victory. Instead Leeds, whom the Tigers had beaten three times in 2017, including a 66-10 hammering at the Jungle, did what was necessary to register a record-eighth Grand Final title.

Poor start and off-field trouble

Since the Grand Final, Castleford have been marred with a constant barrage of rumours concerning Zak Hardaker's fate at the Tigers after failing a drugs' test. Hardaker's sacking by the club in February 2018 ended the debate about whether the full-back would stay at the Tigers, but it began another spiral of speculation that Powell had, in fact, wanted to keep the former Leeds man and that chief executive Steve Gill had allegedly made the decision to send Hardaker his P45. As a Castleford fan, there are no boring times down Wheldon Road, but, after such a glorious season, it was hoped that the club would kick on.

This predicament seemingly put the Tigers in reverse, undoing all the previous years' hard work.

In pre-season, Powell gave his backing to Samoan international Ben Roberts to fill the No.1 position vacated by Hardaker, with former Tiger Jamie Ellis re-signed by Powell to fill Roberts' absence at No.6. However, Castleford's round one hammering away at St Helens - which finished 46-6 - sent the Castleford faithful into gloom overdrive. But, with a 100% record since that game, Powell seems to be once more steadying the ship.

Though Roberts has shown, so far, that he is uncomfortable at the back, his performances have improved, whilst Ellis is beginning to assert his authority within the side. Unless Powell could have bought another full-back in the off-season, the Pontefract man is doing the best with the resources he has been given. It's not his fault that Hardaker chose to betray him and the club after the club as a whole had invested time, money and effort in bringing the disgraced full-back into the fold.

Powell will earn his corn

Castleford were unlikely to be anywhere near as good as last season with Hardaker at the back anyway - though his influence has been sorely missed. Fellow Super League sides have all been waiting to knock the Tigers off their perch and Castleford are no longer a team that can go under the radar. Add into the mix that St Helens are a side capable of winning everything in 2018 - and appear to be playing quite like the Tigers did in 2017 - and the round one defeat was perhaps a loss waiting to happen.

It is not losses themselves that do the damage, it is how teams respond. The Tigers managed to scrape home against Widnes in round two by 13-12, but seemed to be getting near their free-flowing selves once again in round three with an impressive 28-18 victory over Hull FC - a side that Castleford had failed to beat three times in 2017. And, though the Tigers were far from their best in round four against Salford, they were still easily the better side and ran out comfortable 22-8 winners.

After the Widnes win, Powell stated that everyone associated with the club needs to "calm down". Though on the face of it this may have seemed patronising, it was perhaps the correct thing to say. All Castleford fans now expect their side to win and the atmosphere at home games so far has been one of anxiety, waiting for Luke Gale and co. to steamroller sides as they did in 2017. Gale himself had just two weeks off after the World Cup and missed out on much of the Tigers' pre-season preparations. This is hardly conducive for a team that relies on Gale to get them ticking.

Powell has it in him

You don't win Super League Coach of the Year twice if you are not a highly competent manager. Powell has taken Castleford from perennial strugglers to a silverware-chasing side. He has brought Greg Minikin, Greg Eden, Mike McMeeken, Luke Gale and Paul McShane - to name just a few - to the club and transformed them into England-quality stars. Under Powell's tutelage also, Grant Millington and Junior Moors have developed into ball-handling, fearsome props whilst Adam Milner has been entrusted by Powell to be the workhorse loose forward that the Tigers have missed in years gone by.

Daryl Powell has been able to spot this talent and develop them into something special which has, in turn, created a winning side. Are Castleford fans really going to start getting on his back after everything he's done for the club? In a year and a half, Powell took a second-bottom side to a Challenge Cup Final and a top-four spot. In 2017, a culture - inspired by him - drove the Tigers to a first-ever top-placed finish. Yes, times may be tough now, but in his five years at the club, Powell has shown just how strong he is a man and a coach. Castleford fans, don't write off your season just yet. #RugbyLeague #coyf #Castigers