Wyllie looking on bright side in Fife despite Kirkcaldy woes

Pressure mounts quickly in a ten-team league. Lose your first two matches and questions start to be asked. Lose three, and someone is sure to point out that’s a sixth of your season gone. Lose five, and the vultures start to hover.

That is the position at Kirkcaldy, where failure to win a game thus far has left the club looking very vulnerable. Head coach Douglas Wyllie, now assisted by long-time club player John Thomson, knows there has to be a change for the better soon - preferably this afternoon, when his team visit Currie.

Wyllie, who took over in charge when Alex Carruthers stood down due to business commitments, has the thankless task of guiding the club through their second season in Division 1. Last season, which the Fife club began as relegation favourites, was widely regarded as a success, even though in the end they finished just one place and two points above the relegation zone.

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"This was always going to be a year of consolidation," Wyllie accepts. "In your first season up you can surprise teams sometimes, but by the second season they know your style of play better. I always felt this year was going to be challenging, but if we can stabilise over the next two or three games we should have every chance of a decent finish."

Wyllie has had the loss of several key players to contend with, among them the veteran prop Willie Anderson and last year’s inspirational stand-off, Samoan international Quintan Sanft. He has introduced some players too, notably the openside flanker Sean Kane, but accepts that a dearth of experience in the squad has been one of the problems.

"Guys like Willie Anderson and Andy Henderson would have been a big asset. Their experience would have been very useful, there’s no doubt about that.

"Our lack of leadership on the park is a problem. Our game isn’t that bad. We haven’t been beaten by much. We’re looking at a 15-man game, because we can play that with the squad we have now.

"Kirkcaldy are still going to be in there battling. Spirits among the coaching and playing staff are quite high. Everybody’s buoyant."

Not quite everybody. Wyllie enjoys the confidence of the club officials who appointed them - "There’s still a very good nucleus there, and morale is still buoyant," insists rugby convenor John Methven - but some supporters are less sure, and a whispering campaign has begun. It could all be ended by a couple of wins, but if tomorrow becomes defeat No5, the whispering could become a grumble.

While convinced he has the team on the right track, Wyllie acknowledges that there are difficulties in Scottish rugby which just do not exist in the country where he did his formal training as a coach.

"I coached in New Zealand and there’s a big difference there. I found it far easier to coach there, from the point of view of the players’ attitude. New Zealand players probably find it easier to deal with honesty - if they play badly and get dropped, they accept it, and train hard to try and get back into the team.

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"Maybe it’s down to our small player base, and hopefully it’s getting better as we become used to professionalism.

"Kevin Greene [the New Zealander who used to coach Glasgow] once said to me that if you can coach in Scotland you can coach anywhere in the world."

It might also be said that if you can win at Malleny Park you can win anywhere in Scotland. Currie’s ground is not the ideal place to visit when you are desperate for a win, but Kirkcaldy won there home and away last season, so will at least travel hopefully. Currie themselves, however, appear to be finding form after suffering a couple of early defeats, and know they can beat anyone on their day.

At the opposite end of the table to Kirkcaldy, Melrose make the awkward journey to Aberdeen GSFP for a match which will be shown live on Scottish Television. Like Kirkcaldy last season, Grammar have proven to be a highly motivated and highly competitive outfit as newcomers to the top flight.

Melrose have not exactly been lackadaisical, as their record of five wins out of five suggests, but they have generally played below their best, and know they will have to improve if they are to leave the north-east with their unbeaten record intact.

Should Gary Parker’s side lose, they could be ousted from the top by second-placed Boroughmuir, who visit another improving side, Gala.

Hawick, who lie third, hope for a more convincing display at home to Stirling County than they managed in Fife last week, when they stuttered to a 15-7 win over Kirkcaldy.

Hawick officials have met to discuss a possible replacement as head coach for Ian Barnes, who resigned recently. They have a number of able assistant coaches, so there is no immediate rush to name a successor to Barnes.

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One option is to allow the present team, in which Greig Oliver is acting head coach, to carry on until the end of the season.

If Oliver turns out to be the preferred choice, the advantage of waiting six months or so is that he would then have time to work out how to balance his work commitments with his Hawick responsibilities.

Finally, Heriot’s, who were somewhat unfortunate to lose at the Greenyards last week, aim to get back on to the winning track when they play Glasgow Hawks at Goldenacre. For their part, Hawks need a win to help lift their own relegation worries.