Dean Ryan’s refusal to ‘give cheap headlines’ means there will be no official, nor even leaked, opinion coming from Sixways about who is to blame for this season’s relegation. Hardly surprising, the spin is all very much about the future and so it must be.
But that still leaves everyone with an interest in the club wondering where it all went wrong, why Warriors have won only one league match all season. As ever there is no simple answer. Just who do you blame?
The directors who appointed Richard Hill, the head coach who recruited the squad or the players who either failed, or took too long, to grasp what they were being asked to by the new director of rugby? Ryan will no doubt wonder what he could have done to have prompted the late-season rally slightly earlier.
If Worcester are not willing to comment on such matters in public, it is important that they address those shortcomings behind closed doors because it is unwise to ignore the lessons of the past.
To be fair to Ryan he clearly has a very good idea of what happened and the inference from what he does say suggests the club’s struggles come down to money – or more accurately a lack of investment.
Part-time specialist coaches, a shadow of an academy, an insufficient support set-up, ageing and unproductive players and severe tactical short-comings all led to a withering on the Premiership vine.
Thankfully many of those areas have been addressed and at Allianz Park on Saturday, after his team was summarily dismissed by a Saracens side in second gear, Ryan was keen to praise the men in charge at Sixways for having already started the rebuild.
“This club has not gone about its business in the right way for a long, long time. Everybody can see that, you don’t need me to give you a cheap headline,” Ryan said.
“What’s important is this club is changing, that’s the most important thing. It’s been like that for six or seven months. Before I came here the club wanted to change, it knew it wasn’t going in the right direction.
“This is about looking forward and being really positive about what the club is doing. Not many clubs have got the balls to do what this club has done and actually take a drastic change.
“Most of them would swivel around for another year, another year, another year. Full credit to the board to have the courage to take on the change and implement the changes. They want a successful rugby club.
“They are not here to just have a year’s lunch with such and such superstar. They want to create a successful club and that’s what we are going about doing.” And that costs.
That process is already under way. Nick Johnston has been brought to oversee the whole support structure – as well, no doubt, as to dish out a few pre-season beastings. There will be a major announcement about the improved academy later today and the demographic of Ryan’s recruitment is clearly very different.
Young, ambitious Englishmen like Sam Smith, Matt Cox and Ryan Mills are voting to come to Sixways because they see what Ryan is doing and believe he has overseen a long overdue change in culture. Several journeymen will take their leave this summer and Worcester’s first-team squad will become a less cosy environment.
Yes relegation has come, as expected – and this weekend’s home match against Gloucester will be the final local derby for at least a season. But the feel of this demotion is vastly different to 2010 when Mike Ruddock ‘led’ his ‘team’ into the Championship. That year defeat at Leeds, where they barely registered a pulse and hoped Willie Walker would kick them to a stay of execution, condemned them to the drop and the end of Ruddock’s tenure.
A few days later the Welshman resigned amid an atmosphere of recrimination and anger, two players actually ended up wading into the club’s supporters at Headingley, at the atrophy which had beset the first team set-up.
That relegation was very much the end of a chapter, this one comes near the start of a new one, a gross inconvenience and something of an indignity to some proud sportsmen, but while it undeniably represents a step backwards what is at stake here is the future shape of the club and the league standing is almost secondary to that.
“We can’t have 15-16 changes all the time,” Ryan said of the regular summer exodus and influx.
A core has now been identified, both in terms of personnel and personality and Ryan is now aware of the type of people – not only players, who can break the yo-yo pattern. He will also surround them with the best support.
Worcester will be further away from the Premiership’s top six next season but in many ways they will actually be closer to it because of the changes Ryan and the board have made.
After all these years it seems the power-brokers have decided to play rugby rather than play at it.