Club talk

I think it probably is the end…

I think it probably is the end…I know there will be teams above us playing each other every week and points will be dropped, but I think when we look back today will have been a critical day.

Coventry Telegraph – Scott Morgan interview (8 December 2015)

And so, with just 14 games of the season completed, Scott Morgan concedes that Coventry’s promotion bid for the 2015/16 season has realistically come to an end.

And to be honest, its come as something of a relief. For the last few weeks it’s been a bit like watching your favourite pet suffering from some incurable illness…it rallies every now and again, but you know that there’s soon going to come a time when it needs putting out of its misery.

Today, Rover went to the vet. The end was quick and painless but still something of a surprise, given that it came so quickly. But it’s a welcome reprieve nevertheless.

For a few weeks the palliative care had prolonged the inevitable, during which time we dared to dream. And in truth, I still do. But maybe not this season.

Not now.

And we mustn’t grieve. We’ll look to the future and see if we can’t find ourselves a new Fido, or Tiddles or Polly…

…and the search, as Scott says, starts now:

We need to take a look at what we’ve got, take stock and start building a style of play to move us forward

It’s a brave call by the Head Coach to concede ‘defeat’ quite so early…yes, if you read the article he does stress that there will be points dropped, the top teams will have to play each other again, that miracles do sometimes happen.

But a gap of 18 points, or in effect at least 4, and probably 5 games, is too great a one to close; especially with so many other teams that much closer to the leaders than we are.

Yes, a brave decision.

Or a foolhardy one.

Morgan does open himself up to criticism by being so candid. There will be those who see him as throwing in the towel far too early…after all, a lot can happen in 18 matches.

It certainly has in 14.

So why switch off the lights quite so readily?

But equally, he might just be very canny.

Okay, there’s going to be some flak directed towards Morgan and the coaches, with doubtless some calling for change either at the top or within the coaching staff. No one can expect to be free of criticism, either players or coaches, given the disappointing season Coventry have endured up to now.

But he’s given himself a more than decent chance of survival in the medium to long term and it’s a pretty adroit move on his part and one that actually I wholly agree with.

So what is it that he’s done that might allow him some breathing space.

Well, it’s this…

As well as recognising that Cov’s push for promotion is to all intents and purposes over for another season, in the same breath he says:

it’s time to start building a style of play to move us forward

So let’s see how this could pan out. With the pressure off, Scott can look to be more creative and imaginative in his approach to the remaining games. He can change either the team or the style of play significantly, provided we don’t get dragged into a relegation battle. This could give players more freedom to express themselves and develop a game plan that allows greater options and flexibility depending on how a match develops, without the fear of dropping points all the time.

Since the pressure is off as far as promotion is concerned, it might well be that players react positively to the news. With the weight of expectation lifted from their shoulders, perhaps we’ll see the players with the confidence to experiment more, try things which they might not have done when so much was at stake in the opening games. As a result the release valve could blow and suddenly we play once more with the assurance of players who believe in themselves and in those around them.

It wouldn’t  be the first time that a team has suddenly started to show huge improvements  when the shackles of promotion or relegation have been removed.

 

And let’s move on now to April…

…Coventry have put together a decent run of games, playing the type of rugby one might expect from a collection of experienced and talented players, picking up some notable scalps on the way. The game plan seems to be coming together and confidence amongst the team and the supporters is high.

Hard to make a change then, as you’d risk bringing in someone new and having to start afresh in September with possibly a different set of coaches and the inevitable influx of new players, at the same time as others decide it’s time for them to move on.

Tough call to make change your Head Coach or coaching staff then, especially if things really have begun to pick up.

So there’s definitely a scenario come April whereby Scott’s position is actually strengthened by conceding promotion now and using the remainder of the time to restructure the playing side of the club both on and off the pitch.

Had Scott Morgan, Phil Maynard and Jon White come out and said at the Supporters’ Forum back in August that this season was about developing the team in readiness for a real push for the Championship in 2016/17, then I don’t actually think anyone would have batted an eyelid.

