“Our wages may be late but the Worcester owners have kept us alive”

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“Our wages may be late but the Worcester owners have kept us alive”
“Our wages may be late but the Worcester owners have kept us alive”

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As revealed by Telegraph Sport, Worcester this week received a winding-up petition from HMRC. But Diamond insists he’s “not too concerned” about a financial situation that looks perilous. In fact, he believes Worcester’s current owners, Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, deserve praise.

“Everyone has had difficulties and Worcester has had difficulties,” says Diamond. “The two businessmen who own Worcester are working hard behind the scenes to fund it through smart investments.

“What we don’t have is a sugar daddy. It [the club] it has to live on its own two feet and that’s what we do. They are to be admired for that, to be honest, and they keep me fully informed.

“There have been several times when payroll has been late. This is common knowledge and happens in other businesses, especially during the summer months when there is no revenue.

“I’m not too bothered about it. I am in regular contact with Ted Hill, the captain and the senior players on the matter. HMRC are giving all sports clubs a hard time at the moment because they want their money and I don’t think Worcester are any different.”

Having initially arrived in the West Midlands as a consultant last autumn, Diamond took charge of the squad following the departure of Jonathan Thomas in January and hinted that a drastic overhaul of the squad was in the offing. He is true to his word.

Willie Heinz, Melanie Nanai, Sione Wailanu and Christian Judge were among the top earners to leave with around 15 first-team players coming through the door. Such an overhaul can cause friction and uncertainty, but a club insider described Diamond’s presence as both positive and transformative.

Diamond now has “full autonomy” of rugby operations following the retirement of Alan Solomons this summer. He promised to mine for gems in the market and effectively acquired a whole pack dotted with familiar faces from his Sale Sharks days to bolster the Worcester squad.

“We’ve got a great set of lads,” said Diamond, who has been given the freedom to spend up to the salary cap but reckons there will be around £500,000 of room.

“There are one or two that I wasn’t sure I should keep, but they really stepped up in the pre-season and I can definitely say we don’t have any throwers.

“You fill them in with guys that came in. Some, of course, I knew – Valery Morozov, Curtis Langdon, Cam Nield. There are a couple of Italian guys, Hame Faiva and Renato Giamarioli, and Fergus Lee-Warner from Western Force.

“We needed a front pack and we’re really happy with where we are. And I’m not one of those countries that says everything is fantastic in the pre-season. I have a different job on my hands than most people. I’m trying to make Worcester very competitive, which I know I can do.

Academy youngsters have been fully integrated into the first-team squad for pre-season and the backroom redundancy will help create a ‘leaner workplace’. Nick Easter oversees both defense and forwards while Diamond takes over as head coach-director of rugby hybrid position. Togetherness and endurance are the goals. With these qualities, Diamond believes he can reach the Champions Cup.

“Worcester’s script was about grabbing a slightly dysfunctional group of players, for no other reason than the chopping and changing that happened. I’m part of that chopping and changing now, but I want to give them some solidity and, fingers crossed, there won’t be much change.

“Our role is to win rugby games and I want to give them confidence. If they believe what they are told, then we can do what we say we will do. I won’t say we will finish fourth, fifth or sixth, but our goal is to qualify for the main European competition.”

Hooker and fly-half, Diamond points out, are areas where Worcester has strength in depth. Beck Cutting, Langdon and Fyva will lead the front row with Finn Smith, Owen Williams and Billy Searle currently “in the best shape of their lives” and struggling to pull the strings.

“The trick to managing a smaller team, as I did at Sale, is to get your best players on the pitch,” explains Diamond. “If these kids aren’t playing at 10, they might as well be at 15.”

“I want to play an exciting brand of rugby,” he adds. “I don’t want it to sound like I’m looking through it with rose-colored glasses, but our backline might have [Jamie] Shilcock, Owen Williams, Finn Smith, Ollie Lawrence, Doohan van der Merwe, Tom Howe, Alex Hurl to name but a few.

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