Ulster Rugby vision moves closer to fulfilled dream
When Shane Logan was appointed Chief Executive Officer, he astounded the media in his first press conference by announcing his vision of Ulster becoming the best club in world rugby.
Yesterday, as he treated some of those same journalists to a personally conducted tour of the revamped Ravenhill ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown with Saracens (6.30pm), the vision which had sounded so far-fetched four years ago began to look a little closer to realisation.
Reminded of what he had said upon taking up the reins and the reaction to his words at the time – one of total amazement – he replied: "To be the world's best, I don't know, we could be 10 years away, 20 years away, 30 years away. That to me isn't what's terribly important."
Explaining what is, however, he said: "Everything we try to do we try to do it to absolutely best standard."
"I was staggered that people were staggered, because to me the rugby that I was brought up in in Ulster was at world's best or was aiming in that direction.
"We as a province have more wins than any other province in inter-provincials, we have a disproportionate number of Lions and Lions captains, a disproportionate number – to our playing base – of Irish internationals. We have arguably a disproportionate number of rugby legends.
"I think the fact that we have been among the best in the past shows that we have the potential to do it again in the future. I just think we maybe lost our ambition.
"For me, this is the best part of the world to live. I've been away for maybe 13-14 years and this is the best place.
"We can't settle for what is second-best. I'm not saying we're going to win every time, but we've got to have that drive and that ambition. For me there isn't any other way to do it other than to aim to be the best."
With that in mind, Saturday night is Ulster's biggest, most important, most talked about and most eagerly anticipated home match since January 9, 1999 when they beat Stade Francais in an unforgettable European Cup semi-final en route to their Lansdowne Road triumph over Colomiers in the final three weeks later.
Ulster have waited 15 long, lean years to stage a knock-out-stage European tie. And although the CEO admitted to feeling a few butterflies in the countdown to the battle against the Aviva Premiership leaders, those have nothing to do with any misgivings as to Ravenhill's readiness.
Highlighting the demand for tickets he said: "We could have sold Saracens out five, six, eight times more. Leinster (on May 2, the official opening) we could have sold out many times more.
"It sounds bizarre but we're starting to wonder is 18,000 (capacity) enough?"