This past weekend was the four-month anniversary of Cardiff Blues announcing that Danny Wilson would not be taking up the final year of his contract and moving on come the end of the season.
Of course this also means that we’ve been waiting four months for the club to announce who will be taking over as the head coach come the start of next season, something which we were told would happen by the end of November.
Yesterday the length of that wait was shown in stark reality by Northampton Saints, who announced Chris Boyd would be coming in as their Director of Rugby, just six weeks after they sacked Jim Mallinder. Understandably Cardiff Blues fans were frustrated by this.
Reactions varied from fair to wildly over-the-top, which isn’t entirely unexpected, but one consistent was a seeming lack of understanding over what the process has been so far and why there has been such a delay.
The reason for that is one that has unfortunately become far too predictable in recent years, a lack of communication and transparency between the senior Cardiff Blues management and the loyal supporters.
So, here I am, trying to piece together what has happened so far. As ever, don’t take any of this information as gospel, but hopefully it can inform the debate over the head coach, and at least stop me answering the same questions on Twitter!
27th September – News breaks that Danny Wilson will be leaving come the end of the season. Reasons range from disagreements over budgets, coaching staff and the exact role that Wilson has.
Not wishing to go into another head coach job, Wilson subsequently announces he will join former Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby Dai Young at Wasps as forward coach next summer.
11th October – Cardiff Blues Chief Executive Richard Holland hosts an open meeting for supporters, during which he confirms there have been 25 applicants for the head coach role, with a range of coaching experiences represented.
There would also be other coaches approached by the club, with Holland, Geraint John and Kevin Bowring in contact to discuss potential candidates.
Holland states that the next stage of the process would take 4-6 weeks, leaving the end of November as the latest to hear more news from Cardiff Blues.
5th November – BBC Sport run a story that the search for the head coach has been whittled down to a shortlist of three names, with interviews set to commence and an announcement expected by the end of November.
8th December – Events lead Cardiff Blues to give Simon Thomas at WalesOnline the go-ahead to run a story that Leicester Tigers assistant Geordan Murphy is in pole position to take the job.
The understanding is that of the three shortlisted candidates, one withdrew for personal reasons, while another was not seen as a good fit for Cardiff Blues, but Murphy was keen to join and negotiations were underway.
There was an element of risk though, in that at the time there was no board ratification for Murphy, and in the sense that it was a return to the club making announcements through Media Wales.
Christmas – The festive period comes and goes without any news on a new head coach, despite word that Murphy was close to agreeing to come on board.
The reason for that is the Welsh Rugby Union, under the guise of Geraint John and Martyn Phillips, stepped in on the basis that they were keen to look for a higher quality of coach, and wanted to re-interview Geordan Murphy.
4th January – WalesOnline link Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd to the vacant Cardiff Blues head coach role.
24th January – Geordan Murphy effectively rules himself out of becoming the new Cardiff Blues head coach during pre-match press ahead of the Anglo-Welsh Cup fixture at Welford Road.
29th January – Chris Boyd is announced as the new Northampton Saints Director of Rugby. The New Zealander will take over at the conclusion of Hurricanes upcoming Super Rugby campaign.
And here we find ourselves! The truth is that Cardiff Blues ourselves never actually spoke to Chris Boyd. The WRU held talks with him over future roles within the regional rugby setup, but the only criticism that can be levelled at our management was that we were too slow to move for him, not that we didn’t make an attractive enough manner.
We have a competitive enough salary on offer, a decent playing budget, an exciting young playing squad with experienced professionals around it and plenty of potential to return to the big time in European rugby.
Realistically the WRU intervention around Christmas set us back around two months, taking us back to the start of October in the recruitment process. This, therefore, means the aim is the end of February for a new head coach announcement.
Chris Boyd isn’t the only good quality coach, and isn’t the only person who has been/is being spoken to regarding the Cardiff Blues job, and the management’s main focus is on bringing in a coach that they are confident fans will be happy with.
There are fair points to be raised about how the process has been handled by the Cardiff Blues and ‘interfered’ with by the WRU, and there’s no question that all this has increased the pressure on the management to find a good quality replacement.
Until then though, just try to temper the reactions slightly! Remember, it’s not the Cardiff Blues way to so things simply, or by the book, or in a particularly transparent way, or quickly….