Muir coach wants title winners to enjoy lap of honour

LIFT OFF: Alex Cox celebrates by hoisting a team-mate
LIFT OFF: Alex Cox celebrates by hoisting a team-mate
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Boroughmuir rugby coach Bruce Aitchison is urging his National League winning team to relax and turn on the style during a two match run-in to the season which amounts to a lap of honour.

The Capital outfit head for Biggar on Saturday with the title in the bag and Aitchison insisting: “For the first time since I took over the team can express themselves without being under any pressure.

“I have been very fortunate to have had assistance from Ben Fisher, Steve Bates, Ian Jeffrey, Graeme McCallum, Andy Knight and Kevin Robertson on the coaching side while administratively Malcolm Clapperton and Peter Blackhall have been second to none with their assistance.

“But there was still a lot to be overcome going into this season. The players were under a bit of a cloud because relegation had rattled their confidence.

“As the team going down we were expected to bounce back which brought its own difficulties and I just knew some couldn’t be expected to hang about if we failed to make it at the first attempt.

“Retaining the likes of Andy Rose, Alex Cox, Robbie Wilson, Iain Moodie and Adam Best, to name a few, is going to be hopefully more straightforward.

“Also, we will be entitled to players from the pro draft and that should help, for example 18-year-old Magnus Bradbury who is an outstanding prospect.

“Just how tough it was going to be, though, was spelt out in our first match, at Hillhead-Jordanhill.

“The first half performance was so good I just could not offer any advice during the break and our opponents threw absolutely everything at us.”

Having come through that initial test ’Muir then reeled off nine straight wins before succumbing to Stewart’s Melville on a wet November day at Meggetland.

Another defeat was to follow immediately, at Dundee High, and lesser sides could have faltered.

However, at a key moment in the campaign, Aitchison and president Bill Noble combined to remind the players of their club’s origins. “Unbeknown to the players I organised a training run to the Borestone which is built into the wall of Morningside Parish Church.

“When we arrived Bill was waiting to explain that this was where the Saltire was last pitched for the muster of the Scottish army on the Borough Muir before the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

“That’s where the club name stems from and I wanted the players to be aware of the history,” revealed Aitchison, aware that it is the emblem of the Borestone and Scottish Saltire represented on the club badge. Both the club and Boroughmuir School are unique in Scotland in their use of the Saltire on their badge.

“That run seemed to work as we closed out the promotion albeit we were taken a bit unawares when Watsonians lost to Kelso while we were without a game. Suddenly everybody felt compelled to re-organise and head for the Meggetland clubhouse and enjoy a celebration.”

With the league won Aitchison was also able to turn his attentions to wider issues affecting Scottish rugby and the Tynecastle High PE teacher has never been slow to come forward on matters of the greater good.

Primary among these is the question of overseas signings in the pro game.

“Clubs have decided to put themselves forward a little bit more and be proactive when it comes to deciding what is happening.

“For me the number of foreign signings in Scottish pro rugby is a kick in the teeth for club players, an absolute nonsense. For Glasgow to sign an American on loan shortly after that 0-20 defeat by England was unbelievable. Why couldn’t they have taken a punt on someone like Alex Cox?

“What, in fact, they are doing is sending out a signal that the Premiership is no stepping stone to the pro ranks. How can it be otherwise when Stuart McInally, who could have seen out the season with Currie as he switches from back row to hooker, is sent away on loan to Bristol?

“If Magnus Bradbury is allowed to play for us next season will the pro coaches see that as assisting his development? What we want to do is put him in the shop window for Edinburgh.

“Above all he and others must be allowed to play.”

Another concern for Aitchison is the way the Clubs International XV is now used as a means of giving pro fringe players game-time instead of exclusively honouring the best on the club scene.

The need for a switch to summer rugby has long been Aitchison’s clarion call and he has even mapped out a format, as follows: “March – start of club season; End of June – mid-season break; July and August – sevens, tours, invitational games, holidays, strength and conditioning; September – club season restarts; October – club season finishes (no games cancelled because we’re not playing in winter); November – District Championships (for U16s, 18s, 20s, Ladies and Club); December-Feb – off season with family rather than waiting by the phone on a Saturday morning to find out if the game is off due to a frost, water-logging, windswept pitch or no front row.

“Six Nations weekends would be free and included as pre-season fixtures to allow for relationships with clubs from Italy, France, Wales, England and Ireland.”

That is for the future and, meantime, Boroughmuir aim to put the finishing touches to a notable campaign before turning attentions to the sevens circuit.