Given recent events, in which their team have risen to the top of the Greene King IPA Championship on the back of Moseley’s shortcomings, you’d think Rotherham’s supporters would look forward to their trips to Billesley Common.
Indeed they have not lost at a venue, where the common consensus in the league is that whoever you are, whatever form you’re in, a visit to Moseley is always a bunfight, since 2011 when Andre Bester’s beasts were bested 9-5 – a scoreline that really did reflect the entertainment on show.
Yet speak to many Titans fans about their experience of Moseley’s homely little home and without prompting most recall ‘that cup game where we all froze our b******* off’. Indeed even for many of the asylum’s inmates November 25, 2005 stands out as the date of their most Arctic-themed rugby experience.
Rotherham’s 25-11 Powergen Cup win is remembered far less for the emergence of James Rodwell and the fact it was New Moseley’s first test against a tier two side, than it is the conditions in which it was played. Even the polar bears wore Red and Black scarves.
Indeed those two hours spent in the deep freeze are still cited in the annual argument about Friday night rugby. Those at Moseley who are against the concept often evoke the ground’s unforgiving micro-climate – and it is true there are warmer places to spend a night in Birmingham than Ch..Ch..Chillesley Common
However, the discussion has taken on a new importance in recent weeks with Moseley compelled to visit Plymouth and Penzance in consecutive Friday away matches. Tomorrow’s five-hour jaunt to The Duchy is one of the most difficult they will have made for many a year.
And one doesn’t have to be too much of a conspiracy theorist to feel Moseley are being deliberately put at a disadvantage by being made to drag their part-time squad up and down the country for reasons that are not entirely commercial.
Plymouth demanded their presence a fortnight ago publicly hoping for a crowd in excess of 2,000 but in reality relishing the pressures it would place on a squad already limited to three training sessions a week. Friday night matches inevitably mean Moseley have to sacrifice one of those sessions. That fact more accurately explains why five of Moseley’s 11 Championship away matches this season will be played on a Friday.
And that makes Moseley’s reluctance to return the compliment all the more short-sighted. The match against Pirates on February 7 is their only home league match not scheduled for a Saturday. Plymouth, Ealing, Nottingham and Bedford have all been allowed to have their cake and eat it.
There is no question that places Kevin Maggs at a disadvantage because since they returned to level two Moseley’s results on a Friday have been much better than they have the following day. Yes they have less time to prepare but it is clear Maggs’s players respond positively to night games – wherever they are played. Ignoring the British & Irish Cup, where random team selection distorts results, since sealing promotion in 2006, Moseley have won ten of the 20 league matches they have played at night, home or away. That record applied over a single 22-game season would see them nestled happily in mid-table.
In league matches played at Billesley Common over the same period their record is even more impressive. Nine Championship fixtures have been staged and Moseley have won seven. If Moseley’s supporters find Billesley Common an unpleasant place to be in darkness, so too do opposition teams.
Moseley’s players will be aware of these facts and are almost unanimous in their preference to play home matches on a Friday. If they think they are more likely to win, then they probably are. There are, though, also commercial arguments and in Moseley’s case these are firmly against Friday rugby. Club officials will point to slightly smaller crowds and therefore lower bar takings as a reason to stick to the more traditional programming.
Those issues become far more relevant in the light of vociferous opposition from a section of Moseley’s season ticket holders, who for a variety of very valid reasons, work commitments, family obligations or travel problems, are against Friday matches. They have paid their money and have every right to make their points loud and clear.
But they also have some thinking to do because the statistics demand it. If they want to continue to watch Championship rugby they have a greater chance of doing that on a Friday night. If, though, the level of rugby is less important, that’s also fair. But they might have to become used to a very different club if Moseley are relegated and lose their central funding. One wonders if supporting locally-sourced players on any day of the week would be quite so attractive.