Club talk

‘Coventry RFC chief massively frustrated’ – reading between the lines

With little information about rugby related matters coming out of the club  over the past few weeks, other than previews and match reports, Scott Morgan’s honest assessment of Coventry’s performances up to the Christmas break makes a welcome and refreshing change.

Well done to him and well done to John Wilkinson and the Coventry Telegraph.

(Coventry Telegraph 22/12/2015 – Coventry RFC chief massively frustrated)

I’m not sure how these things work, whether it’s the paper going to Scott and asking for the interview or Scott contacting JW. I only mention this because if it’s a question of the club approaching John, then that’s far more hopeful. It’s one of those bridges that really needs building.

If, however, it’s the paper pushing for the interview, then I guess whilst it’s really interesting and informative, the fact that it has to be asked for would take a little of the gloss of it for me. But I guess megaphone diplomacy is no bad thing.

However, that apart, it is exactly what the doctor ordered.

A frank assessment of Coventry present shortcomings, no attempt to lay the blame on any one person or group of people and a determination to put things right. For me, that’s all I’ve ever wanted; nothing too heavy, no character assassinations, just an update of where we are, what the coaches see as the main concerns and how they can be addressed.

Brilliant…a great way to go into Christmas and hopefully something that will continue into the new year. Even when things go wrong, as they clearly have been doing for a few weeks now, I think most supporters would be great appreciative of honest statements such as this and, as a result, they’d be more patient.

It’s when no news comes out of the club on the playing front that the frustrations really seem to come to the fore.

One thing strikes me immediately…there is a slight difference in the statements made publicly by Jon Sharp, the Chairman, and Scott Morgan, the Head of Rugby. Jon has tended to single out recruitment as a factor in Coventry’s troubles, with players coming into the squad not producing the kind of performances expected of them, whilst accepting that he, Scott and Phil must take the blame for that.

Scott, on the other hand, didn’t once make an obvious distinction between the two groups of players, talking instead about players in general. Maybe that’s because he’s closer to the squad than Jon and feels he can’t speak that openly.  Or maybe he doesn’t quite see it in the same way.

The only evidence of the problems with recruitment can perhaps be found when he says:

It’s certainly a step back from last season, I can’t deny that. It’s as different as night and day, and not a lot has changed. We are talking about the same players, playing in the same style.

It is a fairly telling comment, really. We recruited around 13-14 players pre-September and then another 4-5 since then (plus DRs) which is probably about 50% of the total squad. Hardly the ‘same players’ as last season…either a slip of the tongue or a suggestion that the more recent acquisitions aren’t featuring that greatly in his thoughts.

If he’s just talking about the teams post Esher, which have made up of mostly 2014/15 players, then he’s being a little dismissive of everyone else.

It certainly seems to send out that message…I’ve probably misread it but, well, that’s kind of what it suggests to me.

Scott’s willingness to make himself a part of the failures is what is refreshing in all this:

We feel massively frustrated, and we’re all in it together – it’s not just the coaches and it’s not just the players. We’ve all got to work it through and look very closely at ourselves to achieve something good over the rest of the season.

Exactly so. It’s good leadership. The notion of corporate responsibility. And Scott could have added the supporters in that comment, too. ‘We’ are all in it together and those of us who follow the messageboard will see that there’s a fair bit of soul-searching taking place on there, too. Different thoughts and opinions, but everyone having the interests of the club at heart.

Go back to the e-letter some weeks back now and the suggestion from the Board (although no one put there name to it, so I might be doing them as disservice there for which I apologise in advance!) was that it was the players who were at fault for underperforming. Not the coaches, certainly not the Board.

There has been something of a sea-change, and a positive one at that, with Jon Sharp accepting that the problems with recruitment were the fault of himself, Scott Morgan and Phil Maynard. Whether that view is shared privately is a different matter, but the public perception of the club will soften as we move away from a culture of blame.

At the moment, I’m far more interested in how we are going to move forward to a position of strength than I am about determining who has to shoulder the responsibilities for the past.

In Tuesday’s article, Scott talks about a lot of the problems on the pitch being down to individual errors:

and to my mistakes as well

And good for him for saying that…perhaps he could have added something to the effect that it was down to the mistakes of all the coaching staff including himself, but an acceptance that it’s not just the players alone who have been underperforming is particularly welcome.

Scott doesn’t hold back from being critical of the lineouts which he describes as ‘failing to function’, a far better and rather more sensitive, less emotive, analysis than the one used in the official Coventry website match report last weekend.

He talks about discipline and a tendency to concede winning positions. He also mentions that teams are scoring far too easily against us, which I suppose is also an implied criticism of our defence coach(es) too?

