Club talk

On building more bridges…not setting fire to the few that remain

Stormy times are ahead unless changes

Stormy times are ahead unless changes

The post was written before I’d seen the Coventry Telegraph article published today (Tuesday), which hopefully signifies the beginnings of a dialogue between club and supporters and is particularly welcome. Hopefully, this is something the new Head of Rugby sees as important and we’ll see more often in the coming weeks. Well done, Scott.

Perhaps, he’s taking the initiative and that first bridge is already under construction? More on that tomorrow, something positive to look forward to!!!!. However, I haven’t rewritten this post to take into account Scott’s comments.

Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh here, but is what I feel and that’s what I set out to do in this blog, just recount my feelings at any given point in the season. I’m not asking anyone to necessarily agree, many probably wouldn’t…it’s just one particular viewpoint.

For weeks now I’ve kept returning to the problems the Club are going to come up against if they don’t listen and respond to the concerns of their supporters, as have many on the messageboard.  It is a something that dominates discussions amongst Cov supporters, and rightly so.

Yet the situation grows worse. The warning signs are there and the club ignores them at their peril.

For the last couple of weeks, there has been little news at all about what’s been happening on the pitch, with team news and match reports being about the sum total. More news comes from supporters than it does from the club and that just can’t be right. . I’m not talking about major news either, just simple, straightforward, factual news – injuries, changes to the published team, reactions to the last game and so on.

I think the buzz word is, the situation has become ‘unacceptable’.

Yes, it’s just plain unacceptable.

There’s more emphasis from the club on its business/corporate vision and the proposals for it’s redevelopment than there is about how on earth Coventry are going to dig themselves out of the present mess they are in…10th in the league and apparently in free fall.

Yet the entertainment and events side of the Club will be all the more successful if Coventry become a Championship side, far less so if they find themselves in National 2N next season with supporters leaving in droves and sponsors reluctant to commit themselves to a club very much on the wane.

And let’s be realistic, that could yet happen.

It’s a vicious circle. Except it’s even worse than that. It’s a spiral, an ever decreasing one at that.

If this really is a club that wants to be seen as a serious player in National 1, then it has to show more respect for the very lifeblood of the club, its supporters. And supporters are getting increasingly embittered at the way they feel they are being marginalised by the club… but not the players, not even the coaches, I hasten to add.

I totally accept that there’s absolutely no reason why the powers that be should read this blog, let alone pay any heed to it, but there is every reason why they should be paying very close attention to the messageboard at the moment.

There are some very unhappy supporters out there, supporters passionate about their club and passionate about bringing back some pride to Coventry RFC.

The messageboard is rather like a barometer, providing a good indication of just what the mood of the supporters is at any one time. And right now it’s reading ‘stormy weather ahead’. Surely, the club must sense the unrest…?  An unrest that has spilled over to the players and coaches.

And whilst the news about Jon Sharp’s imminent purchase of the leasehold to the Butts is welcome, as is his vision for the  development of the business side of the club, it only heightens the feeling of some supporters that the playing side of the club is secondary to the corporate side, and the gap is widening. You only have to spend a couple of minutes looking a the club website to see the truth in this.

What many supports would like to see is a similar amount of  coverage given over to what is wrong on the pitch, how it will be addressed and what the coaches short, medium and long term goals are and, of course, just how the club intends to address the issue of communication with it’s supporters who are fed up with having to pick up scraps of information from other supporters via the messageboard.

Even better, they’d like to hear it directly from the coaches themselves in the form of another Fans’ Forum. And preferably in-house and not on the back pages of the Coventry Telegraph. A bit too much like washing our dirty linen in public. That’s why a Fans’ Forum approach would work so well.

Unlikely to happen though, isn’t it?

Coventry’s apparent desire to be a Championship rugby doesn’t really marry up at all with it’s reluctance to involve it’s supporters in it’s development. Someone from the club needs to calm the waters and build a few bridges instead of setting fire to them.

The barometer continues to falling.

Work with the supporters, keep them informed and make us feel valued and we will see it the needle of change begin to climb back to ‘warm front approaching’…

If the club felt that releasing news of the proposed plans was going to have a positive effect and improve morale amongst the supporters, then it has misread the situation.

Most of us use the messageboards because of the rugby, first and foremost. We are passionate about our team. Me, I’m not really interested in events or conferencing, other than how it might impact on what  happens at 3.00 pm on a Saturday afternoon. And that’s why I get frustrated, unfairly at times.

