It would have taken a brave person at the start of the season to have predicted the league standings after the first five rounds of games. Who would have thought that Ampthill, Hartpury and Blackheath would be striding, Colossus-like, above the likes of Rosslyn Park and Coventry who were, I dare suggest, the most likely favourites for the title back at the start of the year? And in truth, they still probably are but if the National 1 apple-cart isn’t upset, it is, at the very least, titling at a very odd angle.
It’s unpredictability this season is what makes this such an exciting league to be part of. I love the fact that any team really is capable of an upset and that Hull and Ampthill, promoted this season, are right up at the top. No Ealing, Doncaster or Jersey this year to dominate in the way they did in previous years. Cov haven’t had the greatest of starts this season, but we are still in the mix because teams around us, other than the Ampthill, haven’t been as consistent as we might have expected. Every fixture is a potential banana skin. And long may it continue – although I trust Cov can get hold of boots with longer studs to avoid another potential slip up over the next few weeks.
I’m sure if you ask any supporter, even this one, whether they would prefer another season in this league or promotion to the Championship, the answer would always be promotion. We all want are teams to be successful and success nowadays is measured by the league you’re in and your position in that league.
However, there is a part of me that has really enjoyed the last five years in National One. A part of me that relishes the real challenges that this league brings. Of course I want promotion, but that brings seasons of mid-table consolidation (another word for mediocrity) or of relegation fears, ‘supporters’ who appear from nowhere who head straight for the corporate tents and players lured here by the lucre who bleed gold, not blue and white. Promotion must be our goal, of course it must…mustn’t it?
As a ‘Cov’ supporter, I know Coventry, with its proud history and all it’s former glories, has struggled to come to terms with having to languish in the third tier of English rugby. It’s a proud club, with proud fans and with a proud Chairman and players who are proud to put on the famous blue and white jersey.
The problem for me, and this is probably going to anger anyone ‘of an age’ who remembers the Coventry RFC of the sixties and seventies, that true pride has come after the fall, not before it.
I know pride is proverbially seen to lead to ruin, but on reflection there seems to be two types of pride, each very different from the other.
The first is an over-confidence bordering on arrogance and is clearly a very negative emotion and potentially harmful – that is very much the pride and hubris of the sixties and seventies.
And then there is the pride that has a much more positive connotation, the pride that results from an attachment towards our own actions and is a product of a realisation of who you are and what you are trying to achieve. It creates a sense of belonging. That is the pride I feel for my club, right here, right now.
When I was a lad of 12 or thirteen, Coventry RFC was a force to be reckoned with, one of the two or three top clubs in the country, along with the likes of Gloucester and Moseley. We won cups, beat most teams including the Welsh clubs and sat at the top of the pile. I can well remember Cov playing weakened teams against the likes of Worcester, Bath and Exeter and watching aghast at the rise of Leicester. They were the new boys on the block, with new money. They would never be thought of in the same way as Coventry. It would never happen. Never.
And that’s wasn’t pride, that was arrogance…it wasn’t really my arrogance, it wasn’t even an arrogance amongst the supporters alone…it came from the club itself, a club that had become a monster of sorts, only willing to look back and never forwards to see the way the game was changing…why would it, it had proved itself in the past, it had nothing to prove in the future.
The pride the Cov faithful have today is more about the now than the past, or it is for me at least. I’m proud that we avoided liquidation, proud that we are on a sound financial footing once more and proud of those responsible for saving Coventry RFC, enabling me to spend my Saturdays dreaming of cups but drinking from mugs…
I love the fact that Hull have come into the league this season and won 3 of their 5 games already. They’ve managed to upset the Fylde supporters because they had the audacity to score five tries based on the power of their forwards, rather than Fylde’s more cavalier approach that seems to cause them to self-destruct every now and then. They are causing quite a stir. Brilliant. Ampthill, too.
Such teams are a breath of fresh air and their presence in this league can only strengthen it and cause the likes of Coventry, Rosslyn Park and Blackheath to up their game even more.
Long may it continue.