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Rugby Union: Cash problem stifling Bedford's rich future

Bedford 23 Leicester 32
AFTER SO much hard work, so much effort and enthusiasm to put a once-proud club back on the rugby map, it looks increasingly likely that it could all end in tears at Bedford. However worthy Frank Warren's contribution - financial and administrative - it seems that other businessmen in the area are more keen to keep their money where their mouths are. The club lacks a sponsor. There have been no offers to buy into a share of the club with Warren.

But by sitting on their cash, Bedford's money men are suffocating a club that has great potential. After all Bedford own their Goldington Road ground and their debts amount to a relatively modest pounds 300,000. "They have the look of a mid-table side," said the former England, Bedford and Northampton lock Martin Bayfield, after the youthful and inexperienced team had not so much tweaked as twisted the Tigers' tail.

No mean feat considering the troubled times in which they are expected to ply their trade. As if the threatened players' strike, then departure of coach Paul Turner were not enough, Bedford's future hangs in the balance. Warren, it is reported, is looking to sell; Geoff Cooke's position as chief executive and stand-in coach is uncertain.

"If my contract is honoured, and there are three more years to run, then I will be happy to see it through," was the former England manager's cryptic response to questions about his future. Cooke expressed his disappointment in the fall-off in support for the club.

There were 4,165 on the ground and Cooke said: "When I took the job I did so because I thought there was real potential for rugby in the town. Now I am seriously beginning to doubt it. We were getting 4,000 last season in the Second Division and the year before we had more than 5,000 for the Newcastle match. We have some of the best players in the world coming here, but what can we do to get people in here? We can't exactly go and drag them in off the streets."

The stay-aways missed a cracking game in which Leicester's tried-and- trusted streetwise approach proved just more than a match for the outright, in-your-faces approach and raw talent of Bedford's modern boys. It was a match though that had begun in tears. The Bedford captain, Rudi Straeuli, took Clem Boyd to one side when the muscular, Belfast-born prop had arrived at the ground and told him that there was something he wanted the Ireland A player to do.

South African No 8 Straeuli wanted Boyd, a former singer in a punk band and one-time school chorister, to give a rendition of "Danny Boy" before the team went out. "That was no problem," Boyd said. "I'm always singing on the coach." Straeuli's psychological tactic almost paid off. "We all had tears in our eyes when we went out there," admitted Straeuli, "perhaps we were too emotional, because we didn't start very well". They didn't. But by the end Leicester knew they had been in a hard game.

The lock Scott Murray made a huge impression, flanker Jason Forster is to be reckoned with, while the running of wing Darragh O'Mahoney, coupled with the power and pace of centres Alistair Murdoch and Joe Ewens suggest Bedford are worth paying to see. Pay day is Wednesday. So is D-day for many of the club's employees.

Bedford: Tries Forster, Murdoch; Conversions Howard 2; Penalties Howard 3. Leicester: Tries Back, Ezulike, Potter, penalty try; Conversions Stransky 2, Stimpson; Penalties Stransky, Stimpson.

Bedford: S Howard; R Underwood, A Murdoch, J Ewens, D O'Mahoney; T Yapp, C Harrison; N Hatley, J Richards, C Boyd, A Duke (D Zaltzman, 32), S Murray, R Winters (J Cockle, 59), R Straeuli (capt), J Forster.

Leicester: T Stimpson; L Lloyd, S Potter, P Howard, N Ezulike; J Stransky, J Hamilton; D Jelley (H Toews, 73), R Cockerill (D West, 63), D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F van Heerden, P Gustard, M Corry, L Moody (N Back, 63).

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).