Now's not the time for kneejerk reaction, says under-fire Tigers boss Cockerill
Richard Cockerill has challenged Leicester Tigers' detractors not to judge his side until the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
Rugby director Cockerill insists that a successful campaign will once again rest on qualifying for the end-of-term play-off battle - with the jury forced to remain out until then.
Leicester dropped out of the Premiership's all-important top four with the 31-10 Christmas Eve defeat at Exeter Chiefs. That followed their record European loss, the 38-0 thumping at Munster on December 10.
Unfazed boss Cockerill remains confident his Tigers side can still qualify for the league's play-offs - and claimed consecutive clashes with Premiership pace-setters Saracens and Wasps will not make or break their chances.
"You have to take results in context and take a measured view of the season," said Cockerill, responding to a disgruntled body of supporters in wake of recent losses.
"But how many times have we had this conversation? On a measured view? Most seasons.
"All we can do is keep on working hard at what we're doing.
"Having character and continuing to work through the issues is part of it.
"We're still a very consistent side that's in the mix for silverware every year, and we're looking to do that again this year.
"The reality is we'll see where we are after round 22, and we'll do our best to get there.
"I understand that at a club of this quality you have to be in the mix to win things.
"If we're not there's always going to be questions asked."
Leicester host Saracens at Welford Road on New Year's Day intent on kick-starting a fruitful 2017, but will be without JP Pietersen for six to eight weeks.
The South Africa wing has undergone surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, exacerbating a back-line injury glut, with Mathew Tait, Telusa Veianu and Matt Toomua still sidelined.
While rugby fans might grow ever more cut-throat in professionalism, Cockerill hopes the game's administrators will not.
Leicester parted ways with assistant coach Scott Hansen earlier this term with the pressure building on boss Cockerill, while Northampton recently axed backs coach Alex King.
Bristol last month fired Andy Robinson and have Mark Tainton as acting boss until Pat Lam arrives from Connacht in the summer.
Cockerill has been coaching at Leicester since 2005, and still believes the game benefits from continuity.
"You look at the core values that rugby union sends out, and one of them is, 'Winning is important but it's not everything'," said Cockerill.
"That's interesting, when winning pays the mortgage. There's a really fine balance, and you're seeing it.
"There's casualties of this season in coaching set-ups, we had Scott Hansen here, Alex King and Andy Robinson, there's been speculation around David Humphreys at Gloucester with new ownership.
"It's becoming more commonplace isn't it?
"The reality is that if we lose two or three games, I'm assured that the reaction on social media indicates I'm not overly popular at times. That's life.
"Supporters demand results, and then your head on a stake when you don't get them.
"But I think rugby as a whole has quite a measured view to it.
"And generally it takes a relatively long period of poor results for you to get to that point.
"Exeter are a great club, they are out of Europe - but nobody's asked Rob Baxter if he's going to lose his job have they?
"Whereas we lose two away games, we haven't even lost at home, we've lost once in Europe in about five years, and we lose an away game and I should be gone.
"Harlequins haven't been in Europe for a while, but nobody's asked for anyone's head on a plate.
"We've never not qualified. Can you imagine not qualifying for Europe?
"They want me sacked if we lose a game in Europe. That's just the nature of it.
"We played on Christmas Eve and I spent four hours on the bus on the way back from Exeter doing my work.
"Christmas morning I watched the game again, so I could then do the review with the players. It's all consuming, but that's just what you do."