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Alex Spink: Richard Cockerill on a hiding to nothing as he and Leicester prepare for date with destiny

15 May | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: Richard Cockerill on a hiding to nothing as he and Leicester prepare for date with destiny

Never-say-die Tigers on Premiership Play-Off knife-edge after rollercoaster campaign.

At Welford Road on Saturday afternoon, Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill will be on a hiding to nothing. Again.

His team will either beat Northampton to reach the Play-Off semi-finals – as they should given that they are 10-times English champions.

Or they will lose to the reigning Premiership top dogs – and he’ll be condemned as the director of rugby who presided over Leicester’s failure to make the post-season for the first time since 2004.

Welcome to the ‘no-win’ world of Cockerill, a man whose six seasons in charge of Tigers have brought great success but relatively little acclaim.

Cockerill’s Leicester have won three Premiership titles from five final appearances, an Anglo-Welsh Cup and a European Cup runners-up medal.

In all, the former England hooker has presided over 172 games, 118 of which Leicester have won. Yet take a peep at the roll of honour for the annual award of Premiership Director of Rugby of the season and his name appears just once, in 2009.

In the same period Mark McCall, boss of Saracens, has twice taken the prize, even though Sarries have only ever in their history been crowned national champions once.

There is a body of opinion that says because Leicester have won more Premiership titles than anyone and boast the biggest fan base in the lan,d success will naturally follow, and therefore they don’t deserve plaudits. Fall short however, and they are certainly told about it.

Even former Leicester players have had a dig this season during what has admittedly been a difficult campaign, particularly their biggest ever league defeat, a 45-0 thrashing at Bath.

The club’s try tally of 35, in 21 league games, is lower than every club in the Premiership bar London Welsh, who have not won a game and are cut miles adrift at the foot of the table.

Moreover, Leicester have seen a number of their leading players depart. Thomas Waldrom, easily the top try scorer in this season’s Premiership, left last summer. Geoff Parling, Jamie Gibson and Julian Salvi are off at the end of the month.

Despite all that, and having had to manage a crippling injury list for much of the season, they lie third in the table, having won more matches than Saracens, Exeter and their new noisy neighbours Wasps.

“Sometimes it would be nice to be written about in a positive sense, rather than ‘Leicester are failing, they’re not the side they used to be’,” Cockerill observed this week.

“We’re managing the landscape as well as we can within the financial constraints we have and we showed last week against Wasps that when we get it right we’re as good as anybody else.

“Nobody writes about how good Leicester are and haven’t they done well considering they wash their own faces,” he added, by which he meant ‘live within their means’. “That’s hard to manage but we’re still up there.”

Cockerill deserves a bit of understanding and, yes a little credit, but he knows he won’t get it from those outside of Welford Road. Such is the cross he bears in the position he occupies.

Instead he will devote all his energy to preparing Leicester as best he can – for their, and his, date with destiny.