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Perspective needed over Bath troubles

Published 07/01/2016

Mike Ford's Bath have had a testing start to the season
Mike Ford's Bath have had a testing start to the season

Momentum is a key ingredient for any team, whatever the sport.

At the moment, Bath have lost it, but there also needs to be a sense of perspective adopted by those who would much rather criticise than take the level-headed approach.

For sure, facts cannot be denied.

Bath currently lie eighth in the Aviva Premiership, having lost five games, and are 20 points behind unbeaten leaders Saracens.

Perspective, though, is that they are only nine points adrift of the play-off zone with barely a third of the league campaign gone.

Similarly in the European Champions Cup, Bath's last Pool Five outing three weeks ago produced a club record 36-10 European home defeat against Wasps, and they now face demanding games on three successive weekends - Toulon home and away, plus Leinster in Dublin - that will decide whether or not they progress from this season's toughest group.

The critics of head coach Mike Ford and his players, though, have short memories.

Just last season, Bath reached their first Premiership final for 11 years, playing a try-laden brand of rugby that won many admirers. Arch-rivals Leicester, especially, were on the receiving end, being crushed 45-0 and 47-10 on two Recreation Ground visits.

In Europe, meanwhile, Bath comfortably beat four-time European champions Toulouse in France before making a quarter-final exit to Aviva Stadium hosts Leinster.

The old adage of "form is temporary, class is permanent" currently rings true at Bath, and it should not be forgotten by those who would much rather take a swipe than adopt common-sense.

No-one at Bath is hiding from the situation, especially Ford, who assessed matters in a public forum this week after last Saturday's debilitating defeat against Newcastle at Kingston Park.

"We asked the players to do an honest written feedback individually, which they did do, and I was really pleased with it," Ford told the Bath Chronicle.

"Each player gave an assessment of their own performance. That was the starting point. That was the first step of them being honest and brutal with themselves and putting their own hand up.

"After the Wasps game at home (in Europe), I put my hand up and said it was me who got it wrong.

"Bruce (Bath owner Bruce Craig) wants to win. I've known that since I've been at the club. He is passionate.

"We speak every week, and we were on the phone twice on Sunday. We usually go out for a meal on a Monday. We didn't quite do that this week, but we still met up and he's not happy. He is disappointed.

"But at the same time, he wants to see how he can help and support me and the staff and the players. We are all in the same boat. We're all disappointed."

Those fans who adopt a soccer-style mentality to testing situations- and they are a growing number in rugby union - would probably have ushered Ford through the exit door by now.

But with the squad he has at his disposal and the coaching staff alongside him, Ford and Bath will soon be back in business.

If in doubt, just ask Leicester. They won only half of their opening eight league fixtures last term and were rocked by a major injury crisis. At the moment, they are fourth in the league and unbeaten on Europe's Champions Cup stage.

Patience truly is a virtue, and it should be remembered that momentum can return as quickly as it was lost.

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