Club talk

Moseley, ‘Derby ’til I die’ and we have only ourselves to blame…

Yesterday was a sad day for Moseley…or Birmingham Moseley as we’ll have to get used to calling them come June onwards.

The rebranding of the club is an attempt, apparently, at creating a wider appeal across the city and to generate more sponsorship, although I doubt many who follow local rugby will see Birmingham Moseley as anything but good ol’ Mose.

I really don’t wish Moseley any ill, and I would much rather have been renewing our rivalry in the Championship than in National 1, but for both us to be back in the same league is a real bonus.

Most teams in National 1 have a local derby of sorts with the exceptions of ourselves, Plymouth Albion, Wharfedale and Fylde. There used to be a time when Rugby, Birmingham and Solihull and Moseley would all feature somewhere on Coventry’s fixture lists, but with the relative demise of Rugby and Birmingham Solihull and Moseley’s sojourn in the second tier of national rugby, Cov have been starved of any local contests, other than the Broadstreet friendlies in August.

Bragging rights for the best team in the West Midlands aside, a return to National 1 might not be such a positive things for Moseley, but it will definitely be so for Cov. Unless we are pressing for promotion in the last few games of the season, the Moseley fixture will almost certainly be the best attended, so there is a financial implication there for starters.

With the two sides just 27 miles apart, there’ll be a lot more interest generated in each other season’s and there’s bound to be more media interest for Coventry in the Birmingham newspapers, particularly the Post, than there would have been in previous seasons. Not all Cov supporters live in Coventry.

Further, we have already profited from Moseley’s poor season, having signed Scott Tolmie – who’s to say other Moseley players won’t be making the same trip – with perhaps some from Coventry making a similar journey only in the opposite direction? That could certainly make things a good deal more interesting…

The final benefit accruing to Coventry from Moseley’s relegation is that fact Ealing Trailfinders remain in the Championship, which I would tentatively suggest is better for Cov than having them back in National 1. They have proven that they possess ‘bouncebackability’, having gained automatic promotion back into the Championship  twice in the last four seasons. They appear to have strong financial backing and it is more than likely had they been relegated that they would have been able to keep their Championship squad.

Moseley’s situation is unclear in this respect, but I can’t help but feel that they won’t have quite the same number of options as Ealing and if that is the case, it opens up the league a little more next season than were Ealing to be involved. Rather like Plymouth this year, Moseley might need to regroup a little before being able to make a concerted push on the title.

Moseley’s pain could be Coventry’s gain…

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Entrance into both Rectory Field and The Butts Park Arena is priced for both at £15 and whilst the facilities are probably a bit better at Coventry,  Blackheath include the cost of a programme, so it’s pretty much honours even.

However, it appears that from next season onwards they will be playing at Well Hall which at the moment sounds a little more basic although it does have a superb playing surface apparently, so it will be interesting to see how much things will have moved on by the time we next travel south.

I have to admit, I’m somewhat relieved that Blackheath are moving away from Rectory Field.

Yesterday, I made the mistake of starting my return journey via Charlton Station, arriving there as I did just as several thousand (it seemed like that anyway) Derby fans emerged from The Valley to catch the same train into London Victoria as I was.

Now fortunately for me, Derby had beaten their hosts 1-0 and were in good humour, but even so, stuck in one of the 10 coaches as I was , surrounded by a good 150 Derby fans all singing as one was not an experience I particularly want to repeat, so Blackheath’s move away from Rectory Field should ensure this doesn’t happen again.

To give you a sense of the fun I had, turn the volume up and play the following…

We are Derby…

There was I, in my anorak and spectacles, carrying a rucksack…

…oh, how we laughed together.

‘Derby ‘Til I Die…’

…which I wasn’t far off doing to be honest…

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On a more serious note…

Coventry, now unbeaten in 4 games, must be ruing the fact that they couldn’t put this kind of run together, against this quality of opposition, in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The current change in our fortunes only adds to the debate as to why so many players who are performing so well at the moment appear to have been overlooked by the new coaching staff when selecting the squad for next season.

Sadly though, the damage had already been done when by Christmas when we were in 9th place with just 37 points.

Decisions about contracts had probably been made at least two or three weeks prior to the start of the present run which started with the win against Cinderford. In the 9 games before that, Coventry had only won 2 and drawn 1, hardly something likely that would be looked on favourably by Rowland Winter and the rest of the coaching staff. Had we hit this sort of form before Christmas…well, who knows…but certainly it might all be very different now.

The really disappointing thing for me is that I don’t believe the quality of rugby we’ve seen this year as been as high as in previous years and had the squad played even close to their potential, then we would have been right in the mix. With no Ealing, Jersey or Doncaster to dominate the league as has been the case in the last four seasons, Richmond have done exactly what was needed – played consistent, well-drilled rugby doing enough to win games without ever threatening to overrun the opposition. So far in 28 games Richmond have amassed 793 points, whereas this time last season Ealing had scored 1053 (and Cov in 3rd place had scored 912).

