Toby Flood is set to become a Newcastle Falcons centurion in Friday night’s Gallagher Premiership visit of Bath Rugby to Kingston Park Stadium, with the fly-half in line to play his 100th game for the club.
Fitness and selection permitting he will chalk up the milestone more than 12 years after making his debut for the club, a 19-year-old Flood having starred in a 29-28 victory over Wasps back in February 2005.
“I didn’t actually know about the 100-game thing until I was told midweek, so it’s not as if I’ve been sat there with a chart ticking the matches off,” said the three-time Premiership title winner, who has 60 England caps to his name.
“It’s a nice milestone to reach, and if you factor in how long ago my debut was I’ve probably set some kind of record in terms of how long it’s taken to make the century!
“It’s nice to be up there with other people who have represented the Falcons over a long period of time, we have the 100 Club over in the West Stand now which is great and their pictures are all over the walls. I think it’s fantastic for the club to acknowledge that kind of thing and it’s an honour to be in that company, but if I’m brutally honest I’m not putting any more significance onto this game than I would do for any other.”
Recalling a debut which saw him starting at full-back in a game decided by a late penalty from current head coach Dave Walder, Flood said: “I remember being incredibly nervous – that’s the main emotion that comes to mind.
“I’d been a late call-up because Matt Burke pulled out injured, I was coming back from a knee injury and I was in there because there was basically no-one else.
“I was just a scruffy university student at the time and within a minute or so of the game kicking off I remember Alex King putting a massive high bomb on me, as you would do to any teenager making his debut. Fortunately I caught it and I managed to dummy Lawrence Dallaglio on my way out of the 22, and we ended up beating the then-European champions. I was quickly brought down to earth the following week though when we shipped a club record 83 points at Leicester!”
Making no attempt to play down the significance of Friday’s home game with Bath, the 33-year-old said: “We’re really looking forward to it, we had a good win against them up here last season and they didn’t really want to know that night.
“It’ll be different this week because their tails are up after a good win over Worcester, and they’re a good side. For us it’s the classic awful cliché of just focusing on ourselves, but the reality of the situation we’ve found ourselves in is that we can’t be looking around at what other teams are doing. We’ve just got to knuckle down and get on with sorting out our own game.
“I’m not going to try and play it down – I think Friday is one of the most important games we’ve played since I moved back to the club in terms of what it carries and how it can positively influence our season.
“We’re in a bit of a dogfight at the moment but the league is so tight, and if you win a couple of games your position can change dramatically. I speak to players I know at other clubs and they’re all saying the league is closer this season than ever before, and one of eight clubs could be down there. We’re certainly not getting overly worried or obsessed about that, because if we get our jobs and our processes right we know things will improve.”
Keen to kick on from last Friday’s 20-7 defeat at Harlequins, Flood said: “We didn’t really get going in attack. We didn’t concede anything in the first 20 or 30 minutes but when you’re defending for that long, and then concede an interception try just before half-time, it takes the wind out of your sails a little.
“We recovered quite well from that but I think it was a case of being a poor game between two teams who were both lacking a bit of confidence on the night, and not playing to their best. We’re much better than that, we’ve been working hard to put it right and it’s great now to have the chance at home to show people what we’re really about.”
Hopeful that a strong Kingston Park crowd can play their part, he added: “The big thread to last season was that we nailed our home form and picked up a few wins on the road, and if you can really get that home record sorted it puts you in a much better position. Yeah, Quins was disappointing, but we can use it as a catalyst.
“The nice thing about professional sport and the Premiership in particular is that there’s always another big game just around the corner, and you don’t get time to sit around and mope after a defeat.
“The crowd here really do make such a big difference, I’m sure all the lads are in agreement there.
“I find it a bit hard to come out and publicly ask them for vocal support because I think it’s down to the players to give them something to shout about, but on the same token there’s no denying that a big loud atmosphere does play a big part in your favour. It’s crucial that our supporters are behind us on the night, but within that we obviously acknowledge from the team side that we have a massive role to play in making that atmosphere happen.”
Tickets for Friday’s game are still available, although seats and South Stand terracing are in very short supply. Book your place by clicking here.