It’s not an anniversary to celebrate, but it is now a full year since fans last had the experience of attending a matchday.
No disrespect, but who would have thought that the 18,000 crowd at a mid-season win over Worcester Warriors in February 2020 would now be able to see it as an ‘I was there’ moment?
Twelve long months have passed since. Twelve months with the doors to ‘home’ firmly closed.
For that whole time, the club has had to operate its business without a major income stream, just as it embarked on the journey we all hope will take us back to traditional territory at the top of the game. And throughout that time there has been no definitive timeframe for when that situation will change.
It is as frustrating for the management as it is for the supporters who have been used to planning their weekends around kick-off time.
Since lockdown, there have been major changes on and off the field, while Steve Borthwick has mapped out exactly where he wants the team to go and the work required to get them there.
The players appear to have bought into it fully though he’s had to do it without a single ‘normal’ day since his arrival in July.
The head coach has barely had a week with his whole squad together since the end of last season, with the elongated international periods and the Covid shutdowns, while trying to bring a new group of players together with the mission of continuing that journey.
To illustrate the turnover and the incredible impact of the last 12 months, Steve has around 20 players who have sworn their allegiance to the green, white and red without ever having the honour and privilege of running out in front of their home crowd.
It’s staggering to think that key names like Nemani Nadolo, Jasper Wiese, Matt Scott, Kini Murimurivalu, Kobus van Wyk and Cyle Brink have played their entire Tigers career so far in front of empty stands.
Poor Julian Montoya has scored three ‘proper’ Tigers tries without a single public cheer.
Just imagine how loud the home crowd would have been as those mauls drove their way to the tryline in a style echoing some of the fans’ favourite forwards of years gone by. Even thinking about it now brings a tingle as well as a feeling of loss while still looking in from the outside.
Young forward Ollie Chessum has had the honour of running out in the colours of the team he supported from the stands, but he’s had to do it alone.
Borthwick talks warmly about having a team that makes the city proud but has so far had to do it without the roar of 20,000 members of the Tigers Family to reinforce the point.
Now, at last, there seems the dark days may be coming towards their end, with a new dawn somewhere on the horizon. Win, lose or draw, it is going to be some party when the doors are open again.