Club talk

Why the unbeaten run now and despicable Cov, too

I imagine the question that most Cov supporters will be asking themselves is why on earth it took Coventry until mid-March to exhibit the kind of consistent form that we all knew they were capable of producing?

Yes, prior to then there had been odd games where you thought maybe, just maybe, there was a faint spark of hope – against Richmond in January was an obvious example – but too often the spark failed to ignite into something brighter and more permanent and the glimmer soon faded into further disappointment.

Yet here we are – on a run of 5 games unbeaten and with every chance of making it six.  The team is now playing with a confidence and assurance that undoubtedly would have seen them challenge for honours had they been able to maintain their form after encouraging performances against Wharfedale and Loughborough in the opening two games of the season.

A lot of discussion has taken place over the last few months as to why it went so wrong, so quickly.  I guess there are many different reasons but the fact remains that the season was as good as over by the end of October as far as any promotion challenge was concerned, despite other leading teams dropping points early on.

I’m not going to go over old ground, other than to say that any argument which has at it heart the suggestion that recruitment last summer wasn’t acceptable and that players coming into the squad in August weren’t of at least an equal level of ability to those already here, should now be put to bed once and for all.

Preece, Roberts, Ryan, Thomas, Hough, Weightman, Woodburn, Smith (who signed later but was on trial in August, I think) have all made an real impact this season. Although Preece and Roberts have left, doubtless they would have played a part in these final few games. Hough, Weightman, Ryan, Thomas and Woodburn have all excelled during the recent run, as have the rest of the team.

When Coventry have underperformed, it’s the whole team that has been at fault not certain individuals and certainly not just those who were recruited in the close season.

Whilst there has been plenty of debate about where it all went wrong, there has been far less consideration as to why Coventry have suddenly begun to play like a top of the table team, a team that is still  weakened by injury yet is not just competing with the top teams in the league, it is beating them.

Just what is the catalyst for this change in the team’s fortunes?

The reappearance of some key players might have something to do with it, I guess.

The return of Callum MacBurnie, Rob Knox and Matt Jones has made a massive difference defensively and with the three of them starting to play at a level approaching that of last season, suddenly there are far more attacking options. Callum has only played something like 12 games in all, Rob 15. They have been greatly missed.

George Tresidder, at scrum half, seems more attack-minded than Wayne Evans and is  inclined to snipe round the base of the scrum and take the ball earlier from the loose. Whilst he lacks the experience of Evans, he does provide quick ball which Matt Jones can use to his advantage. He occasionally gets caught with the ball where Evans wouldn’t, Wayne’s experience would have avoided him getting into such a situation in the first place, but Tresidder has played a big part in the team’s recent successful run.

In the forwards, the decision to stick with a back row of Sam Pailor, George Oliver and Alex Woodburn, with  Daniel Carpo on the bench to come on in the final 20 minutes, has clearly added more stability and Oliver and Woodburn win us a lot of ball at the breakdown. Wright and Thomas, originally paired together through necessity, have made it increasingly difficult for Tom Poole to reclaim his place in the second row.

In the front row, Tiploma Kivalu has proved to be an excellent late addition to the squad. having been criticised in some quarters early on over his apparent lack of fitness, he has developed into a real strength in the front row and with Andy Brown, Chad Thorne and Joe Foreman all proving there worth, the front row haven’t been bossed around too often since Christmas. Matt Price has taken centre stage in the no 2 shirt, ably supported initially by Devlin Hope and then Jake Farnworth.

However, most of these players had featured at varying points in the season prior to the beginning of the recent run, but they didn’t’ seem to have the impact that they are having at the moment. So it must be down to other factors. The fact that the team has remained pretty much injury free in the last 5 games, allowing Scott Morgan to select from a settled squad has helped too, but not enough to explain such a dramatic change in fortunes.

But there is another more obvious answer, a slightly contentious one which is probably unlikely to be given much credit from inside the club, other than perhaps from the players, but one which is nevertheless worth exploring, if only for it to be dismissed elsewhere.

