Mike Pugsley is confident Dubai Wasps can return to prominence in UAE rugby despite revealing that he is to step down as head coach at the end of the season.
Pugsley, head of rugby at The English College, Dubai, is heading home with his pregnant wife at the end of term following a disappointing two-year spell in charge of the club.
There was a buzz surrounding Wasps when the Welshman took the helm in the summer of 2015, at a time when the club had just endured the most tumultuous season of their existence.
The 2014/15 campaign had started on a sour note when the club was fined Dh10,000 by the UAE Rugby Federation for failing to send a member of staff on a medical course.
Worse was to come as they were relegated from the UAE Premiership, and it’s been a slow descent into decline ever since.
Pugsley, who had previously coached Sharjah Wanderers for four years, led the club to sixth place in the UAE Conference in 2015/16, although they failed to reach the Top 6 play-off final – but 2016/17 has been full of woe for Wasps.
They finished 10th of 11 teams in this year’s Conference, with just two wins from 10 games, and have little chance of ending the campaign with silverware as they are currently bottom of the Bottom 5 competition following two opening defeats.
“It’s been a frustrating season for a number of different reasons,” said the 32-year-old.
“We lost a few players at the end of last year which hit us quite hard and we’ve lost a number of boys throughout the season, like our captain, to a long term injuries which have disrupted things.
“General availability hasn’t allowed us to pick our strongest team or given us any kind of consistency with team selection. As well as that we’ve been quite poor too and discipline has been a massive problem for us.
“I think we gave 27 penalties away against Sharjah for example so it’s been a big, big issue, as well as failing to convert pressure into points.”
Unlike the early days when they were known as Xodus Wasps from 2013 thanks to financial backing, these days the club is run by just three people.
Pugsley coaches two senior teams while Laurence Parker and Ben Rothwell juggle playing duties while acting as joint chairmen.
And despite their continuing troubles, Pugsley hopes happier times are on the horizon.
“We’re only a three man club, between me, Laurence and Ben,” he said.
“We haven’t got the big backing, resources and sponsorships like other clubs have got so we’ve done well fulfilling all fixtures across both men’s teams. We’ve got the women’s team going too so I’m confident the club can go on to bigger and better things.
“It’s just about retaining players for next year and hopefully recruiting some coaches and other personnel, like team managers, to help out at the club, because doing it between the three of us, with Ben and Lawrence also playing as well as being co-chairmen and me the only coach across two squads for forwards and backs, it’s difficult.
“They are doing the job of three or four people and trying to play so it’s very difficult for them.”
Wasps are seven points of the top two in the Bottom 5 and lost a heartbreaker 19-17 to Arabian Knights last weekend, but Pugsley is determined to fight to the death and hopes he can sign off with a sting in the tail.
“I’m hoping to bounce back from recent weeks. We’ve still got a chance to get into the Bottom 5 play-offs and that’s what we’re going for now,” he added.
“It’s been tough, again we’ve been really unlucky with availability and injuries to key positions. We’ve looked the better side in the majority of matches but just haven’t managed to get that winning score on too many occasions.”