DAMIAN Welch, former Exeter, Scarlets and Cardiff second row, is relishing his first management role after agreeing to become Plymouth Albion’s head coach.
As reported in Sunday’s TRP, Welch was in the final stages making his role official and he is excited to be joining a club gunning for promotion to the Championship under the banner ‘Make Albion Great Again’.
Relegated in 2015, Albion have twice been to the brink of financial oblivion but were saved in 2016, since when managing director Max Venables has rebuilt bridges with the local community and is close to establishing a ‘Plymouth Sport’ hub at Brickfields.
Welch, now retired from playing after finishing last season at Merthyr Tydfil, succeeds Coventry-bound James Scaysbrook, who left Albion on a high after a post-Christmas surge in which they garnered seven wins from nine games.
Welch told TRP: “There’s a positive vibe at the club and some very interesting ideas around developing the sports hub, so they’re looking to establish fresh foundations and growing the whole place from there.
“I did some coaching with the young lads at Exeter when I was there and also coached the University side with Haydn Thomas. We reached a BUCS final and won it, so I enjoyed that and coaching’s always been a road I wanted to go down, so here we are now.”
Chiefs favourites Gareth Steenson and Harry Williams helped out with coaching Albion last season but Welch has still to finalise his new backroom team.
He added: “That’s up in the air at the moment and a lot depends on whether Steeno’s still playing for Chiefs, but we’ll hope to get things settled soon.”
Meanwhile, Albion commercial manager Chris Bentley has outlined the club’s vision – one he hopes will include all the city’s major sporting teams working together under a common umbrella, mirroring the successful model of Bristol Sport.
Bentley, another former Exeter player who headed their commercial operation for six years, said: “This club’s had a tumultuous time but there’s enough enthusiasm among the
Plymouth community to make Albion great again.
“The city can support a top end Championship team on a self-sustainable basis, where remuneration is not the be-all and end-all for players but we look after them and they become ‘career’ players at Plymouth rather than jumping from club to club.
“We’re working hard to enlist the support of the local business community – and there are some very big businesses down here.”
With a crowdfunding campaign having already raised £26,000 towards a £35,000 target aimed at sustaining Albion through the Covid-19 crisis, Bentley is confident of realising the club’s ambition.
He added: “So often the rugby blueprint seems to be, ‘give us your money and we’ll give it to players’, but instead let’s be a bastion of the local community that gives the players, town and supporters something to be proud of.
“We’re in talks with Plymouth Raiders basketball, Plymouth Argyle FC and the local athletics and cricket clubs over a Plymouth Sport partnership – if that comes off and we get things right, it will go a long way towards making Albion great again.”
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