The Caldy story continues - 'It's huge for the fanbase to see the club that they love playing against Leicester'

Four years ago this weekend, Caldy faced Hinckley in National Two North. Now 12 miles up the road, they are preparing to take on Leicester Tigers
©Steve Flynn

“I'm 46 so I've grown up with Leicester Tigers dominating English rugby, so to be going there this weekend, what an honour!”

Those are the words of Caldy Director of Rugby Gareth Davies, who has been involved with the club since the age of 16. Now three decades on, he is preparing for the biggest day in the 99-year history of the club as they ready themselves to face Leicester in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

"I've buried my head in my day job now (as a solicitor), to try and forget about this weekend, but you can't. Everyone wants to talk about it! You can't think about it too much. I mean, I'll probably have a couple of sleepless nights, but we can only go and give a good account of ourselves and enjoy the day and what it's all about."

Many fans of the Gallagher Premiership may not know the story of Caldy, but they have written some extraordinary chapters over the past few years. If anyone argues that Leicester’s rise from the bottom of the Premiership to champions within two years is impressive, Caldy’s has been stratospheric.

In 2019, they were embarking on an ultimately successful season in the fourth tier of English rugby. Coincidentally, four years ago on Saturday, their visit was to Hinckley, just 12 miles from Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

That season saw Caldy record 25 wins out of 25 until COVID-19 hit the league, and they were forced into a nervy wait to see if the campaign was to be made null and void. Luckily, it wasn’t, and after another remarkable promotion from National One in 2021/22, they are now in the Championship.

They aren’t just holding their own, too, because in January, they beat Ealing Trailfinders, with a vastly inferior budget to the West London side packed with Premiership-level talent. At full-time, the wild scenes of celebration went viral.

Perhaps what is most heartwarming about this Caldy story is that the club hasn’t changed its ethos during their rise. Fourteen of the side that played against Hinckley four years ago are still with the Wirral outfit, and 11 will play this weekend against Leicester.

Davies credits the level of coaching as to why so many are still involved. “We have got four coaches at the club who make all the difference, the players develop because of those four coaches’ work. Led by (head coach) Matt Cairns, they are just getting better and better every year, and they just spend so much of their own time doing work for the benefit of the players, the club, and the team.”

But what does this weekend mean for the club though?

"It's huge for the fanbase. We're going for a day out to Leicester Tigers, to see the club that they love playing against one of the greatest clubs the country has ever seen, if not the greatest," said Davies. "The lads are excited about it. It's going to be a hard week for the lads, and us management if you like. We've had to pick 23 players to go from a squad of 60.

"We're realistic. I don't expect to come back with an FA Cup giant-killing result!”

Davies is right. The club should focus on enjoying the day. After all, Caldy’s playing budget for this season is around £200,000, a far cry from Leicester’s, which is likely to be 20-25 times that figure.

Of course, plenty of those who take the bulk of Leicester’s salary cap will be in France this weekend. Handré Pollard is available though, and is on a reported salary of three times the whole of the Caldy squad combined.

After the pandemic, the RFU made the much-maligned decision to slash funding for lower league sides in a bid to save costs, although Caldy were one of the few who didn’t suffer greatly because of the changes.

"It's funny for us because we have never really been in the situation where we've got money from the RFU," Davies explains. "Six, seven years ago, we'd get travelling expenses, and then they disappeared. Suddenly, we've come into the Championship and then now they want to give us some money and with getting to Jersey and Cornwall and places like that, which are not cheap, we need it.

"From our point of view, we're better off in the Championship than we were prior because of the increased interest and ticket sales etc. We're lucky in the sense that we have never relied on the money so now don't miss it at all. We don’t have a rich owner, we are lucky to have four main sponsors (amongst others) who are brilliant supporters for us."

So can 'little old Caldy' create another piece of history again? Surely not...but then again, this is Caldy.

Caldy visit Leicester Tigers in the Premiership Rugby Cup, with kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday. They then face Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks, Ampthill and Bedford in their remaining fixtures in the competition.


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