A TETLEY’S Challenge Cup semi-final appearance will justify Michael Shenton’s decision to return to Castleford Tigers.
Shenton starred for his local club from 2004-2010 before a two-year stint with Super League giants St Helens.
He cut his stint at Saints short a year early to rejoin Tigers in 2013 and now has an opportunity to be part of club history.
Tigers, who finished third from bottom in Super League last year, are fourth in the table with just four rounds of the regular season remaining and only one win away from a first Wembley appearance since 1992.
Shenton will captain Cas in Sunday’s semi-final against Widnes Vikings, at sold-out Leigh Sports Village and he said: “It is definitely what I hoped for when I came back.
“Things are going well and the decision to come back looks pretty good.
“I came back for a reason. I think I developed as a person over at St Helens and I learned a lot of things.
“I think it was right to go there and see how other clubs do things. They are playing in big games every year and it’s expected.
“I think that’s where we need to be. I think that’s what our ambition needs to be.
“Every club needs ambition, so if you are not in the mix for everything you’ve not had a great season.
“Obviously we are right in the mix. We have made some big changes over the last year and it is great to see those are paying off so quickly.”
It is a far cry from the start of last season, when bedraggled Tigers won just one of their opening 11 games.
“There needed to be a culture change and it has taken Daryl (coach Daryl Powell) to do that,” Shenton said.
“He needs a big pat on the back, though I know he won’t take it.
“Things are going really well this year, but for me now, we have done so much this year and come so far it would be a shame to let it go.”
Shenton played in Saints’ 2011 Grand Final defeat by Leeds Rhinos and is one of the few Cas players with real big-game experience.
“The semi-final is the furthest I have been in the Cup,” he said. “But I have been around the game, I have played in a Grand Final and internationals and I think it is important to be a steadying influence on the team and to be able to step things up when they need to be stepped up.
“But we have done that all year. We have got a great mix of leaders in this team, in the forwards and the backs.
“They all step up and lead the way and nothing will change this week.”
Shenton admitted a “calming influence” may be needed ahead of Sunday.
He said: “I don’t think anybody’s going to need an alarm clock to get out of bed. The boys are bouncing at training and they are excited for it.
“It has been a pretty special week so far and I want everyone to enjoy it and not be too stressed out by it.
“There is pressure on, obviously. It comes with the way we have been playing and that’s fair enough, but we’ve just got to do what we’ve always done: concentrate on our own game, keep things in house and I am sure moving forward we will be okay.
“There’s plenty of belief there, but also respect for Widnes and what they are doing.
“It is a big ask, but that will make it even more special for whoever goes through, because it is two in-form teams and whoever wins, it will be well-deserved.”