While the rest of us have to play out our sporting fantasies in a sphere that is more virtual than reality, they are the men who do it in real life. They are living our dreams and appear to have everything. Or do they? Rugby Correspondent Brian Dick wonders what the region’s leading coaches want for Christmas.
Mike Ruddock (Worcester): A year’s supply of cotton wool – Warriors aren’t having too disastrous a season, yet they are still some way off playing with the sort of flair with which they finished last season. That has led to rumbles of discontent in some quarters.
But it should be noted that the Worcester director of rugby has had to endure a horrendous run with injuries. Captain Pat Sanderson missed a couple of months with what started out as a dead leg and ended up on the surgeon’s table.
Last year’s star performer, Marcel Garvey, has not played all season because of a hip problem, Miles Benjamin’s out for three months with a broken leg, fly halves Matthew Jones and Loki Crichton are both injured and even Chris Latham and Chris Pennell have missed recent weeks.
New recruit Hal Luscombe played his first game for seven months last weekend and now there’s a cold virus sweeping through Sixways. Ruddock would be well advised to take care of the remaining few, hence the cotton wool.
Ian Smith (Moseley): A broken watch – Moseley have a serious time-keeping issue. Imperious for 79 minutes, they have lost three games in the last minute. Rory McKay, Jamie Albinson and Brian Tuohy have respectively given Bedford, Doncaster and Cornish Pirates wins over the Mose in the dying seconds.
That’s equated to seven league points which, had they been retained, would have given Smith’s men a total of 40 and a share of eighth place in the table.
As it is, they are 11th in National One and sit precariously in the last Championship spot.
Add those facts to a 72nd-minute winner by Nottingham and one with six minutes to go by London Welsh - both at Billesley, and it’s clear Smith needs a faulty timepiece to convince his men there’s 10 minutes to play.
Russell Earnshaw (Birmingham & Solihull): A life-size cardboard cut-out of himself – Earnshaw nearly pulled off the escape act of the decade last season when he came within a decent Rotherham performance at Sedgley Park of saving Bees from relegation. Titans’ non-appearance at Park Lane meant Bees’ victory at Bedford counted for nothing.
He’s got them moving again this season, too. In normal circumstances, they’d be
well placed for a return to the First Division but, with the goalposts moved mid-season and just one team to go up now, Bees are seven points behind Redruth.
Their main problem is that they under-perform massively whenever their head coach goes off with the England Sevens squad. Crucial defeats against Sedgley, Bedford at home, Launceston and Coventry were fateful last term.
Although they managed to beat Waterloo without Earnshaw this season, they were upset at home in their last league match against Tynedale when he was in South Africa. How he must wish he could be in two places at once.
Phil Maynard (Coventry): A win over Moseley – I think Maynard would be happy to wait 24 hours for his present if it brought sweet redemption over his deadly rivals in next week’s Boxing Day clash.
It would be wrong to read too much into the fact that Maynard has worked for Worcester, Stourbridge, Birmingham & Solihull and now Coventry, in short all of Moseley’s closest rivals, but it is safe to say their relationship is not too far from that enjoyed by fire and water. With that in mind. therefore, Maynard must have been not a little piqued to watch his side rolled over 34-12 in the third game of the season. It was just the second time he had lost to the Men in Red and Black and to do so in such a pitiful manner would have prickled.
But what would have irked even more was the Maynard-baiting enjoyed by so many of Moseley’s supporters and officials. Nothing sinister. you understand; just enough to make a point. How he would love to provide the most eloquent of ripostes next Friday.
Neil Mitchell (Stourbridge): A Doctor Who Tardis – How the Stour director of rugby must wish he could turn the clock back to a happier time. But to when would he go? Cinderford away in early-November? Cambridge away on the first day of the season? Probably not.
Given Mitchell’s fears that his team could get dragged into a relegation fight because of the aforementioned league restructuring - there could be four clubs for the drop now, instead of the customary three, let’s take him back to February when Sam Robinson and Mark Eastwood collided with each other and were both carried off.
Neither has played since and, crucially, Stour were forced to fulfil their promotion showdown at Manchester in March with a makeshift midfield. That midfield didn’t function, they lost and didn’t go up. One can only wonder whether Robinson and Eastwood’s presence might have changed the future.
Stour would probably still be at the wrong end of a league table, but at least it’d be National One.