Bees enjoy taste of the celebrity lifestyle

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The Independent Online

It has almost been too much for everyone at Pertemps Bees. So much has happened in the two weeks since they pulled off what was the giant-killing act of the past 20 years that it has left them breathless.

It has almost been too much for everyone at Pertemps Bees. So much has happened in the two weeks since they pulled off what was the giant-killing act of the past 20 years that it has left them breathless.

For example, that shock Powergen Cup win over Premiership side Wasps, coupled with a few post-match observations were enough to tempt Twickenham's previously seemingly indifferent power-brokers into handing over £20,000 to a club whose name had meant very little to the nation at large, not just those at Twickenham just a fortnight ago.

It has to be said that the Bees' Powergen Cup coup in knocking out a much-fancied Wasps at the Premiership club's own ground has set off a string of after-shocks and reactions that no one involved in the club would have foreseen.

Initially, on winning that quarter-final tie the Bees, formerly known as Birmingham-Solihull, were left with no tangible reward for their magnificent effort, other than a measly £4,000 for not being able to compete in the Shield, the secondary knockout competition for the four National League One teams who made most progress up to the last eight of the Cup.

But the Midlands side did not remain empty-handed for very long. Just a couple of days after the upset the Rugby Football Union stumped up £20,000 of its own cash by way of prize-money.

The cup sponsors, Powergen, felt that they had done their bit by backing the competition in the first place and offered nothing extra to the Bees, and in so doing missed out on a great public relations opportunity - their original allocation of prize-money for this season's competition had already been divvied up among the 12 Premiership clubs, the thinking being that no First Division side was going to make it as far as the semi-final.

Powergen's loss was the RFU's gain, and their director of operations, Terry Burwell, who insisted there had always been a contingency plan in place in the event of the unthinkable becoming a matter of fact, it was just that no-one had decided on an appropriate sum of money, not only handed over the money but said yesterday that there will be more if the Bees reach the final.

But if the Bees beat Newcastle tomorrow in the semi-final the RFU will need no asking, they will come up with more cash for the part-timers without a quibble. In fact the only thing that will be denied the Bees would be a place in the European Cup next season were they to win the final at Twickenham on 17 April, but they are unlikely to shed tears at missing out on that. They have enough on their plate with all the goings-on thus far.

But the cashflow does not dry up there. As their astute coach, Phil Maynard, said: "The money is just rolling in." Mind you Maynard said this with tongue in cheek and explained: "We have just been voted National League First Division Team of the Month by First Division Rugby. It was worth £250." There has also been the inevitable media interest, with television stations nosing their way into the clubhouse to record the celebrants' every sip and cheer, while one player was dogged by a national newspaper photographer trying to get him to pose for a picture by sitting on a toilet seat to demonstrate his kicking stance.

That is because the fly-half Mark Woodrow described his bizarre kicking style as looking like he was "having a crap". Thankfully Woodrow, an electrician who was rewiring a church in Downend, on the outskirts of Bristol, while trailing the photographer around, had the good sense to decline posing with anything resembling a toilet seat. He admitted: "It's still really strange to me. I have never experienced this before. I didn't know what to say to questions, and obviously I made the blunder with what I said about my kicking style. But I have had phone calls from people I haven't seen or spoken to in years and they have all been telling me, 'Well done' and some of them want to meet up with me for a drink. It's unreal." And it does not stop there. So seismic was the win that club is now talking about moving grounds, a lot earlier than had been planned.

Earlier this week it was announced that talks were under way about a ground-sharing deal with their footballing neighbours Solihull Borough at their Damson Park ground.

Despite the Bees claiming that discussions were only at a preliminary phase and that there were other options being considered, informed opinion is that talks with Solihull Borough are a lot further advanced and it is highly likely that their address next season will be Damson Park.

That would allow their Sharmans Cross Road ground, part-owned by the local council, to be sold for development. And as Maynard said: "If we grow chimneys, not grass then it would be worth between £5m and £8m to the club." But that is in the future. Right now the past is still occupying everyone's mind. And not all of it was worth celebrating. Last Saturday, for instance, they lost a home League match to Orrell. "We had doubled our gate for that match as well," said Maynard, not that defeat will deter the supporters.

"There was a little bit of a downer after the Orrell defeat, but training this week has been fantastic and the atmosphere around the club has been great," Maynard added. "People have been buying flags and tickets for the Newcastle game. It has pulled everyone together." The captain, Ed Orgee, has also enjoyed the limelight, however he is not allowing himself or his players to be distracted from the job at hand.

"It has been great, everyone has enjoyed themselves, but we have to keep our feet on the ground." There is little doubt of that, because their mascot for the semi-final is 12-year-old William Radburn, whose older brother James - a willing ballboy and water carrier during training sessions - died of an asthma attack in January aged 14. With that tragedy haunting them the Bees are unlikely to suffer from a distorted perspective. Their boots will be firmly planted on the Kingston Park turf tomorrow.

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