Newcastle Eagles may be champions-elect after their weekend heroics against Sheffield Sharks, but Fab Flournoy insists they are taking nothing for granted ahead of a potentially golden weekend.
Eagles only need to see off bottom two sides Birmingham Knights and Surrey United to win their fifth league title in seven seasons, and you will be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to back against them. Birmingham have not won a game all year and Surrey have notched just four wins – three of which have come against the second city club.
Yet Flournoy – whose team were given the weekend off as a reward for their Sheffield win – says his team need to remain professional and motivated as they head towards the finish line.
“I don’t think I need to remind any of the guys who are suiting up this weekend that the job is not yet done,” he said.
“I am realistic enough to know what people are thinking. The anticipation is there from our fans and it is there from everyone else in the league that we will win the title and we have come through the hard part. To people on the outside it looks like this is the easier or lighter part of the schedule and it looks like it is pretty much in the bag.
“It might end up being a long way away from that.
“We have got almost to the door like this before and ended up forgetting or losing the keys. Getting to the line is one thing but getting over it is totally different.”
Eagles now head to Birmingham on Saturday before a trip to Guildford on Sunday afternoon to take on a Surrey United side that is a far cry from the Heat franchise that once challenged Newcastle for BBL supremacy.
They have won only four games this season while Birmingham are pointless. Both teams entered the competition this year with one eye on progressing next term and they should be applauded for that but in the short-term, Flournoy’s men should have no problems overcoming this final hurdle.
Flournoy disagrees – and defends his team against accusations that they appeared as if they were celebrating like they’d won the league.
“If there is anything you should take from this season it is that if you take anyone lightly you pay a very big price,” he said.
“I think if people look at our reaction after the Sheffield win they might get the wrong idea. We didn’t necessarily celebrate winning the league when we won the last game but there was an outpouring of emotion running through the team.
“I let that take its course. I didn’t see any point in stepping in because they have deserved to celebrate what was a good win and what it might mean for this club.
“As a coach I have to let it run its course and they deserved that because we have been in important games every single week at the moment.
“Every time we win it has been a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. If we can’t celebrate that when can we? We could celebrate last weekend because there was so much riding on it. There were so many different scenarios and outcomes from that game – I was just delighted that we got the right one and that we were able to stay on track for the title.”
Flournoy allowed his players to have the weekend off after the hard-fought Sheffield game, taking advantage of a break in the intensity of playing title deciders virtually every single Friday.
But he insists there is no danger of his players mistaking the break for the season being over.
“I let the guys have the weekend off and then at our first training session this week the focus was completely professional and on the job at hand,” he said.
“We have started building now and by Saturday we will be ready to play and ready to do what we need to do. There is no chance that we will just turn up and expect to win these games, that is not what we are about and never has been.”