When Caldy Rugby Club got promoted to the Championship last season not many would have believed they would stay up, but that’s exactly what they are doing.
Caldy is a small community rugby club in Merseyside who reached the highest level ever in their history when they got promoted last season – but even their Chairman Gary Devaney didn’t think they would stay up this season.
He said: “We had a meeting after the last game of the season with various people involved, the sponsors, committee, the coaches and the director of rugby.
“And to be honest with you, we probably thought it was a good chance we’d come straight back down again.”
But the Ravers have defied the odds and currently sit 9th in the Championship, 21 points above the relegation place.
Devaney, who has been Chairman of the club for the last four years, never believed the club would ever be competing at this level.
“I don’t think anybody at Caldy ever expected this, to be honest with you,” he said.
“It’s a little like something out of Roy of the Rovers, isn’t it?
“We saw the names of these teams, these great old clubs of English rugby, and we never thought we’d be up there.”
When the club achieved promotion and were going to play against historic clubs such as London Scottish, Richmond and Nottingham many thought they would need to change their method but Devaney is proud they stuck with their model.
The 66-year-old said: “Others will spend a lot more money than us but that doesn’t really make a difference at the end of the day, it’s what happens on the pitch, isn’t it?
“Our model is to try and be a community and be the best level of rugby community club can play.
“We see ourselves as one club from the bottom to the top. It’s not just about the first team, it’s actually about everything else that goes on.”
The Ravers, who are celebrating their 100th anniversary next year, had a special day back in April when they won promotion against rivals Sale FC, winning 13-9 at Paton Field, and Devaney believes it made the result even sweeter beating their rivals.
“It was excellent,” he said.
“The celebrations went on late into the night.
“It’s hard to put into words really, but there were was 4,000 people there watching the game.
“It was even better against Sale FC, no offence to Sale FC, but as I say, everyone has different models and they had quite a few of Sale Sharks’ Academy players playing for them on the day.”
With Caldy being in the Championship, one league off England’s top division, they are now the second highest ranked team in the north-west – behind Sale Sharks.
Devaney, who previously captained the side, believes their story of two promotions in three seasons is special.
He said: “It’s hard to believe that somebody like Netflix or something like that hasn’t picked it up.”
With being in the Championship the club is only one promotion from England’s elite but even if the club was successful enough to win the Championship they wouldn’t be granted promotion.
This is due to RFU having strict rules on what clubs can and can’t be in the Gallagher Premiership.
The RFU’s criteria means clubs have to have a current capacity of 5,000 with plans to upgrade to 10,001.
With Caldy’s Paton Field stadium only being able to hold 4,000 people they wouldn’t be granted promotion, but Devaney doesn’t believe the club will ever have to worry about such a scenario.
He said: “I mean the likelihood of us winning the Championship isn’t that great, to be honest with you and I think there should be promotion.
“But really we haven’t even got a stand.
“We’ve got a cricket pitch on the other side.
“We don’t want to lose that either, even if we were allowed to.
“We won’t bother going up.
“It wouldn’t stop us wanting to win it.
“I understand why they don’t want us going up.
“Although I think it’s harsh on some of the other clubs.”
Despite this the Chairman, who has played at the club since the age of 14, says they have plans in place to improve the club.
He said: “We want to build a new clubhouse.
“We’re on National Trust land and it’s green belt.
“We’ve got to get past the planners now, so that’s taken quite a bit of time.
“If we get planning permission, we’ll build a new large clubhouse, which will be much nicer.
“I don’t think we could build a stand, we wouldn’t even ask to and why would we want to move it’s glorious where we are.”