‘Nobody wants to go the entire season without a league win’


Newcastle Falcons are one more defeat away from landing unwanted membership in England's struggling club rugby club.

Only twice in the history of the Premier League has a team played an entire season in the league and lost every match. Another loss to Gloucester on Saturday in the battle for the bottom two and the Falcons will record a clean sweep.

Corinthians can claim all they like that sport is really about participation, but that does not apply to the professional game, where winning is the only acceptable currency.

While no side has a divine right to win all the time, every side needs to win some of the time or else what's the point?

Newcastle have lost all 17 of their Premier League matches so far, with one last chance to break their siege (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Newcastle is not a rich club. After what happened to Wasps, Worcester and London Irish, it is a relief for the professional game in England that they are still around to fly the flag in the North East, but even so it is a severe embarrassment for the club where Jonny Wilkinson made his name.

Unlike predecessors Rotherham in the 2003-04 season and London Wales, who joined 11 years later, Newcastle did not have to quickly put together a Premier League-worthy squad in the short time after winning promotion. The Falcons, as a founder member of the Premier League, knew well what their demands were. They just couldn't meet them.

Not even a grizzled firefighter's arrival at Steve Diamond after coach Alex Codling's mid-season sacking could turn things around.

So what's it like to put together L after L after L over the course of a nine-month season?

In the case of Rotherham, it was not a great experience for coaches Mike Schmid or Steve Neal, who paid the price for failure during the season.

I've never been so completely frustrated with the whole thing. I never found myself thinking: What did I do by coming here? Or “what a shit show”

But for the team, it wasn't as shocking as I expected according to Jay Easterby, who captained the side when they returned from the World Cup with Ireland.

This has helped the South Yorkshire club's fanbase remain in the side even as losses pile up.

“The core fans had watched the club play 10 degrees below and expressed their appreciation for the journey it had been on. “Instead of saying 'I can't believe we're losing every week', most of them were saying: 'I can't believe we're in the Premier League,'” recalls Easterby.

“The writing was on the wall with the early season results but we never felt like we were completely out of form. We were in games and I remember we were very close a few times. We lost badly to Leicester away from home, but it didn't feel like we had a huge deficit in terms of quality.

“Maybe it was because we weren't a million miles apart, and I never felt completely frustrated by the whole thing. I never found myself thinking: 'What have I done coming here?' or 'What a crap show.'

Guy Easterby
Rotherham have conceded 770 points in 22 league games but managed to drop a further three points (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

“We had some decent players and a few good Rotherham lads who sweated and bled for them for a long time and we kept going until the end. We obviously wanted to win the league, but the group never lost.”

Rotherham came as close to victory as they had at any time during the campaign in their final game of the season at Millmoor, losing 26-20 to Newcastle to earn a losing bonus point.

They finished the season with three of them.

London Wales managed just one point in a disastrous 2014-15 season, and that was after scoring four tries in a 50-point thrashing at Bath.

We were charging a fair number of points. They will always be in the record books as the worst team to ever play in the Premier League. You can't get away from that.

They invested in the likes of All Black Piri Weepu and England international Olly Barkley before the start of the season, but to no avail as the team amassed over 1,000 points in 22 matches.

Even some defense sessions with Sean Edwards didn't work out. Coach Justin Purnell was relieved of his duties five games after a dreadful end to the season, to be replaced by Roland Phillips.

“It's been a tough season,” Phillips told the club's podcast. “That group of players who got us into the Premier League had a strong bond that allowed them to achieve wins and promotion. Then there was a massive turnover of players when we got to the Premier League.

“Yes, these players coming in have quality but then it was difficult to link them into a really cohesive unit with a full-back against the wall mentality.

Perry Weibo
World Cup winner Perry Webo spent a season at the London Welsh club after his All Blacks career ended, but was unable to prevent them from relegation (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“It was difficult. We were shipping a fair number of points. It will always go down in the record books as the worst team to ever play in the Premier League. You can't get away from that.”

At least Newcastle – with five points to their name – won't be tarred with that brush whatever happens at Kingsholm this weekend, but 0 out of 18 will be a tough pill to swallow.

“Nobody wants to go the whole season without winning the league,” Diamond said.

“But if it happens, we won't cry about it. We'll take our medicine and make sure it doesn't happen again.”

Newcastle will be fighting on a budget half that of most of their rivals again next season. It will be up to Diamond to deal smartly with the resources he has available.

The Falcons are lucky there won't be a relegation on the back of this The apocalypse is approaching. Ealing does not meet the infrastructure requirements for promotion, so there will be no play-off with the Championship winners.

But what it means is that they will face the same daunting challenge again next season.

While owner Seymour Kurdi would like the Falcons to continue, after 14 years he has no desire to pump millions more of his own money into the venture, so Newcastle will be fighting with a budget half that of most of their rivals again next season. It will be up to Diamond to deal smartly with the resources he has available.

He arrived in January as Advisory Director of Rugby to find that he would lose three of the club's best young talents at the end of the season in fly-half Louie Johnson, prop Phil Brantingham to Saracens and England winger Jay Pepper to Bath.

But Diamond is a skilled player and has already made valuable signings in Leicester City's Kieran Wilkinson and Glasgow's Cameron Nield. Gloucester full-back Alex Hurley and Edinburgh's Luan De Bruyne are also on their way.

Steve Diamond
Diamond is confident the Falcons will be more competitive next season despite the uphill battle against more established rivals (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He plans to add more signings as well as some loans next season as well to bolster the slim squad.

Diamond said: “The squad we will have next season will make us more competitive in the Premier League, and this is no disrespect to any of the players who are leaving us.”

“We are restarting everything here – academy, medical, training and playing. Everyone learns about their job and what they are responsible for, and there are a lot of talented and committed people here who are determined to make this a success.

The hope for Newcastle – and for the Premier League – must be that they can do better next time.

Outcast clubs are not in anyone's interest.





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