PLYMOUTH Albion’s new owners have sensationally shown the door to director of rugby Graham Dawe.
The former England hooker has revealed they asked him to stand down yesterday with immediate effect.
It means he won’t be in charge for Saturday’s final home match of a successful season on the field.
Albion have won 20 of their 28 matches this season in National One and up until a few weeks were still in with a chance of promotion back to the Championships, despite starting the campaign with a totally new squad after losing 32 players in the summer.
Bruce Priday and Dave Venables took over Albion last weekend after the club went into administration. They are reported to have asked former coach and head-teacher Nigel Sparrow to join them in the new set-up.
Dawe, who was asked to help coach England ahead of their successful Six Nations Grand Slam success, met with Priday and Sparrow yesterday where they told him they wanted a ‘fresh start’ at the club.
Supporters and players will be shocked by the news and also that they have not even allowed him to finish the season. Albion still have two games left, at home to second-placed Hartpury College and away at champions Richmond.
Fans will also be worried that Dawe’s departure will lead to mass exodus of players, who have not yet been offered any contracts.
Dawe only returned to Albion last year after a three-year absence when the club were rock bottom of the Championship. He initially came in as an advisor before being appointed director of rugby in April following James Shanahan’s departure.
The new owners have yet to explain their reasons for not wanting to work with Dawe or their plans for the future.
In a statement, Dawe said: “I have been asked by the new owners of Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club to step down immediately.
“I met with Bruce Priday and Nigel Sparrow yesterday for the first time where they informed me I was not part of their current plans as they wanted a fresh start. This came without any previous dialogue between myself and them.
“I was willing to listen to them before making any decision on my future but they had already made their minds up on the direction they wanted to go in.
“It is sad for the players that the new owners want to make these change now with two games of the season still to go and such a promising future with this group of talented and close group.
“I would personally like to thank all the players and staff for their efforts this season, all the supporters who have cheered the team on home and away and all the superb sponsors.
“It was not an easy decision for me to return last year when the club was facing administration and were rock bottom of the Championship. I was persuaded to come back to try and do my best to help save the club and try and rebuild it, even though I was aware of the difficulties.
“In 2014 the then board took out a significant loan and that debt and others remained on the club’s books when a new board took over last year. However, the loan could and should have been cleared by a group of guarantors.
“On the field, the club were also facing the difficulty of losing over 30 players in the summer after relegation from the Championship.
“No other team in National One was having to start again from scratch and there was a great danger the club could go straight through the division.
“The board unanimously agreed a budget to try and stay in National One and then hopefully look to push for promotion back to the Championship in 2016/17. There have been recent reports about the size of the playing budget this season, but the truth is the budget is a lot less than has been reported and a fraction of last year.
“The majority of the players recruited were young ambitious Devon and Cornwall players who it was hoped would develop and serve the club over a number of seasons.
“Those players have surpassed all expectations this season, playing winning and ambitious rugby. Despite being one of the youngest squads in the division, they have won 20 of their 28 league matches.
“Up until a few weeks ago there was still a chance the team could win the title, when a mid-table finish was the main target.
“The players have been class and are one of the best groups I have ever had the privilege to work with.
“The coaching staff, Simon Lane, Tristan Lark and Lee Jago, team manager Simon Hicklin and the medical personnel have worked tirelessly this season to improve the players technically, tactically and physically. I cannot thank them enough for their efforts and it has been a pleasure to work with them.
“The players were very frustrated over losing 30 hard-earned league points for going into administration, but were told it was for the good of the club moving forward.
“I always felt there was an achievable solvent solution, especially if certain parties had been willing to play ball. We were exceptionally close to finding a way to do that but unfortunately it did not happen in time.
“I hope the club can move forward. Plymouth Albion will always hold a special place in my heart and I know I have always done my utmost for the club.”