Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

'Tis the Season to Be Worried! ; It's Crunch Time for the Long-Term Future of Struggling Sale Sharks

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

'Tis the Season to Be Worried! ; It's Crunch Time for the Long-Term Future of Struggling Sale Sharks

Article excerpt

IT'Sthe season of goodwill and a time to be jolly, apparently. Try telling that to everyone who is associated with Sale Sharks right now.

As if things weren't bad enough for a side which has been marooned at the bottom of the Premiership virtually all season, Sunday's record Heineken Cup loss - a 62-0 thrashing away at French aristocrats Toulon - served as a more than unwelcome pre-Christmas stuffing for the club's long-suffering fans.

Galling and humiliating though that French hammering was though, of much more concern is the club's current Premiership plight. With the league set to emerge from a fortnight's slumber this weekend, the table certainly makes for a bleak midwinter's reading with the Sharks six points adrift of nearest stragglers London Irish and a further seven behind London Welsh.

Those horrific statistics are hardly surprising when one bears in mind Sale have recorded just one win in 10 league games.

That's relegation form by anyone's reckoning.

And with the domestic season almost at the halfway stage, the day of reckoning for Sale could be fast approaching.

Argument Indeed, there is a more than plausible argument that the Sharks' next two league assignments could help shape not just the short-term but the long-term prospects for a club which, pre- season, was tipped by many to push on from last season's creditable sixth-placed finish and challenge for a top-four berth.

Yet, incredible as it may appear, there is a scenario where John Mitchell's side could yet end 2012 off the bottom of the table and looking at a potential route to top-flight survival.

In order for the stars to align, Sale would need to emerge victorious both from Sunday's demanding trip to London Wasps and then follow that up just five days later with a victory on home soil against Worcester Warriors.

Then they would be banking on Irish succumbing to defeat in their two festive encounters - a home clash with Leicester Tigers followed by a daunting trip to Harlequins.

Unlikely, yes, but stranger things have happened already in this most unpredictable of seasons.

Alternatively, the Sharks really would be looking at a winter of discontent should December close out with two more league setbacks. …

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