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Bees hope their peaceful summer will bring a lift Read more from Brian in the Birmingham Mail every Thursday.

Byline: RugbyTalkwith Brian Dick

Stability. Reliable, predictable and boring it might be, but good old fashioned stability has been the most welcome feature of Birmingham & Solihull's off-season.

The club that has been in a perpetual state of flux, its days dogged by uncertainty for the last five years, has finally enjoyed the dog days of summer.

The sun has shone, the grass has grown and the Bees have droned their way around the Portway pastures without a care in the world - other than lineouts, scrums and backs moves. "We haven't moved ground, we haven't been relegated and we have retained 80 per cent of the existing playing squad," says chairman Chris Loughran stifling a contended yawn in the process. Bliss.

"You don't want to tempt providence but we have finally stopped putting out fires, it's difficult to see what can go wrong from here and we can be quite positive, enthusiastic and excited about the coming season."

Which for Bees starts on September 7, at newly promoted Chester, in National Two North where their vertiginous descent finally ended when they secured their level four safety last spring.

The financial meltdown of 2010, which saw Loughran emerge from the membership to save the club, set in motion a spiral of relegation, ground-hopping and player turnover from which their supporters' heads have only just stopped spinning.

But at last, with a first team of locallysourced and homegrown players bound together by the enlightened coaching of former New Zealand Maori Eugene Martin, the club can finally start looking forward and for the first time in years Loughran and his directors are on the front foot.

Chief among their concerns is securing their tenure at Portway, which technically is still in thrall to the liquidator and controlled by the group of debenture holders jilted when Bees went bump.

"We have rebuilt some of those internal fault lines that were there because a lot of people felt very let down three years ago. I was surprised how long that bitterness lasted, perhaps I shouldn't have been.

"We are pretty secure. I expect to have some news by Christmas that will make us fully secure. We are working with the debenture holders to put the ground in a structure on which we can then invest.

"By invest I mean we can use our own money and use the sort of public, grant funding that is available on a matchbasis.

"We are in advanced discussions for the first time. I am confident that barring some bluebird coming in and saying 'I can see good business value in offering PS750,000 for this place', barring that happening then we are secure."

The debenture holders aren't the only section of the club that views the flagship side with greater fondness than for some time.

According to Loughran the Mini and Junior set-up, arguably the group most alienated by the fall-out, have softened their stance no doubt helped by the presence of some of their progeny in Martin's team.

Led by 21-year-old skipper Will Radburn and other homespun products like winger Alex O'Malley and lock Matt Spink there is a distinctly Bees Boys feel, underpinned by the presence of stalwarts Matt Long and Rob Connolly. Rod Petty has also returned after a couple of years at Bournville to fill a player-coach role and address the need for a wise old head in the threequarters. Perhaps the first time the Australian maverick has ever had his undoubtedly talented head described as 'wise'. But these are rare times at B&S a club that is far more comfortable in its own skin.

"With our current philosophy and resources I think we can get back to National One and I don't think we want to go any further than that. It's a different world in the Championship, and I have no desire to be in that world," Loughran continues.

"When I wandered around National One during our season there, the clubs I admired most were the ones that were fully integrated.

"They had three of four adult teams, they had M&Js, they were 50-70 per cent local lads perhaps topped up with some others.

"I think that's what we to be. At the moment you can do that and do well in National One."

Which might not sound like the loudest thumped tub in the history of rugby, which is fine because we are talking about a club that less than a decade ago was complicit in its own deception, by believing outlandish promises of Premiership rugby.

"The members of a company get the directors they elect. At the end of the day it was our problem, I was a member and we didn't scrutinise our board. Do I think that the rugby people on the team were incompetent? Yes.

"I believe they lacked judgement when they brought the property developer on board and didn't realise that actually all the property developer was interested in - was property.

"They brought them inside the tent and that point it was lost. But the world has changed. That's history now. It's no longer what we should be talking about because time has moved on."

Steadily and with stability. Professional rugby may return to Bees - but not without a sea change. "There are things about our location that could be attractive but it would require a number of stars to align, at the moment I would be one of the people in the club who would actually stop us doing that."

CAPTION(S):

The Bees squad under Eugene Martin has shown welcome signs of stability this summer. Inset, Chris Loughran.
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Title Annotation:Sport; Opinion, Columns
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 29, 2013
Words:934
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