(I just had to rip 'Fleece off it was that good :)).
Tentatively titled 'Enjoy the Silence II', this was to be a follow up the piece that talked of the mystifying silence of the media regarding our plight.
On this occasion however, I'm much more interested in the absence of noise from a much more important source. The players.
I was reading several pieces that dealt with the aftermath of England's rugby world cup defeat in the final of that competition to South Africa. The result of that game, coming as it did as a wholly unexpected achievement thought beyond England, has also attracted very little negative comment from the English sports media at large. Whatever press has been produced has been positive, concentrating on just how far beyond England a final berth looked not four weeks ago. Victories over the Australians and the French, both of whom have made no secret of their lack of affection for 'Perfide Albion', were as sweet as they were unlooked for. No Englishman could be moved to utter a word of condemnation therefore as they trudged off the field in Paris having lost their world crown to an indisputably better South Africa.
Those Englishmen, who as part of the squad who had travelled to France for the competition, were unhappy with the coach, Brian Ashton and his man-management methods. Brian wasn't a dour Spartan, far from it, the accusations that have been levelled by his own players dealt with how nice he was and how laid-back he seemed. This, they claimed, was to the detriment of the team, and was in fact only put right after a huge bust-up after a bad loss to South Africa earlier in the tournament. There have been claims that it was the players themselves that put things right in spite of Ashton.
The truth, as ever, is hard to uncover in such sordid little tiffs, but as both of the players who have made public accusations have autobiographies not far from publication, my suspicion is that markerting hyperbole has gilded the lily somewhat.
My own opinion of their actions is not entirely positive. I have followed the mantra of "What happens on tour stays on tour" for quite sometime now and find that it if moved to say anything, a player should wait a suitable length of time before saying it. I have a natural dislike of the tell-tale, especially one whose tales involve others who have shed blood, sweat and tears with them.
Not to mention of course that they actually got to the final of the comeptition and could actualy be said to have been a marginal out of bounds call from being right back in the game. Hardly negative you would have thought, but still, each to their own and I hope their swelling bank balance can ease their conscience a little.
It made me think of our beloved, if slightly battered Rams. Here we have a team who have suffered the indignity of the worst start to a season in franchise history, and yet they have still to utter a public word that even scents of criticism of their coaching staff. The best we can do is an 'eye-roll' and the idiotic Claude Terrell as proof of dissension in the camp. This, if nothing else, indicates that there may be something of a decent relationship there. Something that given time, could be a real strength to the franchise.
A strength forged in the fires of adversity?
Perhaps that would be mere fancy, but I am encouraged by the seeming moral strength of our players in the face of what must be a terrible source of frustration to all. McMichael, Bennett, Holt, Hill amongst others have publicly supported their organisation and this, in contrast to some of reaction you sometimes see in the NFL, is really good to see. They don't have to say anything at the risk of ridicule, but instead they have felt moved as experienced players to express their bewilderment at their situation. They haven't bemoaned their lot, they haven't rubbished the coach, they haven't sought to avoid responsibility, they have merely promised better things to come, given the fans a pick-me-up and assured us all of their efforts.
You can't ask for more than that, and if their efforts should not meet with success then that doesn't mean I will value their efforts less because of it. Cowardice isn't the failure to overcome a challenge, its the failure to meet it head-on, and I haven't seen that yet from this group.
If all I can draw from our sorry situation is that the players will step up every weekend then that's enough for me. That's value for money right there and that's all I can reasonably expect.
As for those two Englishmen who chose a different course, I trust that their efforts will be seen for what they are.
And its not pretty.