Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford is adamant that this year’s new and improved squad is more than capable of dealing with a rise in expectations on the back of the club’s historic run to the Heineken Cup semi-finals last season.
The front-row stalwart believes a combination of fresh faces, both in the playing squad and among the fans in the stands, will ensure that last season’s achievements can be surpassed, particularly in the forthcoming RaboDirect PRO12 campaign.
Speaking at the launch of the club’s new season ticket system, which will see ticketholders able to scan their plastic season ticket at turnstiles to gain entry to home games, Ford insisted that there is a lot more to come from the Capital side. “Expectations are higher this year and rightly so,” admitted the Scotland captain, “but we have really bolstered the squad. Last year’s Heineken Cup run was brilliant but we need to push ourselves to do better in the league. There is always room to improve and this year we will definitely be aiming higher. League improvement is the bare minimum in terms of our expectations. ”
A busy close season has led to the capture of ten new signings, and Ford was quick to praise the additions to the playing staff. “We’ve only had a few days back in training,” he acknowledged, “but everyone seems to get on really well. There is a real hard work ethic in this squad and the new boys coming in have taken that up.
“The new faces are going to make an impact. We have brought in quality players to add to what we do already and they will all bring their own individuality to that.” Last season saw a sharp increase in average crowd sizes at Murrayfield, helped largely by a bumper attendance for the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulouse, and Ford insisted that more of the same is needed to aid team performances. The fans were brilliant last year. They really backed us, particularly in the Heineken Cup quarter-final here and there was a great travelling support for the semi-final.”
A fan of the new ticketing system, Ford hopes it will encourage more fans to get behind the team and give their support to a group which he claims is only going to improve. “The way the tickets are this year will add to the whole atmosphere hopefully. Having a big home support makes a huge difference. You may not think so, but the players really are aware of it. At dead points during the game, in a break in play or after a try, you become really aware of the crowd. Having a good backing and a vocal support makes a massive difference to the boys.”
“The barcoded cards are a really easy and convenient way to make sure fans never miss a match, and mean they’ll have more time to soak up the atmosphere in and around the ground and in the supporters’ bar before kick-off.
One of nine players who were involved in the national squad’s triumphant summer tour of Australasia, Ford acknowledged the benefit that international victories can have for the players. “There is a buzz around the squad after the successful tour. We are all feeling fresh after a short layoff, and we are all ready to get back into the season now.”
“Our pre-season focus is on getting ready for the first game. We have six weeks before our first game so we need to get our conditioning right.”