Twelve months after blaming his club’s relegation on poor recruitment and a lack of off-field structure, tough-talking Birmingham & Solihull lock forward Alex Davidson has reacted to Bees’ promotion by praising his team-mates and the coach who brought them to Sharmans Cross Road.
Exactly a year ago today Davidson, frustrated that his Herculean efforts in the ultimately unsuccessful fight against the drop had not been reciprocated by those around him, branded some of his former colleagues as ‘dead wood’ and said he knew Bees were doomed as soon as he saw who had been signed.
But things have changed completely at Sharmans Cross Road since April 2008, with last Saturday’s victory over Redruth confirming Bees’ return to level two at the first opportunity.
And although the trademark honesty has not changed, the tone and nature of Davidson’s comments could not be more different.
“This year we signed two or three rotten eggs and managed to get rid of those in good time,” he said. “We have had a tight squad from then on and managed to put together a game plan and a structure of play that we have all bought into for a change.
“Going up is mainly about the people who have been brought in. The players are of high quality and have done a job all season but more than that we are really close again as a team.
“Last year we were a bit fractured in the changing room, this year it is very, very tight considering we have only been together ten months.
“But I knew straight away we had something special. You could see in pre-season the level the boys were at, the extras they were prepared to do and the fact they are more professional in their outlook.
“The skill base is so much higher too. Whereas last season four or five of us stood out in terms of effort, our effort has been taken as standard now so the boys’ skill has been able to come through.”
And the 28-year-old credits Russell Earnshaw as the man who has done most to make the difference.
Earnshaw had responsibility foisted upon him midway through last season following the loss of two coaches in six months and the decision of Hartpury College director of rugby Allan Lewis to stay with his all-conquering students team.
Results picked up when Earnshaw took over but not sufficiently to avoid slipping into National Two.
Since then while there have been stutters on the pitch, they have been irregular and indeed non-existent since December as Earnshaw has overseen a remarkable turnaround in results with 22 wins from 25 league games.
Victory over runners-up Cambridge in the last match of the season this Saturday could see Bees win the league by 12 clear points.
“Russell is a bit of a one-man band in the respect that he’s a bit of a control freak,” Davidson said.
“We needed that when he came in. Last year he was still playing with someone else’s squad and the difference since he’s had a full run at it has been clear.
“I think our prospects for next season are good. We will need a little bit more depth because there are seven subs as opposed to five.
“We used the Leeds cup game (which Bees lost in the last second) as a marker and we were not far off the races that day at all. If anything we won that race but for refereeing and ten minutes of injury time.
“Next year if we could add ten players, five of which are quality and five to bolster the size of the squad we will be there or thereabouts.
“I would definitely look for mid-table we need to be in the top eight unless the RFU move the goal-posts again. And that’s where we propose to be.”