Adam Hathaway says Friday night must just be the biggest game in the history of one of the biggest names in English rugby and is worried about the French.
Mike Ford must have known what he was going into when he signed on the dotted line for the rest of the season to help Leicester out. If he didn’t know then he must do by now.
He has got two sons – George and Joe – at the club, after all, so he should have had an inkling of what was going down at Welford Road and it went down big time on Saturday.
There is a saying that you can be too good to go down. That is cobblers, just ask Harlequins and Northampton, and Leicester might be about to find that out.
Ford Snr, who majors on defence, started work at the club’s Oval Park training ground in Oadby last Monday and gave an interview to the club website which was optimism personified.
A penny for his thoughts, then, after the weekend’s 52-20 demolition by Exeter at Welford Road when the Tigers played like pussy cats in a game that showed what a complete changing of the domestic guard has gone on in the last few years.
Exeter only got promoted in 2010 by which time Leicester had won nine Premiership titles and two European Cups. If you had been for a trip on Dr Who’s TARDIS you would be in for a shock if you looked at the table this morning.
RugbySpy is not a big fan of data, most of it is utter garbage, with metres gained being the biggest culprit when full-backs get so many cheap yards, but here are some hard facts for Leicester fans to digest.
Forty six tackles missed, according to the boffins, which is more than one every two minutes, and a team so out of sorts most of the home punters were disappearing out of the ground well before time.
Ok, you were playing the Premiership leaders but that tackle stat would make pretty desperate reading. Especially, if you are a newly-appointed defence guru and helping out a once mighty team now fully in the grip of the grim reaper at the bottom of the table.
And it gets worse with Tom Youngs, the club captain, facing a suspension after his red card for charging into a ruck and smacking Ollie Atkins on the head. The biscuit tin will be empty by the end of that disciplinary hearing.
That sort of incident happens about a 300 times in every game but it was as red as red can be even though the Chief of the Chiefs, Rob Baxter, called it a ‘rugby incident’.
Youngs just happened to get pinged when players get away with it all day long – when things aren’t running for you, they aren’t running for you.
And it gets even worse with the news that Ben Youngs, England’s scrum-half, is out for the rest of the campaign with a shoulder injury.
And it gets even more worse when you look at the table and the fixtures Tigers have got left.
As it stands Newcastle are bottom with 29 points, Worcester are 11th with 32 points and Leicester are 10th with 34 points. A couple of years ago it would have unthinkable that the Welford Road mob would not be in the top four, let alone struggling to qualify for the top tier of Europe, let alone scrapping for their very Premiership existence.
Guess who Leicester are playing on Friday night. Away from home too – yep Newcastle, who will be pretty fired up and have the Tigers legend Dean Richards on the tiller.
There are four rounds of the league to go and opponents of relegation should hang their heads in shame as it is a lot more interesting at the bottom of the league than it is at the top.
After the trip to Geordie Land Leicester have Bristol at home, play-off chasers Harlequins away and Bath at home on the final Saturday of the regular season.
You wouldn’t put your life savings on them winning more than one of them.
Newcastle, after Friday’s face down, have Northampton at home, Gloucester away and Bristol at home. You would fancy them to win two of them.
We have been down this road a few times since the Welford Road suits got shot of Richard Cockerill and the team has gone into freefall.
According to colleagues, who were at Saturday’s surrender, home fans were leaving the ground well before the end of the game. This is a ground that is always rammed out for Premiership games and has an average attendance of over 20,000 this season.
Geordan Murphy, the head coach until the end of the season at least, nearly joined them and exited stage left.
The admirable Irishman, who has been at Leicester man and boy as a player, coach and now the bloke in the ejector seat, said: “To be fair to them, I felt like joining them. After an hour we were down to 14 men and we didn’t look like winning the game.”
This is a team with a rock star back line. Ben Youngs, George Ford, Matt Toomua, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May and the rest would walk into most club or provincial sides in the world.
But it is a team without any hairy-backsided back five forwards to front up and give them some of the grunt so beloved of the Welford Road faithful.
Poor old George Ford gets wheeled out in front of the hacks every time Leicester lose and he is as good as any as taking it on the chin. Some blokes would run a mile from the press pack after yet another loss but he fronts up.
But fly-half Ford must have been trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Fourth Estate when he said this.
“We understand where we are but we have not spoken once about relegation. It is about preparing for our next game.”
Well George, you might not have been thinking about relegation but you can bet your bottom dollar that other people at the club have been. That is the people who have nothing to do with the playing side, work in the office, serve food, look after security, sort out tickets and put up with the press on match day – their jobs are in jeopardy if the club goes down.
Leicester have had some mega-games in their past.
Some of us were lucky enough to be at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, in 2001 when they won their first European title, with the likes of Martin Johnson, Ben Kay, Pat Howard and Austin Healey firing on all cylinders as they turned over Stade Francais. Some of us were unlucky enough to miss the last train back, but that is another story.
Some of us were lucky enough to be in Cardiff a year later when they retained the title by beating Munster and we have been lucky enough to see them win a cluster of other cups.
Those were big games for sure but Friday, at Kingston Park in Newcastle, might just be the biggest game in the club’s history.
If we take a step back and look at last weekend’s Champions’ Cup quarter finals – one thing stands out.
How the hell can Toulouse and Racing 92 put together a game like that, which Toulouse won 22-21, and France can still turn up like a cold coq au vin in the Six Nations?
Well look out.
There is a World Cup in the autumn and France generally turn up to World Cups and the French are in the same pool as England in Japan.
Turn back the clock to 2011 when the French were beaten by Tonga, in Wellington, in the pool stages but came within a whisker of winning the final against New Zealand.
That all came about because the players led a typically Gallic revolution against the-then boss Marc Lièvremont.
As the brilliant No.8 of those days Imanol Harinordoquy said just after the tournament, “After the defeat against Tonga I did not attach too much importance to what Marc said.”
The current national coach, Jacques Brunel, always seems like a bloke who has walked out of a tube station when he is sure he should be on the Metro.
But France have talent to burn and if the players, or Fabien Galthie who is in the conversation to take over as gaffer or at least come on the staff, get their merde together then England could be in for a world of pain.