JON Golding has spurned the advances of a host of Premiership rivals by pledging his future to Newcastle Falcons.
The 28-year-old prop has signed a new two-year deal to stay at Kingston Park, despite speculation linking him with a move away from his native North East.
Sale Sharks were understood to be among the front-runners to snap up the loose-head, who toured Australia with the full England squad last summer.
But after protracted contract talks, the Ashington-born forward finally put pen to paper yesterday, much to the relief of Falcons bosses.
The news comes just four days before Newcastle’s survival scrap at Headingley as they take on bottom side Leeds Carnegie, with the former Leicester and Northampton man joining the likes of club captain James Hudson and full-back Jeremy Manning in agreeing new deals.
Another key forward to sign on the dotted line last week was Tim Swinson, with the 24-year-old flanker revealing the reasons why he, too, had spurned strong interest from fellow Premiership sides.
“I wouldn’t say it was a difficult decision, but it also wasn’t an easy one because you’re basically choosing which direction you want your life to go,” said Swinson, having agreed a one-year extension.
“Loyalty to the club was a massive factor for me – both to the people I’m playing with and the management. I’m playing with my friends up here.
“I’m in a group of good players and I really don’t feel as if this is it for the Falcons – where we are at the moment.
“We can still go forward, and I want to be part of that.”
Despite lying second-bottom of the Premiership and facing a huge battle at basement side Leeds Carnegie on Sunday, Swinson highlighted the team spirit within Newcastle’s squad as a key reason behind his own personal optimism.
“We’re a good strong squad staying together – there are no cliques at all and we’re a tight unit,” he said.
“Every single one of the players came down to watch the Development Team beat Northampton on Monday, we all went out for dinner together last night, and the bond is 100% there between us.”
Responding to Alan Tait’s call for the players to repay the club’s support staff with a big performance at Headingley, the Londoner insisted that the squad had taken on board the head coach’s words.
“They were very critical after the game and made their feelings known, but after that initial fall-out everybody has just moved on,” he said. “We all know where we went wrong, the analysis has been done this week and we’re flogging a dead horse if we keep going on about it.
“We’re just looking forward to Leeds now, and it’s been a very positive week of training so far.
“There has been a renewed effort from every single player in every department, and it has been noticeable.
“From the work we do in the gym with the conditioners, to the video analysis sessions, our rugby training and team meetings – everybody has been totally switched-on and getting the job done. The belief is definitely there, and the senior players are really stepping up now.”
Enjoying life on the blindside flank after Andrew van der Heijden’s arrival from Auckland limited his second-row opportunities, Swinson has certainly taken no backward steps in his new position. “The good news is that I get to play, but I’m not too bothered about the number on my back,” said the Newcastle University politics graduate.
“I’d play on the wing for this club – or even at fly-half if they’d let me! For me it’s just about playing, and if me being at six is the best thing for the team, then I’m more than happy to play there.”