Jan 28 2010 Matthew Leslie
Glasgow skipper Kellock says rise of Firhill men is down to club development of flying young guns
Trusting in youth is the secret of Glasgow Warriors' success claims skipper Al Kellock.
Sean Lineen's men sit proudly at the top of the Magners League and with the final third of the season to be played out once the Six Nations hoo-haa has died down, the Firhill side are ready to pounce on a maiden title.
A far cry from when Kellock first arrived from Edinburgh in 2006 when Glasgow had just picked up the Magners wooden spoon and had seen coach Hugh Campbell pay the price with his job.
Lineen took the helm and sought about restoring team spirit and in particular, promoting young Scottish talent - a policy that has come to fruition with 14 Warriors selected for the recent Scotland squad.
Kellock, who has seen this plan unfold from the start, is not surprised the young guns have brought Glasgow to the brink of success. He said: "The progress the young players have made since I arrived doesn't surprise me at all because of how hard we work and how tight we are as a squad.
"We've not had any success yet but we've put ourselves in a good position this year however, one other aspect about this squad is that we're not easily carried away. This team has a well-grounded group of players who know the league is far from over and just take one game at a time.
"The situation is very fragile with so many behind us poised to strike. A bad result for us and a good one of any of them can turn the situation around extremely quickly so we know better then to get ahead of ourselves.
"The team spirit back when I arrived was still good despite what had happened before. What the coaches have done throughout that period is to keep it ticking over to the point where we are now in which it is very strong and geared towards a push for success.
"Having the same core of coaches has been massive. Sean took over before that season in question ended and sought to restore team spirit and keep it at a good level.
"With him and Shade (Munro) at the helm, it has helped as players like continuity and respond to it instead of having to adapt constantly to a new coach every couple of years.
"Winning games also helps which has proven to be the case this season as it gives you that extra factor needed to gel with the rest of the team and carry it on.
"We've also been blessed with some great young talent coming through the ranks. My first season saw a young John Barclay third in the pecking order behind Jon Petrie and Donny Macfadyen and ended that campaign as first choice openside flanker and selection for Scotland's World Cup squad.
"There have been others like Richie Gray, Johnnie Beattie, Richie Vernon, the Evans boys, Moray Low and Jon Welsh and one thing they had in their favour was that they were physically ready to step up and hold a place in the team.
"Professional rugby can be unforgiving if your body is not ready for the hard tackles and the pace of the game and it is testament to those guys' hunger and the coaches who brought them through that they were ready for Magners League rugby at such a young age."
Kellock also states the work of the club rugby scene has been paramount in ensuring Glasgow's young stars were ready for the rigours of pro-rugby.
He added: "The club scene must be credited for bringing those guys on. Take West of Scotland for example. They had the likes of Gray, Vernon and Welsh farmed out to them and the game time and coaching they got from John Beattie there gave them enough grounding to come back to us and say to Sean, 'We're ready', and they were as this season has shown.
"Jon Welsh was frustrated in not getting into the Glasgow squad but he went to West got some matches under his belt, no doubt picked a few tips from the management there and came back a more rounded player and ready to scrum against the best the Magners League has to offer.
"Attitude is another quality which our young guys have in abundance. Even when they are told they haven't made the team for a Magners match, they are onto their allocated clubs straight away declaring their availability for the weekend -with players as hungry as that, it is no surprise they play well when Glasgow select them.
"It also helps that the level of coaching in the club scene is of a high standard that these guys go there and learn of the likes of Beattie, Peter Wright etc and add it to their own game.
"Naturally this can't happen without good co-peration between Glasgow and the clubs ando it is good that there are open channels between Sean and the club bosses -a marked change from the situation when Scotland did go professional but we've now reached a good working relationship between both parties where we've both flourished.
"I think the clubs do benefit from there being a pro-team in Glasgow. The awareness of rugby has increased by the promotion and publicity generated by the PR staff.
"Crowds have increased and more young kids are taking up the sport aspiring to be the next Dan Parks or Thom Evans. That's got to help the clubs and they do a great job of developing the young guys who do want to go into professional rugby."
Spreading the word has also been key to the local game's resurgance says the Warriors skipper.
Glasgow's revamping of their community programme after they, not the now-fallen Borders team, were spared the noose in 2007 has proved dividends with more kids taking up rugby. Back then the Glaswegian called on the club to follow their basketball coun-terparts, the Rocks, in flinging its net even further and the catch is getting bigger.
Kellock said "The community work we do has got a lot better compared to when I first arrived.
"The game's and the Warriors' profile has increased over the years and we're getting more receptive audiences by the day with kids who can't go to play rugby.
"I go back to my old school Alan Glens and coach the kids there because I enjoy it and also to aid me as a player to appreciate more what coaches are saying to me.
"One good thing about our community programme is we go to all schools -state and private -which helps not only dismantle the age-old image of rugby being for the latter but taps into the state pupils who want to play the game or thought it to be for fee-paying schools only and create a new audience.
"The kid camps the Warriors run in the summer are very succesful with kids from all walks of life coming along and learning both rugby and social skills and having a great t ime on the back of it.
"My sister teaches at a primary school and runs a rugby after-school club and in each of the places she's taught at, there have only been a couple who have played before and t h e response she gets from the rest is superb.
"I go along sometimes to coach and ref the odd tournament she organises -although with the latter it's the parents you have to worry about."