Club talk

Waking the sleeping giant…

Nine days to go until Coventry’s crunch game a home to Cinderford.

The league table doesn’t lie and with 6 games left to play and a maximum of 30 points to play for, Coventry could yet have a nervy few weeks before their place in National 1 next season is confirmed, I think that the 15 points cushion that we have ahead of 14th placed Wharfedale makes us already pretty much safe from the drop, even if we do lose to Cinderford on Saturday. Another win and I’m sure we will be.

However, the very suggestion that we are in a relegation battle shows just how far we have fallen from the mantle the club was so happy to take on as one of the two real promotion contenders back in September. It is indeed a fall of gargantuan proportions and with four consecutive defeats on the trot the club is certainly in danger of dropping a further two or three places down the league should a win remain as elusive over the next couple of weeks.

With Wharfedale’s points difference a whopping – 223 against our +20, Wharfedale are going to have to win 3 games and get a bonus point and rely on us getting nothing from our remaining 6 games which is a pretty unlikely scenario, especially as Wharfedale have only won 5 games in their previous 24.

We  have yet to play the bottom three teams and although two of those games are away from home, you’d expect us to pick up two wins, even on our current form. Certainly, we have our fate in our own hands and as such we should begin on Saturday by beating Cinderford and sending a clear message out to the teams below us that whilst we might have had a very poor season by the standards we set ourselves, we are not going to drawn into a dogfight with the clubs below us.

Of course, relegation is still a possibility, but it is highly unlikely. However, if Coventry  are to end all talk of relegation, they will have to be at their best to prevent Cinderford from adding to the win they achieved in their last game at home to Fylde. They will have the tails up and must have Blaydon and Loughborough firmly in their sights. They will be coming to the Butts prepared for a real scrap if necessary.

10 Coventry 24 9 14 12 50
11 Hull Ionians 24 7 17 17 45
12 Blaydon 23 8 15 12 44
13 Loughborough Students 23 7 16 13 41
14 Wharfedale 24 5 18 13 35
15 Cinderford 24 5 18 8 30
16 Henley 24 5 18 5 27

With Rowland Winter giving an indication via the Coventry Telegraph that there will be a substantial movement of players in both directions come the end of the season, it’s probably as well that we aren’t likely to be dragged into  the bottom 4  teams with a couple of games remaining..

The likelihood is that most of the present squad will not be with us after the end of April, so uncertainty over their positions and a lack of confidence following 4 consecutive losses must surely have a bearing on the final outcome of any tight games. However, as always all the players will give of their best and motivation shouldn’t be a factor…no one wants to be remembered as being part of a squad that was relegated, particularly when the team was expected to do so much better.

Pride would certainly be a strong factor, you would hope, but subconsciously how much are you going to fight for the club that has, in effect, told you you’re not wanted…? I ask that as serious question, because the answer isn’t perhaps as clear cut as you might imagine. Loyalty is a two way process and it is earned through respect. Mutual respect. I have no doubt at all that the players would play for each other and for Scott Morgan and the coaches, but would they feel as much respect for the club. I don’t think I necessarily would, but that might say more about me than it does about the team…

And whilst players always give it their all on the day, will the ‘all’ of that day be as great as, say, the ‘all’ were we to be in second place in the league going into the final Saturday and 2 points behind the leaders and where a win would guarantee us promotion? I hope that doesn’t sound as if I’m questioning the integrity of the Cov players.

I’m not, far from it.

I just wondering whether the psychology of the situation has any bearing on the performance, whatever the team?

19-Mar NL1 Cinderford Home Sat 3.00pm
26-Mar RESERVE WEEKEND
02-Apr NL1 Henley Hawks Away Sat TBC
09-Apr NL1 Darlington Mowden Park Home Sat 3.00pm
16-Apr NL1 Blackheath Away Sat TBC
23-Apr NL1 Ampthill Home Sat 3.00pm
30-Apr NL1 Wharfedale Away Sat TBC

I’m sure a big factor on any match day will be the reaction of the crowd.

Were this football and were we one of the big 4 languishing at the wrong end of the Premiership, there would inevitably be a backlash from supporters. Attendances would drop, the manager would be on his bike, the Board (and/or chairman) would probably be under a lot of pressure and players would be vilified on social media.

Fortunately this isn’t football.

The circumstances of Coventry’s demise this year are such that  those players on the pitch week in, week out aren’t going to merit any criticism in terms of their work rate, attitude and ‘professionalism’. If anything, the supporters are sympathetic to the inconsistencies in selection caused mostly by injury, although not always, and recognise that even if skill isn’t always evident, commitment is.

Even the coaches are, by and large, remaining free of criticism, although there have been mutterings (and rightly, too, for the most part) about the lack of a Plan B and concerns over the number of yellow cards we have conceded over the season. Recruitment too is something that has been questioned and again the coaches, as well as the Board must hold their hands up and admit they go it wrong in some cases, although not all.

The Board…

…well other than Jon Sharp and Peter Rossborough, most supporters would be hard pressed to name them, let alone be critical of them (and that is itself a criticism, of course).

