We all hurt when we think about Tigers missing out on not only the Premiership Final or the top four, but also the top six and a place in the Champions Cup. Everyone acknowledges it is not good enough and wonders when the ship will be steered back into smoother waters.
Forthright opinion and cutting criticism come with the status of the club established over many, many years. But if we’re going to accuse the club of taking for granted their place at the top table then are we not doing likewise thinking our team will win trophies every season?
It is no team’s place to think they’re entitled to win a trophy every year. Yes, Tigers should believe that silverware is possible – the players look at their colleagues and believe they are good enough, they train together every day and work on a gameplan in the belief that they are good enough to win things. But it is not pre-destined that the trophy is heading their way, no matter who they are.
We need no reminding that Tigers won four league titles in a row around the turn of the millennium and then won another four in a seven-year spell up to 2013. We also celebrated back-to-back European Cups with the club’s greatest-ever team led by its greatest-ever captain in 2001 and ’02, and reached the final again twice in three years up to 2009. And, don’t forget, Tigers were semi-finalists in Europe’s top competition just three years ago.
The reason we still talk so fondly about those successes is that they were exceptional. By definition, exceptional things cannot happen every year.
This season has been an uncomfortable one for everyone at Welford Road but now we have to believe that a season in the bottom half of the table is the exception and the route upwards begins again when the players return for pre-season training.