Edinburgh coach hopes more wins will boost Myreside crowds

Richard Cockerill has called for patience as Edinburgh work hard to tempt fans into Myreside. Picture: SNS
Richard Cockerill has called for patience as Edinburgh work hard to tempt fans into Myreside. Picture: SNS
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Head coach Richard Cockerill’s main focus, and the job he has been primarily tasked with, is raising Edinburgh’s game on the pitch after too many seasons of woeful underperformance.

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Since his arrival, however, the 46-year-old Englishman has been proactive in identifying the culture of the club as being in need of nurturing just as much as the playing squad if the kind of success everyone aspires to is to be achieved.

Cockerill spent the bulk of his career at Leicester as a player and coach, where the cult of the Welford Road fortress was deeply ingrained, and as he took his seat in the stand at Myreside for the first home game of the season he couldn’t be blamed for thinking “we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

The crowd of 3,324 for the 35-18 win over Dragons was poor but about what has come to be sadly expected for Edinburgh games for a while and certainly looked a lot better than it would have at the previous home of the national stadium.

Tonight’s match against Italian side Treviso, in which Edinburgh will look to make it three from three at the start of this season’s Guinness Pro14 campaign, is unlikely to attract much of an improvement but Cockerill has called for patience as he and his players work hard to tempt the punters into a new home which will only be hosting its eighth match since the initial trial period was started in January.

“It didn’t happen at Glasgow overnight did it? It’s probably taken six, seven years for them to get where they are today,” said Cockerill after naming his team for this evening’s match. “We’ve got to start on the process. I’d love the place to sell out and have a really hostile atmosphere for the guys to play in front of but that works both ways. We’ve got to prove we are worth coming to watch.

“I would love the place to be full and build the atmosphere but it’s going to take a bit of time. We need to keep performing, get decent results and put in a good show of commitment, good play, tries and winning, because people want to be associated with a winning team, then hopefully the crowds will start to get to 4,500, 5,000 and, within reason, start to sell-out.”

Cockerill accepted that his upbringing at Leicester made him acutely aware of what a passionate home support can bring to a team, but was equally keen to stress that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Any crowd that is partisan at home is important,” he said. “It inspires the team, discourages the opposition and influences the officials to a point.

“It’s a great stadium at Myreside, a great pitch, a lot of work has gone in. We’ve made huge strides to make it a better experience. Players are going into the public bar after the game and socialising with supporters, which I think is really important for me. We are starting to try to build something that is different and is a proper rugby club.

“That will take some time, there’s been one home game. We will look to make it better this week, both performance wise and access to the players and making sure we are part of a proper rugby club with the supporters. We need to build on that week on week.”

Cockerill has made six changes to last week’s starting XV, with five of them in the pack. Nathan Fowles replacing Sam Hidalgo-Clyne at scrum-half is the only change in the backline. Veteran hooker Ross Ford, pictured, replaces Stuart McInally, who has stitches in his ear from last weekend’s game, and will make his 178th appearance for the club in a front row that also comprises Michele Rizzo and Simon Berghan – who rotates in for Scottish international WP Nel. Anton Bresler replaces Grant Gilchrist in the second row, while the back-row sees John Hardie and Cornell du Preez come in for Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie.