Esher this weekend – it’s like falling off a bike…
When this season’s fixture list was first published, I was interested in three dates in particular.
Those of the home and away games against Moseley and the away game at Esher.
And the Esher game is just three days away…
On the face of it, I guess for most supporters Saturday’s visit to Molesey Road won’t have quite the appeal of some of the other away trips, but for me, well it’s something I’ve been waiting for these last 11 months…
…ever since the 7th November 2015 to be exact…
More often than not I have to check up on such dates. Not so this time. It’s been etched onto my memory and nothing is going to wipe it completely clean.
A win on Saturday would help…but the pain of that defeat is something that will linger on.
In the six seasons Cov has been in National 1, it has played 185 games (including the 5 this season) winning 94, drawing 9 and losing 82. As a guestimate, I have probably seen 65 – 70% of the games in all, give or take. So, very roughly, I’ve seen between 55 and 60 of those defeats, although sometimes it feels rather more.
And the one defeat that stands out above all others is the one against Esher last season.
It was a veritable rout and Coventry were left battered and bruised come the end of the 80 minutes. As a result, concerns that had been expressed by spectators prior to the game about the mood within the Cov camp and about rifts amongst the players themselves, and between players and coaches, began grow both in number and in intensity.
For me, it was a critical moment in Cov’s season, a clear indication that there had to be change, and it had to be made quickly and decisively.
The dual announcement of Phil Maynard’s appointment to the ‘enhanced role’ of managing director of CRL and Scott Morgan’s promotion to Head of Rugby came some 5 weeks later…
Too little, too late as it happened.
But no one was to know that at the time.
Things hadn’t been going smoothly for some time prior to the Esher game. Cov had played 8 games by then, with 4 wins and 4 losses to its name. The successes of the pre-season and the opening two league games had long been forgotten. The club’s ambitious statement of intent back in August that this was to be the season it was to make a concerted assault on the title was fast becoming risible.
The combined leadership of Messrs. Maynard and Morgan was already under considerable pressure from disillusioned supporters who weren’t sure who was making the decisions and who were beginning to question the quality of the players recruited in the summer…
…unfairly I felt, but that’s for a different day.
The build up to the game didn’t have the best of starts, with Scott Morgan confirming that there had been what I can only be described as ‘clearing the air talks’ early that week:
We sat down with the squad and talked everything through, they had their views on things, and as a result I think we’ve got the right environment back again…
It didn’t bode well…’we’ sat down but ‘they’ had their views on things. That suggests division at some level or another and the fact that they got the ‘right environment again’ maybe indicates the coaches had begun, temporarily at least, to lose the changing room.
Just prior to these comments, an e-letter had been sent by the club to all members (one of the rare examples of communication between club and supporters emanating from the BPA at that time). Whilst it should have been welcomed by members (and maybe it was…?) for me it was an unmitigated PR disaster, seeming to put the blame squarely on the players, especially those players who had come in prior to the pre-season:
One of the goals during the off season was to assemble a group of players who could make a charge for promotion and to try and achieve that without loan players…we all believed we had achieved this, but the warning signs are clearly there…
I still wince a bit when I read it even now and I can’t help but feel that the contents of the e-letter might well have had something to do with Scott M and Phil M having to sit down with the players days before the Esher game. Certainly it didn’t appear to help the situation, merely fueling the flames as far as I was concerned.
And, after what seemed like a long week of uncertainty, we made our way to Esher feeling that things might have been resolved and we could at last get back to watching some rugby.
Reports of the game are available elsewhere, but needless to say we were outplayed in all areas. It was embarrassing to watch at times. By the end of the game, even the Esher supporters were feeling sorry for a Coventry side that had no answer to the power and pace of the home team which at the time was on a decent run and full of confidence. Third in the table with 4 consecutive wins behind them, they were 6 places and 10 points ahead of us…and how it showed.
They did us over, good and proper.
Boy did it hurt…
One of the benefits of the blog is that I can go back and remind myself of past events and re-read what I wrote at the time. The post after the Esher game makes for interesting reading.
I was clearly still frustrated when I wrote it:
Punch drunk I think they call it. Punch drunk.
Cov’s fixtures (might well have to) be postponed for the next three weeks, the result of the concussion the club sustained this afternoon.
Cov took a real beating. It was awful to watch.
I think the events leading up to the game, together with Coventry’s woeful performance on the day, conspired to produce a degree of invective from me that hasn’t been repeated quite as strongly anywhere else in the blog.
In the same post, and remember it was still early November, I wrote:
Are we coming to an end of the Maynard/Addleton/Glackin/Hamilton/Morgan era?
Have they taken the club as far as they can with the resources available, resources which are a great deal better than most other teams in the league?
An honest answer? Yes, I think we probably are.
In my defence, the Messageboard had been saying something similar for a couple of weeks by then, so whilst in isolation it looks pretty damning, in context it was probably far less so than some of the other comments being made at the time. And I did go on to say that I thought Scott should be given the reins independently of anyone else and with enough time to turn things around…
I have to say though, Scott’s comments immediately after the game didn’t help his cause. He was probably still a bit shell-shocked when, interviewed by either The Rugby Post or a local paper, he admitted:
This is the same group of players that we had last year. What’s gone wrong?
Remarks like that showed that, as nice as Scott seemed, he was struggling as a coach at this level. If he didn’t know the reasons…well, it kind of begs a question. He certainly shouldn’t have been admitting it in public. And of course it wasn’t the same group of players and by suggesting it was, he’d dismissed the efforts of some very good players.
The Esher game was the turning point for me. Things couldn’t be allowed to continue as they were. The players were very loyal publicly to the coaches, but rumours of tensions within the club were rife. The cracks were appearing.
I rarely take photos after a game, but the look on Matt Price’s face after the Esher defeat speaks volumes. Matt is a Coventry player through and through and it’s not hard to imagine how he was feeling when that photo was taken. Shock, disbelief and massive disappointment spring to mind.
I’ve included it here because it’s a reminder that however frustrated supporters might feel…players feel it a great deal more.
Everything about his body language shows how much that result hurt.
Tough as it was at the time, those weeks leading up to Christmas were the catalyst for change and had it not come to a head, who knows how much worse things would have had to become before the club acted.
But however painful it all was, I’m glad it moved us on to where we are now.
A better place, a safer place.
And that’s why I’m looking forward so much to the trip down to Esher. I’m expecting it to be somewhat cathartic…
It’s like falling off a bike…
…you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and you get back on.
Only with a bike, you don’t have to wait the best part of a year to learn your lesson..
News of Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club intention to hold an evening event for its members in which an experienced referee hosts a discussion with Coventry players and coaches will I’m sure be greeted with plenty of interest.
The timing couldn’t be any better, coming as it does so soon after the Hartpury game and the post-match confusion over the referee’s decision not to award Coventry a penalty try – now happily resolved, I’m pleased to say.
Rowland Winter has given it his full support and will ensure players and coaches are available once a date has been decided. The idea is to make it entertaining as well as informative and it will be a great opportunity to hear from players of their own first hand experiences of the laws in action and comparing their interpretations with those of the referee, as well as a few anecdotes, no doubt.
It would be interesting to hear, for instance, Boris’ view of events leading up to the two Hartpury yellow cards, as well as what we should be looking out for in the scrums and some of the ways props try to take get an advantage over their opponents, legally or otherwise.
The referee that the CRSC Committee has been speaking to has a lot of experience of hosting this kind of event, ensuring it’s both informal and interesting. Obviously, whether the evening goes ahead or not will be depend on how much interest is expressed in it by CRSC members. Given that there’s no cost involved, I’m hoping it will be attended. It might be that it’s opened up to non-members who would pay a nominal amount.
Opportunities for players and spectators to come together, away from the match day scenario, don’t happen that often but if this proves successful, I’m sure other events will follow.
Many thanks to everyone who voted in yesterday’s poll.
If you haven’t yet done so, you still have the rest of the day to give it a go.
Who do you rate most amongst the Coventry Head Coaches/Directors of Rugby over the last 13 years…?
All you need to do is choose who you feel have been the TWO best Coventry HCs/DoRs appointments in the last 13 years, prior to Rowland Winter’s arrival.
The criteria you decide upon to make your choice is entirely up to you.
Please do vote…I’ll close the poll at the end of tomorrow.
This is the same group of players that we had last year. What’s gone wrong?