A big week for Coventry this. Two consecutive defeats and things suddenly look very different. After two thumping wins against Wharfedale and Loughborough in the opening leagues games of the season we were starting to run away with ourselves, with promotion being very much the buzz word. Hardly surprising, therefore, that after two consecutive losses there is a general feeling of dejection and despondency. Such is the nature of us fans, high and lows and never very much in between. It makes supporting a club that much more interesting.
This ‘yo-yo’ effect is preferable to what so many supporters wish to avoid. Mid-table mediocrity – the season which quickly becomes one where there is seldom anything to play for and games have little of importance attached to them for us, but everything to the teams we play. A win against Plymouth next week and we’re getting back on track, another defeat and there will be the first mention of the ‘R’ word or, at the very least, a hint of unhappiness in the Cov camp and suggestion that one or all the coaches should go. Well may be not, but feel at the moment the middle ground in terms of our response (not in terms of the table) is where we should be. Every season I get carried away by the pre-season euphoria and the excitement of the new arrivals and statements of intent. It’s what we fans do. And then, usually not quite this early in the season mind, reality takes a grip and it’s time to reassess where we are.
I have a lot of sympathy for players here. In this age of social media, where anything anyone says is placed so willingly into the public domain, they will be all too aware of this shift in mood amongst the supporters. Were I a player, I know part of my Sunday morning would have been spent checking Twitter, Facebook, the unofficial Cov website, The Rugby Paper and so on to see what the response to the game was. I am the sort of person who wants to be liked, who wants my contribution to be valued and who is in regular need of a confidence boost, I know that. So I would have relished those first couple of weeks of the season – big wins, great reviews, lots of likes and retweets with mentions of Cov in them.
But equally, I would have struggled were I playing for Cov over the last couple of weeks; disappointed fans, lots of sad and angry emoticons crossing the ether at alarming regularity, the odd finger beginning to point at everyone and everything. And you don’t actually have to search for them…you only have to check your phone, computer, tablet or pc and there’s 5 notifications, several retweets and a couple of pm’s there for you. No escaping them. It would have upset me. That’s just the type of person I am. I’m sure you get hardened to it, but the idea that in some way the team isn’t trying, that it doesn’t in some way live up to early expectations or that individual players are at fault (and were my name to be singled out… :(…). It must eat away at you a little. And players are no different to anyone else, they talk to each other about what they read, about what they feel. I’m sure comments get passed around, it’s what I would do and were I new to the team, or new to this level of rugby, then I’m sure it would have an effect on me. And I guess it probably has an impact on the changing room.
The players will know, better than anyone, that things aren’t quite gelling on the pitch at the moment. They will know that there are things to be done and will be listening to the coaches who will have a better understanding of the areas that need focusing on for the coming week. I don’t subscribe to the blame game, at least I really try not to, but I guess interpretation means that what I think I’ve written can be read as something completely different. Criticism, yes of course. And hopefully positive criticism, too. Every thought or feeling we have is a critical response to what we experience and is what helps us understand what is happening around us. But sometimes we forget the impact of what we say or do on those around us. Words which make us feel better in the short term, acting as they do as a release of our own frustrations, impact on others but often in a very different way.
Okay, this has gone ‘off piste’ a little, but the basic point remains the same. Whilst we, as supporters, are prone to the ups and downs of following our clubs, so to are the players prone to our reactions. Our comments and responses, either to them or about them, will impact in today’s world of 21st century technology far more than they every did 20 years ago. What I might tweet to a friend about Cov suddenly becomes available to everyone to read, players included. And I do have some sympathy for the players who in turn find that difficult. Yes, they could turn their phones off or not use FB or Twitter…but why should they. And yes, supporters have every right to use social media as they choose, provided they break no laws regarding offence or indecency…but I can’t help thinking that disappointment in the Cov camp at the moment isn’t made any easier by what the players are seeing elsewhere. And really, it’s only two defeats. Perhaps it’s the manner in which we’ve lost that is so disappointing.
I think we must trust the players and coaches to do what needs to be done to turn this dip in form around. After such a successful season last year, there is more than enough evidence to suggest Cov have the coaches and squad to challenge for the top places. As I said at the start, it is a really important week for the club and with Plymouth here on Saturday, the team has the opportunity to match themselves against one of the pre-season favourites for promotion, the side relegated from the Championship and one that will no doubt test us to the full.
It’s times for the team and coaches to answer their critics and there is no better way of doing that than by putting in a performance on Saturday that will silence those who at the moment aren’t convinced this team has what it takes to mount a serious challenge over the course of a full season. And let me say, here and now, I strongly believe they can.
Whether they will could depend on Saturday’s results.