Deja vu…Boris, not a Zinzan, but he’ll have far more impact…

Posted on the Messageboard last week:

There are several questions that need answers.  Are prices too high, for entry, at the bar and for hospitality?  What are the club doing to market the facilities on offer?  The match day experience is sadly lacking, no shop, no mascot, no entertainment all detract from the “feel good factor”.  There are no weekly updates sent to supporters via email, the website is simply dreadful and communication to the fan base non-existant (sic).  It is not just the media, the club can make these things happen, on field we are doing ok, please sort out the off field activity.

Recognise it?

Probably not…

… because when I wrote ‘the’ Messageboard I should actually have written ‘a’ Messageboard…

Plymouth Albion’s to be precise.

A case of Déjà vu?

Yes. It could well have been taken from Cov’s own Messageboard (which is a far better website, by the way!) pretty much any time last season from October onwards.

I’ve included it because it’s easy to forget just how much has been achieved in these last few months and, had there not been a willingness on the part of Jon Sharp to take on board the substantial re-branding of the club, we could well have been reading something very similar again this season, both on the Messageboard and on this blog.

We’ve come a long way from those dark days when many supporters, myself included, felt it was very much an ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario with supporters concerned by the widening gap between themselves and the club. Thanks to the appointment of John Wilkinson and a willingness on the part of the coaches to give regular updates , that is no longer the case at all.

The concerns listed in the above Plymouth post are very much those that Cov supporters were expressing pre-Rowland Winter and it’s hard not to empathise with Albion fans who have been through some pretty lean times over the last couple of seasons and for whom there doesn’t seem to be much hope of change in the near future.

Whilst we still are waiting for a club shop (more the fault of the distributors than of Cov’s) and results aren’t yet where we need them to be, all other concerns have been remedied.

The ‘feel good factor’ has returned, for me at least.

The club is far more open than it ever was, news is shared, questions are answered quickly and in public and there is a structured mid to long-term plan in place which makes sense of everything currently happening at the BPA.

But I do understand that there are those for whom the honeymoon period is already over and who are beginning to question the results and the wisdom in making such wholesale changes at the end of last season. For many, supporting a team has to be results driven and that’s the bottom line. If you’re losing more games than you’re winning, then that’s a big problem and one that isn’t sustainable.

Which of course is absolutely true.

And which is why, for me, Jon Sharp’s decision to bring in a new DoR and a fresh set of coaches was exactly the right decision. Won 13 lost 15 at the end of a season we were told would be one where we would be vying for the promotion spot.

Things had to change.

And nothing’s happened to persuade me otherwise, nor will for a long time yet. And, even if the win/losses ended up pretty much the same, I’ll still not have the knives out. Year 2 is the real test for me…provided we hold our own this season and there is clear evidence that we are moving in the right direct, then I’m for the long haul.

10 DoRs in 13 years. Time to regroup.

A season to get everything in place to support a push for promotion…and then let’s see where we go.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an alternative viewpoint, one that’s been voiced on the Messageboard and via comments on this blog. It’s healthy to exchange thoughts and feelings and through such exchanges we are better placed to make informed judgements.

Me, I have a foot firmly in the Winter camp because I’m looking beyond the next 6 months, and whilst results are disappointing I believe that they will pick up and by the end of the season we will see more than enough from the team on the pitch to believe we have a realistic chance of a sustained attempt at promotion in 24 months time.

The club is in a much healthier place than it was 12 months ago and will be in an even healthier one in another 12 months.

For too long I’ve believed that each season would be ‘our season’ yet we’ve always been left disappointed.

For the first time in a while we’ve been told that this season it probably won’t be, but we will see things change for the better and the foundations put in place for further progress. And that’s very much what appears to be happening. So I choose to believe and have faith, although that’s not for everyone…

There’s the alternative view one which goes something along the lines of Roy Thompson’s comment made yesterday:

This squad has been put together by a very inexperienced DOR. Whatever happened at Cambridge bears no comparison in this league and even less in higher leagues. COV are suffering from all the personnel thinking they are better than they are…the vacant look of fear in their eyes on away trips simply shows how mentally weak they are. This is a regular feature of most div one players and a lot of championship sides too. A few old heads and a Dave Addleton would change this behaviour, someone like a Zinzan Brooke or similar just out of the top level.

