Derailing criticism, protecting players and expressing opinions….
The problem with writing posts at the end of the day is that by the time anyone reads them the day after, some of what is included has already been covered elsewhere. However, writing late in the day (and I mean late!) enables me to spend a full day with my wife, family and friends. So I do apologise in advance if some of what is included seems like old news.
I mention the above because I want to start off with something that has already been alluded to on the messageboard but which is something that I do feel is worth mentioning here and perhaps developing a little further.
For the second week running, Coventry have publish another detailed article in the Coventry Telegraph. In this one, Scott Morgan identifies some of the key issues coming from the Hartpury game last Saturday and adds information about the present state of injuries as well as the current unavailability of some key players.
And, as you’d expect, the article was universally welcomed by everyone who has posted about it on the messageboard, and rightly so. There certainly has been something of a turnaround of late in the willingness to keep supporters better informed of what is happening within the Coventry camp – whether it’s coming from Scott or from Jon Sharp is unclear, but it is a very different situation now to the one in the run-up to Christmas when little was being offered other than team news, and even then that was pretty spartan.
So a huge tick there for the club.
And no one else has mentioned this yet, but actually there a real benefit to Cov, as well as to its supporters, in making such information available. It actually diffuses some of the negativity that might otherwise build up during the week, especially at times when results might not be going the way everyone might have hoped. The messageboard is a much quieter, happier and more reasoned place whenever there is a flow of news coming out of the Butts. And that must be a relief everyone in the club.
There will always be criticism, however successful Cov are, because there will always be things that can be improved. As Aristotle said, ‘There is only one way to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing’. But at least you can try and ensure that whatever criticism there is always remains positive wherever possible.
Take this week, for example…had there been no news about the absences of Evans and Knox there might well have been some questions raised…is there anything sinister about their absence, have they been ‘rested’ in the same way George Oliver was earlier in the season and so on.
But by explaining why they weren’t in the team, the only questions we’re left asking are…how long will Knoxy be out for and what is Wayne Evans studying at university?
Even more importantly, had there been no news we would have been left with some fairly negative feedback (Phil excepted!) about the Hartpury game on the messageboard and that might well have built up over the course of the week, creating some pessimism the nearer the Richmond game gets.
But with Scott highlighting some of the positives, particularly the performances of the two props, and especially that of Joe Foreman, then rather than fearing the worst should Thorne and Brown remain unavailable, I’m now left looking forward to witnessing Foreman and Kivalu in action and seeing for myself just how they cope against the experienced Richmond front row. And by indicating that Joe wants to play for Coventry and he’s being looked at with an eye to the future I, for one, am going to be far more inclined to give him more time to prove himself than I might otherwise have done.
Of course, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and to prove the point, Scott’s disclosure that Chad Thorne and Andy Brown’s absence was
compounded by Jake Caulfield’s move to Taunton, which had been made permanent at the start of the week, and the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to allow Adam Parkins to return on loan to Northampton Saints as cover
is a little worrying, given that the club was unable to field a prop on the bench and had to use two hookers as the front row replacements.
A minor gripe, that’s all, honestly.
Whether this is just a fortunate outcome of the improving communication between the club and its supporters or whether it has been a deliberate strategy on the part of the club to ensure a less fractious messageboard, either way it benefits everyone concerned.
The same applies to Wayne Evans’ replacement, George Tresidder. He certainly wasn’t mentioned in the despatches emanating from those who travelled to Hartpury, but Scott seems more than pleased with his performance. So should Evans miss another training session as he did last week, then I’ll be interested to have another look at George in the light of the Head of Rugby’s comments. Had Scott not mentioned him, I would have been far more anxious come Saturday with no Wayne Evans in the team.
Another feature of the article, and to be fair it’s not the first time he has done this, is an explanation of what Scott sees as going wrong on the pitch and what the solution to it might be.
So for instance, we learn that he believes:
Rugby is all about pressure – putting opponents under pressure and keeping them under pressure until they make a mistake.
