Working their way back to you babe, staying focused and community links…

There’s always a danger of taking comments out of context.

Read Rowland Winter’s post match comments in isolation and it all sounds a little worrying:

It wasn’t a complete performance by any stretch of the imagination, we scored a lot of points, but we also conceded a lot which is something we’ve got to have a look at.

We’re nowhere near ready, we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve only got 14 days to put it right

Like the tagline for a disaster movie….’14 days to put it right’.

But it doesn’t tell the whole story by any means…

8 tries, a far more clinical approach than in either of the two previous games, and once again forward dominance – there’s clearly much to be encouraged by, and indeed RW said as much…

We had large facets of the game that were good and parts of our game that worked well, but that wasn’t an 80-minute performance.

In terms of our attack, we got our system right and once we got the right people in the right spots we tore them apart, almost scoring at will. I’m over the moon with that.

But if you have ambitions of Championship rugby, as Rowland Winter has for Coventry, then you have to be looking to improve all the time, in all facets of the game, and there are clearly areas that just aren’t yet anywhere near good enough to allow Cov to be competitive even at the top end of National 1, let alone in the league above.

So the urgency for Cov is that if we are going to hit the ground running, then the weaknesses we saw in our defence on Saturday need addressing. And the urgency in the message….just 14 days to put it right…is exactly the kind of  response we want to hear from a DoR. A positive definitely…

Remember last season after the away games at Esher:

‘What’s going wrong? It’s the worst we’ve been for the four years I’ve been here. I’ve got to look at myself and the other coaches. Is it us or the players?’.

Scott Morgan’s comments came after Coventry had just conceded 8 tries in what was the season’s nadir for me.

Rowland Winter’s came after Coventry had just scored 8 tries.

A win isn’t enough; if Cov is to be a championship side in the making over the next 2 or 3 seasons, then you keep on analysing and making improvements. good isn’t good enough. It’s about being the best you can be.

It’s about meticulous planning and preparation and accepting that improvements can always be made.

Saturday’s performance showed that the team is coming together, but at times, especially in the final quarter, the intensity seemed to drop and with the inevitable changes in the second half, Cov left the door ajar for Newport and they gladly accepted the invitation to join the party.

With 9 replacements on the bench rather than the 5 allowed during league games, there was always going to be some disruption to play and we saw just that after 60 minutes and, yes, it was a concern…but the new management team isn’t going to accept anything but the highest standards from Coventry, both on and off the field, so it comes as little surprise that the post-match comments centre as much on what needs improving, rather than what went well. Perfectionists? Nothing wrong with that…

Coventry have shown that they can address problems from one week to the next as we saw with the lineouts against Ealing Trailfinders last week. Whilst there were still some concerns in this area of the set piece against Newport, it was a good deal better than the week before, showing a good response from the team during the week.

So I rather suspect that when we see them take on Bury St Edmunds next week and Loughborough the week after, the missed tackle count will be significantly less. The coaches will be spelling out exactly what is expected – from themselves as much as from the players.

RW is a man very much on a mission. His remarks reflect his vision of a team equipped to compete at a level well in access of anything we’ve seen in the  last six or seven years and they are extremely welcome.  It’s been a long time since we’ve seen DoRs at Cov say it as it is in quite such a direct way and it’s exactly what is needed. It might shock a few but it will keep the squad on their toes, that’s for sure.

We’ve  seen little yet to get too carried away by and, as John Wilkinson rightly comments, RW is ‘keeping his feet firmly on the ground’, despite Cov’s ability to run the opposition ragged at times. Cov have to get their defence tighter as there are teams in our league that are more than capable of exploiting our weaknesses, so they can’t afford to get carried away by some encouraging signs. In the next two weeks, Coventry have more than enough time to sort out many of the weaknesses and frailties that we saw yesterday.

I believe I saw on Saturday a performance that suggested exciting times could soon be heading back to Cov…

or working their way back even…

See, I’m down and out
But I ain’t about to go living my life without you
Hey, every day I made you cry….
I’ll keep working my way back to you, babe
With a burning love inside
Yeah, I’m working my way back to you

The Spinners – Working My Way Back To You


Those spectators who are in the ground before, say, 2.55 pm on a match day will be well aware that Coventry no long warm-up at the far end, the City end, of the ground.

Prior to this season Coventry had always done so and I’d wondered what was behind the decision to switch to the railway end.

It seemed a strange one to me as it  had always given the supporters a chance to applaud the team back into the changing rooms as they finished their preparations just prior to kick off.

The reason, as I understand it, speaks volumes about the way the coaches are planning everything down to the smallest detail in order to give the team the greatest chance of success. It’s back to meticulous details again.

And it was such an obvious reason that it brought home to me the difference between the guy (or gal, just in case Sue reads this) who sits in the stand and proffers his (or her) opinions but really knows nothing, and those whose job it is to coach…

.. it is simplicity itself.

The railway end is nearest to the main clubhouse entrance and allows the shortest distance back to the changing rooms. As a coach you want players focused and the jog back from the top end, in front of the main stand, allows more time for players to lose their concentration, to lose that focus. Players need to be concentrating on their routines, on the game ahead.

I guess it’s all about being in the zone.

