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Clubs well set for future successes
THE historic success for Worcester Wolves in the British Basketball League has firmly established them among the major sporting clubs in the city.
Here, I look at the state of play for our leading sides and what the future might hold.
Past: Although Worcester Rugby Football Club was founded in 1871, the Warriors name has only been in existence for 12 years.
During that time, the club has made a meteoric rise on and off the pitch, now playing at the 12,000-capacity Sixways Stadium.
Present: This season’s relegation from the top-flight was the club’s second in four years, coming on the back of a largely dismal campaign during which Dean Ryan’s side won just two matches.
Their victory at Newcastle Falcons in March was the first time Warriors had won away from Sixways in the league since New Year's Day 2012.
Future: Despite the turbulence of the past campaign, there is genuine optimism surrounding director of rugby Ryan’s (pictured) approach.
He has recruited plenty of fresh, predominantly English, blood to the team and has persuaded some seasoned professionals to “buy into the vision” despite another year in the Championship on the horizon.
The relaunch of the academy system, virtually scrapped by previous boss Richard Hill, is also proof that there might be better days ahead for the club.
Past: The County have by far the richest heritage of any of the city’s clubs with a history dating back to 1865.
They have won the County Championship on five occasions, twice in the 1960s, once in the 70s and twice again during the 80s.
Present: Against the backdrop of such illustrious history, to say it has been something of a barren spell in recent years would be an understatement.
Yet this season has seen an upturn in fortunes with three Division Two victories already under their belt. The retirement of Alan Richardson, it seems, has released the shackles for others in the squad to shine. Not to mention a certain Saeed Ajmal.
Future: Worcestershire have always said that the long-term plan was to use the multi-million pound New Road development to generate money 365 days of the year to invest in the team.
How long that takes to bear fruit remains to be seen but it will have to if the County want to do more than just live on past glories.
Past: Wolves are an embryonic club, having not been formed until 2000. Yet, like Warriors, their rise through the ranks has been remarkable and they were elected into the British Basketball League for the 2006-07 campaign but only had a best-placed finish of eighth to show for their efforts in five seasons.
That changed with the arrival of Paul James as director of basketball, which has seen Wolves move through the gears.
Present: Wolves truly announced themselves on the national stage this season, winning both the BBL Trophy and prestigious end-of-season play-offs at Wembley Arena. They also finished third for the second time in three years.
By moving into the £15million University Arena, attendances are up almost three-fold and they now attract well over 1,000 fans to every home match.
Future: With such a fanbase, it is difficult to see Wolves not continuing to go from strength to strength.
They have laid the foundations and the University of Worcester’s study and play programme has become a blueprint for clubs up and down the country.
But to stay at the top Wolves will need to keep their big players. Longer term, that could mean Wolves have to go down the avenue of naming-rights sponsorship to keep pace with Newcastle Eagles and Sheffield Sharks.
Past: Worcester City have been going for 112 years, 108 of which were at St George’s Lane.
That may no longer exist but the non-league relic will forever be etched in the memory of fans with 1959 FA Cup ties against Liverpool and Sheffield United top of the list.
But the club’s more recent history has generally been one of financial strife, false dawns and little success.
Present: Many thought leaving the Lane would spell the end, yet few could have imagined a smoother transition to Aggborough.
The club has rallied against exile and being left with an undisclosed amount of money following the termination of the St Modwen deal.
Future: This seems to rest solely in the hands of the club’s supporters’ trust and their plans for new home at Perdiswell.
There are plenty of reasons to be positive. Crowd numbers have remained healthy and manager Carl Heeley has assembled a competitive squad.
But although there is light at the end of the tunnel, if planning permission was refused or funding could not be obtained, which would seem the greater hurdle, it is difficult to see what would happen next.
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