Club talk

Silk purses and sows’ ears…

I’m ashamed to say that I know very little about the town of Macclesfield.

Other than two things…macca

The first is that my wife’s parents are both buried there which, whilst interesting in itself, is of no relevance to anyone reading this post.

The second, though, perhaps is.

Albeit loosely.

Macclesfield is famous for it’s historical connection to the silk trade.

And the huge shake up currently taking place within Coventry Rugby Club at the moment reminds me very much of the old proverb that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

For several seasons we tried to do just that, create a quality product from the wrong materials. The infrastructure was wrong, the management struggled and we cut our cloth according to our means and in so doing, we failed to ensure we had the right materials for the product we were trying to sell.

In the last few months, however, Rowland Winter has brought in what he feels are the right people, players and coaches alike, to match the style of rugby he wants to see played at the BPA and the performances, if not all the results, are beginning to speak for themselves.

That’s why so many players weren’t retained at the end of last season…not because they weren’t good players…they clearly were…but because they wouldn’t have suited the new style of play under RW.

The silkier, smoother and more expansive rugby of this season against the rather more attritional forward dominated rugby of last season*.

…silk purses and sows’ ears.

A new leadership, a different vision and a more effective use of the resources available and suddenly it looks as if it’s a whole different…well, ball game, really. In retrospect, the players have struggled in recent years because the systems and structures just weren’t there. We lacked someone with the vision to recognise the need for them and the drive to put them in place.

When Rowland Winter spoke to supporters a back in May, one of the first things he said was that the club needed to be far more professional in its approach both on and off the pitch.

And in order for this to happen, he needed first to get the management/coaching structures in place prior to establishing a full-time squad.

In effect, it was a top down reorganisation to ensure that Coventry becomes not only competitive in National 1 but also, looking further ahead, in the Championship too.

This week’s appointment of Nick Walshe is another step in the right direction, together with the 5 other support staff (although I think a couple of them were confirmations rather than announcements?). Perhaps one of the areas we have struggled a little in, especially against the Championship sides pre-season and more recently against Moseley last week, is turning territorial dominance into points. NW’s appointment should help address this and put points on the board in situations where at the moment we arent’ quite able to do so.

The club must be streets ahead of its rivals in National 1 now in terms of its coaching practices as well as in the support available to injured players or those recuperating from injury. Whilst the benefits won’t be seen overnight, as the season progresses I’m sure we’ll begin to reap the benefits of the club’s investment in its coaching  and support staff. Not only would you hope players will become fitter, stronger and faster, but also  that the squad will be able to avoid the sheer number of injuries we suffered last season. Those that do occur can hopefully be dealt with in a quicker and more effective way, allowing players to return to the game sooner than perhaps they might have done otherwise…?

Obviously there will still be the freak accidents, as was the case with Dan Rundle last year. Such injuries which can never be prevented, but all things being equal, we should see a significant difference…

For me, the openness that RW has shown from the start and his willingness to explain what his long term vision for the club is means that it is far easier to assimilate such changes. Everything makes sense and we can see how the club is building for the future.

Last season, the reverse was true.

Every change that occurred in management, or in terms of a strengthening of the squad, was a reaction to a negative. Remember the rush of players that came in late September and following the end of the World Cup (Mieres and Carpo etc) when results plummeted and criticism of the summer signings began to divide the supporters, if not the club..? Or the appointment of a new forwards’ coach (whose name I can’t even recall now…eek) or the sideways move of Phil Maynard to allow Scott Morgan to have complete control of playing affairs. Or even RW’s initial appointment…

Such decisions were somewhat divisive amongst many supporters because a) they were always seen as panic moves and b) they were never seen as part of a longer term plan. It wasn’t until RW spoke to supporters initially through the website and via the Telegraph and that first members’ forum that we began to understand how things were moving forward.

To many supporters, it was all reactive rather than proactive. Or perhaps I shouldn’t speak for anyone else other than myself; that’s how it seemed to me at the time.

Since RW’s arrival we’ve had the relative luxury of being informed about the direction the club is moving in, so it’s easy to see just why these additions to the backroom staff are so important. RW has talked on more than one occasion about the huge shift needed to set up the structures and systems that will allow the players to be competitive at National 1 and above. This is just another piece in the jigsaw, just one more example of how he is continuing to develop the club and make it more equipped to play its part in the modern professional era. He is putting his own stamp on things, one which is becoming instantly recognisable.

If asked to explain what the ‘new’ Cov is  all about, both in terms of what we’re seeing on the pitch and what is happening behind the scenes, then I think most supporters would be able to give it a decent go. Asked a similar question last season, or in previous seasons, and I think most of us would have struggled to provide an answer, certainly one that included anything to do with long term planning or vision. That’s not to say it didn’t happen, it’s just a comment on the fact that supporters weren’t privy to what was happening.

I’m sure there are those who no longer want to go hark to previous seasons to highlight some of the club’s failings and I can quite understand that, but it is necessary to do so sometimes just to put the current changes taking place into some sort of context.