Supporters can still give the team encouragement as they leave the field from the city ground end (as they did yesterday), but there’s more to be gained from getting back quickly in the changing room than there is to jog in front of the main stand.

It’s the smallest of margins that sometimes win games.

How many times did we see Cov start poorly and have to play catch up for the rest of the game? If the switch to the railway end provides a bit more focus, then it makes sense to. And as simple a reason as it is, I’d never have come up with the explanation.

It’s not a big thing, but I thought I’d include it as it provides another insight into how things are changing under Rowland Winter and his coaching team.


I’m delighted that the e-letter to members last week made mention of the continuing good work being done by the Coventry Rugby Club’s community department. I’m  really pleased, too, that in the e-letter the comment was made that the work Matt Price and his team do isn’t just a PR opportunity but ‘a genuine working in the community to help improve lives’. Improving lives is at the heart of any such initiative and it can’t be stressed just how important the work that Matt and his team, and the thousands of other outreach workers across the country, is in doing just that – improving the quality of lives for youngsters, many of whom have a pretty tough time of it.

I spent all my working life as a teacher in Birmingham’s inner ring and have witnessed at first hand how dedicated outreach workers can make a real difference to children for whom the national curriculum has ceased to provide the necessary interest and challenge. It has failed large groups of honest, decent kids because it has either totally misunderstood what the needs of these youngsters are, or because so many of them just don’t have the basic skills needed to access it. Many schools recognise this and understand that often their own staff don’t have the necessary training or knowledge to bridge the gap caused by the resulting underachievement – and that’s why people like Matt Price and his team are so important.

Community groups such as the one Coventry Rugby Club provides are essential in developing the wider key skills that the classroom just can’t cater for, skills such as leadership and working together, as well as providing support for the basic skills of numeracy and literacy in a way that is non-threatening and non-judgemental.

Having seen it work in schools time and time again over the years, I do appreciate how sport can offer an alternative pathway to self growth, and provide a sense of happiness and well-being that the more academic routes can’t always provide. And the work being done by the community department isn’t just confined to junior and secondary schools – special schools also benefit hugely and is a vital way of providing physical and mental agility that isn’t always possible through timetabled activities, as well as simply enabling kids to enjoy themselves – something that schools should consider doing more often. When you’re happy, you’re more inclined to learn..

Cov is obviously proud of the work that Matt does, but in truth most supporters know very little about the activities Cov’s community department undertake with youngsters in and around Coventry. I know the Supporters’ Club have discussed the possibility of inviting Matt in to talk about his role and some of the things his team get involved in. I know there would be genuine interest on our part.

Coventry Rugby Club rightly sees itself as having a community role and it is something that everyone attached to the club should embrace, including supporters.

Of course, working with youngsters does have advantages for the club, as well as the community, something that the e-letter also makes reference to:

gives us real hope that these youngsters will want to come and see their heroes play. The schools we work in are being invited to attend matches along with their teachers and parents…

For me, the fantastic work that is being undertaken by Matt and his team should be the driving force  and not the other way around. It must never be a case of the tail wagging the dog…

We’ve seen on many a Saturday afternoon youngsters from local schools playing organised tag rugby either before a game or at half time. It’s always a welcome site (and far more entertaining than cheerleaders). No matter how hard Matt and his team work, and no matter how many youngsters come with their teachers and parents to visit The Butts, the club will need to make the match day experience a little more child friendly if they are to turn one-off visits in to a life-long love of the club. I’m just not sure how many of the pupils that Matt and his team have worked so hard with, come back after that first visit.

We are an ageing population at The Butts and, if not an endangered species, then we are certainly on the ‘at risk’ list. We desperately need a generation of youngsters coming through.

I’m sure there are things that can be done to attract more to attend regularly, but we are faced with the Wasps match day experience which is far more family-centric, and priced extremely competitively.

The community department do such a wonderful job in working with youngsters off and on-site to enrich youngsters lives. When these children, boys and girls, come to Coventry to sample the match day experience, is there anything more we could do to make them return in greater numbers?

Maybe they do and I’m just not aware of it, but on the days when schools aren’t invited to The Butts to watch Cov play, there doesn’t seem that many kids about.

Anyway, Matt and his team deserve praise not just from the club, but from the supporters too for the work they put into the local community. Hopefully, the new website will feature more news about what is going on, although to be fair the programme often contained some interesting updates.

Well done Matt and his team, the community work being undertaken is such an important aspect of the club’s role and something that that we don’t hear enough about at times.

And well done Cov for highlighting it.


As a recently appointed governor in a local Nuneaton school, I was initially delighted to hear that pupils there had really enjoyed working with rugby players from a local rugby club on  community based projects.

Sadly, though, it was Wasps…



Are the club really are working their way back to you…?

(It was a toss up between The Spinners or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – the dance routine won it…)



2 thoughts on “Working their way back to you babe, staying focused and community links…

  1. That’s a great analogy! It might be convention to warm up at the city end, but as you suggest, any change that brings about even a small % improvement is going to be worth it. Just shows how much planning goes into the preparations these days..

  2. Your comments about the reasons why the players warm up at the railway end remind me of what Clive (Sir – I beg his pardon)Woodward said after winning the world cup….. “we didn’t improve by 100%, we improved 100 things by 1% each”.

Any thoughts:

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