THE Sean Lineen era is over, as is Glasgow’s tenure of Firhill. But captaincy continuity was confirmed in the Scotstoun sunshine yesterday as, to the surprise of nobody, Al Kellock was re-appointed to the post by Gregor Townsend.
“I almost forgot to announce it,” admitted the former Scotland stand-off, so obvious had the choice been. For the past six seasons, in good times and bad, Kellock has been a resolutely commanding figure at Glasgow, leading by example off the pitch as much as he does on it.
Since joining the club from Edinburgh, where Todd Blackadder was a huge influence, in 2006, the 31-year-old has gone on to lead Glasgow to the RaboDirect Pro 12 play-offs in 2010 and 2012, amassing a league record 70 appearances as captain. But just as importantly, he has acted as the cement during Glasgow’s more difficult seasons, acquiring a growing feel for how to deal with the players’ different natures and attitudes.
Now, under the new regime, he senses the final year of his current three-year contract could be his most fruitful. “This is definitely the best squad I have been involved with at Glasgow,” he pointed out. “We have to use the momentum from last season and learn lessons from the previous time we had a good season and then fell away. We need to get off to a good start.”
Given the quality of the signings Glasgow have made, including All Black Angus Macdonald and the returning Sean Lamont, the skipper is hopeful that the new trophy cabinet at Scotstoun will be accommodating more than the 1872 Cup by the end of the season.
“We have got a taste of what it takes to get to the play-offs, and we want to go further,” he said. “This season is shaping up to be a special time in our history with a move to a new stadium and a number of strong additions to the squad. There is a terrific buzz about the place.”
Admitting the extraordinaryprofessionalism of the New Zealander Blackadder, and his ability to give help and advice to all around him, had been a huge influence, Kellock said: “The stuff I do now, ten years on, is off the back of what I learned from him. At that age you are a sponge, and he took time to help me out.
“It’s a job you definitely get better at. We’ve had bad seasons here and being the link between the players and the coach is sometimes a difficult place to be.
“The old carrot and stick cliche is definitely true – you need to know how to speak to players and I’ve learned how to do that over the years. You get better at dealing with criticism the longer you do it.
“Not everybody is going to like what you’re doing and it took me a season or two to realise that. My belief now is that if I am setting standards on and off the park I can step back and not worry about the criticism.”
The coach and captain have worked closely in the past, of course, particularly when Kellock was Scotland skipper and Townsend was Andy Robinson’s assistant in the national set-up. That familiarity made what was already pretty much an inevitable decision a no-brainer.
“Al enjoys massive respect from everybody in the game,” Townsend pointed out. “He is seen as Mr Glasgow Warriors, bringing a fantastic mix of inspirational and technical qualities to the table. He’s a captain the whole squad look up to and from whom they take their lead.
“He knows the club and the competitions in which we play inside out and is more hungry than ever to drive the team forward to success. It’s a bonus that he’s from Glasgow himself and cares so much for the team. It all adds up to being an exceptional leader – the full package.
“Being captain is a tough job and you have to put a lot of time into it. Some people let it affect them negatively, but Al thrives on it. His best performances for Glasgow and Scotland have been when he has been captain.”
Glasgow start their season with a testimonial match at Sale a week on Saturday.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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