Gary Graham says he and his Newcastle Falcons team-mates will be trying to earn back the respect of their supporters when they host Bristol Bears in Saturday’s season-ending Gallagher Premiership encounter.
The 4pm Kingston Park kick-off sees the Falcons drawing a line under a campaign in which they were relegated from the top flight, Scotland star Graham admitting: “We can’t hide behind anything - we’ve been relegated, and that’s the reality of it.
“But we’ve got one more game to show our supporters, our coaches and probably ourselves how much it means to be part of this team.”
Insisting it won’t be a care-free end-of-season mind-set, the back-rower said: “It’s not a ‘nothing’ game for us, even though our league position has already been decided.
“We’ve not done ourselves justice this season, we’ve lost too many games and we’re treating Saturday just as seriously as we would do any other match.
“We’re not just going out there to chuck it around, we’ll be trying to impose our own game on Bristol and we’ve got work to do in showing our fans how much we care.”
Asked what the difference was from the previous season, in which the Falcons reached three semi-finals and achieved a 20-year high in terms of league position, Graham said: “We’ve done a lot of soul searching and tried to put our finger on what has gone wrong this season, and a big part of I think is having that winning mentality.
“Last season we won most of our first six or so games and we were top of the league or thereabouts, and this season we won one of our first six. It just meant we were around that bottom spot from pretty much the first couple of rounds, and we’ve not been able to get away from there.
“It is what it is and there’s no point in us making excuses – we’ve just got to go out now against Bristol and show people what it means to us to play for this club, and to try and right a few of the wrongs we’ve shown over the year.
“After that we’ve got to go down to the Championship and bounce straight back up, but that’s going to be a challenge in itself. The Championship is a very good league with some very good players and teams in it, and we’ll have to work hard to get back up.”
Tickets for Saturday’s 4pm kick-off against Bristol Bears are available by clicking here.