It’s just as well Geordan Murphy doesn’t do social media – some of the negativity about Leicester Tigers would only worsen the already largely sleepless nights he has been having trying to turn around the fortunes of an ailing club burdened by trophy-winning expectation.
No-one expected that the July arrival of Steve Borthwick as head coach, an appointment that allowed Murphy to move upstairs and become director of rugby, would be the silver bullet that would instantly cure all ills. But the stark reality of the quicksand Leicester continue to drown in was laid bare again on Wednesday night, not only by the record defeat at Wasps but by events elsewhere.
If the original 35-point deduction given to Saracens last November had stood instead of it becoming the 105-point penalty which automatically relegated them in January, the Londoners’ losing bonus point at Sale would have sent Leicester bottom of the table and left them facing relegation with three games remaining.
Imagine what the online reaction would have been if that were the case. As it was, the despair was noticeable enough midweek. “FFS. I give up with you lot! #speechless,” read one tweet. Another asked: “How the hell is Geordan Murphy still DoR? Think he lost the changing room last season.”
There was more. “Am I glad I am not watching this garbage. No doubt coaches will say we are pleased with the effort! Humiliating.”
"That is not something to be proud of today"
– Cub skipper leaves it all out there ?https://t.co/ffU9vS6U8P
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 10, 2020
And a final flavour of the negativity: “Leicester are f**ked. Steve Borthwick and Geordan Murphy aren’t turning this mob around. The crazy decision to fire Richard Cockerill continues to look as baffling now as it did then. They’re going absolutely nowhere.”
Curiously it was that very same Cockers whose name cropped up when Murphy was asked by RugbyPass if he had a message for Leicester fans given some of the caustic nature of the social media commentary surrounding them following their fifth defeat in six post-lockdown outings in the restarted 2019/20 Premiership.
“Look, I have said it all the way through Covid, it very much feels like a start of a journey for us and we have got a coaching team together now we feel is going to take us in the right direction and we feel that we are certainly growing and learning.
“We have got a journey, we have got a long way to go. Wednesday night was definitely a step back. I don’t look at social media because obviously it’s a very interesting thing. A wise man, Richard Cockerill, once said to me an opinion without consequence is a terrible thing.
“Social media is what it is and in my experience where I have been in the last year, certainly we’ve been down bottom of the table and when fans were coming through the gates at Welford Road we have been hugely supported.
“When I go out and about in the community, what I would call true Leicester supporters have been hugely supportive and they appreciate where we are at, a learning experience with young players and giving them those opportunities to grow and develop.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not a case of you have a silver bullet that you shoot and all of a sudden you’re winning Premierships and winning European Cups. We have a long, exciting journey but we’re pretty well supported.
“When we have fans back at Welford Road you’ll see 20,000 people there screaming and shouting and supporting the team. That is why it is one of the best stadiums around and that is what we find.
“I haven’t seen social media but like everything in life it’s probably about ten or 15 people. I’m having a guess, I haven’t been on it. If it’s more it’s more but it’s generally about 15 or 20 people, the naysayers and the doom-mongers and good luck to them.”
Thing is, as much as Murphy makes it policy not to dwell on anything the keyboard warriors have to say, what can’t be ignored are the difficult statistics casting Leicester in a bad light.
Borthwick’s six matches in charge have seen 201 points conceded, 30 tries conceded, 145 tackles missed – hardly the improvements longed for after Murphy welcomed in the ex-England assistant this summer following his own draining experience in the head coach hot-seat which featured just 11 wins in 34 league matches after he stepped up in September 2018 following the abrupt sacking of Matt O’Connor.
It hasn’t helped that Leicester haven’t won away in the league since beating Newcastle in an April 2019 encounter at Kingston Park which decided that campaign’s relegation battle. With the safety net of Saracens’ off-field relegation not applicable when the new 2020/21 season kicks off, the clock is ticking on Tigers rediscovering some growl to ensure that this time next season they won’t be at the start line in the Championship after tumbling out of the top flight.
“I have really been enjoying the dynamic to be honest with you,” said Murphy, reflecting on the change in the Leicester management dynamic in recent months. “Having a head coach on board to really worry about the rugby and really focus on the nuts and bolts and the ABCs of what is happening on the field has been great.
“The dimension in the coaches box has been good. We have got the attack coach, the defence coach feeding in those messages and it leaves me to have a feel on the overall view of the game. We have been working together well as a coaching group. Although the results haven’t been exactly what we would have liked I can see progress in every department.”
Time will tell the fruits, if any, of that labour. In the meantime, shut-eye will continue to be a premium. “I don’t sleep a lot on the back of games anyway. We didn’t get back across until reasonably late (from Wasps) and then you’re watching some bits and pieces.
“Sleep is challenging for a coach, we finish late and start early. I didn’t sleep much after Wasps but I suppose that is where we find ourselves. We’re not in normal times in a six- or seven-day turnaround. We’re back at the coalface pretty quickly at the moment, as is everybody.”
Tigers scraping the barrel at this dire rate https://t.co/jjtAueFP9z
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 9, 2020
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