Coventry RFC is a business, functioning in a very competitive environment and the rugby side of the club is but one part of it, albeit a very large part. Mine is a selfish response, I guess, and in my more contemplative moments I understand that, as I’m sure Jon Sharp understand why supporters sometimes get aggrieved, even if he doesn’t agree with them. This post just happens to be written in an impulsive moment, not a contemplative one.

I feel hugely sorry for the players and for Scott Morgan and the coaches who, despite the poor results this season, are really the pawns in this game of corporate chess that seems to being played at the moment. It might not have gone as well on the pitch as everyone had hoped, but it’s not for a lack of effort on their part. And with supporters anxious and frustrated, it must be even more unsettling for the team.

But this is a squad will real talent; that’s the whole squad without differentiating between the new and the old. I’m sure things will improve because as we saw from Matt and Aggy after the Ampthill, they share the passion for Cov that the supporters do.

Fingers crossed for the new year…somewhere there are a couple of pieces to the Cov jigsaw that are either missing or just not quite fitting properly. Once Scott sorts them out, it will all click together and we’ll see results begin to improve.

I genuinely believe that.

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If things seem pretty bleak at Coventry at the moment, then spare a thought for Broadstreet. Having lost at home to Huddersfield on Saturday in front of a crowd of just 155, they ae now firmly rooted to the bottom of National 2N,  a position previously held by…yep, you’ve guessed it, their visitors.

They are still only 7 points from safety, but with the team above them having a game in hand and ‘Street seemingly unable to bridge the gap for a number of games now, it’s going to be a nervous  second half of the season for our neighbours.

According to the The Rugby Paper, a 13-10 lead at half time ended in a 20-27 defeat after 80 minutes, with the Yorkshire outfit scoring three unanswered tries midway through the second half and although ‘Street rallied in the closing minutes to set up a tense finale,  it was a question of too little too late.

I only recognised two of the Coventry squad, Martin Wolfenden and Joe Foreman in the line-ups, although Joe was only on the bench this week.

Both Coventry and Broadstreet rarely, if ever, comment on the present arrangement whereby are players are loaned out to ‘Street on what appears a pretty ad hoc basis, although both Martin and Joe have been regulars this season, with Martin having a later start to the season following his lengthy absence as a result a damaged knee.
It’s another one of those situations where it would be interesting, from a spectators point of view, to hear how the clubs feel it is working out.

Coventry have obviously benefited this season with the likes of Jacques Le Roux and Cliffie Hodgson getting some vital game time in with ‘Street prior to returning to the Coventry squad.

Whether Broadstreet have is less clear.

16th in the league and looking as if it’s going to be a real struggle to avoid the drop over the remainder of the season, it certainly isn’t obvious as to how Broadstreet have benefited. One of the concerns at Coventry early on this season was about a lack of consistency in selection, with players moving in and out of the squad all too regularly.

Has that been a problem at ‘Street with our returning players getting a couple of games or so in before moving back to Cov? And how do the ‘Street players react to this? It must be difficult if your position in the Street team is determined by whether A Cov players will or will not be making an appearance that week.

Maybe I’m overstating  the situation, but it would good to get some feedback, although maybe this won’t be something that either club would want to share with their supporters.

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The Loughborough game a week on Saturday is going to be a real acid test for the remainder of the season. Whilst all games are important, this one takes on added significance given that we beat then back in September and in the first half played some enterprising, free-flowing rugby in the first half, arguably as good as anything we’ve played all season. And there won’t be too many teams this season that we’ll be doing the double over – compared to last season where we broke the club record in that respect, as I recall.

But that was then and this is now…and it is a struggle to work out where the next points are going to come from after the Loughborough game, so a win is important if not vital.

Lose and the doubt and uncertainty remains, and supporters grow even more despondent.

Win and the seeds of self-belief are sown.

Loughborough will have to be targeting this as a possible win, given our recent run of results and our proximity to them in the league table. I’m sure they’ll be sensing an upset is on the cards and given that they are only 7 points above the last of the relegation spots they’ll be really fired up, that’s for sure. If the training sessions go well and the players and coaches work hard in the areas where there is most concern, then Cov have more than enough firepower both in the forwards and backs to prevent Loughborough from seeing enough ball to be a real threat.

It will be a fairly tense few days leading up to the game but Cov have a squad that is far more experienced than that of Loughborough and the players should be better equipped to cope with the pressures attached to such an important game.

Before that though, I hope they have a relaxing few days with families and friends.

Everyone deserves that.

 

 

 

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