Competition for places is a good thing for the squad, admits Grieve
IT is almost three years since the longest summer of Iain Grieve's career – when he sat by the telephone waiting to hear which of his Bristol team-mates were the latest to leave the club.
The club had just missed out on securing promotion back to the Aviva Premiership at the first attempt, which prompted pay-cuts and player departures.
Grieve, desperate to stay with Bristol but unsure if there was any way he could, kept waiting for a glimmer of positivity.
Three years on and the Bristol Grieve captains now is a very different one to the club he stuck with back then.
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Seven Premiership players have already been signed for next season, increasing the competition within the squad to a level Grieve will not have seen since becoming a first-team regular.
But while that may prompt a selfish player to worry about his own role in the team, Grieve endured enough dark days in 2010 to know that the recent investment Steve Lansdown has poured into the playing resources can only be viewed one way – as a positive for Bristol.
"I'm one of the few players who are still here from that situation three years ago, so seeing how the club has grown from then to now is amazing," said Grieve, who will make his long-awaited return from injury at Moseley this evening.
"The people who have done it are (head coach) Liam Middleton and the other coaching staff, while Andy Robinson is already adding value to our squad – everybody is learning from him, as you would do with his knowledge and experience. You can feel his presence in a room and he's going to help us.
"There's a lot of happiness around the club at the moment but the guys themselves know the job isn't yet done and we've still got five league games and, hopefully, four play-off games to go.
"It's proving a tough battle for that top-four spot – Leeds and a few other teams are making it hard for us – but we've got to keep working hard and the results will come. We've got to fight hard."
Regarding the influx of new signings, with Peter Buxton and Ben Skirving both coming in to challenge for the back-row spots, Grieve is typically philosophical – putting the club's cause before that of any individual.
"Bristol needs to interest players to come to the club – and the only way to do that is through investment," he said.
"The announcement we've signed Ben Skirving, for example, is amazing for Bristol – he's coming with a lot of experience in the Premiership and hopefully that will filter through the squad.
"That tends to happen when you get new players coming in with a lot of Premiership or top-level experience – their knowledge of the game can help the other boys.
"Right now, Mitch Eadie is playing at No 8 – Ben Skirving is coming in next season and you can anticipate a fight-off between Mitch and Ben for that shirt.
"Mitch is the type of person who will think, 'I'm going to learn from this guy but I'm not going to make it an easy ride for him to get into the team'.
"That's the type of attitude we have in every position in this team – everybody's fighting to get into the squad, because everybody wants to pull on a Bristol shirt.
"It's good news for the club and it's good news for the players who are here that we're getting quality players coming in – it's almost a massive relief that there is that kind of investment coming into the club now."
Having overcome a bicep injury he suffered in December, Grieve returns to the Bristol fold this evening and is understandably itching to play.
"It's three months since I last played, so I'm happy to be back," he said. "To be involved in any way would be amazing and all I want to do now is get back running out on to that pitch."