Club talk

Coventry v Blaydon – El Condor Pasa and ‘Teflon Dom’

Me, I’m very much old school when it comes to Coventry Rugby Club.

I’ve witnessed the halcyon days of the late 60s and early 70s, the beginnings  of merit tables with Coventry one of the top clubs in the country back then, the introduction of league tables and Coventry’s relegation from Courage National 1 (or the Premiership as it is now) and then the slow but steady decline to where we are now – a mid-table National 1 team.

Third division in old money…

But a mid table team with a new lease of life…a belief that better times are at last in sight under a dynamic and ambitious management team supported by an equally ambitious Chairman; a combination that will, before too long, take us up into the Championship and a step closer to where Coventry belong.

The promised land…

The Premiership and back with the big boys.

The RFU want us back there, the top clubs want us back there, the sport needs Coventry back there…

As I said…I’m old school. Coventry are a sleeping giant, too big for National 1. We should be at the top of the pile again.

We deserve to be there.

Okay…we don’t and nor do I believe it, or most of it.

But having watched Cov’s painful descent into insolvency and virtual demise back in 1999 and again in 2008, there is part of me that still clings to Cov’s glory years, to a time when Cov ruled the land with consecutive John Player Cup victories and a team that was comprised of 13 current internationals.

That might have been 40 years ago, near enough, but it seems like yesterday.

As I said…old school, me.

Old school but a realist too…we are where we are for a reason and beliefs  such as those above, however fanciful, will only ever hold the club back.

Time to move on…

blaydon

And if ever I’m in need of a reality check, a reminder of just how far this once great club has fallen, then all I need to do is to reread John Butler’s preview of Saturday’s home game against Blaydon that appeared on the official website yesterday.

In it, JB reminds us that:

To date Blaydon lead 7-3 in wins with, unusually, both games in the 2011-12 season ending as draws.

Coventry RC, based in the heart of a city of 317,000 and with an average attendance of 1033 against Blaydon RFC, based on the edge of a small town  just shy of 14,000 and with an average attendance of 229.

An FA Cup third round draw.

A David vs Goliath scenario.

On paper, a mismatch if ever there was one – yet Blaydon have a 7-3 advantage over us in matches played since 2010-11.

How have the mighty fallen..

…except we no longer are we mighty and nor have we been so for the last 35 years or more.

And before we can really move on, we have to come to terms with where we are and not where we’ve come from.  When the likes of me harp on about the golden era of yesteryear, it helps no one, least of all the club or those players who currently represent it out on the pitch.

Yes, there is a strong tradition attached to the club, a history of which we can all be rightly proud…but that’s all it is – history – and harsh as it may sound, that counts for absolutely nothing when you look at the league table.

I’m full of admiration for what clubs like Blaydon, Hull Ionians and even Wharfedale have achieved over the last 10 years or so – far more than we have in the same time period, that’s for sure.

We might be a big name, but we are in a junior league…and we deserve to be there.

There is still a patronising arrogance in me that I really don’t like, a belief that somehow we are better than other teams in this league because of where we’ve come from, whereas the reality is that whilst we’ve been on a downhill journey for many years, other clubs in this league have been on an upwards one. Not all, but certainly some.

There is no entitlement to success and nor do I have the right to believe we should be anywhere other than where we are now.

And perhaps if it’s down to getting what you deserve, then Blaydon deserves more because where Cov has consistently underachieved these past few season, maybe there’s an argument to say Blaydon has done all that can be expected of a club with such limited resources.

And that’s why Rowland Winter is just the right man for the job in my opinion.

He’s not swayed by Cov’s tradition or it’s reputation and has only known the club as one that has failed to live up to its potential year on year.  And maybe because he has been able to look at the club far more objectively than those on the inside, it has been easier for him to make the difficult decisions needed to bring the club well and truly into the ‘professional’ era.

I don’t professional just in the sense of having a full-time squad and coaches, but also in terms of offering a skill set based far more on scientific approach to sport, where technological and scientific principles can be used effectively to improve players’ physical performance.

Remember the old Simon and Garfunkel song, ‘El Condor Pasa’, the one where the lyrics are far more memorable than  the title..? One of the verses goes something along the lines of:

I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes, I would
If I only could
I surely would

Well in many respects, I’d rather be a Blaydon than a Cov…it would certainly make supporting your team that much easier. 