Last season was successful, there was great faith in all-things Cov and a desire just to move things forward and take a look at how things were progressing come this Christmas.

The mistake was to openly state that the club would be looking to give it a real push this year. As expectations within the club soared, most of the supporters flew alongside.

There has to be an internal review of what has got us to this invidious position, if hasn’t already begun. And I’d imagine there probably needs to be changes as a result, depending on the outcomes. However, Scott stays for me…

I’m happy to repeat that.

Morgan stays. In fact I think it’s really important he does.

He’s not had the happiest of times in the last three months, but his record prior to this is impressive – 4th and then 3rd in two consecutive seasons, our longest ever unbeaten run and record attendances at the Butts…He’s still learning and whilst Coventry have generally underperformed in the last 12 games, it’s not all down to his role as Head Coach…

With the right team of coaches around him, I think he’s got what it takes to lead the club forward. But he’ll know better than anyone the changes that need to be made, if indeed he thinks there is a need.

In a new thread on the messageboard yesterday, Cliff Bennett raised the interesting question as to what the general feeling amongst those who read the board was about the ability of the club to  retain its key players next season. The likes of Knox, Hodgson, Rundle, Poole, Pailor and others all have ability to play either at Championship level or for a National 1 team pushing for a place in the Championship next season.

With Morgan’s announcement yesterday, Cliff’s question is even more germane.

And in yesterday’s Coventry Telegraph, perhaps we already have a clue as to what Morgan would like to happen:

We’ve got a really good group of players, but part of it is understanding the consequences of your actions.

A really good group of players is not one that you’d want to split up by choice. And whilst there are always some players that you’d be happier to see move on than others, I think the nucleus the present team is one that we’d want to keep.

It’s pretty likely that this season will be  Matt Jones’ and  Wayne Evans’ swansong (I think I’ve read that in the CT – apologies if I’ve got that wrong), but other than that, there’s no obvious reason for movement, other than better offers or contracts not renewed.

Most years it’s about the club deciding whether to offer players new terms when their contracts are up for renewal, or releasing those whose still have time left on theirs – in essence who do we keep, who do we let go?

Whilst this will still be true of the current season, it’s now also about the players deciding whether the club is actually right for them.

Does Cov’s vision for the next couple of years actually match theirs?

Will things be significantly different to warrant the likes of Rob Knox and Dan Rundle committing themselves to Coventry for another year or two when the lure of the Championship, or the approaches of a Rosslyn Park, Richmond and Blackheath, might be very tempting?

To some extent the roles are now reversed. It’s not going to be simply a case of players playing for contracts from now on, it’s also going to be the club paying for them, not just financially, but also in assurances about the commitment of the club to carry forward its vision into 2015/16.

Players will want to know what Cov will be doing differently tomorrow that it’s doing today before they sign on the dotted line.

It’s disappointing to read in print what you actually already know in your head. It somehow makes it all official, when before you could always believe there was the chance that things could be turned around. But most seasons end in disappointment somewhere along the line…perhaps not quite so early on as this one, but there is inevitably a feeling of anti-climax at some point.

The real danger for the club in the coming weeks is that this statement from Scott impacts negatively on the crowds attending home games. With seemingly nothing now to play for, other than pride and avoidance of relegation, apathy is more than a possibility. Will those who don’t have a season ticket want to pay £15 to watch a game that has little consequence for the home team?

It’s something the club is going to have to consider.

With hindsight, is it something that Scott will come to regret?

Will the Board, in a desperate attempt to ignite interest in a season that now has little to offer in the way of significance for the spectators, decide that a change in personnel at the top is what is needed to increase the already low attendance at home games.

A new coach, a known name, the promise of a different style of play…could that be a winner?

As I said earlier, Scott’s decision to publicly say what a number of fans have been privately thinking for a few games now is either very brave or somewhat foolhardy.

