Andy Robinson’s record now stands out like tap shoes in an abbey.
He has led his team to failure in all of this year’s 6 Nations games and understandably is considering his position. The problem is, however, that Scotland’s Head Coach has a position unlike most other coaches in international rugby.
After Saturday’s limp performance in Rome I spoke to a professional rugby player. He said that from what he had heard “The SRU is now like the United States of Andy Robinson”.
Now this may have been said in haste, right after the cheek-searing shame of Scotland losing their way to a wooden spoon. It is almost certainly an overstatement, as well. The sentiment, though, is one I have heard before.
With Andy Robinson in charge Scotland have had their worst ever World Cup and seven straight defeats. There has been a slide down the Rankings and Italy have bested them abroad. By all accounts the national squad has felt the strain, with public lauding of Robinson’s vision but rumours surfacing that the squad have lost hope. They were said to have been pushed hard by the Scotland Under 20s team in a training session before the big game on Saturday, after which Robinson allegedly praised the youngsters and looked disgusted with his own team.
If there is a real breakdown, though, and there is a frisson of malcontent, would Robinson take this into account? The reason this is important is that Robinson would have to walk to leave his job, because Mark Dodson has backed him till 2015.
Robinson has a fire guard of a contract and has surrounded himself with people that can solidify his position. Pro coaches have been shifted around without positions even being advertised, and he certainly had a hand in that. When he first arrived everyone intoned that Scotland had poached themselves a real star coach. Yet, with the team posting poor results and the man holding such high esteem at EH12, no one else can get the blame.
If no one is going to say that Scotland must accept that our players make up a second tier team in International terms – something even the most depressed of thistle wearers are wary of stating – then Robinson must shoulder the cross.
But there could be ways of escaping it. The coaches under him are leaving and there is a spate of new players. The baying crowd are told of progress in attempts to quell their blood lust. Political moves like shifting Sean Lineen can momentarily turn the crowd’s heads. Robinson could take a step upstairs in the coming weeks, to a Director of Rugby position (putting a title to a role he already holds).
If his pride swells and he gets a-swallowing, though, he could walk. There is only so much embarrassment a competitive man can take.
What if he walks, then? What fresh hell awaits the Scottish fans? Well with young promising individuals like Gray, Denton, Scott, Hogg, Weir, Welsh, Jones and Visser, Scotland could very well compete in the future, but before such a time there would be political issues.
In a move to further insulate Robinson’s position there have been the signings of new Australian coaches. One of them has a track record of walking away from jobs he does not like. If Robinson jumps, what will happen with Scott Johnson and Matt Taylor?
There is a tour of the Southern Hemisphere coming up pretty soon and most of that same squad will be there. If there is tension or there is an mood descending would a few new coaches change that? This certainly has to be talked out. There cannot be a situation where Robinson retreats into his shell and choreographed press releases swirl around news rooms. This has to be hammered out.
I have said it time and time again, but those in charge of Scotland need to make it clear to the nation what the long term plan is. Don’t keep people in the dark. It is disrespectful to a country that got caught up at the start of the campaign, filling stadiums, but who were ultimately let down.
For example, if, like England, this had been labelled a transition year things would be a tiny bit better now. Yet England obliterated expectations, while Scotland reneged on them. England talked of working towards the future publicly, while David Denton was allowed to say openly that Scotland could have won four games. This was one example of reckless PR and Andy Robinson is left to look silly.
If Robinson walks there will be turmoil. Scott Johnson could walk, too. Other people could have to answer questions about the long term vision for Scotland, not to mention cough up a lot of money in pay-offs. Conversely, if he stays, he or the SRU could lose credibility. It is a tough little conundrum.
Scotland, there is a problem clacking towards you. What’s it gonna be?