I’ve edited a couple of phrases (the full comment is available elsewhere).

Now I don’t know Roy but he has posted on here before and I like the way he says it as he sees it. I happen to disagree (strongly!), but don’t have a problem with what he’s saying; and whilst I don’t believe his thoughts are shared by anything like the majority, he’s not alone in voicing them.

It’s great that there’s the opportunity for supporters to express those views, more so on the Messageboard than on here, although I’d love to get more interaction via the blog as well.

Normally, I respond to comments individually, but I think Roy’s thoughts are worth sharing via a post. Hopefully, others will join in and Roy will get involved, too.


Rowland Winters C.V. is pretty impressive… a Divisional Championship title with Midlands Under-20, Head Coach at Bedford Athletic  (where he turned around a club that was close to folding when he arrived, and had been relegated the previous season, into a team on the verge of promotion when he left) and then Director of Rugby at Cambridge (a club which was also in a desperate situation when he took over and now are in National 1, level on points with us).

As well as working with Northampton, of course.

Young? Possibly…

Inexperienced, no.

And as long as you’re good enough…

Certainly RW has far more experience than Scott Morgan, or any of the coaches at Coventry last season, other than Phil Maynard, of course. But Phil had had plenty of opportunity to prove he was the right person to lead Coventry into the Championship and it just didn’t happen for him, despite a 3th and 4th place in the league.

And as for Dave Addleton, well I actually wrote in a couple of posts last year that I hoped Cov could find a place somewhere for Aggy, so I do agree absolutely with the ‘old heads’ comment (and good to see Rugby Lions doing so well this season). However, Gully’s appointment was a stonker really, an ‘older head’ than Dave’s and someone who understands as much as anyone just what it means to wear the Cov shirt. Me, I’d give him the changing room floor for a few minutes every now and again just to remind the players of what playing for Cov is all about…

And for Zinzan, read Boris…maybe not quite in the same class but he’ll have just as big an impact. More if you look at the way the scrum is performing this season. Zinzan was a massive coup for Cov, but did he make a significant difference to the results for the couple of season he was here?

4th in what was then the equivalent of the Championship the season before he arrived, 6th the season he played..

I’m not convinced. Still a great player to watch though.

As a Coventry supporter, I’m just grateful to have seen both wear the Coventry shirt.

Where I would take real issue with Roy is where he mentions ‘personnel thinking they are better than they are’. I just don’t get that at all, and certainly haven’t seen anything to indicate that is the case.

In fact, I think the reverse is true…

Cov have a strong squad, a very strong squad who I believe to be, player for player, a fair bit stronger than that of last season (now there’s a poll and a half – two squads together, pick your best side…!).

However, I do think that they have yet to play as a team, certainly over a sustained period, and whereas Roy believes  that they think themselves to be better than they really are, I believe them to be lacking in confidence and struggling at the moment to play with the freedom to express themselves individually or as a team.

Brendon Snyman said something similar on the Cov website only yesterday:

I think our boys just need a little bit of confidence, and confidence can’t be given to you by anyone…You have to get it yourself, and that comes down to personal performance, so I think that this week – and even after the last three weeks – you have to look in the mirror, own up to what you did well and what you didn’t do so well, and just take ownership of it.

All players have to go through a period of acclimatisation at a new club; it’s always takes time. When you’ve got 25+ players all starting together, well it’s just not going to happen overnight.

But it will.

One of the things that has surprised me, albeit in a very pleasant way, is the number of Cambridge supporters who read the blog…maybe not regularly, but enough just to get in touch via Twitter or a pm. Clearly they still hold RW in very high regard and seem only to have praise for him. From yesterday, for example:

he’s done it twice successfully before. Just wish other clubs took note of the strategy needed…

Maybe there is a significant difference between overseeing a National 1 and a National 2 side, but I’m not sure that they’re world’s apart and even if they were, that’s no reason not to appoint someone from a lower league (apologies for the double negative there!) if they’re good enough

For those who are sceptical, then there’s always the opportunity to go down to watch the players train on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (I’d double check the Mondays!).

