Dave Simms: Cup of redemption beckons for Steelers

Dave Simms Telegraph Web Tile
Dave Simms Telegraph Web Tile
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It’s an interesting word, and one used by Steelers captain Jonathan Phillips to describe the Challenge Cup final against the Nottingham Panthers.

The dictionary describes redemption as an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.

For Phillips and the Steelers it’s a bit more than that.

Phillips told me: “We need this series against them.”

When he said that, he didn’t mean the club needed it, or even as a team.

When Phillips looked at me, it was if to say: “Individually, as players, we need this series.”

Phillips isn’t normally known as a wordsmith, as someone who delivers great quotes and lines.

He is a thinking captain, more methodical if you like.

Redemption isn’t a word he would normally use. He is right though - this team, as good as it is, as well as it has played at times, has been hit hard by three things:

n A lack of consistency that saw them slip out of the championship race following the defeat in Nottingham three weekends ago.

n The fact that the Nottingham Panthers look likely to win their first league championship since 1956.

n The criticism by ex-players that Nottingham achieved this long awaited success on their watch.

I think it did hit the players that it was on their watch that Nottingham were going to succeed.

The Steelers/Panthers rivalry has been for so long built on the fact that the Steelers were the team that delivered league championship after league championship, while the Panthers stood and watched.

Now the roles look like reversing. The Steelers’ history and foundations have been built upon league championship honours.

Phillips knows his team is being questioned. If it was Cardiff, Coventry or Belfast looking at lifting the championship trophy, it would probably be questioned a little less. But it’s not.

It’s Nottingham, and therefore questions - and even inquests - will be held. Futures will be decided on what has happened in the last eight months.

Phillips is an intelligent man. Deep down this will hurt him, and so it should.

It should hurt everyone involved with the club, not just the players.

That’s why Phillips came out with ‘redemption’. He needs it, the Steelers need it.

We will see what it really means to be a Steeler next Wednesday; March 20 will be a big day for the Steelers.

A Challenge Cup win won’t hide things that have happened in the past eight months, but it will ease the pain and act as an anaesthetic.

It will also be a huge confidence boost going into the post season play-offs, and a series against a very strong Coventry Blaze side.

The Challenge Cup Final has taken on a whole new meaning.

It’s about ‘redemption’ as a club, and about ‘redemption’ as individuals within it.