We've massively underachieved, says Bristol Rugby chairman Chris Booy
CHRIS Booy has revealed how Liam Middleton ultimately paid the price for Bristol's "massive underachievement" and some "totally unacceptable" results in the past 12 months.
Bristol yesterday parted company with their head coach, with recently-appointed director of rugby Andy Robinson taking over all rugby affairs after conducting his initial review.
Chairman Booy, pictured, paid tribute to Middleton but stressed the club had to come first – and said the buck stopped with the outgoing head coach when it came to Bristol's recent underachievement.
Since being thrashed 45-24 by Cornish Pirates in the first leg of the Championship semi-final last May, Bristol have too regularly appeared vulnerable.
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Friday's 23-14 defeat at Moseley – after they had led 14-0 – was their second loss in succession and their eighth in 18 league games this season.
"Liam is a very decent man and it's always sad when you have to part company with decent people," said Booy. "He is an entirely honest man and he's done the best he can for us, there's no question about that.
"So it's always a tough day – but the club has to come first and we had to make a decision to help us fulfil our ambitions and get to where we want to be.
"We've not achieved the results that we should have – this team is much better than our league position.
"We could argue, if you look at the players, that we should clearly be the second best team in this league, we should certainly be in a play-off position – and we're not.
"We have to look at ourselves hard and ask, 'Why is that?' There's not a simple answer – if there was, we would have fixed it. But it's a complex issue.
"We're not achieving the results we should be and Liam has been the head coach through that period. We now have someone with Andy's experience and therefore it's sensible to try to turn it around using that experience."
Bristol are three points off the top four of the Championship with four matches to play – and Booy said the threat of missing out on the play-offs had prompted the dismissal of Middleton, who had 15 months still to run on his contract.
"We're looking at the whole season – and we have underachieved," said Booy. "We're not specifically blaming Liam for that – we all take responsibility for that. The players must take responsibility – everybody must take responsibility.
"But it's not a case of us being an average side – we have underachieved massively. We should be in the top four.
"We've kept our eye on that all the way through, and, yes we've had some good wins, but the table doesn't lie – we're fifth and we're not in the play-offs. Some of the results have been totally unacceptable."
Booy spoke in the wake of Bristol's 63-7 drubbing at Nottingham in November of how the club was not in the business of making knee-jerk reactions.
And he said the decision to dismiss Middleton was not a direct reaction to Friday's calamitous defeat at Moseley but a wider review into the playing side of the club.
"It's not that Friday was the final straw – we're not into taking knee-jerk reactions – but we've been extremely disappointed with the results for the last 12 months, ever since the semi-final in Penzance," said Booy.
"I don't think anybody could argue that we've massively underachieved as a club. It will now be really hard to be in the play-offs – some other results have to go in our favour.
"Andy has done a thorough review since he's been here and we now feel that he needs a more hands-on approach to try to turn it around.
"We've employed someone of Andy's experience to give us his expertise and he's had a month to analyse everything – clearly his view is that we're in a better place with him coaching the side. This is a step in our progression."