Don’t get trapped in bowels of a big club

Don’t get trapped in bowels of a big club

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STEVE Diamond has warned his young charges at Newcastle to beware of offers from other Premiership clubs because they could find themselves making up the numbers in bloated squads.

Diamond, who was appointed consultant director of rugby by the Falcons in January after Alex Codling left the club, will lose three of his brightest prospects at the end of the season.

Prop Phil Brantingham is joining Saracens, the likely destination of outside-half Louie Johnson, and openside flanker Guy Pepper, who was called into the England squad during the Six Nations, is set for Bath.

Concern: Steve Diamond

“I will be looking to have a squad of 34 or 35 players next season backed up by 12 from the academy,” said Diamond, who was a long-serving director or rugby at Sale before a shorter stint at Worcester. “Some clubs have 60 or 70 players and still come up north trying to get players out of academies.

“They are warehousing players. It is disappointing that the three are leaving. They made their decisions pretty much before I arrived and there is no point going over why. I have to create an environment where lads like that do not want to go.

“One of the ways you do that is guaranteeing game time and what those three certainly will not get is game time at those clubs. The way you progress as a player is training with better players some of the time but playing at the highest level.

“The three have their reasons and I respect those, but they are going into big clubs with massive squads and they want to be careful that they are not just another name on the roster.

“I do not think money is at the root of this. Part of the rhetoric of me coming here after conversations with the owners is to set some ambition and encourage people to stay and maybe move on at the right time when they have 70 to 100 Premiership appearances under their belt.

‘Don’t get stuck in bowels of a big club’

“They are a loss having come through the academy but we have to move on. Clubs will tell players they are more likely to win things with them. Saracens have a track record of success but Bath do not. My advice to them was not to go, even if signing for one year here, because they will get more out of me playing them every week than becoming trapped in the bowels of the super clubs.”

Diamond is used to having to make do on a smaller budget than other top-flight clubs. For most of his years at Sale, the Sharks did not reach the salary cap maximum but they regularly qualified for the Champions Cup.

“I will put together a team of highly competitive players. Bournemouth do not pay anything like the two Manchester clubs or Liverpool in the Premier League but they compete, Brighton also.

“We have to be slicker in our recruitment and make sure our kids are contracted at source and not allowed to make a decision at 19 and 20 as they have been. We need to create a healthy club which may be seen as a selling one in football terms in three years but gets it right behind the scenes.”

The salary cap is going up by nearly 30 per cent next season to £6.4m, a figure Newcastle are unlikely to reach.

“Club rugby is still in a delicate position and the cap going up beggars belief,” said Diamond. “It is about running a sustainable model, which is difficult, and club rugby needs to get out of the jam it has found itself in. I am pretty confident that if I can get the recruitment right and selection of the current squad right we will be a difficult team to beat, up here certainly. We have to put in place certain barriers for release and that is done through contracting.

Flying the nest: Phil Brantingham, Louie Johnson and Guy Pepper

“That has not been in place and there has been a turnover of coaches. I know how to run it and on 34 players and 12 kids you have to be a good coach. Some clubs do not worry about playing kids but for us it is a necessity.”

Newcastle had four players in England’s Six Nations U20 squad this year, including full-back Ben Redshaw who has made seven appearances for the club this season.

“I am sure they will all consider re-signing when their contracts are up,” said Diamond. “You have to be fair to them because you get cheap years out of them when they are between 18 and 21 and then you have to pay the market rate, not do them over.

“I will be picking up academy rejects from clubs who have big squads and are not interested in them. It will be a bit like the Dirty Dozen, but you cannot do it all on young lads and we have some top senior players like Jamie Blamire, Callum Chick, Adam Radwan and Elliott Obatoyinbo.

“I want everyone to stand up so it makes it difficult for me to say they have not got a job. Twenty-three are out of contract and I wish some of the 28 who are in contract were out, but that is the way it is.

“I am the last person to whinge and moan in six months’ time saying that no one can do it like this. We will be competitive.”

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