So, we’ll know who the players are that Rowland Winter has decided to retain for the 2016/17 season by the end of the week.
We all have our own opinions of who we’d keep and who we’d release, but come Friday(ish) the speculation can cease once and for all and another piece of the jigsaw slotted into place. Although, to continue the jigsaw imagery, I rather suspect that the new DoR hasn’t done much more as yet than turn the pieces over so they’re face up, let alone begin to sort out the edging. (There are those, amongst the jigsaw fraternity, who start from the centre outwards which, given the size of the task facing RW, might be a better way for him to go about the process).
There is certainly a noticeable desire amongst supporters to put all the recent troubles behind us and move on and embrace the winds of change that are blowing in from south of the Fens. Monday’s update on players and retention was extremely well-received and will help soften the shock when it becomes clear just how many players are going to be released. I say shock, but we’ve been prepared for this for the last couple of weeks, ever since Rowland Winter confirmed that there would probably be ‘a large number who will have other opportunities’. However, once it’s in print and you see who’s not on there, then reality hits home.
Saturday’s game against Cinderford is taking on a huge significance and, for me, it will be the biggest game of the season. The only real pressure that the Coventry sides have had to face so far this season have been from within as a result of the numerous injuries and internal difficulties that have beset the club for the last few months. And some of the pressure has been of their own making, with strange selections early on, concerns over the quality of recruits brought in over the summer and upheavals behind the scenes.
In the last 18 or so games the team has effectively been out of the promotion race and avoided a relegation battle, so many of the games haven’t had those added pressures either.
But defeat to Cinderford in 3 days time and a few other matches on the day not going the way we would have hoped and the ‘R’ word suddenly becomes a possibility. I can’t see it happening at all, but to be complacent about our current situation would be a massive mistake – no club is too big for the drop, as has been pointed out before. Cinderford might have only won just 5 games all season, but of the two teams, they are very much the form side with wins in their last two games, lifting them off the bottom of the table.
Coventry, on the other hand…well 4 consecutive losses and a host of injuries to contend with…the phrase ‘a real test of character’ doesn’t do it justice.
We sit in 10th place on 50 points, which on the face of it in a league of 16 teams doesn’t sound as if it should give too much cause for concern. However, as the table below shows, only 5 points, or just 1 decent win, separates us from the team 1 place above the relegation zone, Hull Ionians.
Fortunately, there’s then a 10 point buffer between Hull in 13th place and Wharfedale in 14th, so there is a reasonable cushion, but we don’t want to have to rely on how other teams get on when, without being over-dramatic, our destiny is in our own hands. Before the Blaydon game, I thought we’d win 3 of the remaining 7 games but the manner of the performance two weeks ago suggests that perhaps Cinderford and Henley away are our best chances of victory in the final 6 games, unless performances improve considerably between now and the end of the season.
Although I’ve used this before, it is still very pertinent:
…in the last 3 years the team lying 3rd from bottom was relegated with 61 points (Macclesfield – 2012), 61 points (Henley – 2014) and 58 points (Old Albanian – 2015). We are currently on just 50.
This season, the equivalent figure won’t be much more than 50 as Wharfedale would have to win 4 from 6 to better it, which given they’ve only won 5 games all season is a massive ask. So a final game against Wharfedale to determine who is 14th in the league and is therefore relegated is highly unlikely, but nevertheless a possibility.
I’m not brilliant at maths, but by my reckoning a bonus point win against Cinderford on Saturday would put us on 55 points and were Wharfedale to lose away to Darlington MP (which is likely given DMP are doing so well at the moment), the gap between the two teams would then be 20 points, meaning that Wharfedale would have to win their last 5 games (1 would have to be a 5 pointer) and Coventry lose theirs (including the final game of the season against Wharfedale) for us to stand any possibility of relegation – and that’s presuming Hull, Blaydon and Loughborough overtake us. We have a huge points difference advantage over Wharfedale which in effect would make it a 21 point gap.
I’m glad I’ve worked that out…I’ve given myself a little more confidence by so doing.
The game will also be interesting for a couple of other reasons.
For instance, how big will the crowd be for the Cinderford game? Without wanting to be at all disparaging of the Gloucestershire side, they aren’t going to be the biggest draw for many Cov supporters. That, four consecutive defeats and a pretty average gate for the last home game against Esher of 1195 (bearing in mind it was the ‘bring a friend(s) for a tenner’ promotion) might suggest a lower than usual turnout. Will Cinderford’s away support, buoyed by their recent wins and hoping the Coventry malaise will last at least one more game, add significantly to the gate?
