Last night, at the RDS in Dublin, youngster Mark Bennett started his first pro game at the age of 18.
This move was met with clamours of support and assertion that yes, Sean Lineen did care about the future of Glasgow. Of course the question is what prompted this move which was, quite frankly, out of the blue?
The ball started rolling when it was announced that Richie Vernon was leaving Glasgow. Pundits and fans alike were up in arms questioning the future of Glasgow, the way established players were handled and the role of Lineen in plotting a future for a club that, only a year before plummeting to the foot of the table, was a play-off team.
Then something weird happened. The SRU publicly came out and claimed that Lineen ‘chose’ to let Vernon go. The dialogue was then closed. Lineen, however came out and said his hands were tied over many key decisions. The fans were left in the dark.
Many fans that I have spoken to since claim that the Glasgow faithful still back Lineen and, more importantly, are pitting themselves against McKie, almost claiming “we go on, despite them”. With the freezing of budgets and the loss of players the Glasgow management have been forced to consider their options.
What would any coach do? Austerity rarely breeds recklessness, so Lineen did the sensible thing: he listened to the fans. He quickly brought in three players, winger/fullback Tommy Seymour, prop Michael Cusack and centre-come-10 Troy Nathan. These three signings see a few guys as yet unproven, particularly in Seymour’s case, and with a point to prove. Judgement should be reserved. However, Nathan’s signing, be it by luck or a masterplan, looks set to be a great one, in my eyes. Reliable, proven and used to fighting in every game he is the kind of centre (where he will more often than not be utilised) that can meet Morrison’s defensive capabilities but also release try-scorers like DTHVDM.
With signings like Troy Nathan (I hope they make similarly experienced, but not long in the tooth, signings) it can be possible to bring in guys, like club stalwart Scott Wight, to help them take a step up. It can also help those with potential, which Warriors have (maybe too much of), like Harley, Weir, Wight, Horne and Bennett. If Bennett stays…
In my opinion the signings and moves made in the last few weeks have been calculated ones. If the letting go of certain players was a knee-jerk Lineen reaction or the SRU stepped in and delivered the killer blow we will never know. Patient rebuild, though, was appropriate. No doubt Glasgow are still silently sifting through the player market. A lot depends on whether others are released. With the news that Bennett was being courted by the Clermont Auverne academy coaches in France, however, Lineen was again pressed into action.
Bennett was well within his rights to go, but as he was already linked with Glasgow Lineen realised he had to do something. So he started him last night against Leinster.
Was this the right thing to do? Probably. At the end of the season when you know things aren’t going to change it is right to try things for the future. It would also have helped convince Bennett his future lies on these shores. Will it be the right thing if he does? If I’m honest, I can’t decide.
Moving to France would work wonders for this young man’s game, but staying would ready him for a future in the [Blank] League. Improvement and learning about hard work versus certainty and understanding. It comes down to personal preference.
If Bennett does go, though, I would not despair. I would more readily lament Scottish teams letting go internationals and guys who won’t improve much more, like an Evans or a MacLeod. Vernon and McKenzie will become better players with new challenges, and you couldn’t expect them to stay, anyway.
As the Under-20 squad was announced, though, I realised where my stance should be. Let young guys who are wanted abroad go. If they aren’t good enough to start for your team week in week out, let them realise their potential in a harsher environment. They’ll be better pros for it. Keep hold of the older guys (temper them with other experienced guys from elsewhere, like Nathan) and focus on developing, and crucially playing, young guys. In the 20s there are a few guys you can see making it- Hogg and Weir could- but look lower than that. Ayr’s other teenage centre Robbie Fergusson could be a real star if he is used now. There is no point in waiting. Go develop kids like him.
The days of Super 15 stars in Scotland may be over. Scottish youngsters are in demand abroad. Let’s give them more kids to fight over.