Climbing mountains…discovering oceans
Just two weeks ago there will have been a fair few supporters waking up on the Sunday morning feeling a mixture of emotions, with frustration and worry being very much to the fore. The game at Esher was hopefully our nadir, the lowest point in the season that had been less about climbing mountains and more about discovering ocean depths.
Fourteen days on and the mood of supporters has changed. Relief at the result against Blaydon is turning into a new-found optimism following another convincing performance against Cinderford. In these two games we’ve scored 76 points and conceded just 13, have found a level of form that allows us to look up rather than down. Now up to 7th in the league, it’s altogether a different story and a narrative that we want to run throughout the remaining 17 games.
And there’s a sobering thought – there are fewer games remaining until the end of this season than there were in total in Coventry’s unbeaten run last season.
That brings home to me two key things. First, the enormity of what they achieved then and, secondly, the task facing them now if they are to be realistic challengers going into March and April of next year.
The great thing about following any team is that you always dare to hope. As an armchair Baggies fan who’ll go to a couple of pre-season friendlies or one or two of the early rounds of the League Cup because the tickets are cheap, staying out of the relegation places is always my season’s hope. Once that’s achieved, usually at about 4:49 pm on the final weekend of fixtures, and then often at the expense of another team’s relegation…well, I’m more than happy.
But with Coventry it’s different. Because it’s Coventry, I guess. Having watched for a while now, in fact a period spanning 6 decades (which I can never get my head around because I’m only 56), and having enjoyed the highs and suffered the lows, it is the most enjoyable memories that remain and the least enjoyable are quickly forgotten. A couple of promotions, the John Player Trophies, Newcastle and so on, they’re what stays…the near liquidations, the relegations and 33-0 (?) defeat to London Scottish on the game John Hart made his debut… perhaps not completely forgotten, but they only resurface periodically.
So the turn around in Coventry’s fortunes will inevitably start to get supporters wondering what scenarios might yet face us in 5 months time and if the run continues as we all hope it will, the ‘what ifs’ start to come more into play. What if we’d had just an average start to the season, what if we hadn’t had so many early injuries, what if, what if, what if…?
But you have to let them go. If you can’t then you’ll never enjoy the successes that might come your way. That’s the glass half empty syndrome. Might as well just sup up and be gone if you live your life that way. Keep the faith.
Whatever has brought about the upturn in Coventry’s fortunes, it has certainly done the trick. Two wins on the bounce now and with the prospect of a struggling Henley Hawks at home on Saturday and things suddenly look a whole lot healthier. For the third time this season this equals our best run (isn’t that terrible?) and on each of the previous two we have failed to make it three consecutive wins with losses against Hartpury and Fylde respectively. After Henley comes DMP (a) and Blackheath (h), after which we’ll have a far better idea of just how improved this side really is.
Selecting the core of the team around the one that was so successful mid-way through last season has clearly made a difference and the players seem to have responded to the confidence the coaches have put in them. Mieres and Weightman (who have both scored tries in each of these last two games) appear to have added some pace and experience to the team and Hutchinson is clearly fitting in well at centre. Jones and Evans are playing with a renewed confidence, or so it seems, and their contributions are always a big factor when Cov are in the ascendancy.
Another important change for me is that the scrum has begun to return to something like the form of the second half of last season. I was worried when Adam Parkins picked up what looked like a serious injury against Esher but this has allowed Chad Thorne back into the team and his pairing with Andy Brown and Matt Price has rejuvenated the front row. With Hope and Kivalu there too, it is a powerful unit and one that will undo most opponents in this league. Ben Thomas is growing in confidence and with Tom Poole there is power in abundance and both get themselves around the pitch, doing the hard graft that makes such a huge difference.
H0wever, it’s the back row for me that has had made the most difference. Oliver has been tremendous all season and quite why he was dropped for two games with no apparent explanation is a genuine mystery to me. Le Roux’s return seems to have had a massive impact though, coinciding as it does with the return to form of Sam Pailor. Jacques is something of a talisman for the team…invariably like Jones and Evans outside him, when he plays well the team does too and his style of play can lift the crowd to spur the team on even more. There are few better sights for me than when JLR goes on one of his rampaging runs, dropping his shoulder and accelerating through a gap to release someone in support. Great stuff.
From my reading of the Messageboard it seems as if we are likely to bring in another player from one of the Tier 2/3 nations. I’m not sure how to respond to that. I remember reading something a couple of weeks or so ago about someone from the Japanese team who was going to be brought in.
Which would be exciting.
But good? Well that depends.
Of course we should welcome anyone who comes to Coventry with open arms, as we always do, but how successful a move it is really depends on the length of contract. Quick fix or long term solution? Mieres is still on trial as I understand it. With Hodgson out long term (until next season…?), then a contract for the rest of the year makes sense. Undoubtedly, Mieres is a class act.
The problem for me, though, is that Cov are starting to build some momentum based on a team that has been together for some time. Having recruited in the summer and found that maybe that hasn’t been quite as effective as they’d have hoped, Coventry have placed their trust in players whom they know and who have responded to that by producing two very encouraging results.
It might well be that individually, some of the players who have been selected for the last two games aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ in that particular position, especially given the ‘two players for every one position’ recruitment drive in the close season. But the players are playing as a team at the moment, and whatever we might feel about the absence of Courtney Roberts, James Tincknell, Callum MacBurnie and others, the selectors/coaches have proved themselves to be right. This is a team that is transformed, is winning and is getting the supporters talking positively again.
It’s hard to argue against that…
However, I’ll give it a go. Sort of…
Bringing in another international, could work, or it could cause problems. It has to be a considered risk; a very carefully considered one at that. Take for instance the arrival of Daniel Carpo…a player of immense experience and fresh from the World Cup. There was actually a press release or two from the club which is something of a rarity in itself…
He’s probably on a decent amount of money to come…but has he made the impact that we’d hoped? As a supporter, I’d argue not. That might be very unfair as he could have a huge effect on the training/coaching side of things, but actually on the pitch, where it counts most, he’s been…fairly anonymous actually, and his inclusion arguably held back JLR’s return for a couple of weeks.
And that’s the danger for me. 4-5 dual reg players come in and only one of them has made any sort of impression – Rory Hutchinson. Farnworth had a couple of games but with Price and Hope playing as they are, he’ll struggle to get much game time. An international player, from any tier, is going to expect to play which means that someone is going to lose their place in the side.
A side that is settled now, full of confidence and playing as a team…
It is a risk and if it does happen, then Coventry should be praised for their ambition, and ability to attract such players to the Butts. I do hope that Mieres and anyone else coming in from now will be part of Coventry’s long term plans, not just for this season, but next as well. Realistically, promotion this year is going to mean not just a resurgent Cov, but also teams like Hartpury, Richmond and Blackheath having more than an odd wobble here and there. That’s not being pessimistic, far from it, it’s just accepting the situation for what it is.
Henley, next Saturday….
And with some interesting news to come this week…
Should be an exciting few days.
One thing’s for sure, Coventry definitely give you good value for money, no matter how successful they are on the pitch.