Sunday, May 17, 2009

This Sporting Strife

I’ve kept a dignified silence on all matters pertaining to the on and off-field travails of my local rugby union club, Gloucester. The last match I viewed was an insipid and inadequate defeat at home to the, ahem, Warriors of Worcester. Towards the end of this fixture, I witnessed a fellow leave the popular side early, strut and swagger in the direction of the exits but not before he had tossed his season ticket aggressively onto the field of play. I sympathised with his disquiet but couldn’t help consider the emptiness of such a gesture when only six or seven minutes of the season he had bought into remained. Would this gentleman have been so forthright with his brash act o’ rebellion in September or October? I feel not. Apparently, another chap, after the referee had blasted his whistle to indicate no-side, emptied a rubbish bin onto the playing area. Without condoning littering or, indeed, fly-tipping, I’d have liked to have witnessed this action; the fantastic image I have since conjured up of a ruddy-faced and angry man, manhandling a waste basket with wanton antagonism, maybe shouting incoherent one-liners in the direction of a bemused Marco Bortolami, is potent. 'You provide us with trash, I send you some back!' he calls. The symbolism is clear and heady.

I confess I share plenty of the ire demonstrated by Kingsholm’s equivalent of the International Brigade. My main cause of misery is the amount of riches paid this season to Oliver Berkley, a footballer who has looked as miserable as sin all year, sulked about being at our noble club and sought, as soon as possible, a retreat to the Bath club that remains his comfort zone. I’m insulted that the Gloucester shirt, worn in days of yore by committed, hard-as-nails players with such pride and joy (I’m imagining Richard Mogg as I type these words, incidentally) could also be pulled on by someone who was transparently not in the least interested in playing for the city. Good riddance to the man. I think he owes me some money though.

I admit I’m keen for a change of management although it is rumoured that the head coach, Dean Ryan, might be on too long a contract for the club to dismiss him without coughing up a king's ransom. I’ve lost confidence in Ryan. I don’t believe his tactics (kick, kick or, as a last resort, kick) have worked this term and I have been left dismayed by the lack of verve shown by a team containing many a flair player compared to the likes of Bath and London Irish (smaller clubs in comparison) who have provided their paying punters with attractive rugby football. Suggestions that Ryan is a poor man-manager concern me. If someone in his position is unable to inspire the troops or, even, communicate with respect or erudition with them, then I am bothered. One only has to examine the impact an inspirational coach can have on a sporting squad (see John Bracewell at the shire’s cricket team) to lament the absence of such a figurehead at Kingsholm. I hope Ryan’s reign ends soon. We need a fresh approach at the helm.

I shall report my views on the comings and goings of players another time.

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