I don’t think we do that. We try to score our points from creating things ourselves instead of squeezing them into making mistakes which we can capitalise on – there’s a big difference.
And for those of us who haven’t always understood what the game plan might be, we now have something to look for in the next game. No one can say for the time being that they have no idea what Coventry are attempting to do – here it is in black and white. Press hard in the opposition’s half, force them into making errors and then are made to pay for them. It prevents any negative remarks about a lack of direction or planning.
Fylde we’re not – we can’t be running the ball from deep in our own half and expect to come out on top. This is the way we’ll win matches. Something else to look out for, something else we now know…something else we can’t claim we’re kept in the dark about.
Good effort, Cov.
Okay, if the Richmond game doesn’t work out quite like this, next week Scott explains why this was the case and what he intends to do about it and again he nips any potential fallout in the bud. By facing up to the areas of probable criticism on the part of the supporters, he is able to prevent further displeasure, at least to the degree we have seen at times this season.
Do it even earlier in the week and it is even more effective.
And it also has another benefit, something which might be needed more and more as the season goes on if results continue to go the way they are at present. By subtly manipulating the focus of the supporters’ post-match discussions in this way, Scott is able to protect his players from some of the criticism that might otherwise come their way.
Now I’m not for a minute suggesting this is Scott’s intention, it’s probably a just welcome by-product the improving dialogue. But without regular news coming from the club, supporters will decide on their own subjects for discussion and these will often be about the merits of particular players and on their effectiveness or otherwise which can be a rather inflammatory topic of conversation.
And players do read the messageboard and aren’t immune to criticism, so if Mourinho-like, Morgan can direct conversations away from being negative about individuals and look to the positives or explore other areas of the club, both on and off the pitch, this must be a good thing. The more disappointing the results, the more media time he should take…it suggests you’re doing something about the problems the club is facing and also directs supporters ire away from the players.
At least that the theory…
And I’ll end on one final point. A question was raised recently about the right of supporters to make judgements about the performance of players, about their form and whether they are good enough to be playing in the team because, by doing so, you are questioning their commitment and effort to the team.
And it’s absolutely a fair point to raise. The clear implication being that simply because you’re playing in a team that isn’t as successful as it was a while ago, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your own performances are any less committed.
In essence, is the messageboard, and indeed this blog, unfair in its content to either the team as a whole or individuals within the team? Should players be singled out for comments?
It will come as little surprise that, given that I’ve spent the last 5 and a half months writing about Coventry RFC, I believe supporters do have the right to express an opinion about the team or individuals within the team, provided it is done sensitively, it isn’t of a personal or abusive nature and it doesn’t single out players for constant criticism. (And for he record, the same would apply to coaches and Chairmen…)
Supporters all over the land, in any number of sports, will look at the make-up of the teams they support and select what they think is their best side. They will talk about the merits of one player against another, talk about their strengths and weaknesses, and often in far more colourful language than you see when reading about Coventry. You just have to listen to 606 on a Saturday evening to understand what I’m getting at.
For instance, if Geoff Evans seems to be lacking in confidence and a shadow of the player he was 12 months ago, I think it’s entirely appropriate to say that, as it is to say that it might be worth having a look at Peter Preece in that position, given Geoff’s loss of form.
It’s an opinion; it might be wrong, but it fine to say it.
In saying so, you’re not criticising the player’s effort, or commitment – I do not think that is ever acceptable. Effort and form are two completely different things and should never be confused.
I’ve never seen a player who hasn’t given of their best in a game, but I have seen, in my opinion, players who aren’t good enough to play at a given level or whose form is such that they need a break from the team to build up their confidence by playing at a slightly lower level.
Okay, sometimes supporters get frustrated and voice their opinions in the aftermath of a game in ways which might come across as being unnecessarily critical, but players and coaches have been known to do this too…but I don’t think I’ve read (or written) anything that has been unfair or excessive without it having been addressed.
It’s certainly something that should be discussed and where a comment or criticism is deemed to be unfair, then it should be pointed out to the person making it. Players aren’t able to defend themselves publicly if and when this happens, so perhaps we should do it for them…?