Back In Black – 7 October 2011

Preamble: After 3 successive defeats, Wasps are on the slide. They return to Adams Park this Sunday to take on Bath in a fixture they must win to revitalise their season. They are in desperate need of inspiration, and in his article below Andrew Watson considers how they might get back on track as they are back in black.
“Back in Black”
Music can be uplifting. It can inspire. It can raise your spirits, and it can take you to a higher level. For a brief moment in time, it can remove you from the everyday worries of life, and transport you into a new world of hope and belief.
Sport embraces music. Athletes, sportsmen and sportswomen are seen the world over with headphones on listening to music, be that in training or in the build up to a big event, to focus their mind and get them ‘in the zone’. It seems to go with the territory, and many refer to their iPod playlist as a source of inspiration.
For team sport, it is different. The coach will want to engender some team spirit and collective sense of pride and togetherness before a match. Any music just before kick off must be for the benefit of the whole group, rather than the individual doing his or her own thing in isolation.
So, what significance does all this have on Wasps? Well, it is necessary to take a look back and consider the whole match day experience. Adams Park used to be a fortress. Visiting sides used to arrive in a state of fear. They didn’t think they could win, their trip being more in hope than expectation. And they didn’t win. In reality, they were often beaten before a ball had been kicked. In the golden era of Gatland and then, to a lesser degree, McGeechan, Wasps had an aura about them, especially in their own back yard. They expected to win, they had an inbuilt self belief based on years of hard graft and success, steely determination and a unique sense of togetherness. But it was more than that, it was the whole picture, and the match day experience was also key to the Wasps success.
Every match at Adams Park followed a certain pattern. The tentative opposition were first out, a small roar from their travelling band of supporters stood on the Terrace greeting their arrival and the musical accompliment being either “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads or “I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester” for our carrot crunching friends from Gloucester, hardly inspiring stuff to motivate and send them into action. Such songs have now been banished, which is probably a good thing.
However, for Wasps, it was quite different. The usual playlist pervaded the ground before kick off, including the old favourites “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations and “London Calling” by The Clash, but then, when battle was due to commence, the tempo was raised a notch.  The PA announcer’s job was done as he welcomed the team onto the pitch and the packed out crowd rose to their feet in unison to acclaim their heroes, as the team could be seen emerging from the tunnel. At that very moment, as the Wasps captain led his charges out onto the field of play,  the opening guitar riffs of ACDC’s immortal classic “Back in Black” filled the air. You couldn’t help but feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise, swiftly followed by a shiver down the spine. The image remains vivid to this day of Lawrence Dallaglio, the club’s talismanic leader in that golden age, all chiselled jaw and Italian emotion etched onto his rugged face, walking onto the pitch and leading his men into battle. Tears filled the eyes of grown men. The emotion generated by the music, the noisy excited reaction of the big crowd, allied to the strength and character of the team and their appearance in the famous black and gold was a heady cocktail indeed. No small wonder that the opposition had a look of fear and dread upon seeing the mighty Wasps emerge, their stature being akin to lambs preparing themselves for the slaughter. From that moment onwards, the result was very rarely in doubt. Wasps were a major force and at home, they were pretty much invincible. Glorious days indeed.
How times have changed. The current team is virtually brand new with many new faces and very few of the old guard remain. The golden age has long gone but let’s not be too downcast. Hope remains and some astute summer signings allied to some exciting young talent augurs well for an improved season. The early victories over last season’s top two teams, Saracens and Leicester, promised much. However, if those results are to be improved upon, Wasps need to make Adams Park a fortress once again. The crowd has to be large, noisy and boisterous and they need to be inspired. The recent heroics of Christian Wade have certainly had that effect. His exuberance has instilled a new sense of excitement and hope, but it needs more. The team as a collective need to stand tall and thrust out their chests, they need to be hard and uncompromising, with no soft touches. The players need to wear the black and gold shirt with pride and play with passion and commitment. They need to be feared and only then will they begin to recreate that aura of invincibility on home turf.
And as they run out onto the pitch on Sunday, Back in Black, as ever, will be accompanying them. It has become synonymous with the club in recent years and it is an incredibly powerful song. The players need to open up their souls and let the music inside, to infiltrate them with added strength and courage and, above all, to inspire them to greater things.
Once inspired and with added self confidence, they can then begin to walk the walk. As the final few lines of the song proclaim “So look at me now, I’m just makin’ my play, don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way” and it is that sense of confidence and attitude that the team will need to drive them onto success, when they are back in black this Sunday. Allez allez allez, Wasps Wasps Wasps!


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