'I haven't started throwing tea cups yet'
February 12, 2014
Dean Ryan - the man charged with rebuilding Worcester © Getty Images
"Now if you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to let the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up."
George S. Patton Jnr's words have helped develop winning cultures in sports both near and far and while some teams are a way down that path, such as Stuart Lancaster's England, for others, they are taking their first tentative steps on that journey.
Worcester Warriors; no wins in the Aviva Premiership all season, a grim return for a team featuring experienced internationals and a coach who has won a regular season of top flight rugby with Gloucester. Silverware seems an eternity away at Sixways, but this is a club focusing on long-term gain rather than short-term reward.
"We're disappointed with the results but I knew the challenge when I came in; I knew over the next 12 months I could only address certain things like the support and backroom staff," Worcester boss Dean Ryan told ESPN. "The key challenge was being able to manage the group across the Premiership window as well as change, both culturally and personnel. But the latter would have to wait until this summer.
"Some of our results have been disappointing and we haven't added the value we thought we would. But what is important is adding those roots and foundations that we can use in the future. This club has made a lot of decision based on the short-term and that's not been successful and I think it's realised that it needs to take a different approach and invest in its infrastructure so it can operate at the level required.
"So there are two challenges - making sure the future is taken hold of and the short-term is to manage the best out of the group. We can't hide from being disappointed about some of the results though."
Getting the best out of the current group of players has perhaps proved harder than Ryan could have envisaged. Ten points off safety paints a picture of that relegation trapdoor becoming ever more magnetic for the Warriors, but Ryan knew the challenge of Worcester when he took charge of them in the summer following a four-year spell away from the game.
"Anyone would have been mad to have taken this job and think they can get immediate results without challenging the structure and not challenging the reasons why people are at Worcester. It's not an accident that after eight, nine or ten years it's still an unsuccessful club. I didn't want to come back to coach rugby without people understanding the needs and the type of change that was required. Just to come back and think you can roll a couple of results around with the same group is flawed.
"You start thinking 'this could be one of the biggest challenges I could face', and it is. But that was why I took it on, I didn't accept it because I fancied a season in the Premiership, I took it on because of the scale of the challenge. Carl Hogg did the same as did Nick Johnston. If it wasn't as enormous challenge as it is, then we wouldn't be here. So there is a slightly masochistic approach - we are here because this one of the biggest challenges we will face in our lives and that's why we are here to see if we can make it work."
Rugby is a results business, Ryan knows this well. But the challenge is to find little rays of light amid the gloom surrounding their league placement. Friday night's match against Leicester gave the team plenty of hope, they showed heart but that first win still evaded them despite an impressive performance from Chris Pennell.
The superb Chris Pennell © Getty Images
The anguish Pennell showed when he knocked the ball on in the final play showed how much the defeat hurt. Ryan has been moulding his team the whole campaign and while Pennell has been an ever-present, he has mixed and matched his selections.
There have been no panic, short-term Galactico signings at Worcester; these are not on Ryan's agenda - any deals done are with an eye on the next couple of seasons rather than purely the now. He feels panic signings are indicative of the previous regimes, regimes that have not produced silverware. Instead, it is about finding the right personnel who understand the club, and Ryan's methods.
"I think it's three of four years before we see a young group starting to grow. This first year is about managing the space we are in; the second year is about identifying a key senior group and aspiring youngsters. If we can get the right support network and people, then we will see the players start to flourish in years three and four. We need to strip it back and get a strong senior group with coaches around the edges. Years three and four will hopefully be rewarding where we see players who may not have been given chances in the past, flourish."
Relegation is not a word uttered in around Sixways. The team are fully aware of the challenge and even if that does occur, it is unlikely to destabilise the months of work Ryan has already put in.
In the past we have seen Northampton and Harlequins suffer the ignominy of relegation only to bounce back stronger for it. In a strange way, it could be the best thing that happens to Worcester. But until it is a mathematical certainty, Ryan's Worcester will continue to focus on on-field results, starting with Northampton on Saturday, while developing the off-field non-tangible aspects.
"We're not blind to the challenge that faces us. We're trying to look at it in a sense of getting better week in, week out. I haven't started throwing tea cups yet. This group isn't the group that needs those thrown, it needs support, education and direction. I've been prone to the odd tea cup in the past but that's in a different type of group.
"This group needs support and that's my role to ensure that we get that right and get the best out of ourselves and see what the next stage of the change looks like."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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