Gala coach Graham returns to Murrayfield for first time since sacking

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Gala coach George Graham will tomorrow attend a rugby match within Murrayfield Stadium for the first time since his position as Scotland’s forwards’ mentor was abruptly terminated.

Ex-prop forward Graham, whose team tackle Ayr in the RBS National Cup Final, left along with fellow internationalist and ex-rugby leaguer Alan Tait a short while before the rug was pulled under head coach Frank Hadden. Despite that experience, Graham admits he would return to the pro scene if asked, but insists his priority is guiding Gala to their first Scottish Cup win since 1999.

“It is fantastic to be going back at Murrayfield. I am happy for the Gala boys to have the experience to try and emulate the team of ’99 that everybody still talks about,” said Graham. “I have never been back other than to accompany one of my players who was cited to appear at a disciplinary hearing a few weeks ago.

“But what happened to me was one of those things that happen in pro sport where as a coach you are always waiting to be sacked. I knew it was coming but the fact me and Alan went before the boss was a wee bit of a surprise. It is history now though. I have moved on.”

After his 2008 axing Graham coached Italian club Petrarca before returning home. “My time coaching in Italy was not the best but I gained experience which has helped me be a better coach today than when I was working with Scotland.”

Graham, who was capped 25 times by Scotland and who moved from rugby league into union with Newcastle Falcons when barriers between the codes came down, added: “I’d be a liar if I said I wouldn’t be interested in getting back to the pro scene but I am enjoying coaching Gala. I love rugby. I’m passionate about rugby and Scotland. And if that opportunity ever came around I’d listen.

“I’ve learned a helluva lot from things I did here or never done there. I am a far, far better coach.”

Memories are still fresh of how a Gala win was the platform on which Chris Paterson rose to prominence but Graham added: “One to watch out for tomorrow is our stand-off Lee Miller who, in the right environment, could show a lot of the same skills as Gregor Townsend.”