It’s going to be a talking point for sure…

 

 

 

 

 

10 replies »

  1. I’ve no wish to prolong the agony which this subject is clearly generating, Tim, but I have very severe fears about the way the club is being seen publicly. Against the background of the way this season has so spectacularly failed to live up to the hype and club-set expectations, along with such a desperately poor admission from Scott that this is the end of any aspirations which the club may have held, we now have the cuckoos-in-the-nest up the road parading their stuff so publicly and so widely with, it would seem, anyone but CRFC. I know they have a far greater pot of gold than Cov, and can afford to get out there with their publicity machine much more than Cov can even dream of, but where is the fighting spirit from Cov? Where is the refusal to be cowed by a Premiership outfit? Where is the campaign to get out there, to the city, to Coventrians, and to a wider potential support, to publicise the club, to alert local people about the fact that the club even exists, let alone that it is a thriving (that’s marketing speak, don’t you know) organisation with an excellent ground, with facilities………….oh dear, I could go on for hours, but I hope you get my drift. We are very close to being obliterated by competitive headlight publicity and there seems to be absolutely no will to fight back.
    Based on the current standard of play, our resultant league position, and now Scott’s public admission of defeat, it would be perfectly reasonable for anyone, whatever their level of connection with the club or their following of the game of rugby, to say – “Oh, why bother?”

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  2. Thanks for the reply. If, as has been guessed at , it’s an attempt to take the pressure off the players, why now? The pressure was loaded with all the talk about promotion pre-season. If it was an attempt to boost season ticket sales, then that has sadly backfired. Mick Carter raises a good point about the close price range between Wasps and Cov season tickets ( the cheapest Wasp ticket is , or was £195 . Let me think about that for the ‘walk-up’ and uncommitted rugby supporter , which would I choose, if I wasn’t a die-hard Cov supporter? I note also Wasps have just announced a ‘ buy-back’ scheme with Nuneaton RFC. The wagons are circling the BPA.
    Like you, should there be, what in effect would be a takeover , I would be off, back to my junior club. Like a shot.

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  3. Like Cliff, I am astonished that SM has seemed to throw in the towel so soon . I admire his honesty, but think it might be a bit misplaced. What is the message that is being thrown to the players, do they just ‘ go through the motions’ , while their agents bandy their names around to other clubs? Will they ‘stick or twist?’ It’s either a brave hand of bluff in poker, or a man who might have just come to the end of his tether. As previously mentioned , I still believe, but then I am the eternal optimist .

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  4. As you know, Tim, I have always agreed with your comments and viewpoints which you have so succinctly outlined in your blog.
    But not on this occasion………..
    I think that for Scott to admit publically the thoughts which he may well have been harbouring and may well be justified, is outrageous. When, in any sport – football, cricket etc, etc, – did you last hear of a manager conceding, even before the season has reached its half-way mark, that the target is not going to be achieved? I think that for Scott to have folded his arms in an attitude of resigned defeat and to have said “Well, gents, we aren’t going to make it this season” is unforgiveable. I should imagine that PM and Jon S are highly embarrassed and entirely unsympathetic. My career was in sales and in project management. It is inconceivable that a sales manager/director or a project director would say, when the year has been less that half completed, “well, fellas, we aren’t going to make the target this year”, not least because it would very much call into question the efficiency and effectiveness of that individual, apart from the serious effect it would have on morale.
    Whilst I applaud Scott for his honesty, I would think he should accept the charge of being very naive and gullible. Surely it is regarded as unacceptable for him, as coach, to make such a damning public concession? Is such a statement seriously the sort of publicity which the club needs at the moment? And what of the team spirit for the rest of the season, and the standard and style of play?
    Or am I completely wrong and going on too much?

