AS Phil Davies familiarised himself with old sights and reunited with former colleagues, Yorkshire Carnegie’s new director of rugby admitted: “It’s always been Leeds Tykes for me.”
It was plain to see from the off yesterday which direction the Welshman wants to take Carnegie and it is not just away from the foot of the Championship table.
Not since the ill-conceived name change from Leeds Tykes in 2014, has anyone from the club been so publicly forthright about this thorny issue.
No doubt to the delight of the majority of their fans, Davies – who led Tykes into the Premiership and Heineken Cup before leaving in 2006 – revealed the plan is for that previous name to return, probably as soon as this summer. Obviously, the 56-year-old’s main task is to prevent Carnegie, with zero wins from 13 games this term, being relegated which realistically could be the death knell of the club whatever it is called.
Nevertheless, speaking to media at Weetwood Hall Hotel just up the road from Emerald Headingley, the former Wales lock maintained there are contingency plans for the worst-case scenario even if they do end up in National League One.
It is, then, abundantly clear Davies – who first joined as player-coach in 1996 when Leeds were in the old fourth division – is ready to kick-start them come what may.
“It is a massive challenge,” conceded Davies, who is now used to coaching part-time players having led Namibia in the last two World Cups.
“We’re sort of going towards near where we were when I first arrived which is one of the main reasons perhaps we came back: to make a difference.
“It’s not impossible – nothing is in sport – and it’s a great chance to regain some momentum, build a team and a club that, looking further ahead than this season, can create sustainability for rugby in Leeds. Personally, I didn’t understand that (Yorkshire Carnegie name change) but people make decisions. For me it’s Leeds Tykes. It’s as simple as that. We did speak about it in the board meeting: to rename Leeds Tykes.
“That’s what I’ve always known it as, as have so many others. I think it will happen. Not this season but next.
“That’s one thing, though. The second is to create a plan and structure to give us that sustainability moving forward.
“But the first big challenge is the competition this year; trying to improve the team to try and stay in this league.”
With that in mind, Davies has been told there is scope to make additions to the squad which was put together on a paltry budget last summer after the financially-stricken club entered a CVA.
He praised the work of previous director of rugby Martyn Wood – sacked on Monday – and added: “Whatever happens this season, there’s a long-term plan. It’s not a five-month job but arguably a two or three-year job.
“I’m grateful for the enthusiasm the board has shown and the investors. There’s nowhere near the level of money previously but there is an opportunity to improve things.
“We’ve spoken about the opportunity to potentially bring in four or five players maximum.
“But the big thing for me is to try and maximise the potential of the current group here.
“We have got to have a go at it. That’s the most important thing.
“We won’t be short of enthusiasm and endeavour.
“Those were the hallmarks of the Leeds teams of old: high work ethic with a lot of pride and passion. It’ll take a team effort.”
Former Argentina winger Diego Albanese, one of Davies’ 2005 Powergen Cup-winning side at Twickenham, has offered him some sage advice.
He said: “As Albanese used to say ‘It’s a star team, not a team of stars’. He reminded me of that in a message earlier today. We’ve got to get a star team on the field now and see what happens.
“When I watched the games they’re a young group of players. There is some experience within that so it’s trying to harness the youth and experience to become as competitive as we possibly can.
“There’s no magic wand that’s for sure.
“We’ve looked at it and there’s some leadership needed up front, some gainline players needed up front and a little bit of direction behind; it’s about getting some power in the team. That’s important.”