What is happening at the BPA at the moment is as big as anything I can recall for a long time…probably in many respects bigger than the decision to leave Coundon Road even. Whilst the move back in 2003 was huge, little else changed and the philosophies, if not the faces, remained pretty similar. The financial crises Cov faced on a couple of occasions in the last 20 years were undoubtedly of greater significance, but for different reasons obviously. However, what we’re witnessing at the moment is truly ground-breaking in terms of Coventry’s potential resurgence as a national force in club rugby. This could be the beginning of our renaissance and that is hugely exciting.

  • (lest we forget, Cov score just 9 4-try bonus points last season in their 30 games, which put us equal 13th in the league. The 2015/16 season wasn’t the greatest as far as a spectacle of entertaining rugby goes)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The announcement of the team to play Macclesfield on Saturday has brought with it one or two surprises.

Minor injuries to a number of players mean that 5 of those players retained from last season are in the starting XV, something that I’m sure will give an added interest to the home crowd, many of whom will be delighted to see the return of Rundle, Knox, MacBurnie , Poole and Brown to the same Cov team. The fact that these players (with the exception of Andy Brown) have had to wait their chances for a first team appearance says much for the strength of the current squad. In fairness, Callum started training a little later than the other and picked up an injury (I think), and Dan, Rob and Tom have all been recovering from injuries, too, so opportunities have been somewhat limited for the four of them in particular.

And now that they’re back. The shirt is theirs for the taking and all they can do is put in a performance that makes it difficult for RW to ignore their performances. I’m pleased to see the Knox/MacBurnie pairing again. The experiment to play Rob out on the wing hasn’t seemed to have worked particularly and Corey Hircock probably is the better option out wide…realistically, Tom Wheatcroft is a sure fire starter when he’s been given the all clear following what looked a pretty nasty knock against Loughborough, so I’m not convinced Rob and Callum have got long together in the centres, but they have the chance to make their case and it’s up to them to take it.

The inclusion of Dan will delight many on the Messageboard and probably add a few to the gate as well. However, clearly the coaches feel that Dan is by no means the finished article and whilst his raw speed is going to always cause defences problems, I really hope he does enough to show that he is learning under the watchful eyes of messrs Pritchard, Burke and Winter. He is so exuberant and enthusiastic and at times is almost irrepressible. As a supporter, he is a delight to watch because he brings his charisma  onto the pitch…but he can be frustrating and there are obviously concerns about some areas of his play. It would be lovely to see him turn it on against Macclesfield both in defence and attack – a complete performance to show the coaches that he is taking on board their comments. It’s a big, big opportunity for Dan and I really hope he grasps it with both hands.

I was really pleased to see Tom Poole retained at the back end of last season. Competition in the second row this season is going to be as strong as it is anywhere in the team, so I hope that alongside Brendon Snyman, Tom can show his worth. With Tom Jubb suspended, but looking every inch the part up to now, and Rob Conquest presumably not too far away from a return, Tom will need to have a decent game to put himself up the pecking order…no mean task. But what a great position for the club to be in…

And congratulations to Andy Brown…I wish he and his family all the very best. A wonderful moment in his life and one that will shape it for ever more.  With Boris on the sidelines, it will be interesting to see how he, Scott Tolmie and Phil Boulton get on in the front row. So far this season, any permutation of the six available front rowers seems to have worked, so it shouldn’t be any different this weekend. That’s the theory, anyway.

I’m delighted to see Rhodri Adamson get a starting place…I’m sure he’ll become a crowd favourite over the next couple of seasons if he remains at Cov. He’s a talented player and with Sam Grasso to learn from, and Pete White yet to appear, Cov are also blessed with real strength at scum half…I haven’t even mentioned Alex Smit either, a player who has performed well this season whenever he’s been called upon. Will Maisey has looked promising since his return to Cov; I seem to remember that his kicking out hand let him down a little in his first spell at the BPA, but this seems to have improved a great deal. He is an excellent distributor of the ball and seems to fit in well with RW’s expansive approach to the game.

Brett Daynes’ inclusion in the starting XV is also welcome, especially because I remember him from his previous spell at the club during which time he was pretty much an ever present until he picked up an injury in his final season with us. There are plenty of options in the back row and I suppose it’s a question of ‘horses for courses’ at the moment.

Macclesfield is definitely one of those potential banana skins that in previous years we’ve tended to slip up on all too frequently. I’ll be really interested to see just how we fare against them.

It’s also the last game I’ll miss, so once again I’ll be glued to my son’s Twitter commentary, something for which I am extremely grateful and I can assure him he’ll be getting his reward a long time before he gets to heaven, something which is probably very much in doubt these days anyway…

Good luck to everyone involved in the Macclesfield game…players, coaches and supporters alike.

Looking forward to the trip to Blackheath…tickets booked for the coach already (presuming it runs?).

 

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4 replies »

  1. Good stuff, Tim, as ever. And yes, the coach will be running to Blackheath. At the moment (Friday morning) there are, I think, twelve bookings. We expect there to be many more tomorrow.

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  2. Interesting reading Tim. So whens’ Sam going to do a blog ?. Hope the attendance is going to improve this Saturday. Most people last weekend where quite up beat even though we had lost. The whole squad gave their all on the day. As fans we can not fail to see and support this new attitude.

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    • It sounded a really good Cov performance, especially in the forwards. Should be interesting to see how a much changed team gets on against Macclesfield. See you soon!

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