A CHARGE occasionally levelled at me is that I’m not exactly forthcoming with compliments.

To a self-confessed grouch this can be a little mystifying, surely my method only means that praise is genuine and extra special when it comes?

Alas, not everyone sees it that way and the art of verbalising a compliment remains a work-on, something that, fingers crossed, I will be able to practice when it comes to the Dragons this season.

There has been precious little to laud when it comes to the Rodney Parade region of late with a winless streak that goes back to January 13 against Enisei-STM in the European Challenge Cup.

In truth I’ve always been a glass-half-empty sort, an affliction that hasn’t exactly been helped by covering the Dragons.

Last season I returned to budget hotel rooms in Belfast, Dublin, Brive, Cork, Galway, Glasgow and Edinburgh to write about ‘Five things we learned from the X defeat to Y’.

Frankly I could’ve cut and pasted large chunks.

By the time the Dragons had thrown away a commanding lead at Myreside to suffer a seasonal away whitewash there was absolutely no learning going on – ‘we don’t need no education…’.

Contrary to popular belief, journalists don’t like sticking the boot in but there is a balance to be had.

I’d like to think that the Argus is your first port of call for Dragons news. No other publication covers them in the detail that we do, no other organisation is there at Ravenhill, the Sportsground or Scotstoun (sadly, Port Elizabeth may be stretch).

We want success but we will never be cheerleaders for the Dragons – and it is vital for the new era that everybody scrutinises Bernard Jackman & Co closely.

Criticism should be constructive, reasonable and never a personal attack. It shouldn’t be criticism for the sake of criticism or web hits.

I have my own critics – and no doubt beneath this column online I will some familiar names accusing me of constant negativity to the Dragons – but I’d like to think that I am fair.

If any Dragons player thinks that I’ve overstepped the mark then they are always free to ring me or collar me at the next press day in Ystrad Mynach to put across their view or tell me where they believe I’ve got it wrong.

That accountability is important and I would like to think that I have at least a smidgen of respect from the squad.

It is my job to dish out praise when it is deserved, it is my duty to lambast when standards slip.

Now that pre-season is done and dusted, such a stance is vital if the Dragons are to achieve their lofty ambitions.

The events of the evening of Tuesday, May 9, when Newport RFC shareholders gave the go-ahead for the sale of Rodney Parade and WRU takeover of the Dragons, were seismic.

The past regime, one that was seriously lacking in ambition or direction, has gone and now there is a mood of optimism and the drive to make things happen in the east.

Change is afoot but it’s going to take time.

The Dragons finished with just Zebre beneath them last season and did not win away from home in any competition.

They have not recruited heavily and have a squad that is undoubtedly willing and full of decent blokes but is also severely lacking in depth and more quality is needed.

This is a major rebuilding job and work needs to turn around a Dragons organisation that has got used to finishing in the bottom half of the table on the field and doing the bare minimum because of meagre resources off it.

The WRU will expect positive change for their investment over the coming three years. If strides are not made, and if the Dragons are not sustainable, then goodness knows what the future holds in the east.

So while it is essential that we have a bit of patience for the Jackman regime, we also need swift change over the coming three seasons and something tangible to show for it.

The head coach deserves to be given time for his planned more expansive attacking style and defence coach Hendre Marnitz, who only arrived at the end of July certainly deserves to be cut some slack when it comes to putting his structure in place.

But Jackman must be held to task – the Irishman will not allow a culture of excuses from his players and we must judge the management in the same manner. There can only be so many ‘this time next year’ statements.

When the Dragons moved from training at Newport High School and the ‘cabbage patch’ at Rodney Parade to Ystrad Mynach in 2014 we were told that it was a game-changer.

It wasn’t.

Through the years we have been told by coaches galore that the pain from defeats would be worth it in the long term because of the experience gained by young talent.

It hasn’t been.

However, the Dragons regime change means there is genuine hope that there can be bright times ahead, even if this season may be tough at times.

Jackman is going to be ruthless with his squad as the campaign goes on and we must be the same with the whole set-up.

If the Dragons are to turn from being PRO14 whipping boys bracketed with the Italians into a side respected by Leinster, Munster and even their Welsh rivals then we all have to be brutally honest.

Our desire for better and hope for success must not make us blind to shortcomings.

In the new era at Rodney Parade a compliment must be hard-earned but sincere, a criticism will be tough but well-meaning.