Ticking the boxes…
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade
Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
March 3rd and it is indeed cold in the shade.
But a different Winter has brought some light to the day and with it the prospect of a warm summer and an end to the cold winds that have been blowing round the Butts (?) these last few weeks. Even with the threat of snow tomorrow, there is a warm glow about and it’s been here ever since I read John Wilkinson’s revealing feature on Rowland Winter in today’s Coventry Telegraph.
Almost all that I wanted to hear was there.
Many of the questions that have remained unanswered by the club for weeks were dealt with in a straight forward, matter-of-fact way. The DoR-elect was prepared to be critical about the club and about it’s management whilst recognising much had been done to try and move things forward.
But he left us in no doubt that ‘things’ need to change and ‘performances have not been good enough’.
And he’s not just talking about on the pitch, but about the very the structure of the club itself. He compares Coventry to Cambridge when he first arrived there, no ‘clear vision about where they were and where they wanted to be’ and without the necessary structures in place. Whilst it might be music to some supporters ears, I’m not sure whether the Chairman might be quite so receptive, given that there is an implied criticism of the Board somewhere in all that. It was only in December that there was talk of a ‘new era of development’ both on and off the field with a change in roles for both Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan…
The new DoR certainly seems a straight talker, and has already stated that the squad we have ‘isn’t good enough to play at the very top end of National 1’ and that there will be a large number of the squad who will have ‘other opportunities’ next season – now there’s a euphemism if ever I heard one.
He’s offered us so much information that there’s almost an overload, with so much to digest it’s easy to overlook some important changes. Given he’s going to bring in his own coaching staff, it would seem that there’s going to be one or two of the present coaches having to look elsewhere come April. The suggestion that there could be opportunities for coaches to be involved ‘in wider areas of the club’ could be an invitation to the likes of Aggy to use his vast experience to benefit the club in other ways…he’s Cov through and through and knows more than anyone what it means to play for Coventry.
We already know that Winter is presently in talks with players and by confirming that 2, Rob Knox and Dan Rundle, will be here next year he’s strainght away endeared himself to the vast majority of supporters who feared that one or both might move elsewhere come the end of the season.
And by singling out the two of them, he reinforces what for me is the single most encouraging thing to come out of the article, namely that Rowland Winter wants:
a brand of rugby players want to play, where they can express themselves
The game, as he sees it, should be all:
high tempo, moving points of attack, all-round skill sets at every opportunity and apply so much pressure on teams that they can’t love with it’
And what I like about this is he’s not saying it to win over the supporters, he’s saying it because he believes that’s the way to win games. But, crucially, a by-product of this is that supporters will be entertained and if the team’s success matches Winter’s ambition, the fans will flock back to the Butts.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Fylde who are masters of the high octane rugby that he’s talking about here. If the new DoR can add a little bit more self-discipline and better decision-making that’s often missing in Fylde’s play, then we could be in for a treat.
Under Rowland Winter, Cambridge’s crowd seem pretty decent for National 2 at 400+, but even with Wasps a few miles away, Coventry have a very large fan base and the combination of winning and playing attractive rugby is going to get many to return who might previously have turned their backs on Cov this season for whatever reasons.
He talks about players needing to enjoy themselves, something which is hugely refreshing although I’ve always felt, as an observer from the outside, that the present squad have a strong bond and they have stayed loyal to each other, despite results and all the speculation that has been surrounding the club for weeks, if not months. More so, to be fair, those players who have stayed in Coventry, rather than who travel long distances to get to the round.
With the club more settled next season and players encouraged to be creative, we could see the good times returning to the Butts (although thinking about it, times haven’t been that good at any stage in the last 12 or 13 years).
We knew already that RW was planning to increase the training sessions to 3 a week, so nothing new there, but he goes on to end the speculation that has been so evident on the board and on here (!) regarding our partnership with Broadstreet:
the fact that Wasps are there doesn’t affect anything in terms of Coventry training there
I’m not sure how it is that RW can put the record straight about the Broadstreet arrangements in his very first interview when we’ve heard nothing for from the club for weeks…but it’s welcome news and it seems to be indicative of the way RW is.
It’s good, too, that RW wants to develop links with the junior sides in a supportive roll…there are, as he says, a few bridges to be built on that front.
The fact that he sees Wasps presence in the city as a positive and wants to look at ways of working with them to the advantage of our players is encouraging…like them or loathe them, they’re here and we should use them to our advantage.
The re-instatement of the Nighthawks is also something that I imagine will be welcomed, especially as it appears to be a stepping stone to a ‘proper’ second team. If the intention is to blood many of the younger players coming out of the Academy at 18 who are not yet ready for the first team but who will be in the future, then this is particularly welcome. And, as most of the games will be at home (on a Wednesday, so need to worry about a second pitch just yet), it will give fans a chance to see players coming through the ranks who might one day be taking Coventry forwards towards the top of the Championship and beyond.
A squad of 28-30 does seem small, especially if we have a run of injuries similar to this season. Although the ‘development group’ would be added to it, this won’t help a great deal if they are so young and inexperienced…?
At least DRs will be a last resort, even though we’ve had some excellent ones in the last couple of seasons, I’d still rather we be using our own players.
Winter clearly wants to compete effectively with the best teams in the league and seems to want to develop the sports science side of fitness/training in order to maximise performance, with nutrition, reviews, feedback and analysis all playing an increasingly important part in the training programmes being put into place by RW. He talks about players coming professional in the approach to fitness and there seems to be no ‘leeway’ as far as training is concerned:
three night’s a week, that’s a given
with greater supervision of the players’ own training regimes which he obviously feels aren’t being used effectively:
there is too much left to unsupervised hours
I guess that if RW is keen to introduce a quicker, fast game then the players have got to be that fitter in order for it to work…how quickly this can be achieved remains to be see, but I’d imagine he’d want those players who will be here next season to start changing their training patterns as soon as possible so that they are there or thereabouts come August when the friendlies begin.
So all-in-all a really interesting and informative read, offeringa glimpse into the future and how we might expect a team under the leadership of RW to perform on and off the pitch. Lots there to whet the appetite and it now a qustion of having to wait to see how he puts together his coaching staff and squad with big changes in both areas by all accounts.
Scott’s future remains uncertain and given RW is bringing in his own coaching team, it would seem that he’s unlikely to be here in August , although I’d still like to see him have a role in the club.
Jon Sharp has made a bold statement by taking on Rowland Winter. At only 30, he’s must be one of the youngest Head Coaches in the top tiers of rugby , despite already having been at Cambridge for 3 years. But he’s got a proven track record, is clearly ambitious and has a vision for Coventry which seems to tick all the boxes.
A new squad and new coaches and back-up staff, training 3 nights a week and the Nighthawks on top…all this is going to come at a price, and probably an expensive one at that. The Chairman certainly seems to be prepared to invest in RW to achieve the dream of promotion into the Championship and for that he deserves considerable praise.