“It is a professional sport now. You can’t be purely emotionally driven. There is still a place for nostalgia, but as a player you have to be more clinical than that”
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Sam Underhill says Bath cannot get hung up on their glorious past if they are to reverse the current slump.
The England star is still coming to terms with Sunday’s 71-17 hammering by Saracens – their heaviest ever home league defeat.
It brought humiliation to a club which built its reputation on six English championships, 10 national cups and being the first to bring the European Cup back to these shores.
The Bath of today are winless and prop up the Gallagher Premiership after their poorest start to a season since 2001.
Owner Bruce Craig remains “hugely supportive”, according to team boss Stuart Hooper, but Bath’s director of rugby admits: “That result will always be there, we can’t change that, it’s a historic event”.
Hooper revealed that Craig had spoken with him “about how we make sure this is the lowest point” and readily concedes that, with an away trip to champions Harlequins up next, there is no simple solution.
But whilst people outside draw parallels between the past and present, Underhill refuses to get weighed down by unflattering comparisons to what the club achieved before he was born.
“There’s not an awful lot of room in the professional game for nostalgia,” said the 24-times capped flanker. “I don’t know players who played here 20-30 years ago. It might as well have been a different club.
“Yeah the badge is the same and there’s obviously an element of pride (in what was achieved) but, to be honest, the pride relevant to me concerns the people I’m playing with now.”
A storied club like Bath, housed slap bang in the middle of a rugby-mad city, cannot hope to divorce itself from the achievements of the 1980s and 90s.
Underhill might be right that the game now is “so different” to five years ago let alone 10 or 20, but as Liverpool or Manchester United will tell him, supporters don’t think like that.
“I do understand that history is important to fans,” Underhill said. “But my job isn’t to think about that. I’m 25, I am a player.
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“I will turn up and train and play as well as I can. I will prepare myself and try to help the team as best as I can. That’s my job.
“It is a professional sport now. You can’t be purely emotionally driven. There is still a place for emotion and nostalgia, but as a player you have to be more clinical than that.
“The amount of times I’ve heard ‘we have an excellent team on paper’,” he added. “Everyone does. We’ve all got the same salary cap. Every team has internationals, every team has good players. You get what you deserve as a playing group.”
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Underhill explained that Bath are trying to “completely change” their style of play, under new attack coach David Williams, to find one which better suits today’s game – and it does not happen overnight.
“I understand people’s frustration when it comes to the result but I would never question the commitment of people here,” he added.
“It’s not an effort thing. It’s not a commitment thing. If it was dead easy to come up with the winning formula everyone would do it. It’s hard. It takes time.”