Club talk

Poll results and a Hope-less season in prospect…?

Two days ago I produced a poll that looked at the key areas of discussion in recent weeks amongst Coventry supporters on the messageboard and elsewhere, including on match days. With so much happening on and off the field, there has been much to talk about…

Readers were asked to prioritise these areas in order of importance from a list of 10.

In other words, the order in which they felt the club should be prioritising them. The results were as follows:

Poll Results temporarily removed  – Feb 2017

It comes as no great surprise to see recruitment and retention at the top of the list and it merely emphasises what we already know…the main focus of interest for most Cov supporters is in the rugby itself. Building a strong side, by retaining our best players and recruiting additional players who add quality to the squad, is therefore always going to be of the greatest importance. How that is achieved is secondary to me as a supporter, indeed it’s not something  to which many will give a great deal of thought.

This is probably the reason why development of the ground and the creation of additional funding streams is so far behind recruitment and retention in the poll. It’s a turn off for most supporters who just want to attend the match on a Saturday and read the Telegraph for previews and reviews during the week. Many of those who contribute to posts on the messageboard won’t get drawn into threads about improving the facilities at the Butts or how the club is financed. Important as it is, it doesn’t visibly impact directly on the enjoyment of a Saturday afternoon’s rugby, however crucial it might be in reaching that end product. Out of sight…out of mind.

Of course, you can’t have recruitment at a level strong enough to make a sustained push for promotion without the funding to support it, or indeed create an Extras side. And for an Extras side,  you’ll  need a secondary pitch or a 3/4 G artificial surface to play on. It’s obviously far more joined up than a poll could ever allow for, but I do think it helps explain why the club fails to achieve such positive responses to announcements of matters relating to the development of the club’s corporate opportunities as they do to those of new DoRs (leaving aside the manner of the announcement).

Two additional priorities were added:

  • Building a squad to challenge for promotion, big enough to establish a 2nd XV in 1 y
  • Forums for non-members

The first links in with the first two on the list…

The second is more tricky. In theory I’d be very much in favour of the Forum being open to everyone who attends regularly, season ticket holder or not. However, without showing your ticket, it would be possible for anyone to go to one of the Forums, possibly with no connection to the club even, and potentially ‘hijack’ it or disrupt it. I can understand why it is members only, even though I appreciate there will be many who aren’t season ticket holders, either because of cost or they just won’t get to enough games to make it cost efficient, yet are true Cov supporters and feel that they should be entitled to go.

By allowing members only, it does ensure that only genuine Cov fans attend, even if there are other such fans who aren’t able to go. A solution – it would be easy enough to print a voucher in match day programmes – these could be collected and anyone who had collected x vouchers would be allowed to attend the next Forum, having proved they are genuine Coventry RFC supporters.

I’d love to know what Jon Sharp’s order of priority would be given that he would be approaching the poll from a very different angle…I would imagine 1,5,6,4 and then 9 (9 because it is something that will be given far greater emphasis under the new DoR, according to the latest members’ e-letter)…????

Many thanks to everyone who took part in the poll…if anyone has any suggestions for other polls that might be of interest, please do add a comment…

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I mentioned a while back that players often produce clips of their best moments to put on YouTube simply as a testament to their ability as players or as a marketing exercise, allowing interested parties (clubs and coaches in particular) to have reference to footage of particular players they might be interested in recruiting. This avoids having to wade through all the official RFU videos that National 1 clubs have access to.

Caolan Ryan has already produced a couple which I included in a post a while back.

Devlin Hope has also produced one…sad to say, I guess that means he feels he might be moving on, come the end of the season.

It’s worth watching for a couple of reasons. First, we have seen so very little of Devlin this year that we should remind ourselves of the impact he has had when he’s been on the pitch. To be honest, he did well to amass a 14 minute video, considering of the 18 games he’s been in the match day squad, he’s only started 5 times and then only because Matt Price has been injured. A couple of minutes seem to be of footage from back in South Africa.

I happen to rate Devlin…but as soon as I say I think he should have started more games than he has (5 games out of the 18 he’s been in the match day squad and out of 23 in total), it becomes almost an implied criticism of Matt, which isn’t the case at all.

Matt is a fantastic player and as the leading try scorer presently on 9, he clearly has had a huge impact on the pitch. But so has Devlin. He’s played just 605 minutes of rugby, with over half that time as a replacement…and has himself scored 6 tries, which is a  better return than any other player based on tries per minutes on the pitch.

It might well be that Matt is technically a far better player – I’m not qualified to make a judgement on that as I haven’t played the game to any decent standard. However, as a spectator I enjoy watching Dev play.

He is committed in everything he does and with his trademark pony tail, he is easily identifiable. He’s very mobile about the pitch, enjoys running with the ball and is combative and solid in defence, either in the tackle, or at the breakdown. He’s fearless as the footage in the You Tube compilation shows and watching the clips from a completely different angle to that of a spectator, you get to see far more of the  physicality in his play.

