Suspicion, reflection and progression…

If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

‘The times they are a-changing’ – Bob Dylan

And at  the Butts Park Arena, the times they are indeed a-changing.

And the latest evidence of the transformation that is slowly beginning to gain momentum is Rowland Winter’s ‘update on retention and recruitment’ that appeared on the club website yesterday.

It’s always in my nature to be suspicious of something or someone new…if only because of my innate fear of the unknown… and for some weeks I’d put off saying what many others had been advocating, namely it was time for a shake up within all areas of the club, including  managerial, coaching and playing staff.

However, with the situation becoming increasingly a concern on the pitch and coaches appearing unable to prevent what have been pretty inconsistent performances for the much of the season, the decision to appoint a new DoR was the right one, albeit not necessarily done the right way. With the announcement of wholesale changes, again I was initially sceptical of the need for what seemed a knee jerk reaction, given the successes that many of the squad enjoyed just 12 months or so ago.

But having reflected on it for a while now and trying to leave aside my disappointment  that so many familiar faces are soon to go, I do understand the reasons why this has to be done.

I have to say that I have been extremely impressed with the way Rowland Winter has conducted himself. Part of me wants to be critical of the ‘new kid in town’ simply because there’s another part of me that wants to remain loyal to Scott Morgan, who through all the difficulties this season has, outwardly at least, remained dignified and steadfastly behind his players. I do respect that.

But along came Rowland Winter and I have to say he’s growing on me. Already he’s set out to keep supporters informed as much as he can about what is happening and is using the official club website as the vehicle for his updates. In previous times, such news would have leaked out of the club or would have been first presented to supporters via an article in the Coventry Telegraph. Not this time however.

The new DoR is upfront and happy to be far more open than supporters have been used to from Coventry officials. Prior to December, I’m not convinced we would have had such an update made  public and if something had come from the club it would have been just as likely to have come from Phil Maynard or Jon Sharp than it would Scott Morgan.

With the lengthy article a couple of weeks ago in the Coventry Telegraph in which RW unveiled his vision for the club over the next couple of years and now this update, it would seem as if there is a real demarcation between the various managerial roles. Again, this is something that hasn’t always been the case previously. For me, if this is to be the way things are done in the future, then it’s a really positive step and suggests the Director of Rugby will be given the autonomy such a role requires.

Another refreshing thing about the update is that for the first time in years, we are getting updates on retention and recruitment at a far earlier stage in the year than we would normally have expected. In previous seasons there has been frustration on the messageboard due to the lack of announcements regarding incoming players as late as May and even into June, well after some clubs have announced their full squads. With the ‘core of the squad’ already signed, it appears that we won’t have to wait too long after the end of the season before the details of the new squad are released.

Maybe even at the Members’ Forum – now that would be something of a coup and could well draw in a bigger than usual audience.

I look forward to hearing what’ enhanced professional’ means – we all understand the difference between ‘semi’ and ‘fully’ professional, but enhanced, well, I’m struggling. I guess it refers to the approach the club takes towards all aspects of it’s rugby rather than just the amount of time given over to it.

The decision to release the names of the players who are to be retained at the end of the week makes a refreshing change given they would usually be released a name at a time. The likelihood is that they would be made known at some stage on Saturday as players talk to friends and family and social media then takes hold. But by putting the names out into the public domain the day before, it allows the club to be in control of the news which is an extremely sensible way of going about it. Certainly, that would fit into my idea of what ‘enhanced professional’ might mean.

As, in fact, does the whole tone of the update. There is praise for the professionalism of the players but at the same time Roland Winter doesn’t shy away from being critical too, referring to the fact that performances have been inconsistent when he says:

and aim to play as they have shown in parts of recent games

with ‘parts’ indicating that this hasn’t been too often.

He also thanks supporters for their support and encouragement that ‘nearly’ helped the team achieve a deserved win, although that unfortunately comes across as an example of damning with faint praise, which clearly isn’t the intention. Praising the fans is always going to win you some brownie points, so a good move there from Rowland Winter.

