CHRIS KIRWAN: Building Dragons need to awake from slumber

First published in Sport

CHELSEA have spend almost £100million this season yet even their supporters have been told to be patient by the boss.

Modern sport is about 'projects', just like reality television programmes are about the 'journey'.

When managers talk about projects there is a hint of self-preservation; by managing expectations they won't be the subject of rants on radio phone-ins or lampooned in the media or, most importantly, get the boot.

Hence Jose Mourinho, despite recruiting big with Willian (£32million), Andre Schurrle (£18million), Nemanja Matic (£23million), Mohamed Salah (£11million), Samuel Eto'o (free but mammoth wages), Marco van Ginkel (£8million), Christian Atsu (3.5million) and others, says the Premiership trophy won't return to the Stamford Bridge cabinet this spring.

The party will be in the north west of England again according to the Special One given that Manchester City can match their spending power.

This week he said: "The team, the players are all improving, so the perspective of champagne in the future is good. We are going in a good direction. But this season? I don't think so.

"We are playing well. We have to try to keep the good form we have, and let things happen naturally. As I've always said, our main objective this season is to build a team. But the best way to build a team is to be competing for things."

It's been three years since Newport Gwent Dragons were genuinely competing for silverware and that proved to be a painful experience when hammered 45-17 by Gloucester in an LV= Cup semi-final.

Lyn Jones was unveiled as director of rugby at Rodney Parade on the same day as Mourinho held his first press conference since heading back to Chelsea.

The two sporting outfits are a world apart yet much of the talk has been the same; this about learning, developing and gelling.

And following a shocking January that has contained a lacklustre derby loss to Cardiff Blues and humblings by Bath and Northampton it's worth remembering where the Dragons were at the end of 2012/13 and what we hoped for in August.

The region needs just two wins from their remaining 10 league fixtures to esclipse last season's total and they are almost certain to finish at least one place above the grim 11th spot they were condemned to last May.

The comments section of the Argus website contained pleas from frustrated spectators for their side to play with more grit and determination.

On the whole they have got that; the Dragons certainly seem a tougher nut to crack.

But the past two weeks have been tough with Bath and Northampton pummelling the region into the ground with their beefy, well-drilled packs.

They brutally exposed familiar failings. Jones insists he is still learning about the squad he inherited last summer but every Dragons fan would have told him back in June that the tight five needed bolstering (and how he would love to have just one week of John Terry's earnings to splurge on a tighthead).

The region is having a wobble and it's worth noting that they are yet to string together three wins on the spin.

But they have a great opportunity to enjoy a super and unexpected top-half finish this season, especially given that they Edinburgh, Glasgow, Connacht and Treviso at Rodney Parade.

It's a free hit for Jones this season and expectations will rise for the next campaign, whatever competitions the Dragons are playing in.

However, they must not allow things to continue to slide and the best way to build for 2014/15 is by edging out the Scarlets, Edinburgh, Treviso and Cardiff Blues by grasping the chance of a super sixth.

Tomorrow's LV= Cup encounter doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things but the Dragons need to wake up from their slumber so that they hit the ground running in the Pro12 a week on Sunday.

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