Leading from the front

Leading from the front

Ryan Wilson brought up a half-century of matches as captain on Saturday - resident stats supremo Kevin Millar (@topofthemoongw) takes a look at the other members of an exclusive club...

Just three players had captained Glasgow Warriors on 50 or more occasions until Saturday, when Ryan Wilson led the side out against Zebre for the 50th time.

The skipper joins an elite group that includes a couple of British and Irish Lions, as well as the man who led the club from the bottom of the Celtic League to the Guinness PRO12 championship…

Ryan Wilson

50 games as captain
First game as captain – v Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile, 10 February 2013
50th game as captain – v Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 6 March 2021

Ryan was just 23 when he first skippered Glasgow in Parma. Eight years later he returned to the same – albeit renamed – venue for his 50th outing as captain. The 31-20 victory against Zebre was the 23rd under Ryan’s leadership, tying him with Gordon Bulloch, Andy Nicol and Jonny Gray in second place all-time (Al Kellock is out on his own in front for this stat with 81 career wins as captain).

This season, Ryan has been the epitome of the Warrior spirit. In the face of Covid, injuries, suspensions and simply not being able to get a full-strength side out on the pitch, he has put everything on the line. He is in some of the absolute best form of his career and making a massive contribution on and off the park. In particular, he has been leading a team packed with players new to the Warriors environment and doing everything he can to get the maximum effort out of anyone who takes to the pitch in Warriors colours.

Andy Nicol

56 games as captain
First game as captain – v Pontypridd at Bridgehaugh, 3 September 1999
50th game as captain – v Leinster at Hughenden, 6 September 2002
Last game as captain – v Border Reivers at Hughenden, 31 January 2003

Andy joined Glasgow after an extremely successful career with Bath, which included skippering them to victory in the Heineken Cup in 1998. At 28 years old, he brought some experience to a Glasgow squad still finding its way in the early years of the professional era.

Andy was a regular captain under both Richie Dixon and Kiwi Searancke at the turn of the century as Glasgow transitioned to regular weekly competitive matches against first Welsh and then Irish sides. The Scotland and Lions scrum half was the skipper for the club’s first-ever games in both the Welsh-Scottish League (against Caerphilly) and the Celtic League (against Leinster).

As the only one from outwith the forwards in this group, Andy certainly stands out – no other back has captained Glasgow on more than 19 occasions. To date, he has led the club in more games than all the Warriors’ other scrum halves combined.

Gordon Bulloch

58 games as captain
First game as captain – v Newbridge RFC at The Welfare Ground, 12 October 1996
50th game as captain – v Bourgoin at Hughenden, 13 December 2002
Last game as captain – v Dragons at Rodney Parade, 22 January 2005

Gordon was Glasgow’s captain for their very first game in the professional era. At just 21 years and 200 days old he was the youngest man to captain the club until first Rob Harley (21 years and 99 days) and then Jonny Gray (21 years and 42 days) lowered the bar.

The hooker would go on to be a central figure in the club’s first decade before moving on to Leeds following his second Lions’ tour in 2005. All of Glasgow’s first five coaches – Kevin Greene, Keith Robertson, Richie Dixon (both spells), Kiwi Searancke and Hugh Campbell – made use of Gordon as a captain, a testament to his leadership and standing within the game.

Al Kellock

152 games as captain
First game as captain – v Dragons at Hughenden, 1 September 2006
50th game as captain – v Bath at The Rec, 7 December 2012
Last game as captain – v Ulster at Scotstoun, 22 May 2015

At the top of this list is one of the colossal figures in Warriors’ history. Al Kellock skippered the side in all of the 152 games he started for the club, beginning with his debut in 2006 for a team whose previous fixture had seen them slip to a rock bottom finish in the 2005/06 Celtic League.

In the seasons that Al was club captain, Glasgow’s league positions were:

7th – 5th – 7th – 3rd – 11th – 4th – 3rd – 2nd – 1st (champions)

Al was the skipper for the Warriors’ first six playoff matches in the current format. It was under his leadership that the club became genuine contenders and a force to be reckoned with after a decade of trying to find their place in European rugby.

The influence of the man can still be seen in the leadership of the likes of Ryan Wilson, Robert Harley and Chris Fusaro, whose formative years came when Al was setting the tone and accepting nothing less than total commitment to the club. These guys are now passing on the same standards and expectations to a new generation. Al Kellock’s legacy as the Warriors’ greatest ever captain will live on – even beyond the day when there is no-one left who played alongside the giant lock.

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