The use of the word ‘accountability’ is significant, too, especially when used in connection with the  appointment of the managerial/coaching roles. Will the Heads of Performance and Physiotherapy be analysing fitness and diet, for instance, linking them to some sort of monthly target which, if not met, would mean the docking of % of their salary or some other penalty? If greater professionalism is the key, then maybe this is the way forward…or maybe it is already in operation? A bit speculative, that one. It’s certainly a step up, though, from being fined for poor discipline on the pitch.

So, overall, the update is a really encouraging development, almost as much for the fact that it’s so transparent than the content itself. It’s informative, succinct and because it’s written in the first person, it smacks of someone in full control of the situation. This can’t have been a particularly easy couple of weeks for Rowland Winter, having to tell players who might want to stay on that they are surplus to requirements is not going to be pleasant, however sensitive you handle it.

As we move further into the week, the Cinderford game looms ever larger and it is one that is become ever more significant. A win would make things a lot more comfortable over the remaining 5 games, a loss would begin to set the alarm bells ringing even for me. But it’s significance also lies in the way in which the players respond to the outcomes of their  meetings with RW. The fact that they have ‘all shown professionalism in the way they have handled the news’ is heartening, but it’s the way they handle themselves in the game on Saturday that is going to be more indicative of what we might expect from the  remaining 5 games after Cinderford.

The vast majority of the team that plays on Saturday will be made up of those who have been told they will be playing their rugby elsewhere next season, including perhaps no more than 3-4 of the players who are to be retained. Supporters definitely have a role to play in lifting the whole team, especially as Cinderford will still believe they have a chance to escape the drop being just 15 points behind Hull who are in 13th place.

Yesterday’s update will have done a lot to defuse the uncertainty amongst the supporters regarding the speculation about player retention and now that the players themselves know whether they will be playing their rugby at The Butts or elsewhere, things hopefully will settle down a little.

Full marks to Rowland Winter for his reading of the situation and his willingness to talk directly to the supporters, rather than second hand through the local newspaper or even through Jon Sharp. If such news can go direct onto the official website which is where it should be first heralded, then the website itself will become the focus of news about Coventry, rather than the messageboard. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but I do think the homepage has become far more geared to the individual supporter than it ever was, with very little space now given over to business/corporate opportunities.

If the whole focus of the club is to move towards a more enhanced professionalism, then the website must also reflect this. There are still lots of issues with it, but if it is going to be used as the real mouthpiece of the club as it was with RW’s update yesterday, delivering the club’s news quickly and effectively, then one would hope this is an area that will be given priority once RW has settled into his new post. Perhaps the internships on offer for media officers might be one way of getting this done effectively and at a reasonable cost.

Early days I know, but since the announcement of the appointment of Roland Winter as Director of Rugby just a few short weeks ago, I’ve gone through suspicion and then reflection; now there’s a sense of progression to it all  and I’m now left with a belief that Winter has a real grip on what is needed to:

build the foundations so we can begin to progress in the right direction…

The right direction is always up and that is something that I think we that we will be ready for when the opportunity arrives.


I know this is a me thing, but I have real difficulties with Rowland Winter’s name. I’ve always thought of the name Rowland as a surname and in particular I’ve always associated with the lead singer of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Kevin Rowland. I loved the music but I wasn’t quite so keen on his politics. The trouble is I now tend to think of Rowland Winter as Kevin Rowland and have typed the name incorrectly several times.

I was going to use a clip of ‘Breaking Down The Walls of Heartache’ to finish in deference to RW, and in homage to KW, but instead have opted for The Eagles’, ‘A New Kid in Town’ which will certainly be the more familiar song and probably fits in a bit better with the theme of today’s post…ad yesterday’s!

There’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar.
Great expectations, everybody’s watching you.
People you meet they all seem to know you,
Even your old friends treat you like you’re something new.

There’s a new kid in town – The Eagles







Author: Tim

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