Sir Ian McGeechan has backed head coach Jimmy Lowes to create excitement for Yorkshire Carnegie fans in what is expected to be a season of treading water for the Headingley club.
Carnegie revealed this week that they are seeking fresh investment of no less than £8m over a three-year period to help them realise their dream of playing in the Premiership.
That finance, if and when it arrives, will be back-loaded to support a more sustained challenge for promotion in years two and three of the new plan.
It leaves the club with a budget of just £1.4m for this season, more than £600,000 down on last year’s playing resource and just a third of the whopping £4.5m relegated Bristol have to play with.
The fact that this year’s promotion to the top flight is back to being first-past-the-post as opposed to the play-offs, means Bristol are overwhelming favourites to reclaim their Premiership place.
Carnegie believe they can still be competitive, but realistically are looking beyond this year for a better shot at making the top flight – unless the Rugby Football Union invite them into a ring-fenced elite.
Given the lower budget and the smaller playing squad that has been created, fans would be forgiven for being less than enthused for the second-tier season ahead.
But executive president McGeechan believes a brand of risk-reward rugby employed by returning coach Lowes will keep the punters coming to Headingley.
“Jimmy creates a really positive environment. He’s a tremendous man-manager, he’s very competitive, and was as a player, and he sets a really challenging, but positive environment,” said McGeechan.
“Although we haven’t got the same amount of players, those players that are part of that environment will be playing rugby that I think spectators will enjoy, and that from our perspective is important.
Jimmy creates a really positive environment. He’s a tremendous man-manager, he’s very competitive, and was as a player, and he sets a really challenging, but positive environmentSir Ian McGeechan
“The model that will be out there will be one worth watching.
“It will be positive and one that excites fans. They will take risks, which is great, and was such a good element of when he was last in charge.”
One of the hallmarks of Lowes’ first spell in charge four years ago – McGeechan’s first at the club – was the expansive style the long-time rugby league man adopted.
And McGeechan, who believes Carnegie stepped back a year when Lowes switched codes to rejoin Bradford Bulls, will once again be on hand as a sounding board.
“We used to have conversations about aspects of the game like the contact area, and repetitive phase play,” explained McGeechan.
“We still talk about it. Jimmy has the overview, I’ll just try and be a sounding board for him, for maybe some of the elements he’s still coming to terms with union-wise.”
Carnegie open their campaign with a tricky trip to London Scottish today. And McGeechan said: “It’s not as big a squad as we’d have liked, but until the season gets going you never know.”