Just how worried should we be…?
Who will be left come September who really understands exactly what it means to wear the famous Cov shirt?
Who will be there who understands the importance of the ‘Cov Dog’ and to explain to players new to the squad its significance to Coventry supporters?
Who will be there to feed the ‘Dog’?
Regular readers of the messageboard will have often come across posters making reference to the ‘Cov Dog’. It’s hard to define, something that some players seem to have in abundance and others either don’t possess or if they do, it doesn’t manifest itself in way that is obvious to supporters.
A definition of ‘Cov Dog’ might go something along the lines of :
that unquantifiable force that some players have, the willingness to put everything on the line, a desire to play not for yourself or even your team mates, but for the Club and the supporters, for the badge on your shirt and the honour it brings. The ‘Cov Dog’ manifests itself in those players who never give up, no matter the score or the situation they are in, who play on bloodied and battered because they are proud to wear the blue and white of Coventry…
Now I guess that should apply to any player who represents Coventry and perhaps it does. Every player will give of their best on pitch, of that I’m sure. But there are those players who show it more than others and, because they do, supporters tend to warm to them more which is probably most unfair, but it’s just the way it is.
The first player I can actually remember watching who exemplified what the ‘Cov Dog’ is all about was Bill Gittings.
Anyone who was a Cov supporter back in the early to mid-70s will remember Bill, a feisty scrum half who put himself about and who, despite his diminutive stature, would invariably be the first there when anything kicked off as it often did, especially if we were playing one of the Welsh sides. The two Thomas’, Steve and Paul (not related but playing in the same team) both had the ‘Cov Dog’ in abundance (in fact Paul Thomas nickname was ‘Mad Dog’, if I remember correctly) as did Dave Addleton (and still does). More recently, players like Horrobin, Eves and Nash typified that never say die attitude.
There are many others, too many to mention here, but they are ones that spring immediately to mind.
Whatever ‘the Dog’ is, it is something highly valued by supporters.
Despite Bill Gittings and Steve Thomas being included in the above, the ‘Dog’ is something that tends to be found mostly in the forwards because forwards have more physicality, by and large; they tend to be the ones who put their bodies on the line more.
‘The Dog’ isn’t something you’d tend to associate with silky, agile runners who, if they have any sense, will try and avoid getting embroiled in heated exchanges with the opposition forwards – you’d wouldn’t expect to see it in a MacBurnie or Knox, for example, although Lespierre definitely has it to a degree.
It’s about players who take the hits and just get up and get on with it, who will get in the faces of the opposition and rattle them, players who feed off the atmosphere of a game and who will impact positively on the rest of the team because they lead by example.
However, two backs do spring to mind, one recent and one from a different Coventry generation. Will Hurrell definitely had it in bucket loads and seemed to relish a physical game as much as anyone. The other, and he is probably the best example of all, was Mick Curtis. Mick was a centre but built like a prop. He was immensely strong and had a pretty decent turn of pace over the first 30 metres or so. He was a battering ram of a player who might not have been the most skilful back to have played for Coventry, but he was one of the more effective and he was fantastic to watch. By the end of a game he was, more often than not bloodied and bruised, but you know he’d done his damnedest for the team and for the supporters.
In the present team, the likes of Pailor, Oliver, Wright, Poole, Thorne, Price, Lespierre seem to have it. They are players who you want in the team because you know that no matter how difficult the situation, they’ll roll up their sleeves and get stuck in…no cause is a lost one. Not surprisingly, they are the players (with the exception of Dom) who have been sin-binned more than any others because they play on the edge.
Yes, it can be frustrating to watch at times and perhaps they need to show a little more self-control, but such is their nature and you have to be careful not to stifle it. And because they tend to put their bodies on the line so much and because they have all demonstrated what it means to them to be part of Coventry RFC, they are quickly forgiven if they transgress.
All of them show their emotions on the pitch. It might just be in their body language (it’s always easy to spot a fired up Matt Price simply by the way he moves and the fixed glare – brilliant to watch, even if a shade worrying at times because you’re never quite sure when it happens if Matt is in complete control of himself), or the fist pumps or slaps of encouragement on the backs of fellow players, or the disconsolate looks as they trudge of the field having lost. Supporters warm to players who show their emotions, who express how they feel (as long as it’s within the boundaries of acceptability)…
But with the exception of Matt, all these players are going. And whilst others will come in who have much the same passion and commitment, it won’t be for the club to begin with. It might be for the team and for each other, but the Cov Dog isn’t something that is there from day one. For most, it comes with time and with an understanding of the what the club means to its supporters. It’s not something that’s taught and without the players already here to talk to and learn from, it will have to be nurtured.
The absence of Dave Addleton will be hugely significant. In the 50+ years I’ve been privileged to watch Cov, Aggy typifies the ‘Cov Dog’ more than any other player. As a player and coach he has always lived and breathed Cov. On the pitch he was pugnacious and combative, snapping at the heels of the opposition. He never shirked from a challenge and invariably he was the last up from a ruck, ball in hand, bloodied but never defeated. The scars on his face bear witness to that.
Remember PE lessons at school when the teacher would choose two captains and they would then select their own teams with alternate picks? Well, if I were captain, Dave Addleton would always be my first pick if for no other reason than I wouldn’t want to be playing against him.
And as a coach, he had the experience of playing for Cov, and doing so over 350 times. Irrespective of how good a coach he is, his knowledge of the club, of its supporters and of its traditions means that he’ll be sorely missed.
If Moseley are relegated come April, then I’d want Aggy in the changing room when we play them in a few months time, giving the final talk before the start of the game. He knows exactly what it means to play for the club.
350 times over.
That experience is something that just can’t be replaced.
The players who come to Cov will take time to settle and understand what it means to be at this great club. But in Matt Price there is still one survivor who understands what ‘the Dog’ is about and who will doubtless be able to articulate it to the players.
He’ll have an important role to play in the settling of the new squad. With 150 appearances, give or take, for Coventry he is the natural successor to Dave Addleton and I hope Rowland Winter will see that Matt is someone that spectators hold in high regard because he wears his heart on his sleeve and puts his body on the line, time and time again. He is committed to his team and to the club and understands the supporters.
Whilst Dave Addleton is the embodiment of the spirit and passion spectators want to see in players at Cov, when he goes he’ll hand over the reins to Matt Price (or should that be the leash)…
And I’m sure the ‘Dog’ will be safe in his hands….well fed, fit and exercised and ready to be let off the leash when needed.
A cuddly Labrador during the week, a Rottweiler at the weekend.