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Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 18:09 UK

Cockerill's learning curve

Heineken Cup final
Venue: Murrayfield Date: Saturday, 23 May Kick-off: 1700 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport website (UK only), BBC Radio Leicester; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles

Richard Cockerill
Now when I'm angry it's because I want to be angry and not because I can't control it

Richard Cockerill

Richard Cockerill says a steep learning curve is behind the stunning start to his managerial career at Leicester.

The former England hooker was only appointed on a permanent basis in April and has already guided the Tigers to Premiership final glory.

Now he has Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Leinster in his sights.

But he admitted: "The first time I did this as caretaker we did OK results-wise but I drove everyone insane with being too dictatorial and demanding."

That first spell in charge came when the then newly appointed Tigers coach Marcelo Loffreda was away on World Cup duty with Argentina at the start of the 2007/2008 season.

And Cockerill told BBC Sport he learned a great deal about how not to coach during that brief spell.

Confident Cockerill counts on cup double

"It was the way I spoke to people," he said.

"I was just unreasonable - for the right reasons in that I wanted everything to be right and everyone has to be driven to be as good as they can be - but the way I handled it was quite poor.

"Looking back I think I must have been a complete idiot at times.

"But I probably got the leeway because people probably thought deep inside there is a decent bloke trying to come out and they gave me the benefit of the doubt!

"And when this opportunity came around this was probably the big question mark; 'we know his heart is in the right place and his rugby knowledge is good enough but is he disciplined and smart enough to deal with different types of people?'

"Before I wanted everything to be done the way I wanted it be done.

Cockerill was born in Rugby on 16 December 1970
Tigers appearances: 262 games in two spells (1992-2002 and 2004-2005)
England caps: 27
Has had two spells as Leicester acting head coach before being named permanent coach in April 2009
Tigers honours: As a player - five league titles, two Heineken Cups
As coach: Premiership final winner 2009
Record as acting coach/head coach since January 2009:
Played 18, won 13, drawn 1

"Now I'm a little bit more relaxed and as long as it does get done I don't mind how it gets done.

"Now when I'm angry it's because I want to be angry and not because I can't control it.

"Just do it in your style - however that is - but when I come back in a week as long as it's done I can cope with that.

"Twelve months ago I wanted everyone to be like me which is probably a bad thing in lots of ways!

"But I can cope with dyed hair and white boots as long as the people are good people and they work hard and do the right things.

"I do still give them stick and if they come out in white boots or red boots I look down and say, 'you'd better be good'.

"I just don't want people to be pretenders.

"If they have all the gear and can't play but think they can that is when I have an issue. I want people to work hard and do their stuff."

And Cockerill also sees no harm in players speaking their mind - something he was renowned for during an impressive playing career with Tigers and England.

Cockerill explained: "If you ignore things and sweep things under the carpet they don't get done until something goes horrendously wrong and then everyone goes 'it's because we didn't sort it out a month ago'.

Ben Kay
If you said this poisoned dwarf who was running around eye gouging, punching people and stamping on fingers in training would be head coach in ten years most people would have had a little snigger

Ben Kay

"I'm quite hard on discipline with timekeeping and dress code and all those things.

"In isolation they are nothing but if you add them all up together and you lose a game it all comes back to bite you on the bottom.

"My on-pitch persona and probably one I cultivated was a bit disruptive and a bit anti-establishment and I probably played on that a bit as a player."

The "new" Cockerill has a much more laid-back approach but he is still eager that his players do not have any regrets come Saturday night.

"To be a player in this is very special," he said. "You don't get many opportunities to play in a European Cup final when it comes along you have to take that opportunity."

One man unlikely to allow the occasion to pass him by is Cockerill's former Leicester team-mate Ben Kay.

The England lock is desperate to add more silverware to his already bulging trophy cabinet.

And he believes Cockerill's success at Welford Road can be put down to his leap from pit-bull player to considered coach.

"There were a few eyebrows raised when the club brought him back as a coach and he has proved everyone wrong," Kay said. "He has been fantastic.

Kay impressed by Cockerill transition

"But if you said when he was a player that this poisoned dwarf who was running around eye gouging, punching people and stamping on their fingers in training would be head coach in 10 years most people would have had a little snigger.

"He has reformed himself but he was always a good bloke off the pitch - it was just on it!

"What he has been brilliant for is knowing how far you can push the boundaries.

"The great thing about Cockers as a player was his passion and will to win and he has still go that.

"But he has coupled that with a bit of level-headedness that comes with being off the pitch.

"He prioritises the information very well and makes sure things are as simple as possible for the players."

Another England forward and Tigers stalwart Lewis Moody has also seen the development in Cockerill the coach.


"He's an angry little man who's come good as a coach," Moody said.

"The bitterness, anger and hatred that he had as a player he still has but he has has manifested it in passion as a coach.

"He's moulded himself into a great coach. He had about four months in charge when we were waiting for Marcelo Loffreda to turn up but I don't think he enjoyed it and would probably admit that.

"But now he's grasped the role with both hands and has really made it his own."

This week's Tigers Podcast, with previews to the Heineken Cup final is available to download at and you can hear full commentary on Saturday's game at Murrayfield on BBC Radio Leicester on 104.9FM, DAB and online at

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see also
Leicester v Leinster (Sat)
21 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Cockerill crowing in coaching role
17 May 09 |  English
Leicester 10-9 London Irish
16 May 09 |  English
Improve or forget double - Murphy
16 May 09 |  English
As it happened - Leicester v London Irish
16 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Guinness Premiership final photos
16 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Leicester prepared for Dupuy exit
10 Jun 09 |  Leicester
Meyer resigns as Leicester coach
28 Jan 09 |  Leicester

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