Barkley feeling McGeechan effect
August 27, 2010
Ian McGeechan has been inspirational since joining Bath, according to Olly Barkley © Getty Images
Olly Barkley has hailed the influence of Bath's new performance director Ian McGeechan prior to the new Aviva Premiership season.
The former British & Irish Lions coach took over the role at the Recreation ground during the summer and his influence is already showing according to Barkley. The centre admitted to being star-struck when he first met the Scot, but he believes Bath's players will benefit hugely from his presence.
"I was in awe when he first came in. You think of the amount of rugby he has seen and I still feel slightly overwhelmed talking to him," Barkley said. "When he makes some key points you realise your mouth is hanging open and you are dribbling a bit!
"He is fantastic. He is perfect for our club because he is very knowledgeable. He is very approachable, a lovely man and for me he is great because he played in the backs. He will stand behind various drills and he will just say 'try this or try that'. I am really looking forward to having him as a coach and a figurehead for the club."
A year ago Bath were coming off the back of a damaging drugs scandal and facing a difficult season. A superb run in the second half of last season restored confidence around the club, who have signed Lewis Moody and Sam Vesty from Leicester and Scottish international Simon Taylor to bolster the player ranks.
Owner Bruce Craig has invested in state-of-the-art new training facilities and Barkley, who suffered a "bitter pill to swallow" when left out of the England and Saxons squads for this season, says the changes around the club mean things have never been better at Bath.
"It has been awesome," said Barkley. "The nice thing is we have quality players coming in but some great people as well. Lewis is a good character, I have been really impressed with Sam Vesty who has been training really well, he has a great understanding of the game and is a top bloke as well.
"There is a nice feel and a lot of that comes from Bruce Craig being involved. He lives in Provence but Steve [Meehan, head coach] doesn't think he will miss a game at home or away. He is in hook, line and sinker and it is great having that level of support. He has invested a lot of money in this club and he is very passionate about it.
"For someone like me who loves this club - it means more to me than just a club - to see someone come in and invest that amount of money and passion is humbling. To a certain extent he has saved the club. He has taken it in a direction it was never going to go in beforehand. I am well excited by that. It is an amazing time to be at the club."
Meehan echoed his player's sentiments, saying, "It is a very positive place to be and a fun place to be. All those hangovers from last year have clearly gone. While everyone came back and was working hard last year, it was not the same atmosphere.
"That only occurs to you when you experience something different. Our pre-season performances have shown the guys are enjoying the way we are playing whereas last year it was a bit of a struggle. Everyone is really optimistic and excited to be there."