Jon Sharp seems to be very much the voice of the Board and although he has to take responsibility, ultimately, for the failings of the team and for what appears to be an unwillingness to speak directly to the supporters, his desire to move the club forward and create a business model that will sustain the club’s push for promotion is something that most supporters greatly respect.

So, getting back to my original point – the reaction of the crowd. And despite some pretty dire performances at times, interspersed with one or two encouraging ones, supporters are very loyal to the players. Yes the numbers are down on last season, but they have remained pretty constant since the beginning September with a high/low differential of perhaps 250, as opposed to getting on for a thousand last season.

The faithful stay, whatever the results, remain just that, faithful.  Or they have so far this season, although the Esher game was a little worrying given the ‘bring a friend for a tenner’ promotion didn’t raise the gate much above the season’s average. So a crowd of 11 or 12 hundred against  Cinderford, provided they are loud and encouraging,g could have a really positive impact on the Coventry performance. At least there is already an advert on the club website, giving details about the game.

A bit of free advertising…

However, I’m not altogether sure people use the website these days for such information, especially those who might not be regular supporters. You’d go there because you want to find out information, whereas what I’d like to see is an attempt to attract those people for whom Coventry on a Saturday isn’t something they’d normally consider and certainly wouldn’t go to the website to get details.

A media campaign on the radio, perhaps, or even a few minutes on local tv news, this week as well as next, emphasising the importance of the game to Cov and the need for a loud and vociferous crowd  – that would  be a start. Another discounted ticket scheme, a BOGOFF even or a ‘buy one get one half price’ – it might lose you some money on the turnstiles but given the free post-match entertainment, bar takings would be up and if Cov won, the chance of a few more paying punters at the next home game.

I’ve already stated that I think we’ll be fine…but lets stack the odds in our favour. Were we to be relegated, well how would the club survive…could it, indeed?

(Just out of interest and to play devil’s advocate, if we were relegated would RW have a get out clause in his contract to free him…I’ve no idea how things like that work, but it would be slightly ironic if Cambridge went up as we went the other way! Hed be hard pushed to find another club so late on though).

I hope the poster isn’t all there is going to be. Social media should already be stepping up the interest – the official Coventry Twitter account has 4400+ followers, many of whom will be local and not involved in Saturday sport themselves. Target them as well…offer tickets for the best retweet of the poster, that spreads the word even further afield.

Coventry RFC  is something of a sleeping giant, but between now and a week on Saturday someone should be poking it with a stick and arousing it from its slumber. The players would certainly notice an extra 200 or 300 on the gate and a crowd of 1500 supporters would certainly make themselves heard. Home advantage needs to be just that. An advantage.

The run of results could, of course, work against Cov.  4 consecutive losses and little to entertain supporters on the pitch (no Cov tries scored in the Esher game and only a handful in the other three) might mean that without a big media push from Cov, attendances could fall below 1000 for the first time this season. Noticeable gaps in the stand and a much quieter crowd will do little to boost the confidence of the team and perhaps impact negatively on individual performances and that of the team.

Give the supporters something to shout about and shout they will.

Sharpen that stick and start prodding…

6 replies »

  1. year after year ,management after management only ever tinker with club membership/under 16s free etc.We have never shouted from the rooftops about the free admission,of the kids.its like we are frightened to blow our own trumpet.
    What about the new retirement complex on the doorstep, what offers for admission are we going to give them..what an opportunity to liase with your neighbours.
    free multi media is hopelessly under utilised by the club, which is unforgiveable

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  2. In fairness, under 16’s are free with a paying adult so i am not sure it is a financial thing, any potential interest could be lost to Wasps which seems to be a “better experience” for the younger generation, (of which i exclude myself) How we change this to attract more youngsters in certainly a conundrum.

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  3. Sleeping giant of the amateur/shamateur game yes but how can we claim to be a giant of the professional game. Point for debate ?
    Still think the club miss a trick with schools/colleges. A leaflet and poster campaign to all primary and secondary schools would help to get more people/fans/children interested in the Coventry club. My two granchildren of primary school age have been to both Cov and Wasps. They tell me they enjoy going to the wasps more than Cov. This target age group will be lost to our club. action is needed now. Or this generation will be lost in the future.

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    • Fair point, Mick, although I do think the stadium and the planned improvements to the to the ground do mean that there is the potential for the club to develop both on and off the pitch, so it is a ‘giant’ in that sense. You’re absolutely right about attracting the next generation of supporters. It is something that I’ve mentioned before as a concern…perhaps a tenner entrance for anyone bringing a child….?

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  4. The Cinderford game also coincides with the last day of the 6 Nations, three internationals on the same day may have an impact on the number of bodies through the turnstile, a positive or negative impact remains to be seen.

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    • Yep…should have mentioned that. Bound to have an impact but hopefully given that England don’t kick off until 8.oo pm it might not be quite as significant as it might have been with a 2.30 one. Definitely some promo needed between now and the 19th

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