EDINBURGH RUGBY head coach Richard Cockerill says that he plans to catch-up with Hibernian Football Club manager Neil Lennon at some point this summer, to compare notes on running a professional sports team in Scotland’s capital city, and also just shoot the breeze with a kindred spirit.
The pair crossed paths socially on a number of occasions when Lennon played four seasons at Leicester City while Cockerill was turning out half a mile down the road for Leicester Tigers in the late 1990s – and the combative pair would appear to be natural bosom buddies. Lennon is a combustible character with a habit if dividing opinion, and Cockerill is no stranger to controversy either.
“I haven’t had much time [but] I will endeavour to catch up with Neil Lennon at some point and go and see what they do … or have a few beers with him,” said Cockerill, who took over the reins at Edinburgh last July. “We’ve socialised a little bit when we both played in Leicester. We’ve had a couple of quiet ones together, occasionally.
“He’s a bit like me, he looks like he’s a thug but he’s quite intelligent. We were split at birth I think. Our paths crossed a little bit at sporting functions and socially and he’s a good man.”
In the age of stage-managed sound-bites, this pair are throwbacks to a bygone era when coaches and managers had no compunction about calling it as they see it, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing says Cockerill.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve, but he’s a smart football brain. He’s passionate. The bits you see on the TV about his passion for his team, [is different] to the cold light of day having a chat with him as a football man and a manager,” continued Cockerill.
“Clearly, he’s pretty bright because he’s managed some big teams and got the best out of them, so don’t always judge the book by its cover.
“We’re probably both very similar in that we’re just ordinary blokes who like what we do. So, we were both good as players and we try to transfer that to the modern game. I think all players like to see coaches and managers who care about what they do, and it’s pretty evident that he cares about what he does.
“To be fair, between getting settled and trying to sort this lot out it’s been a busy time, but once he gets back from his fancy villa I’m sure I’ll catch up with him.”
Turning his attention to the task of putting the finishing touches on his squad for next season, Cockerill refused to rule out the possibility of a Glasgow Warriors scrum-half heading eastward.
“I’ll continue to discuss with my bosses around if that’s a possibility. If the right player is available and we can make it work financially we’ll go into the market-place and try and improve that position. If not, we’ve got Fowles and Kennedy, and young Charlie Shiel who’s gone on tour, so we crack on,” he said.
“We’re always looking to find good players. We haven’t replaced Sam Hidalgo-Clyne yet which we’re still looking to do, and we’ll always try to strengthen our squad if the players are available and the money is available. I’ll always be going to the Board if the right player comes up that I think will be good for the team.”
One new signing for Edinburgh which is already in the bag for Edinburgh is back-rower Senitiki Nayalo, who was unveiled last week as a new recruit from London Irish on a two-year contract – but Cockerill warned that the Fijian should not be regarded as direct stand-in for the injured John Barclay.
“He’s more of a project player – a very big, raw Fijian who adds a bit of ballast to our ball carry. But we’ll probably go into the market-place [again] to see what’s out there and see if we can bolster that back-row. With Cornell Du Preez and John Hardie leaving who played a lot for us last year, we might need that little bit of cover, so we’ll see what’s out there.”
- Richard Cockerill was speaking on Monday at the unveiling of Principal & Prosper – independent financial advisors – as new shirt sponsors for Edinburgh Rugby.