Many a tear has to fall
But it’s all
In the game
All in the wonderful game
That we know as…
Ok, maybe the Four Tops (or for the purists Nat King Cole or even Tommy Edwards) were talking about love, but in both you tend win some, lose some and, if you’re very lucky, you might even get a score draw…
Judging by the comments on the messageboard and from those I’ve seen or heard elsewhere, there are a number of very unhappy supporters frustrated with the team’s current form and beginning to question what is happening on the pitch, whilst remaining supportive of the changes taking place off it.
They are the thoughts of supporters who travelled to the game, who are Coventry through and through and understand the club’s recent past and know where the club has come from and where, hopefully, it is heading to.
In that context, they are remarks that have to be both listened to and taken seriously.
Plenty of tears then…and all in the game.
But I have to say, whilst sharing many of the same frustrations and disappointments over our last two away games, mine is a somewhat different view to many of those expressed.
And one that’s rather more optimistic.
And please bear with me here…
What’s happening at Cov at the moment reminds me very much of the massive changes that took place in education in the early ’90s, changes that fundamentally altered what was happening in schools and, whilst they had a massive impact on standards in the long term, they caused plenty of upheaval and upset for a while before they were embedded in to everyday routines. Regular summative assessments, league tables, the measuring of impact against target all became the norm…in short, a far more empirical, scientific approach to learning. For too long schools had drifted along with little in the way of accountability of standards…and then along came Ofsted. And whatever you might think about that august body, it has certainly played its part in improving the quality of learning in our schools.
And rather like schools pre-Ofsted, for too long Coventry Rugby Club drifted from one year to the next; at least from this supporter’s perspective.
I say drifted, but actually it’s been a steady decline from the halcyon days of the 70’s and early 80s, and the equivalent of top tier rugby, to that of tier 3.
And we haven’t excelled there either.
With the exception of a few brief weeks in the 2014/15 season, we haven’t looked like ever getting out of this league, in fact the closest to achieving an escape was in 2012 when we finished in 13th place, one position off the relegation places…
For the last 20 years or so being a Coventry supporter has required a fair amount of forbearance and resolve…
A lot has been said about the way Scott Morgan’s departure was handled by the club and that’s now water under the bridge…in fact it’s well beyond the bridge and heading out towards the estuary of time, so I’m not about to linger on the whys and wherefores.
What I will say though is that when Rowland Winter’s appointment was announced and he detailed the plans he had for the club in terms of a complete overhaul of the rugby side of the business, it seemed to me that this was the radical change we needed. Players weren’t going to be offered the kind of salaries they been on before, accountability in terms of fitness and increased requirements in training were to be routine and all areas of player well-being from rehab, to fitness and endurance work through to nutrition and diet were going to be monitored far more closely. RW stressed that he wanted to get these structures in place first and then build a team around them that would ultimately push for promotion. No time frames, no false promises.
Underlying that would be a development squad that would feed into the main group of players, with the intention that this would eventually lead to a junior section and/or a second team, with improved links with local junior teams from in and around the Coventry area. Further, RW hoped that he would be able to move towards a completely full-time squad.
The remit he and Jon Sharp have agreed is huge and in only three months much of it has already been achieved and what hasn’t been is certainly being addressed, with regular updates keeping us informed of progress.
It seemed the right thing for the club then…
…it seems the right thing still.
Nothing has changed to make me question what’s happening, on or off the pitch.
So, far from being downbeat, I’m of the opinion that actually the club has taken big strides in all sorts of areas and that the long term future is an optimistic one, provided that RW can continue to work within the increasingly tough financial constraints the club is having to endure as a result of a difficult business climate at the moment. With far less news coming from the club as to how it is managing financially and, in particular, whether it is able to continue increasing income streams into the club, we can only hope that progress is as also being made there too.
However, I totally accept that for many supporters the only measure of a team’s success, or failure, is the number of games the team is winning or losing. Many of the improvements being made off the pitch are of secondary importance, and actually of little interest, if results aren’t concomitant with the speed of change. And that’s understandable – as a supporter you pay your £15 entrance fee and in doing so you hope to see a Coventry win. See three or four defeats on the trot and unless you’re really committed to the cause, then frustrations will always get the better of you.
No scrub that, even if you’re committed to the cause…
But we are in this for the long haul. What is happening within Cov at the moment is about far more than just one season’s results, it’s about a fundamental change in the club’s approach to professional rugby, an attempt to move it into a new era and to move supporters with it, too. It’s a long term plan for a long term solution which is one of the reasons why Rowland Winter won’t commit himself to a time frame on the playing front…the best he’ll do is look at mini-leagues of six week blocks and look for improvement from one block to the next. And we’ve only just completed block one.
Six games gone. Just six games.
