Jon Wilkin & Sam Tomkins deliver Tony Smith verdict with pressure mounting on Hull FC boss

Ben Olawumi
Tony Smith, Jon Wilkin, Sam Tomkins

Hull FC head coach Tony Smith (main image) and Sky Sports pundits Jon Wilkin (top circle) & Sam Tomkins (bottom circle)

Both Jon Wilkin and Sam Tomkins have thrown their support behind Tony Smith with pressure continuing to mount on the Hull FC boss following their Good Friday defeat to Hull KR.

The Black & Whites found themselves 28-0 down at the break across the city against their rivals, and it could have been much worse had Jez Litten converted any of the four kicks he missed in the first 40, passing up on eight further points.

FC rallied come the restart and scored back-to-back tries, though the game was already very much over, an all too familiar feeling for those from West Hull this year.

Kelepi Tanginoa’s try late on put the icing on the cake for Smith’s former employers KR, 34-10 the final score.

FC have now lost five of their opening six in Super League, with their only win coming by the finest of margins at home against newly-promoted London Broncos. Last week, they were also knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Huddersfield Giants in embarrassing fashion.

And while pundits Wilkin & Tomkins acknowledged just how poor its been from the Airlie Birds to date in 2024, they believe the problems run deeper than just the man in charge.

Sky Sports pundits Jon Wilkin & Sam Tomkins deliver Tony Smith verdict with pressure mounting on Hull FC boss

Prior to this afternoon’s Hull derby at Craven Park, Sky Sports put together a few Vox-pops with FC fans who had made the journey across the city, with the vast majority in agreement with Smith himself, who asked for time to resolve the situation in the lead up to the game.

Tony Smith
Hull FC head coach Tony Smith

The pundits both agreed with that sentiment, with Tomkins post-match saying: “He’s still the man for the job, someone that’s been through all of these experiences before.

“He’s been and changed clubs, winning things. What’s the other option for Hull FC? Get rid of him? What coach in rugby league, anywhere in the world, is going to come in and change that Hull FC side at the moment?

“Tony Smith’s the kind of coach they’d have to get in. They’d have to get somebody in like Tony Smith that’s got 648 games experience, that’s been through the highs and the lows. I think he’s the man for the job, they need to stick with him.”

Meanwhile, Hull native Wilkin, who began his career in the east of the city with KR took aim at the players Smith has at his disposal.

He added: “Is this squad anywhere near capable of getting in the play-offs? I don’t think it is. You could give this squad two years and I don’t think it’s a play-off standard squad of players.

“If we’re talking about a project, then you’re talking about recruitment over two, three, four, five years.

“That’s a long-term thing, and I think Hull FC can turn it around in that period of time, but simply, even if they changed the coach, they’re not getting into the play-offs with the team they’ve got.

“Pressure’s mounting, it is. You can feel it and sense it. In sport, patience evaporates and disappears very quickly, I’ve seen it happen. Those messages of patience are around, and then two or three weeks later, that’s gone.

“Tony Smith’s vastly experienced, he’s got a proven track record. I think he’s got the ability to do something at Hull FC. I just don’t think he’s got the squad. I think the squad’s his problem.”

Tony Smith: ‘We’ve got to remain tough and work hard, work through it’

Rounding the post-match analysis segment off, Tomkins provided his prediction for FC for the rest of the year. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t hold much hope for Smith’s side, saying: “(They’ll finish) very low down, maybe just above London I think.

Tony Smith
Hull FC head coach Tony Smith

“From what we’ve seen over the first six rounds, there’s not too many positives. Some young lads have come in and shown a bit of promise, but I can’t imagine them climbing the table anytime soon.”

57-year-old Smith, who twice led Leeds Rhinos to the Super League title, meanwhile blocked out all of the external noise when giving his own view on the game to Sky at Craven Park at full-time.

Speaking to pitch side reporter Danika Priim, the veteran coach re-affirmed: “Most people fold when it gets tough.

“You’ve got to be a certain type of person in rugby league to keep going when it gets tough, that’s the only way forward. We’ve got to remain tough and work hard, work through it.

“I’ve been through tough times before, at this place (KR) and others. We got some big hidings (during my time here), and when that happens, you’ve just got to get back to the hard work again. That’s what we’re developing here (at FC).

“Our first half was just not good enough at all, not good enough defensively and not strong enough from the start.

“Second half, we got desperate and started to defend like a desperate team, but that’s what you’ve got to do from the start of rugby league games, otherwise you get hurt.

“My message at half-time was just ‘get desperate, stop admiring the opposition and watching what they do, because they’re a good team, a terrific attacking team and they can hurt you. If you stand back watching them, they can play very well’.

“We had to get amongst it and earn the right to get a foothold in the game. When I saw some of that second half effort, it’s encouraging.”