ANDREW Sullivan reckons the Newcastle Eagles class of 2010 is more talented than the all-conquering quadruple winners of four years ago.
But the GB skipper feels the current crop still have a way to go before adopting the winning mentality of the 2006 side.
Sullivan is uniquely placed to judge – he was a key member of the team that won a clean sweep of trophies under Fab Flournoy’s charge, a side still talked about in reverential tones at the Arena.
Every subsequent Eagles team is measured against that gold standard and Sullivan actually believes that the current roster has more explosive attacking talent than their celebrated forebearers – if not the mental edge.
Although their early season defeat in the BBL Cup means there will be no matching of their trophy haul, the current side can still achieve a second successive treble if they maintain their fine form. They take on MK Lions at the Arena tonight looking to build on their comprehensive 99-79 defeat of the Sheffield Sharks.
And they are gunning for a feat bigger than anything the 2006 side achieved – ending the season with a 25-game winning streak.
“I know people like to talk about that team and compare but it but they are very different sides,” Sullivan admitted. “The 2005-6 team had a lot of guys who were in their prime. Even myself, I was four years younger – but the outlook of the guys was different.
“This is probably a better offensive team than what we had then, but that team had a different mindset going into games.
“We went into games without any fear of losing. We never had to talk about ‘We’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that’ – we went out in games and thought that regardless of what the score was, we were going to win.
“That team might not have been as talented across the board as this one but it was that mindset. When you talk about this team, it’s talent across the board, it’s scorers across the board.
“There are guys in this roster that are very, very good defenders when they chose to be. It would be great to play one team against the other.
“I think it would be a very interesting game! I’d love to go against myself four years ago and see if I could guard myself at 26.”
While that would be the fantasy challenge for the Eagles, the reality is they have achieved nothing yet.
Their thumping defeat of the Sharks last weekend puts them in prime position to retain their BBL title but with the South Yorkshire side facing an easier run-in, there remains little breathing space for Flournoy’s men.
Beginning with the visit of the Lions to the Arena tonight, Sullivan believes there is still plenty to do.
“The job starts now,” he said. “We know that Sheffield have an easier run in than we do and we can’t be hoping they lose a game to give us another chance.
“We have to cope with everything now. We have to get into the mindset that we’re not going to lose another regular season game now.” The addition of Sullivan has improved the Eagles defensively – although the man himself attributes much of the credit for the recent upturn in form to point guard Reggie Jackson and high-scoring forward Joe Chapman.
“Sunday showed what a good defensive team we can be,” he said. “We had Mike Cook, who’s one of the top points scorers in the league, and we just stopped him in his tracks. We clogged up the lane every time he wanted to try something.
“Across the board we had good games on Sunday and that sets the standard for us all. When you have people like Reggie (Jackson) playing as well as that it makes it easier for me and for the other guys.”