I would tentatively suggest that the single biggest factor in the recent improved performances on the pitch is down to the frustration and anger players have increasingly felt at what has been happening since the original announcement back in January  that Scott Morgan would be replaced by a full-time coach come the end of the season, together with additional changes in the coaching staff..

There’s no doubt in my mind that  players were pushed much closer together as a squad as the uncertainty over their futures became more evident. Listening to many of the players who have been forced to move on, it is clear that their hearts for the time being remain firmly with the club and many would gladly have stayed had they been offered contracts. Many are gutted to be going.

I firmly believe that with so many players within the squad left feeling isolated and  in the dark, the effect has been to galvanise them into a much stronger and more effective unit.

The Cov Dog has become a wounded beast and is all the more dangerous as a result.

Wounded and cornered and with the scent of its own blood in its nostrils, it has reacted in the only way it can…by shaking itself free of its shackles and becoming its own master.

These are professional sportsmen, true to themselves, the coaches and the supporters.

The only way they can respond is through their actions on the pitch. If I’m right, and I accept I might be wildly off the mark here, then to publicly voice their anger would only have caused a negative response from the club…but to go out on to the pitch and  convert all that frustration and disappointment into  positive energy, well they might not be here in August, but hell, have they proved a point.

In February, there were many of us who felt that results and performances were such that wholesale changes were needed. A couple of months later and there are many more voices than there were beginning to question just how wise it is to let quite so many players go.

At one point it looked as if Rowland Winter was going to get the easiest of rides – results were poor, confidence low and the squad massively underperforming. Wholesale changes were essential. It’s one that I am sympathetic to, even now, although not quite so wholesale as those we are presently seeing.

Now, however, players who are exiting the club have suddenly made things a lot, lot harder for him because unless the team start producing results early on next season, then questions are inevitably going to be asked as to why so many of the current squad, a squad containing many players who have proved themselves at this level over a number of season, were deemed to be surplus to requirements.

Playing devil’s advocate here, the players have been united by a degree of rumour and apprehension. The uncertainty surrounding the futures of Scott Morgan, Dave Addleton and the other coaches can only have added to their frustrations.

So the desire to play for each other and for the supporters, too, has been the single biggest contributory factor in Coventry’s resurgence. This is by no means the strongest team that Cov could field, with Cliffie Hodgson, Gaston Mieres, Jacques Le Roux, Adam Parkin, Wayne Evans and Tom Poole all having a strong case for inclusion were they fir and/or available.

However, such is the feeling of unity within the squad at the moment, even players who haven’t necessarily performed at the level expected of them earlier in the season (which is most of them) have been able to raise their game, carried along by the feeling of comradery.

For me, this is the main reason behind the recent improvements in results – having felt let down and isolated the squad have come together to form a much closer, more tightly-knit group of players and with that has come an increased confidence in themselves and each other. It has been especially evident in the last couple of games, with players talking to each other far more on the field, with encouragement coming from all areas of the pitch.

Strength sometimes comes from adversity.

Maybe this is one such instance.

Just how much truth there is in this, well only the players will know.

But it’s my take on why results have improved of late, even if it might not be shared by everyone.

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I’ll put the result so of last Friday’s poll into tomorrow’s post – it’s been the most popular of all the polls included in the posts, although  that might be because there are a lot more reading the posts as the season, and the blog, comes to an end. If there you haven’t yet voted and would like to – please see below:

If you could plead the case for up to 3 (sorry to put a limit on the number but it makes it more interesting this way) of the current squad to be offered new contracts next season other than those already announced, who would they be?

I’ve included a poll so that it’s possible to compare your choices with those of other readers and thus see if there’s any general agreement.

You have up to 3 votes, although you don’t have to use them all. Just click on the in the square next to the appropriate name(s).

The choices appear randomly, so the order you see them in will be different to that of other readers.

Hope this makes sense.

Thank you in advance for taking part…results tomorrow!

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And to end on a bit of fun…

  

14 replies »

  1. While I do believe all the players have been playing for their own pride and for the club, they have also been in the shop window for their future employers. I notice George Oliver in the CET mentioned that he’d talk to the club if they wanted to talk to him about next season – it would be good if RW maybe reviewed his decision about some of the players.

