Fab Flournoy wants to re-assert Newcastle Eagles’ home rule by smashing Worcester Wolves’ five-match winning run.
Eagles take on Paul James’ unbeaten Wolves at Sport Central tonight hoping to make a statement to the rest of the BBL – as well as proving that they are a force to be reckoned with on their own court.
In an unprecedented slump last season Eagles lost three straight home games, which ultimately cost them the BBL title. They have opened this campaign well in front of their own supporters, beating Birmingham and Glasgow Rocks comfortably.
Flournoy knows that the visit of unbeaten Wolves is the biggest test yet – and if they win it will send a message that they are a force in the North East once more.
“We just don’t lose at home,” Flournoy said.
“I don’t mean that as a threat, it is just the mentality that I have and it is the mentality that the Eagles as a club have. We don’t want to lose to anyone at home, no matter what the circumstances are and no matter who the opposition are.
“On the road is slightly different. You have the issues surrounding travel, you might feel a little bit sore from the previous game. It is more of a lottery away from home but at home we want to win every game.
“I see this game as a statement game. We want to win this to reinforce that message.”
Flournoy admits that his team lost some of their fear factor at Sport Central last season after defeats to Surrey Heat, Worcester Wolves and Leicester Riders in a short spell of time.
That created an edginess in front of their own spectators which translated to the players and gave opposition players the belief that they could snatch points from the Eagles.
“For us as a club last season, it was a bad season in terms of our home record. We were better on the road than we were at home and that was a first for us,” he said.
“We dropped so many points at home and that had a knock-on effect in terms of us feeling comfortable playing in Newcastle.
“I saw it in other ways because it became a confidence thing.
“Without trying to be disrespectful to any other team, we don’t want them to have any sort of confidence coming to our court. We don’t want them to come to our house and feel they have any chance of winning but I think that did happen last season.
“We don’t want a team to come and think ‘Oh, we have a chance of winning’. I want to eliminate that. The only way we can do that is by consistently winning and beating all of the top teams.
“Then what happens is the fans begin to buy into it again and we create an intimidating atmosphere that tests other teams – or helps us.”
For the Eagles, Sport Central is both a blessing and a curse. It is one of the best arenas in the league and their home crowds are always larger than the BBL average. “Teams like coming to play us because it is a nice venue and because of our crowds,” Flournoy said.
“We’re not getting a couple of hundred, when we play we can be playing in front of 3,000. That’s a big stage in our league and for some players, it is a chance to play in a big venue in front of a big crowd.
“We have to play with the right energy in front of them.”