By Rob Rush
Steve Diamond’s first meeting with the media since being announced as consultant Director of Rugby was one of brutal honesty, movie quotes and optimism as he sets about “changing the fortunes” at Newcastle Falcons whilst also expressing an interest in staying at the club long term.
“(Quoting Monty Python) ‘I’m a very naughty boy!’ I think the messiah is a bit rich, but I’m certainly looking forward to changing fortunes up here. It’s hard work, but I come from a Premiership where there was relegation and there isn’t relegation this year, so there’s no pressure is there? I’ve got a talented bunch of young kids, who once managed correctly and given a plan will go from strength to strength”, beaming from ear to ear at being back involved.
“Unlike the many caps I wore at Sale and Worcester, the club have the commercial side boxed off – my job is just the rugby. I’ll be managing the salaries with Matt Thompson and Semore Kurdi, but ultimately I’m confident I can get a highly competitive squad here without spending too much money”.
“I’ve got the best pre-season in the world haven’t I? I’ve got from 1st February till September to get things sorted. I’ve come in to straighten things out originally, with a view to being here for some longevity, two, three years maybe – if they can put up with me that long!”
The openness in Diamond’s responses is a welcome approach, understanding where the club sits in the present day and the plans for the future to bring Newcastle back up the table. The long term viability of Newcastle was the first thing discussed with the ownership when talks first started a few weeks ago, coupled with wanting to bring through more local players to the first team and building a strong connection with the community.
“There’s been three examples (in the Premiership), an example in Australia and an example in the Championship of clubs who have gone into the oblivion and Newcastle’s not going to be one of those, for multiple reasons. The owner’s are very proud of what he’s created up here, and the league would be b*******ed if the league had nine teams.
“What not everybody realises is that Newcastle and the surrounding areas churns out players of high quality, my job is convincing those younger players to stay. Maybe for a shorter period of time originally, but proving that they’ll be looked after and they’ll get game time.
“The message from Monday will be if you want to play first team rugby in the Premiership, in the most competitive league in the world, stay and play for Newcastle. Those who buy in will stay around, those who don’t, won’t. That can only be articulated in a candid and honest way”.
Diamond doubled down on this, expressing his desire to create a team full of passionate northern lads to represent the Falcons and being overjoyed that exciting talents like Adam Radwan and Louie Johnson will be sticking around in the North East.
“Radwan’s a very good player, we need to involve him more. You cut him in half, he’s got Newcastle running through him, so I’m delighted he’ll be around. Louie Johnson’s had some opportunities this year and done well, he’s got a long way to go. The mantra for me will be to run with young northern lads as far as I can, and if keeps playing well, he’ll develop into a really good player”.
He spoke about the Falcons’ home record and wanting to make Kingston Park something of a fortress again and laid bare where the side need to improve.
“I think Newcastle, like Sale where I spent a lot of time, had reputations of being impregnable at home. That’s the first thing we’ve got to do, we have to make it difficult for sides to win up here.
“We’re s**t at line-out, we’re terrible at scrum, we’re 10th out of 10 in defence and 10th out of 10 in attack. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out where we’re starting; set piece and defence. However, they’re by small percentage points, some games they’ve lost within a whisker, they’ve been competitive.
“There will be some restructuring, everybody is going to have a target. Coaches and players will be put under pressure by me to perform.
“We’ve got six games left of the season, I’ve not written this season off. Anybody that knows what I’m about knows that I’m not about next week, I’m about next year; so we’ve got to get the planning right, put it in place and get buying”.
He exuded confidence in his opening presser, already working hard to execute his plan for the rest of the season and start turning the tide.
“People are p***ed off at where they are in the league, they want to get out of it, and that’s good. Attitude is the finest thing you need when you’re coming into places that traditionally have not been doing well. I’ll put the belief in them, the knowledge and the skill, we’ll be motivated. I don’t know how I can get it wrong really!”
Diamond also emphasised the need for consistency following lots of turnover at the club in the last 12 months and touched on the current talks between the RFU and the Championship, saying that he believes a resolution is “close”, emphasising “sustainability” for the future and believing that PRL and the RFU are working as well as they have done since PRL invested in the game.
He also lambasted the administration process at his former club Worcester Warriors and claimed that the club should already be back up and running in the Championship, calling it a “major loss to the community” and “a very sad case”.