There are some defeats that are so soul-crushingly cruel that they leave you baffled, depressed and slightly ashamed, as though you’d watched the entire oeuvre of Michael Bay over a long weekend.
So as the new season trundles into view like Thomas Waldrom from the back of a maul, we ask which club has forced its fans to endure the worst torture over the years. Defeats that still haunt even the neutral observer will be framed by the fans’ expectations, the heritage of the club and the calibre of its players within the great computer.
Is it tough being a fan of ‘culturally inappropriate, but bloody good at rugby’ Exeter? Or Worcester, seemingly engaged in an relentless relegation dogfight? Or Saints, who suffered a Heineken Cup final defeat that must have made people’s ears bleed? Or maybe Harlequins with – GLAWSTER!!!
Gloucester! Come on, it’s Gloucester. No need to even think this through surely? I had the privilege to chat to Brian O’Driscoll at a BT Sport event the other week and when I asked him, he plumped for the Cherry and Whites immediately.
A more passionate fan than a Glaws fan you won’t find. There’s not a sentient human that doesn’t find Kingsholm as intimidating as the bottom of a ruck at Pontypool Park in the 70s. Gloucester’s roll call of internationals, ex-internationals and club stalwarts is as impressive as any. But while most teams have a famous victory or two to dwell on, for Gloucester fans it’s usually their own team on the receiving end. They’re the Russians in Miracle on Ice, Drago in Rocky IV or, even worse, France in Invictus.
Sorry, Gloucester fans.
Recall Cardiff Blues’ 50-12 thumping win in the EDF final back in 2009, or Munster’s Miracle Match six years previously. Consider the three, THREE, times that Gloucester finished top of the table but failed to the lift the trophy. First, in 2003, they suffered a 3-39 thrashing from Wasps after an utterly dominant season. Then Leicester Tigers ran in 44 points to claim the title. And the final humiliation in 2008, they lost by a single point to Leicester AGAIN at home, meaning they didn’t even make the final! Although at least that time they didn’t have to travel all the way to Twickenham to have their dreams smashed like toy soldiers in Sid’s back yard.
But that’s all ancient history, right? A decade has passed since those days of anguish. True. And what has Gloucester achieved since then? With Richard Hibbard, Akapusi Qera and Josh Afoa glowering in the pack? With James Hook, James Simpson-Daniel and Jonny May dancing outside them? Naff all.
Gloucester have finished ninth or eighth in four of the last five seasons. They’ve signed promising players like Billy Twelvetrees, Ben Morgan and Freddie Burns and watched their international careers crash and burn like paper aeroplanes in a volcano. They were Exeter’s first ever opponents in the big league, way back in 2010, and what happened? Exeter nobbled them. They roared against Leicester in the first game last season, leading 31-7, before crumpling like a girder made of matchsticks to lose 38-31. Kingsholm has been stormed four times in a row by arch rivals Bath. A look through the results reveals so many glorious but maddening defeats alongside utter humiliations.
Sure, they’ve lifted the Challenge Cup, enjoying a thumping semi final win against Exeter in an undefeated campaign, and they no doubt cheered the triumph in the Anglo-Welsh Cup back in 2011.
But in all honesty, it must be bloody hard work supporting Gloucester. And for that, I can only applaud the fans, who come to each game with a determination that screams: ‘I’ve seen Titanic before, but when I watch it this time, Rose is going to let Jack on that bloody door!’
Bravo chaps. Bravo.
Unless any of you out think it’s harder work being a Sale fan single-handedly representing the north west, a Wasps fan abandoned by your club for the bright lights of Coventry, or a Saracens fan dealing with the fact that no one likes you? Thoughts welcome below.