Head Coach Barry Bridgman has accepted an invitation to stay in post next season and Wes Dugan will continue as Captain of the 1st XV writes Brian Seeney.

The Club's Executive committee have moved early to secure Bridgman's services for another campaign and an agreement from Dugan to take on the role for a further season.

The move was made partly to put an end to gossip that both might have "had enough" and that Dugan will be amongst an exodus of the most senior players after the 1st XV succumbed to relegation to London 2 South West division (level seven) 11 days ago.

It is hoped the appointments will prompt other senior players to commit to next season - among them Wayne Dugan, Tim Snowden, Dan Gamblin, Kieran McRoberts, Rory Penfold and Alex Cooksley. Ben Roberts has already said he will play for Gos next season.

"I've been asked (to stay on) and the answer is yes," Bridgman told me.

"There are a lot of lads here with a lot of promise. Playing in a division lower next season will give us a chance to win a few games and give the lads a bit of confidence in themselves.

"I think the prospects for the club with the young players we have are good and maybe three years down the line the club could be looking at getting back up (to London 1 South).

"There is a lot of hard work that we need to put in for next season but I don't mind that. I didn't have to think about staying really because I've enjoyed the year even though it has been tough.

"They are a good bunch of lads and they are worth coaching. They have tried hard.

"If we had a bunch of players who were losing games every week and none of them were bothered and couldn't be bothered to come training then it would have been a different prospect. That probably would have been something to do with me as well and I would have said to myself it's not worth carrying on.

"However the numbers at training have been brilliant, they work hard and they don't give up and there is a certain bond and camaraderie there that is seeing them through bad times.

"When you are a player losing so many games it must be hard - it is hard to get up for the next one.

"It is hard for a coach as well and you ask yourself lots of questions and get very introspective if you are not careful."

Dugan (30 next month) is the most experienced player in the 1st XV having broken into the side as a 17-year-old.

"I took over this season (as Captain) because I knew what sort of year it was going to be with a lot of new young players, a lot of older players leaving and it was about keeping morale high and keep developing the new players.

"I knew we would probably be relegated because of the way we struggled last year.

"The young players are learning all the time even when we are losing all the time.

"When I came into the first team as a youngster we started losing and we dropped three leagues and that's why I'm staying as Captain next season because I don't want that to happen again.

"My goal is to keep this team playing at a good standard of rugby in London 2 (SW) and after that it is down to the players, their growth and development.

"If we can come back up in maybe two or three years time that would be brilliant but what I really want is for us to establish ourselves as a London 2 team rather than dropping and sliding down leagues. That's not what I want for the players or the supporters.

BarryWes WEB

Above: committed Barry (left) and Wes. 

"It wasn't a life goal for me (to become Captain) or something I really wanted to do although I have done it in the past.

"I take pride in doing it but that's not for me personally, it's for the players and their pride.

"I would have been disappointed if I hadn't been asked to do it for a second season."

The lack of an assistant coach for much of the season is a concern for Bridgman after James Clayson's departure early in the current campaign.

"It can be a lonely business which has been exacerbated because I have had no assistant although people have rocked up and done a session here and a session there but it hasn't been consistent," said Bridgman.

"I do want to see us recruit an Assistant Head Coach next season and maybe one or two others from the club who will put their hand up and say they are going to help - or not.

"The future is a Coach possibly from within the club - there are good people here but they need to give the commitment.

"There are people who are talking a good game but not committing and they need to either commit or say 'no thanks' and then we go looking elsewhere.

"I am particularly looking for a backs' coach and I'm looking for that from within the club at the moment but if we don't find someone we will look outside."

Club Chairman Alan Foulger and his fellow Executive Committee members are delighted that both Bridgman and Dugan are already in place for next season.

"Following a very difficult season on the field, the initial planning has already commenced for next season to support the senior teams and build for the future," he said.

"With much appreciation for the effort, commitment and enthusiasm of the players, coaches and support staff we have looked at providing continuity, and we are pleased Barry and Wes are staying on.

"Barry took on a very difficult task last summer which was made more difficult when the Assistant Head Coach stepped down early in the season.

"Barry has years of coaching experience in Hampshire with the County and club sides playing in London 1 South and London SW 2.

"For that reason, we believe he has the right credentials to help the club stabilise in the lower league and start the rebuilding process.

"Wes has shown great loyalty to the Club, following his success as Captain of the Hampshire County side at Twickenham.

"He has led the players from the front this season and will be instrumental in doing so again, encouraging our young side to greater things as we start to rebuild."

The process continues tonight with a Players' Meeting at the Club (7pm) when players past, present and future are invited to attend.

Among the agenda items will be the fact that the Club has sometimes struggled to raise even a 1st XV side some weeks this season and numerous 2nd and 3rd team games have been cancelled due to lack of players willing to commit to turning out.

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