17 years ago this weekend, Glasgow were handed a severe bruising at the hands of Leicester Tigers, in the Heineken Cup, a competition they were created for, with the match finishing 90-19 in favour of the Tigers. The Scottish club were formed to add competition against some of the best European club sides from France and England, but results like this proved they were no match for the elite. Fast forward to 2012, and the now-flourishing Glasgow Warriors
side, with a new coach and stadium, were starting to develop a reputation as one of the top club sides in not only their league, but Europe. Following last year’s valiant effort in the league, when the Warriors finished runners up, they have managed to remain consisntently spectacular, currently sitting second in the league, and the side have also won their first two European Cup matches against Bath and Montpellier. But what is the secret to Glasgow’s modern success?
The first obvious reason would be the introduction of head coach and former Scotland
fly-half, Gregor Townsend. Although he didn’t have a great deal of coaching experience before his arrival, his success as a player was unquestionable. A British & Irish Lions test series winner and Five Nations champion in 1999 with Scotland, there was no doubt that the man would bring a winning mentality to the Warriors. In his first year in charge, Townsend’s squad racked up 76 points in the league in a season which saw them finish as semi-finalists in the play-offs. They added 3 points to that tally the following season, as well as finishing runners-up to Leinster in the Pro12 final. The most noticable thing about Glasgow was the fact that they weren’t grinding out victories by kicking penalties (a tactic they had been guilty of when former fly half Dan Parks was in the side), but it was how exciting the team were to watch, scoring tries for fun sometimes. Townsend had recruited the perfect mix of power and flair.
The squad was blended together by signing players such as number 8, Josh Strauss, as well as others like Niko Matawalu and Sean Maitland, adding a combination of brawn and brains. Along with the overseas signings, the Warriors have managed to bring incredible chemistry to the squad by taking on a large amount of Scottish players in the core areas, such as the back 3, the front row and between the half-backs. Not only is this important for Glasgow, but will undoudtedly help the international side in the long run as well, with players able to go in to test matches knowing how to work effectively and successfully with their club teammate. Glasgow are no longer the underfunded underdogs but a force to be reckoned with now that they are well resourced - Townsend has brought excellent depth to his squad with genuine competition for places across the board. When added together this combination keeps every player on their toes therefore squeezing the most out of every individual. Even superstars like Stuart Hogg - one of Scotlands most promising talents for years - is forced to fight for his position week in and week out with fellow Scot Peter Murchie.
Next for the Glasgow Warriors will surely have to be the Pro12 title and a high finish in the European Champions Cup, and with the way the team are playing currently, these goals aren’t in any way unrealistic, and there is a good that chance that both may well be achieved in the 2014/15 season.