I guess editing games in this way allows you to create an impression of a player that could be very different to the reality, but what’s in this compilation is not going to do him any harm at all if the right people get to see it.

He’s a crowd pleaser and seems very popular with the crowd. Like Matt, he’s combative and is someone who has the ‘Cov dog’ in him.

Games played 18 Games in squad 21
Games started 5 Started as a sub 16
Captain 0 Minutes played 605
Came on 13 Minutes as sub 318
Temporary substitution on 2 Came off 5

Given the compilation starts by reinforcing the fact that he is a British passport holder, it would suggest that this is more than a personal montage of all his best bits – this has the look of a promo ‘tape’ of someone who knows they are going to be on the move at the end of the season.

I hope I’m wrong but I certainly wouldn’t blame him for looking beyond Cov next season – Matt will still be here and I would imagine Devlin didn’t travel to the northern hemisphere just to spend a season warming the benches of National 1 grounds up and down the country.

He should be playing rugby  and I’d imagine that he won’t be without offers come September. Whilst Matt is ‘of an age’,  but by no means a veteran yet (!), he’s probably still got a good couple of seasons in him and he’ll want to play as often as he can, and rightly so. Matt’s not going to move anywhere, especially given the fantastic work he’s doing as part of his Community outreach work and no would the club want him to.

 As I’ve said before, Cov have been lucky to have two hookers of such ability – certainly in this position at least, Cov got their recruitment last year spot on.

The e-letter did say that there would be a number of changes in personnel and I guess Dev is another player  who might well be joining the exodus from Cov this season. Maybe Rowland Winter will see something different in Devlin and encourage him to stay.

Personally, given we’ve had one Hope-less season, I rather not have another…

13 replies »

  1. Absolutely agree with your points, Paul. Maybe a good reason for bringing back the Extras, or at least a few midweek games, particularly in the early part of the season. Hope to be able to speak to RW soon.

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  2. I feel it is a bit of the ‘chicken and egg’ question – to raise attendances and attract more sponsorship and money into the club will take a squad good enough to attain promotion and then retain their place in the Championship. But without the increase in revenue, the chances of building a squad capable of even promotion never mind staying in the Championship are not too good. I put an interesting (I thought) article on the forum that I found a few days ago from July last year, about Rosslyn Park’s business model for affording their £1.5 million 3G pitch and ground improvements. I know that a lot of what they are doing can’t and won’t apply to Cov for many and varying reasons, and their plans on the field this season haven’t come to fruition as they’d hoped, but a couple of quotes from their Managing Director stood out for me;

    “We are very ambitious and we want to play at the highest level of rugby that is financially affordable, so wherever that takes us. The off-field model is moving on constantly and it is a totally different club to what it was two or three years ago or even this time last year”

    “the idea is that we want the off-field to drive the on-field rather than the other way round, so we are putting a lot of work and investment into what we do off the field and we want to take the rugby on the field as far as we can”

    “we are now in a position where we are a sustainable club that can afford to pay its players and so we’ve started to think of ways that we cold improve the business away from the field”

    It’s not as sexy as the retention of players/the recruitment of players good enough to attain promotion and beyond – but it is vital that the club can sustain themselves and be able to sensibly fund the movement of the club onwards and upwards. There is also some information about how RP intend to use their new pitch to raise revenue and what their overheads and revenue was at the time of the article.

    There will undoubtedly be a few clubs who will want -and maybe think they can get- Devlin Hope in their squad next season, and playing him a lot more than he has this season. Maybe he has seen enough of the club in this poor season and wants to move on? I guess we have to ‘Hope’ that he gets positive noises from the new DoR and gives us another year or more.

    I know Devlin’s hair makes him easy to spot on the park, but Matt is just as easy to pick out – he is usually the one looking like someone has pee’d on his chips – arguing with opposition players, shouting at the ball boys, or aiming a punch at whoever’s holding onto him!

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    • Hi Warren…I thought the article was of interest too. It actually made me chuckle because having just gone down to see Cov at Rosslyn Park a week or so before, I’d noticed the enormous electronic advertising hoardings and had been most impressed, but thought they were and odd thing to have actually inside the ground…naively not appreciating at the time just how much revenue they generated. I can’t remember the figure it quoted, but it was something like £200,000+ which easily covered the annual cost of running the pitch with monies to spare. Cov might do well to investigate the potential revenues from something similar – it would be easy enough to install one in the car park alongside the main road which is main access route into and out of the city centre (I think?).
      You can’t, of course, have effective recruitment without the appropriate funding streams in place – one goes hand in hand with the other, but it is interesting how supporters prioritise what I important and how that might differ from those responsible for moving the club forward.
      Love the caricature of Matt Price – it’s not too short of the truth but for the most part he does stay on the right side of the laws – just!