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  2. I echo Cliff’s comments in how much your blog will be missed Tim. Once again you’ve covered many of the thoughts I’ve been having of late regarding the reasons for the huge improvement on the pitch.
    I know there is now a more settled back line which has allowed us to regain some of our attacking potency but for me the big difference is the commitment in defence. I questioned early on in the season how many of the team were prepared to put their bodies on the line for the club, well now I would suggest it’s every one of them!

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    • Thanks for the kind words, Rob. The improvement in defence has made a real difference…especially in close games where we now have far more of a chance of coming out on top simply because we’re less likely to ship points. For me, Callum is the key…Knoxy and Rundle will do the damage, but Callum defensively is so strong and always puts in a hell of a shift…he’s the glue that holds the backs together and I’m delighted he has been retained.

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  3. Thank you to all contributors today, as Cliff says, we shall never know. I think it has been said before, injuries and absences played a massive part. However, that is only a part of it. Lack of confidence at crucial parts of games, wrong options, selection problems, sometimes it can go on and on. The bottom line is we were not good enough to mount a realistic challenge, not helped by unrealistic hyperbole early on.
    As far as I am concerned there were NO dodgy choices in the new recruits, all have played their part, when they were allowed to. The last five results have shown what could have been, the bond created by adversity? I think so, but we will never really know, will we?
    Excellent points raised by Alan, and by the way, I have really enjoyed Peter’s appearances, the look and pleasing smile as he left the pitch at Henley , will never fade, however much my memory fades. I will say goodbye Alan , or au revoir, as I won’t be attending the Wharfedale wake as a Championship party in a village in Wales beckons for me and Billy. Best wishes for Peter, I just hope it is not a decision Cov come to rue. In the meantime, as Tim decides to head for his 2 months rest in a darkened room, best wishes to all. Yours in rugby.

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    • I echo Paul’s remarks, Alan – I’ll follow Peter’s career with great interest. I’m sure we’ll see him playing at the Butts again before too long. Please pass on my regards to the family..I’ll miss the match day tweets!

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  4. Hi Tim
    This discussion could go on and on, and on and on………..
    There would be a substantial number of differing viewpoints, suggestions and questions put forward by an equally substantial number of supporters. The difficulty is that we will never know the answer, not least because there would no doubt be virtually as many answers as questions. The fact remains, however, that there is an uncomfortable feeling both with supporters and players about the whole business, which has been made more pertinent by the fact that a, the team is performing so much better than it did earlier, which unfortunately led to the cull being implemented and b, individual players have found their form and are producing a standard of play which suggests that they could so competently form part of the Cov team next season and be involved in a push for promotion.
    We can only hope that RW will settle some of these misgivings at the Members’ Forum.
    Which brings me to the subject of next season………. I hope so sincerely that RW and Jon, as the most obvious faces of the club, steer clear of setting high expectations among supporters and therefore reports in the media. The failure of the club, in so many facets, to meet the expectations which it had set at the beginning of the season, should be a very salutary lesson. My school motto was “Learn by doing”, and I have adopted this as my mantra throughout my life, but more than anything I now hope that the club will have learned, developed and grown as a result of the chastening experiences of this season.
    I can tell you that I’m going to miss your blog in the closed season. The essential reading first thing in the morning will not be there and part of my day will be empty. But you deserve a rest. However, until you award yourself the well-earned break I look forward each morning to reading your very well constructed, cogent, coherent, logical and thought provoking blog.
    Cheers, Cliff.

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    • Thank you for the kind words, Cliff…I must admit I am looking forward to a bit more sleep! I can’t believe that what ever targets might or might not have been agreed by Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter, the club would choose to make them public…once bitten etc. ‘Learn by doing’ seems very appropriate (I think mine was ‘Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur’). It should be an interesting few weeks leading up to the first league game…I’ll enjoy watching the friendlies (I wonder who we’ve got lined up?), learning players names, looking to see if there are noticeable differences in the way our play…
      Still, Wharfedale first and then a break…sounds good to me. Hopefully, communication over the summer will be improved and there will be info coming out of the club via the website to whet our appetites.
      Have a great summer..!

