With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls.
Shipbuilding – Elvis Costello
This coming week should provide some indication of just how Coventry intend to deal with the aftermath of the Esher game last Saturday. With the understandable backlash that is now taking place on the Messageboard and the strong and often adverse reactions being expressed towards some of the coaches, will Jon Sharp decide to make some sort of public statement about what is happening within the club to address the massive slump in form that we’ve witnessed over the past few weeks?
In retrospect, the email sent to Jean Harrison and copied into one of the posts on the Messageboard was more an example of Jon Sharp’s willingness to respond in person to a supporter who had raised concerns, rather than a statement to the supporters as a whole. However, it is interesting that he should say:
This is the same squad that put 50 points past Cardiff and beat Ealing ( both of the latter’s xv’s) preseason and they haven’t become rubbish overnight
Whilst in a post match interview on Saturday, Scott Morgan stated:
This is the same group of players that we had last year. What’s gone wrong?
It’s almost as if both Jon and Scott find it really difficult to accept that a team’s form can change so dramatically and that the poor run has come as a complete shock to those involved in the coaching/management of the club. It just wasn’t something that anyone was prepared for.
Maybe there was an air of overconfidence within the club, including the coaches, Board, players and supporters. We finished 3rd, strengthened the squad so we could only improve on the results of last season. I totally admit I got completely carried away by it all and in some respects the fantastic performances against Cardiff, London Welsh and Ealing only fuelled this feeling of complete optimism. And again speaking for myself and no one else, I think I got it into my head that it was ‘our’ time, that Plymouth weren’t going to be another Doncaster, Ealing or Jersey and that this league would be far more open than in previous years.
But of course all but the very best teams in any sport will have a dip in form at least once in a season; the crucial factor is how the club deals with it. But before you can do anything, you have to accept the reality of the situation. Jon Sharp is absolutely right in saying the team hasn’t become ‘rubbish’ overnight (the word ‘rubbish’ is unfortunate really, even in the context used here – it’s not something players would want to hear their chairman use when confidence is already low). However, ever since the second half of the Loughborough game, performances haven’t matched expectations and with only 2 wins in the last 7 games there’s more talk of relegation than there is promotion.
So what should the club be doing this week? Well a statement to the supporters via the official website would be a start, saying something to the effect that the club are going to conduct an internal review of playing affairs and that an overview of the main findings will be made available. This would be a start. However, given the way the e-Letter was received, Jon Sharp is unlikely to go down that route. However, by saying nothing, he is in danger of being seen as avoiding the concerns of supporters and that’s something no chairman wants to be charged with.
So, he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
I do think Jon Sharp has done a great job turning the club around both on and off the field. He has invested time and money into Coventry and must be hurting as much as anyone. He will want what is best for the club and if changes need to be made, including to the coaching staff, he will make them. At the Supporters’ Meeting in August he seemed to have a very good relationship with both Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan, so I think there will also be a strong sense of loyalty there too, something that should be respected.
However, Coventry is a business and Jon Sharp is a businessman. A very good one I imagine. And he will be only too aware that the run of poor results will be having an adverse effect on the club’s finances, which in the long term probably won’t be sustainable. Attendances are down by an average of 400 and even taking into account the World Cup, that represents a large loss of income. I’m sure projected targets will have planned for a reduction in the attendance figures, but probably not to that extent. Blaydon next Saturday, bottom of the table as they are, won’t be a massive draw either and this, combined with some disillusionment on behalf of the supporters, all means it’s not looking good.
A reduction in those attending doesn’t just affect gate takings. Bar and food receipts, potential sponsors and the hiring of the clubs facilities could all adversely suffer.
So it might well be that the club is forced into making changes not because of specific problems on the pitch, but because of the financial implications of continuing poor results into the new year. The business side of the club must at times impact on the playing side, mustn’t it? Just thinking out loud really, but it there’s probably something in it.
I really don’t believe a further influx of players, either dual registration or otherwise, is the answer. Those that have arrived don’t appear to be having a great impact and it means those who are already at Coventry are pushed lower down the pecking order and become even more disillusioned. If the coaches can just get the players who are already here to play at the kind of levels we know they are capable of because we’ve seen them play at those levels, then we’ll be back up the league in no time.
After some thought this weekend, I hope Scott Morgan is given a stay of execution. He is still inexperienced but up to now has equipped himself well. I think if he is given some more autonomy and allowed to pick the team that he wants, with the advice and support from those he requests it from, he will be able to sort things out. However, I do think he could do with a mentor, someone experienced who is external to the club. His relationship with Phil doesn’t appear to be working, so perhaps this could be an option.
Addleton, Maynard, Glackin have done a fantastic job getting us to where we were at the end of last season, but I’m not sure they are they right combination of people to move us up to the next level. Pete Glackin is doing a brilliant job at the Academy by all accounts and perhaps should concentrate his efforts there whilst also having links to the club as and when, but not in his present coaching role. Aggers is Cov though and through and whatever happens he should stay within the club.
I do think someone coming in from outside, working with Scott Morgan, someone who doesn’t know the players and therefore is someone who can make judgements about their abilities without any prior knowledge of them would be a good thing. At the moment it is pretty clear some players aren’t been given an opportunity for whatever reasons – someone coming into the club as a coach would want to revisit every player and see what they could offer. And that has to be good for morale.
So Scott Morgan stays, supported by a mentor. One or two new forwards/backs coaches come in with corresponding movement the other way. As for Phil Maynard, well he has done a great job for Coventry in some very difficult circumstances. If there’s a commercial or business role for him at Cov, great, but I don’t think he can oversee the role of the Head Coach if it means Scott’s decisions are being in any way compromised or undermined.
If there are to be changes, then they should be made in the next couple of weeks. Confidence is extremely low amongst the players and they need to see that things are moving in the right direction. At the moment, nothing that is being done appears to be making a difference, so there is some urgency.
Blaydon is a must win game now. They will be coming here full of confidence following their win against Fylde – and we all remember what happened when we played Fylde a few weeks back. The consequences of another loss, this time to the bottom team in the league, will be grave and if the pressure from supporters for change is great now, it will be overwhelming then. So, lots of healthy discussion prior to the game, but come Saturday everyone is behind the team.
There is enough quality within the team to ensure that Coventry can be a real force within this league over the remainder of the season, provided they have the confidence to play to their strengths with a game plan that doesn’t shackle their individual skills and abilities, with a team selected on the basis that it is the best team available.
If that happens then:
When we could be diving for pearls.