During the Christmas break, having lost 3 games on the bounce, most of us felt that Loughborough was a game we had to win and then, well then it was going to get a whole lot harder.
And so it’s proving to be.
I wasn’t at the game. I don’t have anything to base a review on, so I’m not even going to try.
But there have already been three reports already published (Coventry Telegraph, The Rugby Post and Hartpury’s own) and several posts from those who did make the journey to College Stadium and all make the same point really, that we made too many mistakes, Hartpury dominated in most areas of the game, our scrum was going backwards at the end and Hartpury should have won by a wider margin.
The Hartpury report refers to Coventry as being ‘architects of our own downfall’, gifting too many points and making too many unforced errors. All rather depressing.
But I’m not going to be the harbinger of doom and gloom as far as this result is concerned. Even had we sent out on to the pitch the team that was originally published, it would have been difficult, but a team minus Rob Knox, Andy Brown, Chad Thorne and even Alex Woodburn, all late withdrawals, was always going to struggle. Especially when the build up during the week and training ground sessions had been conducted with presumably the four of them very much in the side.
However, whilst Coventry RFC are struggling to win on the field at the moment, off it they have made a winning start.
Tom Little posted mid-week that the Cov team would be announced earlier in the week, following the very late publication of the team to play Loughborough and the brouhaha that caused (me included).
And so it indeed was.
And what a good week it was for news coming out of the club…articles ago-go in the Telegraph and as a result lots of interest in the game on the messageboard.
But of course then the injuries hit us and the team has to be republished, which Coventry did quickly and efficiently. And well done again for that, too. Strange selections admittedly in a couple of cases, particularly on the bench, but the club was as good as their word…and that’s really encouraging.
Even thought the news might be rather less enjoyable to read this week, I hope it still keeps on a-coming.
And the number of late changes and the resulting last minute juggling around of the team , with Joe Foreman being called up from ‘Street to fill in a gap in the front row, gave us an indication of the disruption to the team over the last couple of days prior to the game. Something we might not have had without the reports.
Losing Andy Brown and Chad Thorne was an immense blow, one of almost fatal proportions. We did ensure that there was provision in the squad at the start of the season for such eventualities with Chad Thorne, Terry Sigley, Adam Parkins, Rikki Stout, Andy Brown, Jacob Caulfield, Joe Foreman and Tipiloma Kivalu (a few weeks later) all contracted to the club in that position.
However, it now seems that Sigley (?) and Stout have moved on and that Adam Parkins was unavailable (playing for his former club if the messageboard is correct???), so we were down to the bare bones on Saturday. No prop on the bench and two available to play, both short of first team experience.
That’s why I’m not to going to have a pop at the team – certainly you could argue that having lost Stout and Sigley, more should have been done by the club to replace them, but that’s not the fault of the team who could only make do and mend as best they could.
I was surprised that Alex Woodburn was down to play, given what seemed like a pretty hard blow to the head against Loughborough. However, George Oliver’s return to the team won’t have weakened it other than not being mentally prepared for the challenge, I guess. One poster felt he was the Cov MoM (again!).
I did fear the worst on Saturday morning and yet it’s another one of those games, and there have been a few of them this season, where we end up with possibilities to get a whole lot close, gift them points and come away feeling deflated.
All this even though, by all accounts, we were second best throughout much of the game.
And this is the worry for me. If the supporters are deflated and demoralised, as many are given the comments on the board, so the team will be, too. You can’t start off as one of the National 1’s favourites for promotion back in September, on the back of a 4th and 3rd place in the two previous seasons and be 9th in mid January and struggling for any sort of consistency, without feeling some sort of self-doubt or lack of self-belief.
And it won’t get better over the next few games involving Richmond, Plymouth, Hull, Fylde, Rosslyn Park and Esher. All are games where the same scenario could occur more than once…
…close but no cigar…
…with Cov falling just short of a successful outcome and getting nothing for their efforts.
Now I’m pretty optimistic by nature, but even I am struggling to see where the wins are going to come from at the moment.
Yet this is an important period of the season for Coventry. Yes, this season is over for Coventry in terms of the league (other than to avoid the relegation places) and I guess before long we’ll hear the phrase ‘there’s nothing to play for but the pride and the passion’ being banded around, but I think the reality is quite the reverse, for the club at least.
Both Jon Sharp and Scott Morgan have said publicly that Coventry will have another crack at promotion next season, which of course is precisely what we want to hear. Scott Morgan has also gone on record as saying:
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
My concern is, though, that games like the one yesterday and potentially some of those yet to come, where we are ‘the architects of our own downfall’, are going to make players question whether they want another year of disappointment following what will almost certainly be more close season hype.
And that will happen – with each new signing, the appetites of supporters desperate for success at a club that’s been starved of success for some time, will be more and more whetted. And because it’s a club, with a big name within the league and even bigger tradition, of course we’ll get carried away. We always do. It what supporters do.
But will the players still believe in the club when it has so patently failed to deliver, when the team have so patently failed to deliver, for much of this season. As a player, wouldn’t you begin to look at what is happening elsewhere, see where the offers are coming from and at least have a look? It would be a very different situation were we are mid-way through a seven or eight match run where we have beaten the top teams and things were looking far more positive. But we’re not and they aren’t.
Will the ‘the boys still believe’ in six or seven games times…I guess that’s the question I’m asking? There are those who are Coventry through and through, but not everyone is a Matt Price or a Sam Pailor. I rather expect there will be knocks at doors and enquiries being made and if they are, to what extent are the players buying into the vision of the club?
We are still producing yo-yo rugby and when our yo-yo is at it’s highest point on the string, it’s invariably against the clubs that are on the lowest point of theirs.
John Maxwell, a leading American author of books on leadership, has suggested that:
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision
and that seems pretty accurate to me. And there is plenty of vision on and off the field at Coventry, as we’ve read recently. A vision of a developed Arena producing additional revenues to finance Coventry’s promotion into the Championship and beyond. A team that is taking shape for next season with a strong core of players who believe in the coaches.
But vision is one thing and performance is another.
And are those who are attempting to sell that vision, capable of realising it? It might not be a question everyone is asking, but if I were committing my short to medium term career in the game to the club, it certainly a question that would be pretty near the top of my list, come meetings about contracts.
And if it’s at all like the world of football, then in conversations with key players you want to retain, you talk about the new players coming in and the determination to produce a squad capable of making that push for the title next year. But for every player that comes in, well…
And that isn’t going to be music to everyone’s ears. A run of poor results, concerns that some contracts won’t be renewed…it can’t be the happiest time for the squad at the moment, particularly those who know, or believe, they won’t be playing their rugby at the Butts next season.
And of course, there are players who maybe looking at Coventry with a view to a move here next season. Leaving aside the financial packages on offer, how big an attraction is the club at the moment…struggling to even be mid-table and seemingly underperforming most weeks, anyone looking to make the move would want some pretty strong reassurances?
So it is a really important part of the season for Coventry and the irony is some of those who are helping to shape the direction the club will be taking in the nest 12 months or so, might well not be here come the start of the next season.