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  5. Always entertaining Tim, just sad that I could only vote for 3 :-(, would have kept 9 off the list, also George Tressider who wasn’t on there to pick, but I think he will become a really good player, and some of his tackling has been good for a little guy. The other point is, if Cov are going for full time, how many of the current squad could commit to that? I thought part of appeal for players like Wayne, Matt and maybe Dom was that they were not full time, so worked in with their other commitments, and I guess the same applies to Scott Morgan too? Was also really impressed with Gaston when he was playing, he seemed to have great ability to read the game, and was a step quicker in thought than some others.

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    • Hi Roger,
      The issue with regard to the additional training sessions next season is an important one and whilst many of us are presuming that many players would have agreed a new contract had they been offered one, this might not be the case with some – I think Sam P suggested he would find it difficult given his business commitments and the Welsh contingent, too, would struggle. I think this is probably one of the reasons why Rowland Winter has said he wouldn’t sign anyone living outside of a 45 mile radius of the ground, unless there were exceptional players. George Tresidder is going to end up playing Championship ruby before too long although it might be in his interests to have a season in National 1 playing pretty much every game before making the move up…? Gaston did look class in his final few games with us, although his absence allowed Caolan Ryan to show spectators what they can expect see when Cov come up against DMP next season.
      Many thanks for leaving a message – I always enjoy the feedback and the discussions they sometimes generate.
      Kind regards,
      Tim

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  6. When forming any team it will take time for them to perform at there full potential. I believe that the club set them self up for a fall by stating that they were going for promotion this season. It would have been more realistic to set out a two year plan with this group of lads. I have worked and supervised many “teams” when in the police. There is a team dynamic I was taught and it seems to apply. When any team is put together it goes through distinct steps . Storming. When people try to find there place in the hitachi. Forming when they start to become a team. Performing when they work as a unit. Norming when they perform at there full potential. Finally mourning when the team looses members. The whole process then begins again. In the last quarter of this season cov appear to have started performing and had they been given the opertunity I believe next season this would have been norming and who knows what they could have achieved.

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    • Hi Alan – lovely to get to meet you last week!

      That makes such sense – storming, forming, performing, norming and mourning…Cov seem to have by-passed much of the ‘performing’, all of the ‘norming’ sections and gone straight to the ‘mourning’. Couldn’t agree more about the mistake of hyping up our chances pre-season..in retrospect it didn’t do the team or Scott Morgan any favours at all.A two year plan would have been far more sensible and allowed more time for the younger players in the squad to prove themselves which is what one or two of them have been doing of late. The ‘one year plan’ as it now seems to have been allowed for no bedding in at all.
      Still, what’s done is done and maybe we’ll have learned from the mistakes of this season, albeit at the expense of some great players who still want to be part of this once great club.

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  7. Hi tim, cov going on a bit of a run must be a bit of a worrying time for some at cov.with the new set up coming in and the old just starting to show there teeth. No matter how you look at it there are some really good players being allowed to walk away from cov.why have they not preformed all season is a massive mystery?. but of late it’s came back. There will be a lot of questions asked if the new squad don’t make the grade and these players are allowed to leave. But whatever the outcome I hope the lads all find clubs they are happy with and take it easy on cov on there return. I also hope the new set up does get it right and cov get promoted. Be at wharfdale to see these great bunch of players for one last time sad times. comoncov

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    • Hi Jeff – must have been a great feeling watching Dan out there on Saturday and feel the buzz as he entered the arena for the first time this season.
      Spot on about questions being asked – I’m sure Rowland WInter would want the best for Cov but this must be the worst case scenario for him – suddenly the team turn things round and players who he has discarded are playing some of their best rugby for a while – the likes of Oliver, Pailor and Lespierre spring to mind. It must be a concern for him as it must be frustrating for Scott Morgan and the coaches. I just home that the Wharfedale game is a fitting end the careers of those players who won’t be returning next season – I think it might be a tryfest…

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