However, what for me is the most telling comment of all comes right a the end of the article, when Scott mentions that:

I think we are very fortunate that a lot of the boys we would want to stay on still believe in us and want to put things right

I’m a little surprised that this hasn’t been picked up on elsewhere really,  as it would, or could, seem to suggest several things, really. Namely:

  • that the club have already identified those players that they want to retain next year
  • that the club have already identified those players they don’t want to retain next year
  • that there are players who don’t believe in the coaching staff
  • that ‘a lot of’ the players they want to retain still believe in them, so there are some they wish to keep who don’t

The above is just one particular way of interpreting Scott’s words. But it is mine.

I’m sure there will be others.

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time will know that I do tend to deconstruct texts from time to time, probably because linguistics and the study of how language is used is something that I’ve been interested in all my working life. If you teach literature, then interpreting texts goes with the territory. There’s never a right answer, hence the reason there are so many different interpretations of the great poems, plays and novels.

If you link the statement (‘I think we are very fortunate that a lot of the boys we would want to stay on still believe in us and want to put things right’) back to the one where Scott alluded to the fact that it is the ‘same players’ as last year, then  perhaps we can deduce from this that there won’t be too many of the players who joined this year back at the Butts come August 2016. Will those players who now seem to be playing their rugby elsewhere ‘still believe in us’?

Probably not, so it’s not too hard to second guess most of the players Scott is referring to here.

But there again, I could be hopelessly wrong…and not for the first time.

The appointment of Paul Harcourt seems a sensible move, and the comments made on the board yesterday to explain his role make sense to me. If the Chairman is allowing Scott to add to the backroom staff, it would suggest he has confidence in Scott to be in his post beyond the short term, which is promising.

And Scott’s ambitions clearly haven’t been tempered by the disappointing performance in the first half of the season, something confirmed when he says:

We have got to put everything in place so that should we be good enough to get promotion, which is our aim, we have the infrastructure to support it

A great way to end the article…upbeat, talking of the future and that promotion is still high on the agenda if for this season, then definitely for next.

All-in-all, an honest and fairly upbeat account of where Coventry are and a hint from the Head of Rugby of the rebuilding that has to take place if Coventry results are to improve.

Just as importantly, the article is an example of the club talking to the supporters, and to the rugby community at large. It sends out the message that the Club isn’t going to sit around and accept what is happening, it’s going to do everything it can to ensure things are turned around.

Hopefully, this will initiate a real dialogue, well monologue in this case, between club and supporters.

It would be disappointing if something similar isn’t repeated regularly now. The club need to keep supporters up-to-date with what is happening and having set the ball rolling with this, they will hopefully keep the momentum going with regular articles. It goes back to supporters wanting to feel a part of what is happening at the Butts, feeling that as a community club, you are valued, too.

Many supporters don’t switch of supporting their club, be it rugby or any other spectator sport, at 4.50 pm on a Saturday afternoon. It’s doesn’t work like that, so anything coming out of the club in the week is going to be really appreciated, good news or bad.

With supporters short on patience at the moment, this should have gone some way to placating those who were beginning to question their loyalty to the club. It’s not been the best of weeks, but this has helped to end it a little better than  it might otherwise have done.

It also introduces the first reference to recruitment for 2016/17 season. Coventry must get it right, not just for the same of the team, or the supporters but for the sake of the players too. Whatever anyone might say in the club’s defence, I do think they are at fault when they so openly (and at the highest level) attach much of this season’s problems to poor recruitment and players coming in and not performing to expectations. Players have left homes, families, even countries to move to Coventry to play for us. Whatever has happened hasn’t happened through a lack of effort or commitment on their part.

One thing he did mention, that I’d forgotten to add earlier was that he felt:

Some guys are putting their bodies on the line week after week

Only some? Really?

Surely there isn’t anyone playing in our league, for any club, who doesn’t do that?

But there is a clear distinction there…’some’ guys. Not all.

Is he suggesting that there are players who don’t put in the same effort on the pitch as others, who don’t commit themselves to the club on the pitch as others? If he is, then that’s a massive statement to make.

I appreciate that a lot of what I included here is purely a question of my interpretation. There will be others and I’m more than willing to accept that I’ve got the wrong end of the stick over some of what he’s said.

But at least Scott has said something and for the most part it is pretty encouraging, if only in its honesty.

The truth is always a good place to start.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Christmas Day tomorrow…I’ll post the first of the results from the MVP poll last week, that of the player in 12th place, voted for from a list of 30 names. There certainly will be one or two surprises…or at least they are surprises to me.

Have a great Christmas Eve…early to bed…and don’t forget to leave the mince pies by the tree.

And of course Santa’s tipple of choice…which in the Smith household is a bottle of ice cold lager…

Apparently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s