“you can’t win anything with kids”you can’t win anything with kids. Nine months later, he had a fat egg on his chin as David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, the Neville brothers and Co. were crowned English Premier League champions.
Well, this season, Glasgow Warriors will not win anything meaningful anyway, so there is no reason for Danny Wilson not to make some bold decisions that will not only lay the groundwork for greater strength in depth in the future, but maybe bring to life the current unsuccessful campaign.
On Wilson, we shouldn’t be too rough. As Covid’s financial blow put an aggressive hiring freeze in place, he inherited a squad that is past its peak and in dire need of fresh recruits. He is in a position to put players in, but only if he manages to free up the capital in a drastically reduced budget to do so elsewhere.
With his new squad, Wilson endured a disjointed and abbreviated preseason and then missed about a dozen of his main players because of international assignments for nearly eight weeks. And the team was brought to its knees by a Covid-related suspension just as he figured he could get some momentum going after his main performers returned in early December.
To make matters worse, so far this season, the Warriors have had more than their share of bad luck with injuries. Wilson was named coach of the team, but was busy battling fires. Relying on unproven young players is the last thing he wants to worry about right now, but the way the Warriors’ season has gone means there’s no reason not to.
He had to go back to his third-choice player, Brandon Thomson, last Saturday. The 25-year-old was employed in 2017 by the Western Province. He is a former South African U20 international, but in the three and a half years since arriving in Scotland, he has struggled to make a real impact, and in the eyes of many of his weekend performances, he would have once and for all proven that he is not destined to ever be a central figure at Scotstoun.
In the first half, Thomson, whose contract expires at the end of the season, missed a penalty right in front of the goal that would have given his side a crucial lead in a just-decided game.
Interestingly, Ali Price converted a penalty right in front of Edinburgh’s posts with the score at 0-0 early in the second half rather than asking Thomson to take the three points. The ball was turned over immediately and another opportunity was missed to take the lead. Had Price lost confidence in his kicker?
Thomson’s miserable afternoon reached its climax 10 minutes after he sent a wild pass over Sam Johnson’s shoulder to send the game’s deciding try to Magnus Bradbury. In doing so, last month, he missed an even easier kick that would have stolen the Warriors from a crucial home victory over the Dragons.
It is time to see if Ross Thompson can really do it at this stage, coming out of the academy. On Saturday, the 21-year-old was used off the bench for nine minutes as the Warriors eventually added some fluidity and breadth to their attacking action, resulting in the late consolation attempt by Lewis Bean. The ball had the best of the debutant, falling marginally deeper than Thomson to build the space needed to get past the defense of Edinburgh. He managed to scramble the ball when he was struck by a huge tackle from Ben Toolis and converted Bean’s try for safety.
He didn’t want to bring young players through too soon, Wilson said, but Thompson is no child. He spent two years as a Scotland Under-20 international, this is his third year as a permanent member of the FOSROC academy, and before his suspension he played regularly well for the Ayrshire Bulls in Super6.
With Adam Hastings returning to Gloucester next season and Pete Horne (who expects to be back this week after missing the last concussion game) turning 32 later this year, it looks like Wilson is betting everything on Duncan Weir’s much-heralded return from Worcester in the summer – but by continuing to test Thompson, there is little to lose and anything to gain at the moment.
In the next few weeks, with Glenn Bryce scheduled to fly to the US and the contract of Huw Jones set to expire at the end of the season, we will have to wait and see what first-team professional Rufus McLeaa is going to be.