Sean Marsden confident Bristol Rugby will be back in the Premiership one day
SEAN Marsden is confident it is merely a matter of time before Bristol return to the Aviva Premiership – and he plans to be on the terraces when they eventually get there.
The 32-year-old full-back is quitting full-time rugby and leaving Bristol after three spells spanning 14 years – and will take up an academy coaching position at Hartpury College in July.
But the former Bristol Grammar School student, who is now settled in the city with his family, plans to continue his association with the club – by joining the supporters on the Memorial Stadium terraces whenever he can.
"From a selfish point of view, and being so close to all the boys, it would have been an absolute dream to finish off with a promotion and see the boys playing in the Premiership," said Marsden.
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"I desperately want them to get back up there and watch boys such as Jack Tovey and George Watkins strutting their stuff in the Premiership.
"It is going to be great when it happens – and it will happen. It's just a shame we couldn't do it this year and everyone is pretty devastated about that.
"But the club is in the right hands with Liam Middleton, Mike Hall, Matt Sherratt, Steve Lansdown, Chris Booy, Steve Gorvett and the board. They are heading in the right direction and it's just a matter of time before Bristol get back to where they belong."
Marsden played for Bristol from 1998 and 2002, 2003 to 2006 and 2010 until this season, making his final appearance for the club in the 26-20 win at London Welsh in April.
And he was quick to pay tribute to the club's fans for all the support they offered him during his three spells in blue and white.
"It has been an absolute honour and a privilege to play for Bristol – and the fans are completely a part of that," said Marsden.
"They have made me feel welcome and special from my first game back in 1998 down at Exeter, all the way through to my last game at London Welsh.
"I don't really know what to say to repay the great support the Bristol fans have shown me – but I hope to be having a few beers with them over the next 30-40 years on the terraces.
"In some ways, I hope to show my gratitude to the supporters by being one of them on the terraces from now on. I will be supporting Bristol for the rest of my life."
After helping to guide Avonmouth to promotion to the National League and Bristol Combination Cup glory, Marsden is now ready to focus on a career in coaching.
"I am absolutely delighted with the prospect of going to Hartpury – it's a respected environment and I am lucky to get this opportunity," said Marsden, who is expected to turn out for Hartpury's Saturday team next season.
He also plans to continue "helping out" with Avonmouth at their evening training sessions.
The Championship play-off format is, as expected, being revamped next season, with the top four clubs after the 22-game regular season going straight into a two-legged semi-final.
The pool stages for both promotion and relegation have been scrapped, so the team finishing bottom of the table will be relegated to National One.
As a result of the loss of play-off pool games, the British & Irish Cup is being extended, so teams will now have a minimum of six games.