Another glorious weekend in prospect. The sun has promised to shine, the sky will be blue as the Ocean City moves ever closer to a new normal. Indeed, the excitement continues to build at Brickfield in preparation for that Big Day in July, when competitive rugby returns to Brickfield on Saturday the 12th!
Yes, it is just 4 weeks until the Army Legends XV run out to face the Welsh Charity Vets in a celebratory charity game to welcome back competitive sport to the field together with fans, friends and supporters to terraces, bars and lounges at Plymouth Albion.
I hear some big names are being talked about in the Welsh line up and I know our military men are training hard for this one. On the social front, I am pleased to report that Albion’s Corporate Hospitality is already sold out and advanced ticket sales are already passing 1000 spectators sold weeks in advance of the game. All in all, July 10th promises to be a special and emotional day as the City moves through to an end of the Covid crisis.
It is also pleasing to see the excitement extending to the National League Rugby front where our own Albion squad are eying the start of the season in which we are aiming to win promotion. Traditionally the Devon way tends to be one of prudence and caution, “let’s not aim too high or get too big for our boots”, I respect that attitude, but I am an extroverted northerner, brought up in a Merseyside/Manchester culture where sports teams are expected to win and bring home the bacon regularly. Be you a Red or a Blue supporter the mantra is ‘Aim at the stars! If you fall short, you can still end up at the top of the tree!’
The top of the tree for Albion this coming term is to earn promotion to the Green King IPA Rugby Championship. Coach Damien Welch has kept the lads together, fit and training throughout the lockdown. With the start of Albion’s season getting closer, Damien’s Plymouth squad is shaping up very well indeed. More on Albion’s player power in due course, other than to say links with Exeter Chiefs are at an all-time high with the expectation of some outstanding young guns from Sandy Park adding their support to Albion’s cause. New signings are in train on both the Albion’s player and coaching front. Watch this space for more announcements from Albion’s DoR Damien Welsh!
That ‘Big Day in July Game’ promises to be a great day for rugby, the city and our community in general. It will additionally serve as a bridge to Albion’s first home games of the new season commencing on September 4th with the mighty Rosslyn Park. Just 14 days later Rams are at the Brickfields with our lads away to Sale FC the following week. My point being that Albion are facing some of the league’s top contenders for honours early on in our 2021-22 programme.
During my time with the Chiefs, I saw the crowds grow from a couple of thousand to a 13,500+ sold out Sandy Park. Exeter remains a tough place for visitors to come, especially when the Tomahawk Chop rings out loud to lift the roof, raise the tempo and heap pressure on the opposition. The Chiefs ‘Tribe’ of supporters, banging their drums, sporting feathered headdresses and chanting in support of their team is known and respected throughout the land. My comment would be that we here in Plymouth can do equally as well.
As an ex-player, I can testify first-hand that raised voices of support from fans are the ‘16th Man’ that often proves the edge in winning games. Sandy Park has grown to be a ‘Fortress’ for Chiefs. Let’s come together with ‘Plymouth as One’ to build our home ground into ‘Fortress Brickfields’!
As a youngster, I took my first tentative steps onto Patton rugby field as a bright-eyed bushy-tailed youngster in the Caldy RFC Mini and Junior section. Progressed to senior rugby at New Brighton I graduated to the professional game at Orrell. My 14-year career as a professional player took me to
Biarritz (France), Tasman Makos (New Zealand), Edinburgh Gunners (Scotland) and two very happy spells at Exeter Chiefs.
As a player, I flavoured representative rugby with Cheshire County, England U21s, England Counties and the Barbarians. I was fortunate to progress to become Corporate Sales Executive at Chiefs where I learned much under the tutorage of Tony Rowe and John Wood. Rugby has been a part of my life for over 30 years. The game has been good to me and I remain very much in love with what it on so many fronts. My rugby initiative now is to be a driving force in the Albion Executive team as we work together building and developing the fortunes of the ocean City’s No 1 RFC and the wider community.
When others see the boat, just maybe you have already missed it. Join us on July 10th when competitive rugby returns to the Brickfields. The message is Plymouth as ONE!