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    • Cliff/Paul
      Definitely brave…you would have hoped that Scott would have discussed this with JS before hand, but given his emotive response after the game at Esher, the: ‘What’s going wrong. It’s the worst we’ve been for the four years I’ve been here. I’ve got to look at myself and the other coaches. Is it us or the players?’ one, maybe, as you say Paul, he’s come to the end of his tether. It’s odd that JW didn’t include this in his post-match interview on Saturday, not does he refer to it in the Wed headline, especially as it’s a bigger story than the need to reduce the number of penalties, which is pretty obvious. May be he wanted to use it as filler for the rest of the article…?
      There is clearly something bizarre about making such a statement which is why I think maybe he’s spoken to JS who has told him he’s not going to be moved on, but he’s got until the end of the year to come up with a team and a style of play that will put them in with a decent chance of promotion next year…whilst hoping that the majority of the players will buy into that and stay…pure speculation on my part, I know.
      Otherwise you’re both right and he’s lost the plot…and the players will quickly lose interest in fighting for a cause the club gave up on 16 weeks before the end of the season…that doesn’t sound good, does it, when you say it like that? However, I’d still stick with Scott, but I’d look closely at those around him…

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  5. Flak ? No flak from me. How many years have COV fans been fed tales of glory ? Too many in my view. But Scott Morgan shoots from the hip. Sitting near to Tim Smith and sometimes the “rascal” called Cliff Bennett we have a strong nugget of supporters who are totally committed to following COV. Of this group fans have feasted on the glory years and live and watched through the famine of the club. Now the club has to compete against Premiership opposition at the Ricoh. In fact for a small city we have three “senior” level teams. So what is the way forward ? One person who I will not name was talking about an amalgamation with the Wasps, playing A league games at the BPA. And us/COV being the Wasps second team or whatever ! Many COV fans like the ones mentioned above would not agree with this one little bit. So our clubs shopping for new talent ? We have a good track record through various people in charge of unearthing players. Tom Johnson, Carl Rimmer, Ben Gulliver to name some. Even in our present staff we have players who would be welcomed with open arms at other clubs. My worry is if the Coventry club increase the price of season tickets and of course match day admittance would this not increase the flow of fans to the other side of town. We/club are in a position like many trades can only compete with your competitors price. Give lead to level one or level three for the same price. (I based this on the cheapest price at Wasps). So I am grateful for some realism from Scott Morgan and not flannel that we fans have been fed so many times before.

    It may sound that I am going to throw COV aside. NO WAY. as the quote says

    YOUR CLUB YOUR CITY – a long may it be so.

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    • I can’t see many scenarios where I would stop coming to Cov games, but the one that you’ve just outlined there is certainly one of them. As soon as Wasps get involved to that degree I’ll go to ‘Street and given them my money instead

      ….yep, I too welcome Scott’s pragmatic and honest approach…we ought to get a response fromm the level above Scott, but I can’t see that happening at the moment. A Fans’ Forum (why have I been referring to them as Supporters’ Meetings) should be arranged just so we can find out how this change in outlook will affect the club’s short/medium term plans as well as there being any financial implications…can the club afford to recruit next season in the same way as it did at the start of this, given the much lower gate receipts, bar monies etc…? The players might not have lived up to their billing, but they will have come at a cost…

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  6. Hi Tim
    As usual a very well thought out blog with many talking points thrown out for discussion.
    Firstly if we talk about Scott’s comments and also the Club management, we were indeed thrown a meaty bone at the start of the season and myself and many others left the Fans Forum thinking and believing this would be “our year” The history of this season so far has, as everyone admits shown us it was a false dawn. Why we have not achieved what was expected and why currently we have fallen short by a big margin is obviously a puzzle especially so, after all the promises.
    If we look at the comments Scott has made, wise or foolhardy remains to be seen, however the question remains that if the inevitable happens and we finish outside of the top 3 would it be wise to keep with the same management structure regardless? Even if we do go on a run would we not be in the same situation next year with lots of promises but the same Management Team? I think things will need to change at Management level and not necessarily Scott’s role, but to date there has been far too many failings for things not to change.
    A final point, i was under the impression that some months back it was muted that Rob Knox is moving on at the end of the season to a Prem club?

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    • Interesting about Knoxy…missed that one. I’m surprised he choose a premiership side where he would be unlikely to the first choice 13/12. The Championship would have been a better option I would have thought…still wherever he goes, he deserves his chance.
      All the points you’ve made are fair ones – I can quite see there will be call for change; I would just like to see Scott be given one more season with perhaps a change in some of the coaching staff, with a clearer definition, at least to the supporters, of the PM/SM roles…

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