GRAHAM DAWE says he does not have any regrets about returning to Plymouth Albion last year, despite the way he has been treated by the new owners of the club.
The former England hooker was persuaded to return to Albion in early 2015 when the club were rock bottom of the Championship and having given notice to appoint an administrator.
He had controversially been shown the door in November 2011 after guiding the club to two successive promotions and to within touching distance of the Premiership.
Peter Drewett, Nat Saumi and James Shanahan all had spells in the Albion hot seat before Dawe was asked to return.
His task was to try and rebuild the team and get the club going in the right direction again after a disastrous 2014/15 season which resulted in relegation.
He managed to put together a young squad who won 22 out of their 30 National One matches, but the club were unable to find a solvent solution to their financial problems from the Championship and were sold to former players Bruce Priday and David Venables, who was a director of Albion between 2010 and 2011, in a pre-package administration sale last month.
And just nine days after taking over the new owners surprisingly asked Dawe, who had been invited to help England out in the build up to the Six Nations, to stand down from coaching the team with just two matches to go, despite the club’s success on the field. They then brought in academy coaches from Exeter Chiefs.
“I’ve no regrets about returning,” said Dawe. “The reason I did was because of the magnitude and history of the club and because there are so many good people who support the club.”
He added: “I was originally asked by the then chairman Graham Stirling to help out because of the problems they were experiencing on the field, but I did not take over team affairs fully until April 2015.”
Stirling had been the chairman that controversially let Dawe go in 2011 to bring in former Exeter boss Drewett, who only lasted six weeks at the club before leaving.
Not too many coaches would have returned after what had happened previously.
But Dawe said: “It was all about the club not individuals.”
The former Bath hooker was disappointed Albion were not able to avoid administration.
Part of Dawe’s reason for returning last year was to try and possibly keep the club afloat even though they had given notice to appoint an administrator.
“The ultimate aim was to try and keep the club solvent and as high up the league structure as possible,” said Dawe. “We also wanted to try and give the club some substance again.
“You want a good rugby team with a good following. It is all about the team and the supporters coming together and taking on other clubs around the country.”
Dawe, who revived the club’s development side last season, helped launch an academy and pushed the club’s community programme, added: “Going into administration was not the ideal situation.
“I still feel the club did not have to go that way, but everyone had to come together for the good of Albion long-term.
“All the negativity surrounding the club over the last few weeks will not be good for attracting ambitious players, as well as sponsors and supporters.
“If all the individuals involved in Albion over the years had pulled together it would have benefitted the club long-term.”
The RFU have still to grant the new owners a permanent licence to operate. The owners have to pay a bond and have a business plan accepted by the sport’s governing body.
If the new owners cannot meet the RFU’s requirements then Albion could be relegated to Devon Two.
The uncertainty over the club’s future and who will be coaching the team, is leading to some players who wanted to stay at Brickfields now looking elsewhere.
Dawe said: “The concern at the moment is the not knowing and waiting. The sooner the immediate future of the club is settled the better.”
Dawe and his part-time assistant Simon Lane put a lot of time into developing the current Albion squad, the majority of which were under-25.
“It was not all for nothing, because the club and the supporters had a great season and a lot of players enhanced their reputations,” said Dawe.
“It is just a shame things have not moved as quickly as they needed to move at the end of the season to keep the momentum of this young and ambitious squad going.”