We’ve been broken down
To the lowest turn
Bein’ on the bottom line
Sure ain’t no fun
The only way is up, baby
For you and me now
The only way is up, baby
For you and me now
Yazz – The Only Way Is Up
Something Phil mentioned in a comment yesterday set me thinking…
There is an excitement building this year which is hard to describe, this time last season the feeling was that we were strong contenders and “should” be up there come April, so why do I feel more excited this year than I did last?
Phil’s feeling of excitement is one that is not common to him alone. The mood amongst supporters is very much one of optimism at the moment, as indeed it was this time last season, but the feeling of excitement felt by so many this time round is different because the club is being rebuilt and rebranded on much stronger foundations.
Under Rowland Winter’s leadership, the house of cards that was Cov last season is being constructed of more solid materials and is far less likely to fold when the pressure begins to tell. What’s not to be excited about?
The run-in to the end of 2014/15 the season, from Feb – April, had been poor, even by last season’s standards. By the end of last September and after two consecutive defeats, the cracks that had been there for some time suddenly opened wide to reveal a pretty dark chasm below. What happened from then onwards is well-documented and the season ended in bitter disappointment and sadness at the loss of so many players and backroom staff who had served the club with such great loyalty for so long.
That’s why I feel so many of us are feeling so excited come the start of this season. Some of it is down to a feeling of relief that there is light at the end of the tunnel and, although it is tempting fate…
…the only way is up…
…the rest is because this season we can actually see the progress being made for ourselves, rather than just being told it’s happening, as was the case last year.
At the Members’ Forum last August, many of us listened to what Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan had to say about the strength and depth of the squad and about pushing for a possible promotion that season and we were, understandably, drawn into their belief. It was real and tangible at the time and I know I, along with many others, later referred to the ‘hype’ surrounding their over-confidence in Cov’s chances.
But in fairness that’s a tad disingenuous. Scott and Phil genuinely felt we were capable of topping the league in April and we accepted it…
…just blindly as it happens.
That’s as much our fault as supporters as it is the club’s for a lack of caution when encouraging such a belief.
And that’s why this season is so different and why it’s really important to understand that difference.
When you listen to Rowland Winter or read anything coming out of the club, official or otherwise, there is absolutely no heightened expectations being expressed whatsoever; in fact the reverse – reviews at the end of the pre-season, the setting of six week targets and so on. Nothing at all approaching a prediction – in stark contrast to last year.
Instead, there has been a clear and open explanation of what changes are being implemented, of what is expected of the players and of the structures being put in place off the pitch to support the players on it. It’s because we’ve had opportunities to chat to RW and go along to training and see the implementation of these changes that we make the judgement that there is real progress being made at the club. And hence the excitement.
What is being said is being delivered and that creates a feeling of confidence that permeates the club, all the way through from the office and support staff, through to the players and onto the supporters.
Last season we were told it, this year we’ve seen it for ourselves.
It’s for that reason that I’m far more optimistic about the long term ability of the club to survive at the top end of National 1 (and above) than I have been for as long as we’ve been in this league. I quite accept that I bought into the belief that Cov would be a top 2 club come the end of last season and, in my defence, I held on to my optimism longer than most. However, I naively assumed that most of what is currently happening under the new management team was also happening back then – ( I mean the nutritional support, the physio work, the rigorous monitoring of fitness levels etc) when perhaps it wasn’t, or at least to such a professional degree.
Because everything happened behind closed doors, looking back I think we just took everything a little bit for granted. Now those doors have been thrown wide open and not only have we been allowed to glimpse inside, we’ve also been encouraged to walk around and take a good long look, well…I, for one, feel more reassured.
Rowland Winter deliberately hasn’t set targets for the season in terms of where we need to finish – this season it’s about establishing those foundations on which to push on, not just to compete in this league but to be competitive with the tops teams in the Championship. Even after the Ealing and Cardiff games last year when we felt the dream might really be possible, many of us felt we wouldn’t survive for more than a season in the next tier up, even if we were to be promoted.
This season the difference seems to be that RW is even now putting in place structures to ensure that would be far less likely to happen. What’s not to be excited about?
Of course, any prediction he might make in terms of where we might expect to finish immediately becomes something to be judged by, which is a pretty strong argument for not setting one.
So Rob’s excitement, and my own and probably scores of other supporters too, might be driven by a sense of belief that the problems of last season seem to be well and truly behind us now. The changes that are being made, radical as they have been especially in terms of recruitment and retention, are being explained to us so that there’s no mystery as to what is happening and therefore no suspicion.
We see them, we like them, we get excited by them.
Simple and effective…don’t over complicate things and be open and honest.
The reason why I’ve warmed to all that is happening at The Butts at the moment is because supporters are being encouraged to make up their own minds about what is taking place within the club. We’re not being told what the results of the changes are, instead we’re encouraged to see them for ourselves – and for supporters that’s far more liberating.
Of course, the first real test will come when things don’t quite go to plan…a couple of poor performances or a loss to a team we should be expected to beat. It’s going to happen at some stage this season, later rather than sooner hopefully, but it will happen. It wasn’t handled brilliantly back in September and October and communication between the club and supporters then started to became noticeable by its absence.
Under Rowland Winter, I think it would all be handled very differently.
I also believe the Supporters’ Club will have an important part to play here as it can be an effective link between club and supporters.
If there are questions being raised by fans which could do with some response, a quick meeting with RW or one of the senior members from the management team means they can be answered well before they become potential problems, with feedback to everyone via the appropriate SC channels. The club are working hard with Cliff and the Committee to get things up and running as quickly as possible as both parties recognise the importance of having such a link .
Supporters now have a voice, a voice that will be listened to…and that in itself is a reason to be excited.
The changes taking place at Coventry seem to be creating a lot more interest than would be usual at this time of the season. The official attendance on Tuesday was apparently only 328, which seemed a little on the low side, but there was a lot of interest on social media before and after the game and as the live score was being updated on Twitter, it was clear that there were more people following what was happening than was the case during the league games last season.
All very encouraging.
Cov have done an excellent job thus far in generating an increasing amount of interest within the Cov fraternity about everything that is currently taking place at The Butts. The club’s own Twitter feed is already far more productive than it ever was last season, JW’s regular features on the coaches, backroom support staff and now players (great to see Rob Knox in the limelight yesterday!) on the official website have provide far more information than we could have hoped for a while back and of course RW’s meetings with supporters have also helped spread the word.
The momentum is now there. But it’s what happens next that is so important.
How can the club capitalise on the great start it’s made and encourage former Cov supporters, those who helped create such a fantastic atmosphere when we had that 18 match unbeaten run a while ago now, back to the ground?
Winning will play a big part, as will the manner of the wins – the hi-energy rugby we watched in parts on Tuesday is definitely going to be a big draw.
Hopefully, using JW’s vast experience together with the fantastic work that Matt Price does within the local community should widen the message still further. Matt should benefit from the support of more players this year given so many are now on full-time contracts, so maybe the club can spread its wings that much wider. If I remember rightly from the April Member’s Forum, the new website should be up and running by the time the first league game comes around – hopefully that will be all singing and dancing and will attract additional interest. It all helps…
As my granddad should have said, but never did…
Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’pworth of tar.
Jersey at the weekend…more excitement!
The last time I went there, on stepping off the plane I collapsed and spent 4 weeks in a St Helier hospital, was flown back on a stretcher and spent a further 2 weeks in a Birmingham hospital.
It was 30 years ago…