Yesterday’s post (Dreaming of cups but drinking from mugs) set me thinking about the six decades of Coventry rugby I’ve been privileged to watch, man and boy. More especially, if I could choose to relive just one of these, purely on a rugby basis, which one would it be?
Okay, it’s another one of those hypothetical questions to which there is no right or wrong answer, but it does make for some interesting discussion. Which was, or maybe still is, the golden decade of Coventry RFC from a supporter’s perspective, which decade produced the best rugby, the most exciting seasons, the highs and lows and so on? All very subjective, but it would be interesting to know which decade people might choose.
I should point out at this stage, I’m only 56 but have watched Cov first as a junior vice-president as it was then in the sixties and onwards, before being a season ticket-holder every year since I was 16.
And I feel a poll coming on.
But before that, as an aide mêmoire, here’s a summary of each of those five decades (I’ve doubled up the ’60s and ’70s only because I was too young then to be able to separate them now!). Apologies to those whose recollections of Coventry RFC go back a good deal further than my own.
60s/70s – a time of great success for Coventry and at one stage in the early 70s they have thirteen players who have represented England in the same side. The club win and the retain the John Player Cup in ’72-73/;73-’74, with Coventry also top of the merit table in the early days of its inception. Big crowds and some big names at Coundon Road but the beginnings of a decline in fortunes towards the end of the 70s.
80s – Cov’s fall from grace continues and it quickly loses its status as one of the country’s top teams. In 1987 league rugby is introduced and although the club is placed initially in the first division that year (the equivalent to the Premiership today), by the end of the season it’s relegated into the second tier of English rugby.
90s – Cov remain in Courage National Division 2 until 1992/3 but is relegated that year only to come straight back up the following season. This is repeated over the next two years , with the club being promoted back to National Division 1 as champions in 1995/96. In 1996/97 Cov narrowly miss out on promotion to Premiership 1, losing to London Irish in a two-legged play-off, having narrowly won the home leg, but being well-beaten at Sunbury. It s also in this season that Coventry beat a star-studded Newcastle Falcons side, every one of its players an international, 19-18 at Coundon Road in front of 9,000 baying fans*…(if anyone has a copy of the match on disc…?). 1999 sees the club in severe financial difficulties and almost out of business.
00s – In light of the financial difficulties facing Coventry at this time, the Board take the decision to sell Coundon Road to Bryant Homes and in 2004 Cov move to the Butts Park Arena. Further financial problems follow and after a massive effort from everyone connected with the club, including an Advisory Board set up to provide a rescue package and supporters/friends of the club the club’s future is assured in the short-term at least. Relegation to National League 1 follows in 2009/10. No more local derbies against Moseley!
10s/onwards – The club remains in National One and despite near relegation in 2011/12, Coventry is currently in a process of rebuilding itself both on and off the pitch. Finishing 4th in 2013/14 and 3rd in 2014/15, there is renewed optimism amongst many involved in the club that Championship rugby is within their reach within the next couple of seasons.
So, having reminded yourself of the club’s recent and not so recent past, and of both its successes and failures, which decade of those listed have you enjoy the most?
For me, it’s not a straight forward choice…the ’70s were very much the glory years with the likes of Duckham, Cowman, Rossborough, Preece and Evans (but not necessarily the most entertaining), but actually I really enjoyed the yo-yo years of the 90s with the lows of relegation (twice) and the highs of promotion (twice), with Eves, Patten, Sharpe, Grewcock and Hardwick. and the Newcastle game. I’ve also really enjoyed the last few years under John Sharp, with Scott Morgan and Phil Maynard at the helm, watching the team grow into something capable of achieving the holy grail of promotion. In the 80s, albeit briefly, Marcus Rose and Hew Davies graced Coundon Road fresh from Cambridge…
If you are a Coventry supporter (and forgive me if you’re not), please indicate below the decade that brings back the happiest rugby memories for you.
…you only have one choice.
My choice? Well the clue’s in the title….
I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years, gold
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
* In 2001 the Newcastle game was the subject of an English GCSE oral assessment by one Sam Smith (my eldest), 15 years old and six years after the event, but still very much in his memory!