That’s the frustration for me. Even Esher, who put 50 plus points on the board against us before Christmas, didn’t look that good, it was more a case of we played unbelievably badly. When we met then second time around we lost a close game 12-13, and that was as a result of penalty kicked in the 5th minute of injury time. They caught us on an off day in that first game – one of many during October and early November.

No, it’s clear when you look at Coventry’s results in the second round of matches against the top 4 teams in the league that even when underperforming as we have been, we’ve not be too far off beating all of them:

  • Richmond 21-21
  • Blackheath 20-20
  • Hartpury 27-17
  • Ampthill 31-25 (pre Christmas result – we play again next weekend)

Those shouldn’t be the results of a team that lies in 8th position, and one that could well fall back to 10th if results go against us next weekend.

That they are is down to Cov and Cov alone.

For whatever reasons, we just haven’t performed as we should and it can’t just be put down to injuries alone. The team out there on Saturday was missing a number of key players, players who would add, in theory at least, even more strength to the side – the likes of JLR, Gaston Mieres, Matt Jones, Wayne Evans and Adam Parkins.

In truth, we have failed to live up to our potential. I’m not sure that we’ve been able to field our strongest side for any game this season, but we have certainly played with what, on paper, are stronger sides than the ones that drew yesterday or beat Darlington the week before. We’ve certainly underperformed on too many occasions this season and that has undoubtedly cost some players their place in next season’s squad…it’s a real pity, but it needs to be said.

Had players shown the same form pre-Christmas, it might well be that they’d now be sorting out their holidays in the Summer secure in the knowledge that they be back at The Butts in August. It’s nothing to do with a lack of commitment or not trying hard enough, I’ve always maintained that no one goes into a rugby game without being prepared to put their bodies on the line and give 100%.

But it is something to do with a lack of confidence and self-belief. For some reason 100% effort when you’re confident is worth more than 100% effort when there’s some self-doubt…the change in Coventry once Oliver had scored on Saturday is proof of that.

I’m not sure that too much criticism can be directed towards Rowland Winter and his team for opting to start afresh…painful as it is to see so many Coventry players on the move at the end of the season, it’s not altogether difficult to see why the new management team have gone down that path.

Too little, too late.

The players have to face the fact that a run of disappointing results against opposition whom, more often than not, we should have done better against has cost  them dear.  There are players at the moment who are in something of a purple patch and who might have been given the nod were they to have impressed in the same way earlier on in the season…Sam Pailor, George Oliver, Danny Wright, Ben Thomas, Caolan Ryan, Ryan Hough and even Tiploma Kivalu probably fall into this category, players who have shown consistency and form over the last few games.

Maybe there’s still a chance that they can impress enough to earn a reprieve, although realistically it is now getting a bit too late in the day for that.

All the players can do is focus on the remaining two games. Ampthill, presently third in the league but only one point behind Hartpury in second, will be another stern challenge but one that Cov will relish. This is a group of players who are playing with real confidence now and a win against them would be a significant statement at this stage of the season. Ampthill will certainly be fired up for the contest and if Coventry decide to put on a show for the supporters in the last home game of the season, and for many of the players the last home game ever, then it could prove to be a cracker.

With so many goodbyes amongst the players and coaches, it is a game that everyone will want to remember for the right reasons and a win would certainly send everyone off in slightly better heart. Hopefully, spectators will turn up in numbers to say there farewells and for many it will be an emotional day, none more so than Dave Addleton.

Maybe Aggy should lead the team onto the pitch so as to give supporters the chance to show their appreciation for his loyalty and unstinting service to the club – it would be an appropriate gesture, a recognition of the massive contribution he has had in Coventry’s successes over the last 22 years?

 

 

 

2 replies »

  1. I’ll miss the Rec. The Blackheath fixture has been an important one to me. A housemate who I was randomly thrown together with at University many years ago follows them so we had an unlikely shared interest in the 2nd/ 3rd tier of English rugby! She was game enough to accompany me to watch Cov at the likes of Waterloo from our Lancaster Uni base.

    Now both with families we’ve made a twice yearly weekend out of the fixture. I missed Saturday’s trip, breaking a run of some years, due to a holiday. Hopefully they’ll get back there once the politics and finances are sorted.

    Thanks for the updates which I’ve been following in Australia where visits to the Sydney Swans in the AFL and Randwick DRUFC have been my live substitutes for Cov. The latter a traditional powerhouse club supplying many internationals and with much heritage, now playing in front of a couple of thousand in decent NSW grade rugby. I felt quite at home!

    Like

    • Glad you were able to stay in touch with what’s been happening whilst you’ve been away. It’s been a heck of a season, hasn’t it? Should think it was interesting watching some Aussie rugby…
      By the sound of it Blackheath hope to return to Rectory Field…as I do

      Like

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