With the opening game of the pre-season now just days away, there’s lots of excitement and anticipation amongst Cov supporters and, even though the club are wisely keeping things very low-key, it’s difficult to avoid the feeling that the changes currently taking place at the Butts Park Arena might yet lead us much further down the path towards the promised land of Championship rugby.
Whether in a year’s time or three years and under the leadership of Rowland Winter or not, there’s a belief that the management and playing structures currently being set up at The Butts will make the club not only one of the two or three top teams in our league, but also one capable of being competitive in the league above.
Okay, perhaps comparing RW to Moses might be going a little too far (and I’m sure he won’t thank me for doing so!), but for many fans with long memories it does seems as if we have spent most of the last 40 years in the wilderness. If we’re not exactly witnessing the parting of the Red Sea, we are at least beginning to see a glimpse of a road less travelled open up before us.
I should add at this point that Jon Sharp, the Chairman of Coventry RFC, must take huge credit for having the courage of his convictions in opting to make root and branch changes to a club that for so long had seemed, from the outside at least, to be so conservative and traditional in its approach to its own management structures.
The appointment of Rowland Winter, coming as it did so soon after Scott Morgan’s promotion to Head of Rugby, could easily have backfired. Supporters, concerned about the manner in which it was all handled, together with the immediate announcement that most of the then current squad, including so many of the most popular players, would be moving on, might well have reacted differently. There was the danger of real antagonism and anger boiling over.
For me, it was a bold move of Jon Sharp’s part and undoubtedly it still carries risks. That supporters have been so willing to embrace such innovation shows great belief in JS’s vision to move the club into the 21st century and Rowland Winter’s ability to communicate his ideas to fans with such enthusiasm, openness and commitment.
The decision to opt for two co-captains for the 2016/17 season is certainly an innovative one. It’s rightly generated some interest on the Messageboard and seems to viewed positively by those who have commented on the relevant thread.
The manner of the announcement is worthy of a mention, too.
Last season such news would have appeared first in the Coventry Telegraph, then on its website, and would then have been filtered through to the messageboard via supporters, finally making an appearance a couple of days later on the official website. It always seemed the wrong way round to me…club news should come from the club first, direct to the supporters, and then to the press. The Coventry Telegraph does an excellent job in widening the potential audience as far Coventry RFC is concerned and hopefully that will remain the case, even with so much interest in Wasps at the moment, but for me when it comes to breaking news, it should always be Cov supporters first, then everyone else…
This way, all Cov fans get to hear what’s happening at the same time and not via two or three different sources. John Wilkinson’s appointment as the club’s media guru is a real bonus for those of us living outside the immediate Coventry area and yesterday’s news, which seemed to be put concurrently on both the official club website and the Messageboard, meant all supporters had access to it straightaway…as yet it still has to reach the Coventry Telegraph’s Coventry RFC page.
Little things make a big difference and the fact that news coming out of the club comes directly to us now is definitely a real bonus! Well done, Cov!
What a contrast to twelve months ago when Cliffie Hodgson appeared as club captain at the members’ forum in the first week of August and three days later Wayne Evans was then handed the role. We never were offered an explanation as to what happened over the couple of days in between…if indeed it did, but it was certainly odd at the time.
Anyway, what of the appointments themselves?
The co-captaincy really follows neatly on from the idea of there being a ‘leadership group’ of senior players (including the co-captains) and management involved in preparing for the each game. This idea of distributed leadership is one that will be familiar to most who work in the areas of business and education and one that seems to me to be eminently sensible.
Yes, there is of course the worry that ‘too many cooks…’ but I can’t help but think that involving a handful of the most senior players in the preparations leading up to a game will ensure far more ownership of the any outcomes than a simple ‘top down’ management strategy. If you feel you have a say in what’s being done, then it is far likelier you will take more responsibility for the decisions that are being made.
It goes some way to avoiding the potential ‘us and them’ scenario and if handled correctly should make for a far more cohesive and unified team. It also means that you can allow some of those players who have the potential to lead to have a voice within the squad.
There was much criticism from supporters last season that at times there didn’t appear to be a recognisable game plan on the pitch , especially when things didn’t go as hoped. Whilst I’m sure that this wasn’t the case, Cov certainly didn’t appear at times to have the flexibility to change or adapt a style of play according to the situation. One would hope that by involving the senior players in discussions with the coaching staff, such inflexibility might become a thing of the past.
Having been to a handful of practice sessions over the last few weeks, the idea of players having leading roles during the build up to a game seems little more than a reflection of Rowland Winter’s own style of leadership. Whilst RW takes responsibility for overseeing the players in sessions focusing on attacking play, he seems to take less of a prominent role in other areas of training such is his belief in his coaches. Boris Stankovich, Brendon Snyman, Brendan Burke and James Pritchard clearly have a huge input into the coaching duties, so isn’t a great surprise that Rowland Winter would want to also involve some of the more experienced players as well.
Having two co-captains allows more input into the organisation and direction of the forwards and backs both on and off the pitch…I’m sure it won’t happen at Cov, but if a player hasn’t got the best of relationships with one of the coaches, then he might well get on rather better with one of the senior players and if the right players are in positions of leadership, concerns can then be shared with the coaches.
Further, Eoghan Grace also made point in the article on the website that there’s no guarantee that his role as a co-captain guarantees him a place in the team:
Equally, you may well not be selected for one weekend but the team will have another captain in place
Co-captaincy ensures there is flexibility built into the system to cover for injuries, loss of form or just the need to rest a player and give another member of the squad the opportunity to play. Both Eoghan Grace and Tom Wheatcroft played together at Ealing last season, so there should be a good understanding between the two of them which is important.
Just who leads out the team come the first league fixture and who faces the wrath of the referee as and when required remains to be seen, but I do think the introduction of two co-captains is a very positive move on the part of Rowland Winter.
…should, indeed, prove to be better than one.
The Cov dog has suddenly got a damn sight more dangerous…
I was somewhat relieved to read that the format of the game against Broadstreet on Tuesday was going to be just 2*40 minute halves, with only 25 players involved.
Last year it was 3*20 minutes sessions with pretty much the whole squad taking part, together with several trialists. With players rolling on and off the field at all too regular intervals there was no real rhythm to the game and, from a spectators point of view, you weren’t much the wiser come the end of the afternoon.
With fewer players involved and two longer sessions, hopefully we should get a decent look at most of the players. I know there are one or two of the squad who haven’t yet featured a great deal in training owing to injuries or because they’ve joined the squad later than most and aren’t yet ready for such sustained contact, but most should be on show.
It will also be interesting to see whether the coaches are involved or whether the Broadstreet game is purely about taking a look at the rest of the squad for the first time in match conditions.
I know there won’t be a programme available, but it would be great if the club could produce a flyer with the names of the players, together with a mugshot. It’s not a big thing and I’m sure spectators would be prepared to pay a minimal 25p or so to cover costs (it wouldn’t need to be in colour)…
…it would be great to be able to put names to faces before the season starts in earnest, something I have failed to do in every season up to now.