In the year I was born, Alan Sillitoe published the short story from which this post takes its name.
The ‘Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’ bears some uncanny similarities to my own situation other just the year in which it was written. The eponymous hero, not unlike my good self presently, was also seeking a means to escape routines, albeit for very different reasons.
For Smith (for that was also his name), running was a chance to break free from social exclusion and a life of petty crime that had resulted in his detainment at a young defenders’ institution; what we used to call ‘borstal’. For me, however, ‘blogging’ is one of the ways I’m able to avoid some of the laziness and faineance of retirement and a sudden lack of mental stimulation.
In Sillitoe’s novella, Smith is selected to run against a local school, an independent one at that, and the governor, who is keen to bask in the glory of beating a public school, offers him the chance of easy duties for the final six months of his stay should he win (it was a particularly harsh regime that he encountered whilst at borstal).
Come race day, Smith is miles ahead of the other runners, but slows down and allows the others to win in a gesture to show that even when institutionalised, he is able to keep his independence and be true to himself.
And there’s the difference…
Here I am, almost a couple of weeks into a lovely holiday and pretty much as far away physically from Coventry RFC as you can get, yet totally unable to do a ‘Smithy’…I just can’t resist the urge to do what I enjoy doing…writing the blog.
So far from Coventry, so far from Cov…
…the loneliness of the long distance blogger.
So it is, then, that early on a Monday morning and with the sun yet to rise, I’m sitting on the balcony tip-tapping away on the keyboard. That free spirit, that independence of thought and action is clearly less strong in me than it is in my namesake. Indeed, I’ve no desire to break free of resisting the urge and anyone who supports a team, in whatever sport, will know that once bitten by the bug, there ‘s little chance of shaking it off. Your team becomes a part of you…wherever you are, whoever you’re with.
Which is why is so difficult to let go and why, on Saturday, I was glued to my tablet waiting for messages from my son to detail the events as they unfolded at Billesley Common. And a brilliant job he did, too…
…but here’s a moan, and there haven’t been many at all from me this season.
Really, the club should be providing a ‘live’ Twitter feed from games, both home and away, for supporters unable to get to the match. There are always those with work commitments, those who are on holiday, or ill, or living abroad or who are just unable to attend because they are doing something else. For these Cov supporters, social media is the only source of information on match days. It’s in Cov’s interest to keep them informed, surely?
In fairness, Birmingham Moseley provided score updates which were retweeted by Cov at times, but there was little else. A live feed on to the new website wouldn’t be hard set up but would be something appreciated by many supporters and perhaps even bring to the website supporters from other teams, too, especially those in the local area. The website is aesthetically a big improvement – it looks and feels far more user-friendly and those involved should be given much credit. But the problem with any website is, and always will be, that it has to be content driven and at the moment the content hasn’t changed greatly from what was on there before the make-over.
I’m sure it’s very much still a work in progress and that more will appear over the coming weeks, so I’m probably being a little unfair, I suppose it’s more of an observation than a criticism. I know there have been lots of suggestions floated about as to what could be included on the official website and I’m sure if the supporters were involved, they could come up with some suggestions, too.
Anyway, to Saturday’s encounter with Birmingham Moseley…
It would be totally remiss of me to comment on the game itself given my absence. However, to come back from a 14 point deficit away from home in front of a passionate crowd was really pleasing. Too often we’ve capitulated in similar situations and that we didn’t says much about the players and the ability of the management team to say/do things to change what is happening on the pitch at half time. There’s clearly a good spirit in the team already and this has to be something that bodes well for the future. By the sound of it, drastic changes weren’t needed, just a couple of tweaks here and there…
With the scrum performing as well as it is, Cov are going to cause difficulties for all the teams in National 1, but with pretty much an all-new matchday squad and a new game plan to get used to, there’s still a lot to take-in. New systems and structures aren’t as yet fully bedded in, but reading the messageboard, there’s plenty of praise from the Coventry faithful. Cov supporters aren’t always the easiest to please, yet there’s almost total unanimity amongst them that Saturday’s was a very encouraging performance with perhaps the only concern being the inability of the Cov backs to break the Moseley defences.
Everything I’ve read would seem to suggest this was a game in which both teams gave their all and the margins of error were small. Very small indeed. A missed kick, a refereeing decision, a poorly timed tackle. Nobody was at fault and it was an effort up there with the best seen by a Cov team for many a while. Indeed, Birmingham Moseley were quick to recognise the contribution made by Cov:
— B'ham Moseley Rugby (@MoseleyRugbyFC) September 10, 2016
And I missed it all! But thanks to Sam, I kind of didn’t…which goes back to the point I made earlier about more information being made available during the game.
But we’ll bounce back quickly enough.
We’ve seen how ruthless Cov can be against teams which are left exposed by our pace and ability to break quickly and I’m sure the likes of Brendan Burke and James Pritchard will working with the squad to see how best to unlock more secure defences such as that of Moseley. For me, the first half of this season is more about creating a team that is capable of pushing for a top 2-4 place come April and then going on to hopefully retain the bulk of the players over the summer to make a sustained assault the following year. Anything beyond that would be a huge bonus, although interestingly Rowland Winter’s comments in ‘The Rugby Paper’ suggest that he has already seen enough from his squad to hope for more…
I have won leagues before when we have lost the first two or three so I’m not worried. We have to respond with a backlash against Macclesfield next week and learn some lessons
It’s always difficult when reading comments taken out of context, but the above certainly seems to suggest that RW isn’t going to get too worried about a couple of defeats early on in the season.
And nor should we.
I think the comments on the messageboard are indicative of supporters’ belief that all the changes that have taken place, and those in the offing too, are in the best interests of the the club. Even the news that the proposed synthetic surface could be in situ by this time next year has met with a massive thumbs up, something that might have come up against rather more opposition a few months back.
These are interesting times indeed for Cov and the most pleasing thing at the moment is that everything the club is striving to do both on and off the field is being met with such positive support. Yes, there’ll inevitably be odd disagreements about selection and/or tactics over the coming weeks but if that is all the griping is about, then that speaks volumes for the current management and the changes they are hoping to bring to Cov in order for the club to meet head on the demands of modern day professional rugby.
The coming months are not without their potential pitfalls and whilst the club is inevitably going to be driven by results, in some respects these are no more important than what is happening behind the scenes, perhaps even less so. Cov needs to get its administrative and management structures in place alongside a winning side if it is to not only survive as a fully professional club, but also compete at the next level. That’s why I believe the recent announcement of the future partnership with Coventry United FC is so important as it paves the way for other ventures if we can find the funding for a synthetic pitch. And with Jon Sharp previously suggesting that any profit would be ploughed back into the rugby side of the business, then it can only be a good thing in the long term.
I’m a long way from home, both physically and metaphorically, but the heart suggests otherwise and it is in the happiest of places at the moment, despite Saturday’s result.
Saturday’s was a tough game by all accounts, and despite the loss Cov can take from it plenty of positives, with one or two areas that will need working on over the coming week. But this is an experienced squad, with experienced coaches who will be able prepare the players for what will be a difficult encounter next week against Macclesfield. Newly promoted they maybe, but they’ve had a couple of decent result already and Cov will need to be focused from the start if they’re to build on their own encouraging start to the season.
So, hopefully, whilst I’m sure there will be some aching bodies amongst the Coventry squad over the next 24 hours or so, there won’t be any long term injuries and Cov will once again be able to select from a strong squad eager to perform in front of a home crowd that will be full of expectancy.
Best of luck to everyone involved at Cov this week…