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  3. Hi tim I think it’s hard to dislodge first team players who are playing well.matt leading try scorers. I also think devlin is a keeper but will be hard to persuade him to stay and that he is going to get game time next season unless matt gets injured. Just like I wrote on your blog before about my experience as a dad and frustration you get when in dans case moves from the north east to Cov never mind the other side of the world. And they get to there new club and can’t get a start. In devlins case matts current form / in dans case dom was on fire and like I said before if dom had not got injured cov wouldn’t have probably seen what dans potential was and he would have left cov for first team rugby. And I think this is probably true for a lot of the players who have been and gone from cov. For one reason or another they get the odd game play well the fans seem to like what they have seen and then nothing. It must be hard to keep players happy. a juggling act that needs to be done with perfection. And we must remember these lads that turn up are rugby players and that’s what they want to do.

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    • Absolutely fair point with regards to Matt but I do think that despite his good form, Devlin could have been given more opportunities, even if that doesn’t necessarily meaning being in the starting 15. It is a tough call but he’s got no one fighting his corner in the way you did with Dan! As you say, selection must be extremely tough when you have a large squad of players who are of a similar standard – there will always be those who miss out. Some interesting comments elsewhere with regard to overseas players; should they be given additional time to acclimatise….

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      • Devlin has not put a foot wrong every time he has came on.I feel for the lad I don’t know what more he can do. And also not to diss matt he is on a great run of form.

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  4. Very interesting from the poll regarding disabled. Yes I am disabled but most of our core support is elderly. Many people have spoken about an handrail to get up and down the stand. But let me ask each and everyone of you “Do you think the club should spend funds on a project to help elderly people at the ground ?” Many of these fans have followed the club for 30 – 40 -50 years. Tims’ own mother is a case in point. Yes we have to attract younger people but do not forget the older fan.

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    • I remember making a point on the board many years ago, in the early years of our tenure at the Butts, that the steps leading up to the seats in the main stand were extremely steep – ER replied, a little tersely as it happens, that they meet EU Health and Safety regulations etc etc. There is a lift, which is great, but that doesn’t help access the seats when in the stand itself. If you are a bit doddery on your pins, they are definitely difficult to use, doubly so when wet.

      One row of steps, towards the centre of the stand could do with a handrail for those who need some support…as you say, many of us aren’t getting any younger! With us struggling to attract the younger generation as a result of the glamour and razamataz across the city, the club might want to hold on to (eek) the grey brigade for as long as possible.

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  5. My personal view is that – perhaps seasoned internationals apart – you must always give SH players a season to adapt and adjust to the NH game. I have heard that argument used in the round ball game many times in regard to players coming into the Premier League from abroad. Both Devlin and Courtney Roberts talked about the differences they found when coming to Cov. But, I suppose, a ‘bedding in’ season is a luxury that teams in NL1 cannot afford.

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    • Hi John – I think Devlin accepted that when he arrived his scrummaging wasn’t technically up to much and he’s benefitted from working with Matt and Chad (I read that somewhere!), but that has clearly improved and around the pitch he’s more than useful. I would imagine it’s much harder for forwards to ‘acclimatise’ to the NH game than it is backs given the difference in interpretation of the laws governing scrums/lineouts etc.

      In effect, he’s had the ‘bedding in season’ but there doesn’t seem the opportunity for him at Cov to have more time on the pitch now or even in the not too distant future. I wonder if the club’s experiences this season with Courtney and Devlin will make them think twice about taking on overseas players in the future…?

      Thanks for leaving the comment, John – it is much appreciated. Will you be writing a feature on RW before the end of the season…?

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      • John, I don’t necessarily disagree with your point. However I believe that when given opportunity both Courtney and Dev made a very good impact but it is exactly that, “when given opportunity” which have been very limited at best. Where’s the chance to shine when you’re either farmed out to BS or left on the bench each week for the full match (except 5 mins last week) and b) if (not saying it is as i appreciate these are your views)that is the general belief, why bring oversees players in on a one year contract? As well as this, they should have a way of developing them to the level and experience they require.

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      • Fair point, Paul – Dev was on the bench for 3 consecutive game without getting on to the pitch which can’t be good for either Dev or the club. Unfortunately for Dev he’s had to play second fiddle to matt who has been in decent form, although even here I can’t understand why Dev hasn’t been given more game time…he’s someone who could come on for the last 20 odd minutes and make a big impact, provided the club feel that his scrummaging and lineout work is up to the mark expected in Nat 1?

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  6. I too, would be fed up sitting on the bench each week having travelled such a distance. I honestly don’t see what he is not doing or perhaps doing wrong for him to not even get any game time from the bench! Given his ability and impact I wonder whether it’s a case of keeping Matt happy. We must have one of the best replacement hooked in the league and then don’t use him! Every team seem to change their front row at the 40-60 minute mark except us. Given the quality of them both surely we could rotate the starts with the other coming on at 40-50 minutes? If anything I would be tempted to start Dev over Matt as Matt doesn’t have the best discipline as we’ve seen!

    If Dev does go, it will be a shame but we cannot blame him.

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