I hope to get down there later today; the sessions are open to everyone and Rowland Winter will always answer any questions you might have. Whereas in previous years everything seemed to be done behind closed doors, this season there’s a far more ‘open door’ policy so it’s far easier to make an informed judgement because we all have the opportunity to ask the right questions.

If it weren’t for the results, I think almost everyone would be welcoming the changes that have been taking place behind the scenes.  If that’s the case, then the only real concern is that we’re not producing the sorts of performances on the pitch that merited such wholesale change at the end of last season. But even that’s flawed…in four of the games, Moseley, Hartpury, Macclesfield and Loughborough by general consent there was much there that showed promise – it’s the two away games at Blackheath and Esher that have caused all the uncertainty.

The performances in those two games were clearly unacceptable, but we’re talking about two games out of six very early on in the season. Let’s sit back and see how things develop; if it is a matter of confidence, then we need to build the team up, not knock it down – although I do accept that’s not so easy do when you’re stuck on the motorway five and a half hours from home having watched Cov capitulate to a good, but not exceptional Blackheath side.

But they’re two games…just two games.

The coaches know they’ve got a point to prove to the Cov faithful on Saturday when the team they’ve selected take on Fylde. The players, too, will want to make amends. Fylde look like they’re starting to play with a bit more confidence than they did at the start of the season, so it will be a good test…especially as their last two wins have been against Esher and Plymouth, having lost narrowly to Blackheath (24-25).

It doesn’t get any easier, but with Cov at the moment it’s as much about character as it is about ability.


Cov by 12 points…










6 thoughts on “Deja vu…Boris, not a Zinzan, but he’ll have far more impact…

  1. Hi Paul…I’m certainly remaining positive and from what I saw and heard on Tuesday, so are the coaches and players. Both the concerns you’ve expressed were at the heart of Tuesday night’s training, so fingers crossed. The players do need to pull the stops out on Saturday just to put the knockers to bed for a while…

  2. Hi Jeff…hope all is well. I totally agree that defeats like those against Blackheath and Esher help to strengthen a squad’s character…it definitely helps toughen you up…wish it worked with supporters too. Happy for Cov to be entertainers, but first they need to be winners…getting the balance right is going to be crucial. Should be an entertaining game on Saturday – two teams that throw the ball around…

  3. Yes…I’m sure the players will be hurting a lot. They’ll need to make amends thus weekend in front of a hole crowd that will expect a vastly improved performance. Many of the players could have played themselves out of the team for the Fylde game. Selection could be interesting for Sat!

  4. Many fans who went to Esher and spoke to various people will be the one’s who turn up week in and week out. The people who are hurting the most will be the players common thought among them today . Being selection time will I be in the team this weekend. I like being positive about this the last game has gone ,lost. This weekend playing at BPA we will see a different a performance from the whole squad i am sure. So the sixteenth man has to come into play. If the gate is down do not be downhearted as Mark Harrison said “Build it and they will come” I know he pinched it but the story remains the same.

  5. Hi tim cov supporters are the most passionate supporters I have seen in this league. With a squad in progress games like blackheath and esher will always be on the cards. Although disappointing I think it builds bonds and makes the players better for it.I have seen enough to think it will come together and become consistent. and when they start to fire on all cylinders I think they have got the makings of being the entertainers of this league. Let them have a none uniform at home on sat and put things right.there are hard games and harder games in this league and cov will have to work hard for everything they get.good luck cov see you Saturday .

  6. Hi Tim, another good post. Too many are slating the lack of success. As you say, six games in… not a complete disaster and this season was always meant to be about rebuilding. Whilst some of the performances have been disappointing, I don’t feel there is anything to worry about just yet! There are far more positive signs than negative. My two main concerns is the apparent lack of ideas in attack and therefore breaking through defences and also some shocking defence at times. It will come…
    Onwards and upwards .

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