Over the past couple of days I’ve reflected on what was said at the Fans Forum on Tuesday and a couple of things stand out for me. Both comments were made by Phil Maynard, one of which went under the radar and wasn’t something I mentioned in my previous post and the other I made a passing comment on. So, in reverse order…
Phil mentioned the ‘dark days’ of 2011 when Coventry were ‘found out’ by teams in National League One and could only manage 13th place, at one time even looking like they could be relegated to National 2. It easy to forget just how far we’d fallen and without a complete overhaul of the club, things might have been very different to what they are today. Attendances were poor, there was little atmosphere and the match day experience for supporters was generally rather a lack-lustre affair. It was our nadir…we could easily have become another Rugby or Birmingham Solihull or, heaven forbid, ended up having the same fate as Wakefield. There but for the grace of….well, Jon Sharp, PM, SM, Peter Rossborough et al., I guess.
For those who were part of the Coventry faithful five years ago, the present optimism is all the more enjoyable. In truth though, for many, the decline in the clubs fortunes had been set in motion a few years before then and a couple of chairmen back…
The other thing that was mentioned was the gratitude felt by Phil and Scott towards Jon Sharp for the personal financial contributions he has made (I got the impression these were not inconsiderable), particularly over the last couple of seasons. These have enabled the club to strengthen the squad to the extent that promotion is a real goal this season. It was a public acknowledgement of the chairman’s private generosity.
Now, as far as I’m aware, there’s not been anything made in the press of this and it is a testament to John Sharp’s genuine desire to support the Club he clearly loves, rather than seek any self-aggrandisement. I’m not altogether sure that this has always been the case in the past under different regimes. It’s comforting too; a sign that the club is in safe hands. Given that I’m not one to hang around after the match for a drink, I don’t get to chat with those in the know, so this was a bit of a revelation for me (to be honest, I’m usually walking across the car park two minutes after the final whistle, having stayed long enough to give a cheer as the team walk off the pitch after another stirring performance…). Too often supporters are quick to lay the blame squarely at the feet of those in control of clubs, but forget to give credit when things are going well, as is the case at the moment.
One other thing that was mentioned, this time by Tom (I’ll get his name right this time) Little, was that there are some clubs in our league who might not fancy promotion that much. It was an aside really, but a point worth commenting on. Realistically, there are only two or three clubs in our league who could make a go of it in the Championship, the result of a poor fan base, limited finances and the inability to attract the quality of players needed to compete at that level. And in fairness, I have to admit that there have been occasions over the past three or four seasons when I’ve enjoyed being a big fish in a relatively small pond rather than the reverse; seasons where we win more than we lose certainly are good for morale. The thought of travelling to the likes of Bristol, Bedford, Leeds and Worcester, happy to come away having avoided a potential cricket score didn’t fill me with great enthusiasm.
What makes this season different is that there is now the fan base to ensure that, should we be promoted in the coming couple of seasons, there are the commercial/sponsorship opportunities available to the club to generate the sums needed to build a squad capable of sustaining a lengthy spell in the Championship. The grass hasn’t always been greener, but looking over the wall as we are, the lawns certainly looks quite enticing at the moment.
With a squad potentially better than last season’s and with no team appearing to have the benefits of a full-time set up, there seems to be a real opportunity to succeed this year. If Coventry can use the media over the next few weeks to their advantage by highlighting the club’s push for promotion and generate additional interest by putting in some strong performances in the home friendlies, then come Wharfedale a crowd of 1800-2000 will create a really intimidating atmosphere; one that teams visiting BPA won’t relish. Scott referred to the crowd as the 16th man for Cov and said how much the players are aware of the noise during the game. A winning run of the kind we witnessed last season will only add to the numbers and the circle Jon Sharp alluded to on Tuesday will keep growing.