Yesterday, Warren Low made the very pertinent point about seeing this season as something of a ‘loss leader’, a discounted product for those who brought a season ticket but one which over the 30 games will offer the promise of better, brighter future in the seasons to come. And I rather think that’s where I am too.
Yes, I’d hoped that we would have a better start to the season than the one we’ve had, but I was ready for a bumpy ride following last year’s problems. When this season started it was all about wanting to see change, change that will at some stage in the next couple of years enable coaches and players to move on from where we are now to a position where we can challenge the top teams in our league for promotion into the Championship.
We have the players to do that, something we found out against Hartpury, but we don’t have the team to do it as yet, not consistently anyway.
I do believe things are happening to create an environment where the team can thrive, but changes off the field have happened much more quickly than those on it. There is a squad, a squad that most supporters, but not all by any means, agree is good enough to be challenging for the top of this league. But as yet performances aren’t consistent…2 wins, 2 very poor results and 2 losses that we can taken a lot of positives from. It’s not the start we wanted, but it’s hardly time to press the alarm button…although the manner of the Blackheath and Esher defeats is a concern.
Of course supporters are right to ask questions and the one thing we know is that Rowland Winter won’t shy away from answering them. Indeed, he has contacted the Supporters’ Club asking it to send out an invitation to supporters to come along to the evening training sessions and see what’s happening and to ask of him exactly those sorts of difficult questions. Whilst results like Saturday’s are never scripted, they do happen and they need to be put right and there will be no lack of effort on his part or those of the players and coaches in addressing the areas of weakness and ensuring that the team that goes out onto the pitch on Saturday is the one that is best equipped to beat Fylde.
It’s still ridiculously early in the season, or in the life of the new management team, to be making long-term judgements about players, coaches or the club in general. I’m sure supporters will get behind the team on Saturday and we’ll see a vastly improved performance. Cov have enjoyed playing in front of the best supported club in the league and whilst other clubs would argue otherwise, the best supporters, too – at one point in the second half at Esher Coventry supporters completely drowned out the noise of the Esher support; it made my spine tingle.
An awesome response from the crowd to what was a less than awesome display on the pitch.
The players and the coaches have acknowledged just how poor we were and it’s incumbent on us to do our bit again on Saturday, just as I’m sure the players will be doing all they can to put right the errors made against Esher and Blackheath. That’s not to say we don’t voice frustrations and even anger when things go so wrong on the pitch in the future, but I do hope come Wednesday or Thursday of this week we’re focusing on Fylde and talking more of how hard the players have been training to put things right, rather than on the Esher game. There are still 24 games left.
I’m just trying to think about the bigger picture and not a few games in isolation. I certainly don’t want to end up being an apologist for the club, there are others better suited to that role. But we do need to show a bit of realism here…
…early days, some great things being done off the pitch, not so many on it at the moment, but a determination amongst the coaches and players and supporters to sort things out quickly there too.
The club is in the process of making choices and implementing decisions that will go some way to ensure the long-term future of the club. If it means that we lose a few games on the way and a slower start to the season than we had hoped for, well it’s a small price to pay.
But maybe that’s not quite the way others see it.
Whilst I probably shouldn’t and in doing so I run the risk of incurring the wrath of a few readers of this blog, I thought I’d just make a brief comment on the post on the Messageboard from a ‘Scott Morgan’, although I am sceptical that it is the real SM as it just doesn’t seem the sort of statement he would make…
I understood that when Scott left the club back in May he was going to be working in an advisory capacity for Cov, acting as a scout for the Wales/West areas, whilst further developing his own business interests – if that is the case, then such a posting would seem particularly odd given that his comments are directed towards the supporters and against the club…?
If it is really Scott, and apologies if that is the case, then it does seem a little mischievous given the ‘motorway mercenaries’ remark. Scott’s not daft and having been the target of a few less than positive posts himself last season, he would know exactly the sort of response that a post of this nature would create. I just don’t accept that he would want to be seen as someone out to cause trouble to a club that he clearly felt great affinity towards, even in the final weeks of his tenure. I’m not sure it’s even in his nature to do something like that.
Criticising the players who played yesterday, several of whom were the same players he himself placed such faith in last season (Knox, Rundle, Hodgson and Price), would be a very strange thing to do and, in addition, Scot never had a bad word to say of anyone in his squad, even in the darkest times.
And whenever anyone opens a sentence ‘with all due respect’, you know exactly what that person is really thinking.
I prefer to think it is someone with a somewhat Machiavellian streak in them who wants to destabilise things and turn supporters against the new management of the club, and as such it is best ignored.
As I said, I could well be wrong, but I just don’t see Scott’s hand in that post (smiley face – get real!); he never struck me as someone who would bear a grudge so publicly.
But I have been wrong before…
Many, many times.
And just because I can…
2 minutes of pure nostalgia.