Sun. Apr 18th, 2021

Well I do my best to understand dear
But you still mystify and I want to know why
I pick myself up off the ground
To have you knock me back down, again and again
And when I ask you to explain, you say

You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure
Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind, means that I love you, baby
(You’ve gotta be cruel)
You gotta be cruel to be kind

Cruel to be Kind – Nick Lowe


Be cruel to be kind

To do or say something to another person which you believe to be for their own good, and will be helpful for them in the future, although it might be painful or hurtful at this moment…


Yesterday was the day when speculation on the messageboard regarding the numbers of players Rowland Winter will or won’t be retaining rose to a new level, with concerned posters suggesting that it might only be Rob Knox and Dan Rundle who remain after the cull, whilst others believing that there might be no survivors from the present squad at all come August. From the moment Rowland Winter announced that there would be a significant number of players having ‘other opportunities’ this was always going to happen.

And who can blame supporters, genuine supporters who live and breathe Coventry RFC, expressing their fears for the club and for the players whom they see as part of the Coventry family. And in truth, were I not involved in writing a blog this season, I too would be venting my spleen on the messageboard, angry and frustrated that once again it is left to the supporters to drip feed news to one another as and when it becomes available. Instead I can do that on here.

It’s no wonder that there are several different accounts out there at the moment, with little consistency in the figures. It’s Coventry supporters’ own version of Chinese whispers.

And where are the club when all this is happening…?

Once again it does nothing to quell the speculation and by remaining silent it actually fuels the flames of indignation amongst supporters. No one is sure what to believe and we all begin to expect the worst. Suddenly the narrative changes from being about building for next season to being about the way the players may or may not be being treated.

It’s now about the process and not the end product. The real discussion should be about the squad for next season, not about how players are being made aware of the situation.

The time to act was two weeks ago to explain what would be happening as far as recruitment  and retention for next season are concerned. Nip it in the bud before the speculation even begins.

If it’s of any interest, I’ve heard similar stories, but the most likely one seems to be that the two players mentioned already by Rowland Winter as staying, namely Rob Knox and Dan Rundle, will be here next season and that perhaps 4-6 others will also be retained. There are some players being mentioned  but until they are confirmed I think it’s best that I don’t include names as that is only going to add to the uncertainty.

I’m going to be bitterly disappointed when some of the names of players moving on, or having to move on, are announced.

But we do need to take a reality check here.

I imagine Rowland Winter has been following Coventry’s progress pretty closely from just before Christmas if Scott Morgan is correct when he talked about the events leading up to the announcement of the new DoR’s appointment, back in the last week of January.

Including the Ampthill game, Coventry have played 10 and have lost 7 of them, winning only 2 and drawing 1. That’s actually the kind of form that earns you relegation, not wins you promotion. Small wonder then that Rowland Winter is looking to move players on in the numbers he is.

If he’s going to put his own reputation on the line, he wants players whom he knows can perform consistently at the highest levels expected in National 1.  No matter how much those of us who watched the team perform so well last season still believe in many of the squad, Rowland Winter won’t be interested. It’s about the here and now, not about reputations made a year ago.

If the team hasn’t performed, and it hasn’t, then the players and the coaches have to shoulder the blame (although Phil Maynard and Jon Sharp must shoulder some responsibility for accepting they were also accountable for the recruitment drive in the close season that failed to deliver on so many fronts).

Whereas supporters see things subjectively (in a collective way, if that makes sense), then Winter will see things far more dispassionately and objectively. There is no room for sentiment in his books. It might seem a harsh thing to say, but he  won’t be interested in failure or under-achievement – and nor should he be. I certainly don’t want another season like the one we’re currently enduring and nor will the Board.

So, if it is a case of a mass exodus of players in April, then I can understand why it must be so even if it’s not something I want to see. If the decision as to whether a player remains is made purely on the basis of the rugby that has been played this season, then how many players would be nailed on certainties to remain?

I’d tentatively suggest not very many. A few weeks ago I would have said retain a lot of the squad and see if RW can get the best from them again. But we’ve moved on, performances haven’t improved and having read what his vision is, I’m prepared to buy into it. A fresh start with his own squad and own coaches.

It will be hard to see some quality players and some genuinely  good guys move on, but it was ever thus. Hopefully I’ll be here a long time after Rowland Winter’s squad have moved on and I’ll probably mourn their departure as I’ll mourn that of this present group of players.

But there is a strong case to be made for such a clear out, however brutal it has to be.

Where I’m struggling a little is to understand the way it is being done.

To lose one’s job, and to potentially have your life turned upside down as a result, is always going to be difficult for any player to take in. A caring club, one that prides itself in it’s belief in community values, should be taking every possible step to ensure that players are informed about what is happening regularly, individually and in a sensitive and understanding way.

Some of the stories of how players have been kept in the dark as to what is happening are a concern. They may or may not be true, but given the way the club is reluctant to share information with its supporters, well one can only believe it behaves in a similar fashion towards  some of its players, unless informed otherwise.

It is behoves the club to look after the well-being of its players and so long as this is the case, then it’s hard to be critical of what is happening. Some reassurances from the club as to what the present situation is regarding the current squad would be greatly appreciated…but that is unlikely because the Members’ Forum isn’t until after the end of the season, by which time players will have been released.

Are the Board going to impart an interim statement? No, because to do so would be awkward for them and an acceptance there is a concern  and almost certainly involve the need for a dialogue – far better to remain silent and ride the storm.

We still have 6 games to play and are not yet completely safe from relegation, although a win next Saturday would pretty much guarantee safety. However professional players are at any club, if they are unhappy or frustrated will they train quite as hard, will it be a struggle to get as motivated as they might have done if they had been staying on next season?

If someone has picked up an injury will he be as inclined to play through it, given he knows he won’t be playing his rugby here next season. Or will he perhaps feel his focus should be on getting himself fit for his new club, not exacerbating his injury for the sake of the club that is about to move him on? I think I would be tempted to have an operation, if required, now and have longer to recuperate before the new season starts at a different club. With so many players still on the treatment table, the last thing we can afford is to have points docked because we can’t raise a team.

Unlikely as it may be, it’s still something that could happen. I’d like to see the risk assessment for that scenario.

Players always try their hardest but that that can only be within the confines of their current mental/emotional mindset. Unhappy will nearly always equate to less motivated, and when you’re not feeling great about yourself or your situation, however hard you try, you’ll be less effective as a player than if you were totally committed to the cause…or so it seems to me.

I can quite see why Rowland Winter is looking to move on such a large percentage of this season’s squad, but the club’s handling of it must ensure that the players remain focused right up to the final game in April. Anything less and we could find ourselves drawn into a very messy scrap to stay out of the bottom 3 places and avoid relegation. Just how Scott motivates his players until the end of the season is anyone’s guess.

You have to feel for him.

The club must also judge the mood of its supporters carefully. Such discussions on the board and elsewhere are hardly going to add to the gate a week today, just at the very time when a large attendance is so important  – it could well be just the lift the team needs to carry them across the line (several times against Cinderford, hopefully).

Maybe I’m being a little unfair on the club, but once again it seems there is silence when there should be comment?

It should be about enjoying the journey and not just the destination…and that’s not something that’s happening at the Butts at the moment.


I started with some lines from Nick Lowe’s classic ‘Cruel to be Kind’ – if Elvis (Costello!) is the king of singer songwriter’s, then Nick Lowe is a Prince, so any excuse to play a some classic pop! A young Dave Edmunds  of Rockpile on guitar, too….







By Tim

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