Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Legg striding towards a new bright future for Blackheath
A year ago Simon Legg’s future looked clear.
Having recently joined an elite handful of men to make 200 appearances in a Blackheath First XV jersey, the front-row forward was contemplating one final season, followed by retirement; an end to the intensive training that accompanies playing semi-professional rugby, and an opportunity to concentrate on a highly successful career in the city.
So, when asked if he would be prepared to succeed Yusuf Ibrahim and become Blackheath’s Director of Rugby, the answer was easy.
‘I said no! I’d had ten great years with the Club and I was determined to go out on a high, still holding down a First XV place. But I felt that the time was right to step away and take a break from the game.’
So that was that then. But recognising in Simon a man with exceptional management and people skills as well as an intelligent rugby brain, the Club came calling again, and this time the response was different.
‘I’d had time to get used to the idea,’ said Simon. ‘I’ve got such affection for this club, and just being asked to be DoR was a huge honour and privilege. To my (pleasant) surprise my wife, Claire, was fully supportive and actually encouraged me, so I changed my mind and agreed.’
And how Simon has embraced his new role.
Picking up a side that lost its last six league games of the 2012/13 season, and facing stiff competition from some ambitious local rivals, he wasted no time in setting about recruiting players to strengthen the squad.
A typical day has seen Simon rising at 4.00 am to complete almost half a day’s work before most of us have contemplated surfacing from beneath the duvet. At 6.30 am he’s in the gym (to keep match fit in case he’s required to play) before arriving at his office desk at an investment bank. In the evening it’s back to rugby, comprising a mixture of training, contacting potential new players and negotiating contracts.
‘I had a two week period where I met a player every lunchtime. Towards the end of last term we had something like eleven of our first choice team out injured and it exposed our lack of depth. Now, in addition to retaining the core of the squad, we’ve added around 30 players and I’m confident every position on the field is covered.’
‘But it’s not just about recruiting from elsewhere,’ continued Simon, whose self-will and determination has seen him slim down from a propping weight of 132Kgs to a svelte 104Kgs in a little over three months. ‘My aim is to ensure that players are able to aspire and move through the ranks, not just from our Second XV, but from our Thirds, Fourths and Junior sides also.’
‘I’m very conscious of the need to nurture our youngsters as they make the transition to senior level. Regardless of whether they end up in the First XV or simply enjoy playing social rugby, we want them to do it with us.’
Indeed, with the standard of rugby at National League One level improving year on year, Simon will need every ounce of talent at disposal, but with such a disappointing end to last season, just how well does he think his Blackheath can fare this time around?
‘I’ve enough experience to know how competitive this league can be and there are clubs such as Doncaster, Rosslyn Park and Esher (all of whom Blackheath will play by the end of October) who have the resources to be very strong.’
‘But money doesn’t buy everything and I couldn’t hope for a more committed and high quality set of coaches. Bobby Howe and Andy Wolstenholme are a proven team with masses of experience with the forwards, and Gordon Ross and James Honeyben have brought a fresh approach to our back division which is very exciting.’
‘Obviously with a significant injection of new players coming in it will take time to mesh and perform to its full potential,’ he went on. ‘However, I believe a top five finish is a realistic target for this season, and that will only be the platform to move on from there.’
‘This club has so much potential. We’re the biggest rugby club in the south-east of London, Kent and beyond. As long as we get things right, both on and off the field, there is no reason for us not mounting a serious challenge for the Championship three years from now.’
Simon will face the toughest of starts. The opening round of the 2013/14 National League One campaign sees Blackheath travel to pre-season favourites Doncaster Knights at Castle Park this Saturday, followed by a trip to the south coast to face newly-promoted Worthing Raiders.
Blackheath’s first home league match is September 21st when Fylde are the visitors to Rectory Field in Charlton Road in a 3.00 pm kick-off.
Comments are closed on this article.