Petrie’s tough test to reinvigorate Edinburgh

Edinburgh managing director Jon Petrie will oversee the club's mid-season move to Myreside. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Edinburgh managing director Jon Petrie will oversee the club's mid-season move to Myreside. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

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BBC Three hosts a series entitled World’s Toughest Jobs and it is only a matter of time before the online broadcaster features the post of Edinburgh Rugby’s managing director.

Admittedly Jon Petrie makes precious few decisions, at least in isolation, but he has an underperforming club to defend in the face of some bewildered journalists who want to know how Alan Solomons managed to to keep his position as head coach despite the capital side finishing ninth last season.

“I think everyone was pretty disappointed with where we ended up last year in comparison to where we should have been and everyone recognises that there is work still to be done,” says Petrie.

“But we have recruited well. We have a pretty good squad in place for the season and everyone in the club is fully aware that we need to kick on.”

Or Solomons will be kicked out... he could have but didn’t bother adding.

In addition to the regular challenge of dragging Edinburgh into the top half of the Guinness Pro12 Petrie also has the tricky prospect of a mid-season move to Myreside to negotiate with some neighbours who are less than thrilled with the anticipated disruption to their Friday evening serenity. There are already several forums on social media attacking the move.

Edinburgh Rugby are planning a park and ride based at Napier University’s Craiglockhart campus, which might help ease some of the expected congestion.

Moreover, they have applied for planning permission to erect two temporary stands at the George Watson’s ground and while there was some doubters amongst the assembled press Petrie insisted that everything was lined up for the match against Munster on 7 January 2017 which is scheduled as Myreside’s first Edinburgh fixture.

“It don’t think it can be underestimated,” replied Petrie when asked about what the move would mean for his club although it’s possible he meant to say “overestimated”.

“I think it’s not the be all and end all. You have to combine that with the performance on the field. Get a move to Myreside and be at the bottom end of the league... would that develop our crowd base and improve the feeling about the club in the city? Not necessarily.

“So I don’t see it [the move] as the panacea, as the be all and end all, but it does give us the context to grow. It’s no secret that BT Murrayfield was not the perfect place to play.

“Myreside may not be perfect either but we’ll make it a bloody good experience for people to come along to watch Edinburgh play and combine that with an improved performance on the field.”

Edinburgh’s dismal performance in the second half of last season was not helped by losing players to English clubs in the Aviva with deep pockets. Greig Tonks joined London Irish but far more damaging was the loss of David Denton to Bath Rugby in November of last year.

Already this season the chat in the Aviva steamie is that Scotland’s Kiwi flanker John Hardie is being courted by Wasps.

It is the start of what promises to be a testing time for the man wielding Edinburgh’s cheque book. WP Nel and Grant Gilchirst are just two big hitters out of contract at the end of this season and Edinburgh, by Petrie’s own admission, obviously can’t compete with the French/English giants.

“There is clearly a market for players that are doing well,” he says. “If you look at the David Denton situation we had a number of chats with him and he wanted to do it [move south]. I don’t see that necessarily setting a precedent.

“I am not saying over the course of the season we are looking to sell players on. We have a job to do and need all our top players.

“There is no secret we don’t have the financial firepower to operate at the top end of the market. You have to be smart about your recruitment. You need to think more clearly about the profile of the player that you bring in. It’s a tough market to operate in, in terms of keeping players you have and bringing in new ones.”

Petrie insisted that Edinburgh would fight hard to hold onto WP Nel whom he dubbed “one of the best tightheads in world rugby” while admitting that the club have one final signing for this season’s roster, which will emerge next week. But what about Hardie’s mooted move to Wasps?

“John is in contract to Edinburgh and, like the rest of the players he is looking forward to the season.”

Didn’t they say something similar about Denton just before he left?

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