An insight into Ray Prosser's successful coaching blueprint
12:02pm Wednesday 9th October 2013 in Sport
DAY two of our series of exclusive extracts from former Wales and Pontypool forward Alun Carter’s intriguing new book chronicling the highs and lows of Pooler’s rich history.
ALUN Carter and Nick Bishop’s ‘Seeing Red: Twelve Tumultuous Years in Welsh Rugby’, was a critically-acclaimed insider’s view into game at the top between 1998 and 2007 when Carter was the national team’s head analyst and the pair have followed it up with ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC.’
Publishes tomorrow by Mainstream Publishing, the Argus runs the second of three extracts from another absorbing work that aims to get to the heart of what made the club tick during its halcyon days.
In this excerpt, the reader is introduced to legendary player Ray Prosser who went on to transform Pooler’s fortunes as a revolutionary coach during the 1970s and 1980s and given an insight into his remarkably successful methods.
“PONTYPOOL RFC was an amalgam of people from all walks of life: the majority were blue-collar workers – colliers, carpenters, steel workers, electricians, policemen – with a sprinkling of doctors, students and businessmen, and the odd crook – or should I say ‘loveable rogue’. Pross would love to take the p*** out of the more white-collar types: ‘We’ve got more b***** medical men, lawyers, students and teachers than University Challenge. We’re keeling over with eggheads!’ he’d say, but ultimately it was the same rule for all.
Ray Prosser’s way of showing he cared about you, like Eddie Mogford and Steve ‘Junna’ Jones, was to subject you to a tirade of verbal abuse, usually based on how you looked physically or what you did for a job.
Prosser’s cruel-but-apposite nicknaming was part of that. The sharp wit cut through all social distinctions and variations in character and reduced everyone to the same level.
In fact, Pross got so used to remembering everyone by their nicknames and his mental caricature of them that he sometimes forgot their real names. The club archivist Ray Ruddick tells a story about the ‘doyen’ of sporting commentators Bill McLaren once turning up to commentate on a Pontypool game.
McLaren was always very assiduous in his research before matches and he approached Pross with a couple of pages of closely annotated foolscap in hand. He wanted to know the
Pontypool squad for the match. This was not Ray’s thing at all and signs of panic appeared: ‘Ivor, where are you?’ he screamed. When ‘the Jaw’ was not forthcoming, Pross desperately
rummaged through his memory for the names of the backs: ‘Well, we’ve got “the Doc” at full-back and “Sheets” on the right wing. “Bill Sykes” is playing outside-half . . .’ Pross ground to a halt. He could only remember the nicknames, never the real names – and certainly not if they were playing in the backs!
Prosser would also go to some extraordinary lengths to help the people he knew to be worth helping. Bob Dawkins recalls an occasion when ‘while he was still a player, Ray drove all the
way from Pontypool to Bristol to pick me up and drive me to the game.
Remember, there was no Severn Bridge in the early ’60s, so he had to drive all the way up to Gloucester and come back down again to Bristol. That was a good three-hour haul. Then after the match had finished he drove me all the way back again in the middle of the night. I was astonished that he’d do that for me. It opened up a window for me onto his character.
‘Although he’d never coached before, it was no surprise when things began to move forward quickly after he took charge. It inspired me, and when our ships passed in the night in 1969 it became a matter of regret to me that I never played with him as my coach. I missed him by only a few months in 1969, but I missed him nonetheless. If he’d come at the time I was still there, I’ve no doubt I would have stayed.’ (Bob Dawkins)
The flip side of the coin was that once Pross had written a player off in his head, he would hardly ever waste any time on him at training. ‘When he wasn’t seeing the world in red, black
and white, Ray saw the world in monochrome – everything was either black or white. He had a clear, well-ordered way of doing things. For Ray, there was a protocol in every situation, the right way and the wrong way of doing things.
Graham Price comments: ‘His great strength was his simplicity and his bluntness. His language used to be so blunt and colourful that the process of knowing where you stood
with him was usually painful. People would take offence at his jokes, which were often very personal, but he never meant them that way, it was just his method of getting everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.”
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