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.
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.
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…