Club talk

Esher, changes to the team from Saturday, reduced entry to the ground and Will Hurrell

If every Coventry needed to put things right, it’s against Esher on Saturday.

There haven’t been too many games where Coventry have been out-thought, out-played and, to be honest, out-classed to the extent they were back in early November against the same opposition. Despite having already lost 4 previous games already it was the first where, come the end of it, supporters who’d travelled down in the hope of seeing a recovery of sorts, were left shell-shocked and feeling that a top three position was not going to be attainable, whatever the targets being set by the Board.

On the Saturday after Bonfire Night, we’d expected a few fireworks…and after the game I can’t help but believe the players were given a rocket or two by the coaches (I’ve been waiting three months for that one…).

The manner of the defeat began to cast doubts about the quality and depth of the squad and the ability of the coaches to turn things around. The tagline to JW’s report in the Coventry Telegraph said it all:

Coventry’s head coach Scott Morgan left in disbelief after seeing his side get thumped

It was as embarrassing as it gets for everyone connected to the club and whilst there is no evidence to suggest this is the case, I could well imagine it was after this game that the Chairman began to look at closely at the management structure* within the club.

So we owe Esher one, so-to-speak.

And if the bulk of the players who ended the game against Rosslyn Park are selected for Saturday’s game, then they know that if they play for 80 minutes at the same tempo as they did for the last 15 minutes at the weekend, then in all probability there isn’t a team in the league who could live with us. I genuinely believe that.

I can’t think Esher will have played better all season than they did against us. But they aren’t a great team…we allowed them to play that well because we played so poorly and we played poorly not because they were so strong but because we were just so woeful on the day. Poor handling, interceptions, yellow cards, injuries in the first couple of minutes…it was all there.

Esher have lost 9 games this season, 5 less than us. They’re 5th in the league and eminently beatable, especially away from home.

There were players out there on Saturday who for a few short minutes began to believe again and given some of the inconsistencies in selection earlier in the season, I’d like to see the majority of last Saturday’s team  retained. There are obviously some injured players to return – given George Oliver’s injury is a niggle, I’d expect him to return for Woodburn, and Hough and Hamilton are unlikely to play given they left the field injured. Tresidder for Evans could be a possibility as the young scrum half was out through illness rather than injury and was originally selected, and maybe Chad Thorne will come in for Tivalu. Hicks and Poole looked to be beginning to form a partnership that could develop and Danny Wright stole a couple of line-outs, so I would make no changes there. I do think Peter Weightman should be starting games now. When he starts his run deep and receives the ball at pace, he is almost always going to break the first tackle such is his power and strength.

The team deserve another outing and if they could repeat the sheer pace and commitment of the final minutes of last week in front of a home ground eager to see Coventry step up to a level close to some of the performances of last year, then it would make for a hugely exciting game.

ESHERMEMBERSOFFERAnd the club have certainly been publicising the game.

A few weeks ago, over the December and early January period, concern was raised by many supporters about the lack of publicity for home games coming out of the club.

Fair play though, whether in response to that or through concerns within the club about the lower attendances this season, there has been far more attention drawn to home fixtures via the web and social media. For instance, this Saturday any member can bring along up to three non-members each of whom will only have to pay an entrance fee of £10, a reduction of a third.

In the past I, along with others,  have suggested reducing the £15 cost of entrance for one-off games perhaps for Coventry City season ticket holders who aren’t travelling on an away day or even Wasps supporters in a similar situation.

I think it’s an excellent move on the club’s part and I’ll be really interested to see if it makes a difference to the attendance on the day.

I might be imagining this, but I also think prior to the game there is a dinner for former players, but I might well be making this up as I’ve done a quick search and can find nothing advertising it, so apologies if this is not the case – if it is, then it will also add to the final figure. And bar takings should be up, too!

With Coventry losing their last two consecutive games, with little now to play for in terms of the league and with us now well into the 6 Nations, you might expect attendances to drop. This is, therefore, a really good move in my opinion and something that I hope proves successful.

However, it’s one of those things that can’t be done too often as it might well begin to rankle with some season ticket holders who suddenly find paying for their ticket in advance might not prove to be such a good investment if such an offer is being repeated too regularly.

The present average attendance at the Butts for the current season is now down to 1160, with the lowest gate being 1012. The previous home game, against Hull, attracted just 1117 and taking into account the poor run of form and the televised internationals, the likelihood is it will drop below this figure without such incentives.

One thing that has worried me of late a little (not that I’m the worrying kind, of course) is whether the reduced attendances this season, and the resulting loss of income, will in turn result in a reduced budget for the retention and acquisition of players for next season’s squad.

If you’re losing almost a third of your gate money, presumably this must impact adversely on the income available for use elsewhere, unless there is a flow of money coming into the club that we’re not privy to.  It would be useful to hear from the club what the position is, if only to lower expectations as the close season approaches and we await news of players coming into the club, and of players leaving.

I always await such news with great anticipation, looking forward to an announcement of another capture of a player of similar status to Zinzan Brooke (or Derek Eves, for that matter). If we are told the coffers are low, then we (or I, anyway) would know not to get too carried away! I do think it’s an important issue for supporters – there’s no reason for the Board to divulge figures but a rough indication as to whether the budget will be less, the same or more than last year would be appreciated.

It is clear from reading JW’s articles in the Coventry Telegraph that preliminary discussions with some players are already taking place and presumably the club has started to draw up a list of players from elsewhere with whom they are interested in opening up discussions, or at least with their agents. Just how much this process will be affected by the appointment of Rowland Winter is anyone’s guess. Presumably he will  have his own thoughts on who he wants out, and in, so perhaps it’s back to the drawing board…

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*As an aside, I do think Coventry should move away from call the term ‘management’ – managers manage…leaders lead, and what the club needs more than ever is a leader or two to move things forward. Hopefully, that is  precisely what Rowland Winter is – a leader, very much is own man and not someone who can be too easily influenced by strong characters who might, or might not, be working around him.

Clearly Winter is a thinker and someone who likes to keep up-to-date with the latest thinking in sports coaching/psychology, as anyone who has started to follow his tweets/retweets will testify. His interest is in coaching per se, rather than coaching in rugby and he appears to look at the very best practices across a range of sports to identify skills and techniques that are transferable.

The more I think about it, the more exciting his appointment becomes. At just 30 and already having turned round Cambridge’s fortunes, he clearly is someone who looks to have an exciting future in the game. If he can bring his ideas, many of which might well be a little left field of where Cov are at the moment and be a leader of the club, rather than a manager, there is much he can do with a club with that has a decent playing budget and such good facilities.

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I thought I’d finish today with this clip taken from the Doncaster v Rotherham game a couple of weeks ago.

It features a massive hit from Will Hurrell, a hit which made me wince the first time I saw it. When talking about Will’s time here, we often reminisce about the strength and power of his running and his ability to break tackles, but he was also immense in defence as this clip clearly shows.

Doncaster are second in the Championship and looking set fair for a play-off place. Will has played a lot of his rugby at centre, the position he favoured prior to coming to Coventry as I recall and, by all accounts, has made a huge impact…

 

PS Congratulations to Sam Pailor on his engagement!

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