Actually, thinking about it, the club have missed a trick here – early bird membership special for 2016/17 – buy your season ticket now and get free entry to the final home games of the season. Obviously those who already have a ticket wouldn’t benefit but it might have encouraged those who were wavering over coming next season more regularly, given Rowland Winter’s appointment, to take up the offer. There could be an extra incentive for those already in possession of a season ticket – a free hat and scarf or something equally enticing (!). Could have been worth a go…
However, the announcement of the players retained (presumably the end of the week means the end of the working week?) and the general re-igniting of interest following the recent Rowland Winter’s recent imposition of the Freedom of Information Act on Cov, might just encourage spectators to return to The Butts to see what’s new.
Added to that, just how will a Coventry team made up of a significant number of players who won’t be wearing the Coventry shirt next season respond to what’s been happening off the pitch over the last couple weeks. Will their talks with RW have given them a focus over their remaining time with us or will it work the other way? The players will certainly give it their all, but how much ‘all’ is there to give when you know your face doesn’t fit anymore. I can only believe that there are players who will be out on that pitch on Saturday will be unhappy or disappointed that they’re not staying and will want to make a statement to the club and to the fans. There will be a pretty strong bond amongst the players, too, and with most of them all being in the same predicament, I’m expecting a big performance from them.
But I always do…
I wonder if there will be officials from other clubs watching on Saturday, aware that there’ll be a flood of released players available and wanting to get in early. I hope so – it certainly could be an additional source of motivation for the players, given that many won’t yet have firm offers as yet.
And what of the coaches…how will they react to all that has happened? The update referred only to the release of names of the players retained, but the coaches will surely know their fate by now and with Rowland Winter stating earlier that he would bring in his own coaching staff, it would seem as if most of the present team will be elsewhere next season too, unless the new DoR feels there is a position in the club outside of the coaching set up that might suit one or two of them.
And then, of course, there’s the small matter of the selection of the team itself.
Rowland Winter’s desire to keep supporters up-to-date with what’s happening in the areas he’s currently involved in just heightens how little willingness there is to do something similar on the part of the club. 11 days on and there’s been no player news at all, nothing other than the news that the injury Cliffie sustained against Blaydon means he won’t be involved in any more games this season (have we seen him play in Coventry colours for the last time, I wonder?) – and that was from John Wilkinson’s match report. It is disappointing, especially when supporters could be so influential in giving the players a lift on the pitch this Saturday. More should have been done to promote the game and bring those supporters back to the ground who haven’t yet made an appearance this season, or have done so but only on a couple of occasions.
Scott Hamilton’s injury also looked serious enough to keep him out for a few weeks and added to the long list of other players currently unavailable, Scott Morgan is going to struggle to put a team together unless there are players due to return from injury of whom we aren’t aware – although no news seems to be available on that front. It certainly won’t be the easiest of selection meetings this week – or maybe given the paucity of players available, it will be the quickest.
I know I’ll be more tense watching than I would be normally, but I hope that won’t be true of the crowd generally. There are just three home games left until the end of the season. 3 games for supporters to show their appreciation of a number of players with whom they have shared the highs and lows of the last two or three seasons. Some players we might not see again – Cliffie I’ve already mentioned, but JLR , Adam Parkins, Matt Jones, Gaston Mieres (only the one season, I know); we might well have seen the last of them. With no news on player availability, I guess it’s a question of wait and see, but it really shouldn’t be that way, especially for such an important game.
Coventry will need to start the game with a high tempo and get into the faces of the Cinderford team…
Make sure that Cinders is second to the ball every time…
…and hopefully, the fairy godmother will be dressed in blue and white.
Following the huge impact that Maro Itoje has had since his cameo his first appearance in a England shirt, The Times printed a photograph of the England Under-20s team following a 21-20 victory in the 2014 Junior World Championship final in Auckland back in 2014 with a ‘Where are they now?’ summary of where these players are in their careers two years on.
Former Coventry loanee, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (front, right) was a member of that all-conquering side and the legend against his name reads:
(Northampton, prop) Loosehead-prop who is biding his time among a powerful crop of props at Franklin’s Gardens, having been dual-registered with Moseley last season.
I always enjoyed watching him play for Cov, especially with ball in hand, although he was pretty destructive in defence too, as I recall. I’m sure he’ll go on to be the first choice loos-head for a premiership side before too long.
I wish him well…