Make or Break at Firhill

Some press releases can be taken out of a clichéd handbook. “This preseason is the best we’ve ever had/we’re the fittest we’ve ever been/the new signings have created a real buzz around the place!”

Starting his 5th season as Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Sean Lineen has heard and said these several times. Now, though, he must know that he has this season, and this season alone, to try and turn things around after last term’s near disastrous plummet to the foot of the Magners League.

Let us not fool ourselves, either. Just because Gordon McKie is no longer Chief Executive does not mean that the regime that hauled Rob Moffat out of Edinburgh would not be one to tell Lineen to move on half-way through a campaign.

A lot of people would perhaps want this.

Lineen, however, is the man in possession and he will be under no illusions that if he cannot secure some wins while the likes of Leinster, Munster, Cardiff and the Ospreys are weakened then he could be having regular meetings at Murrayfield.

It must also be said that Lineen cannot be blamed for trying to create the impression that there is a fresh start at the Warriors. New digs in Scotstoun; 4 faces most of Scotland have never heard of before in Cusack, Nathan, Seymour and Pitman; garish new kit; a new captain (for the friendlies at least) in a newly-fit Rob Dewey.

You cannot play down the importance of players like Dewey.

Experience goes a long way in professional rugby, particularly at a time when players will be off at a World Cup. 5 years ago, before having some personal issues and several injuries, Dewey was one of Scotland’s most devastating players, terrifying defences in the Magners League and leaving a physical impression on international sides. He has restarted at Glasgow after struggling at Ulster and finally looks set to play regular rugby again.

On top of this the Warriors, like Edinburgh, have profiteered from the advent of a full-time 7s squad. Players like Eddie, Gregor and Horne are Warrior assets when Graham Shiel doesn’t need them and Glasgow have managed to augment their squad without breaking the bank. They have retained experience for a bargain price.

Against the Falcons tonight, then, Glasgow will start with a team that only has 1 player that started almost all games last season (Harley, from the bench). There is an assuring familiarity about the squad, despite this. Somehow there is the air of freshness using the same components of last year’s squad.

Lineen and Shade Munro could be lucky. Old heads could do their thinking on the pitch for them, young legs could do the running and team unity like we saw in 09/10 could spring from an unlikely source.

They will need such unity, because even when they get Ryan Grant and Rob Harley they could struggle against Rabo League packs. They could yearn for turnovers. If they are actually as fit as Lineen claims then the rest of pre-season should be dedicated to defence with Gary Mercer. In 09/10 they were in the playoffs by way of harrying and harassing other teams out of the way. They need to start like that this term.

When the season starts players like Wight, Reid and, fleetingly, Nick Campbell, will find it tough but they will regularly be asked just to cope with the basics. Instead, any direction, leadership and spark will be asked of Weir, Dewey, Eddie and, if he is up to it, Troy Nathan. Harley and Welsh will be asked to do what they do and Ryan Wilson and Colin Gregor will be asked for cameos.

The rest of the pressure must come down on Lineen. In the past he has been guilty of blaming individuals when things go wrong but praising individuals when things go right. Let us treat him and Munro in the same way. They have 4 home games in the first 7 matches.

 “The boys are itching to get out on the pitch and show the pride they have in the Glasgow jersey, and the coaches are the same: we can’t wait to get started” Lineen said when the fixtures were announced.

 By the time the 1872 Cup comes around we will know if fans want Lineen as a permanent fixture, or if it is time to really start again; afresh.

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.