What might a successful second half of the season look like…?
In his ‘Welcome From The Boardroom’ column in the Loughborough programme, apart from wishing everyone a Happy New Year, Jon Sharp didn’t have a great deal to say. In fact, a photo of the Coventry lineout was the dominant feature.
However, the Chairman did confirm what we all probably already knew, namely that Coventry’s present position was both ‘unacceptable’ and ‘never within the wildest contemplation of myself or any of the coaching staff’.
Probably not something that needed saying but perhaps the use of the word ‘unacceptable’ was for effect, to reinforce that what has happened won’t be tolerated and that the supporters can rest assured the second half of the season will see some improvements.
Except two games in and it hasn’t, has it?
A win against a team below us and a loss to a team above us. If this is regrouping and ‘sett(ing) a platform for the future’, then we have a problem.
Now I accept that we are only two games in, with another 13 left; there’s still plenty of time to get that platform in place. But with no obvious difference in the way things are being done from the supporters’ perspective, it is a little worrying.
I do accept totally that discipline has improved and maybe the system of sanctions that Scott Morgan is imposing is having an immediate impact, but by all accounts the manner of the Hartpury defeat is similar in many respects to those prior to Christmas.
In the same programme, Scott Morgan wrote of his hope for the team to ‘play good, effective and winning rugby’. Yet the same applies here as it does to Jon Sharp’s comments. There are no real signs of this happening as yet.
Maybe rather like a plant, the roots for Coventry’s future successes are growing strongly but are buried beneath the surface , hidden from the view of the spectator on a Saturday afternoon for the time being. The ‘green shoots’ of progress will only show once the plant has that strong base on which to grow.
That platform on which to build.
But it would be good to learn what it is that is being done differently to change what is presently ‘unacceptable’ into something that the Chairman, coaches, players and spectators all agree is ‘acceptable’ – which is presumably winning performances against the top teams in the league?
The problem is, once the next 6 games are over, the remaining fixtures other than Blackheath, Darlington and Ampthill are all against sides below us and really of those, only Blackheath would be regarded as one of the top teams.
So if this second half is to see a significant improvement, then it has to be several wins from the next few games, otherwise it will be no different to performances before Christmas. 4 of the last 7 games are against teams we have already beaten and beaten fairly comfortably, so you can’t judge the success of the post Christmas fixtures on performances against those teams.
It has to be measured against teams like Richmond, Blackheath, and Hartpury and we’ve already failed to impress against Hartpury. A winning run in the last 5 or 6 games might look good on paper but for me that would be a false positive. The real test has to be in the next few games, starting with Richmond.
I might well be alone in this, but it’s the games against Plymouth, Hull, Fylde, Rosslyn Park, Esher and of course Richmond which should define just how successful this second half of the season has been.
It’s a shame that they come so early into the new year, but it is as it is.
To lose 4 or 5 of these games and yet have a strong finish in March and April is merely window dressing. That’s isn’t the platform for further successes next season, that’s just repeating the inconsistencies of pre-Christmas. Beat the weaker sides, lose to the top ones.
Where Coventry are at the moment must be a really tough place to be. But that’s the test for the Board and the team of coaches, as much as it is for the players.
9th place in National 1 might very well be a true reflection of the rugby we’ve played so far this season, but I don’t think it’s a true reflection of the abilities of the squad.
Increasingly, I beginning to suspect that the comments about recruitment this season being disappointing and the players brought in at the start of the season failing to deliver, are something of a red herring.
And actually very unfair on those players who joined us last summer.
Because if this were true, it would mean that those players who remained in the squad from the previous season were all performing at or above the levels expected of them. And that is just not the case.
Many of those players who were so effective last season have also had relatively poor seasons so far. It is more a case of the whole squad underperforming than just those new to the squad not meeting with expectations.
I think most of the established players would accept this – the likes of Wayne Evans, Sam Pailor, Tom Poole, Callum MacBurnie, Danny Wright, Dom Lespierre, Danny Wright, Rob Knox, Matt Jones and others haven’t been the consistent performers they were last season.
What the reasons are for this, I’m not sure. Some of it will be down to a dip in confidence, the pressure of expectation, injuries preventing a settled side, leadership and an ability to adapt to the situation, discipline and all the other problems mentioned these past 17 games.
And some of it will be down to leadership off the pitch, coaching, man-management and so on.
So the challenges are there in black and white:
- good, effective and winning rugby
- regrouping and setting a platform for the future
How they will be measured come the end of the season remains to be seen as does what happens if they aren’t met. But if that platform is going to be strong enough to support a challenge for promotion next season, then surely is has to be built around, and measured against, the performances against the top 6 teams in the league rather than the bottom 6.
And having failed to impress against Hartpury College on Saturday, the coaches and players have another chance to make amends next Saturday with the visit to the Butts of Richmond.
If you’re going to make a statement of intent, who better to do it against than the league leaders?
The trouble with being someone in the media’s eye is that what you say often gets quoted back at you.
I can only imagine should Jon Sharp ever read this post, he would be somewhat annoyed at being quoted as he has been here.
Someone with no real rugby background, making judgements on what he and his peers have to say, probably isn’t something that is greatly appreciated for the most part.
And to be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable doing it sometimes because the intentions of those in charge at Coventry are always honourable. But you measure success against the targets set by those who have the greatest responsibilities and in Coventry’s case this is Jon Sharp and Scott Morgan.
And to be fair, were Coventry to be in the Championship or even, dare I say it, the Premiership, this would be happening regularly, not just by the odd blogger, but in the local and national press as well.
These are just my own thoughts and I hope they are taken as such.
Over the course of this blog, I have tended to take a far more supportive approach towards the club than I have a critical one, but if am to be honest to myself and to anyone reading this, then I have to say it as it is.
Or at least as it appears to me.