Blaydon continue to do well just to survive in National 1, let alone regularly beat the likes of Coventry…despite their lowly position in the league at the moment, to be a Blaydon supporter must be to feel a constant sense of pride and pleasure, a sense of achievement.

That’s not always the case supporting Cov over the years…

Don’t get me wrong, I love Cov – and everything about it. But I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ve felt an increasing sense of frustration when, season after season, despite plenty of money being made available for the acquisition of squads that we’re told are capable of top 3 or 4 finishes at the very least, we so often fail to deliver.

We’ve flattered to deceive.

This year, though, there have been no promises and Rowland Winter has expressed a desire  for supporters to see the club for what it is, rather than for what it used to be. He’s been well supported by the Chairman and the vast majority of supporters who have accepted that this season is one of regrouping and rebuilding before turning to any real thoughts of promotion.

For too long we’d never really looked like escaping from this league, other then flirting with promotion for a few weeks in the 2014/15 season and rather like a prisoner unable to escape, we’d lost a little bit of our soul…

A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound

But this season RW has sought to cut the metaphorical ties that have shackled us to our past and the club is moving into a new and exciting era in its history, one that offers supporters a new dawn.

And the sound is no longer one of sadness…

…or silence.

El Condor Pasa…

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

Remember Dom Lespierre…?

Second in the list of Cov try scorers last season with 10 (behind Matt Price with 11) and third in 2014/15 with 15 (behind Rob Knox and Dan Rundle, both on 16).

A great finisher, a player who always gave of his best and one that always seemed proud to wear the Cov shirt. Perhaps not the greatest in defence, but whilst last season was a poor one for the club, Dom was one of our more consistent players.

Well, Dom is now plying his trade with Old Elthamians down in Eltham in Surrey in National League 2 (South). I have to admit, I had search the Internet to find anything out about the Old Elthamians, such is my lack of knowledge of rugby below National 1. It appears that they are an ambitious club and one very much on the up:

Gavin Lach, Director of Rugby, has overseen two promotions in the last three seasons, taking the club from London One to their current position in National 2 South. Last season Old Elthamians finished runners-up to Dorking in National 3 LSE and then won the play-off against Redingensians from Nat 3 SW 17-10 to gain promotion.

And it seems like Dom is enjoying his time there if the match report from last Saturday’s game against Redruth is anything to go by.  The title alone is enough to suggest he’s making a big impact:

Cornish creamed by deadly Dom

A double alliteration.

Nice.

And the report pays a glowing tribute to the impact Dom’s made at OEs this season:

Dom Lespierre has been a revelation since arriving at College Meadow from National One side Coventry during the summer. Nine tries in nine games is testament to the impact the flying wing has had on OEs so far this season.

Tackles simply don’t seem to stick to Teflon Dom as Redruth found to their cost on Saturday.

He scored two tries out of nothing to turn this hugely entertaining game on its head at crucial stages in the first half – his searing pace and ability to step off either foot frightened the life out of the visitors at times.

When it was announced that Dom would be leaving, I hadn’t expected him to drop down a division, believing that either he’d head back up north to return to rugby league or stay in National 1 as I imagine he wouldn’t have been short of offers. However, with Old Elthamians in second place, just one point behind Chinnor and with a record of played 9 won 9, it would seem that he might well be making a return to National 1 after only a season away.

OEs play Chinnor next week, away from home. Whilst it certainly won’t be decisive in determining the eventual winners of National 2 (South), it will give the winning team bragging rights and a real confidence boost in the run up to the Christmas break.

Dom seems to be doing what he enjoys most, scoring tries and down a level, I’m sure Dom will continue to prosper.

I wonder how he would have fitted into the present squad?

Certainly there would have been games this season where he would have seen a far greater amount of ball than he did last season when the ball seldom got out to the wings. That said, there are greater expectations on players to be all-rounders under Rowland Winter – good with the ball, but also without it and I’m not sure that was a strength of Dom’s. He was one of the best finishers I can remember for a while, but I think he might have been found a little wanting defensively. We certainly didn’t use Dom to his strengths last season and the move was probably a good one for him, especially in the light of his current scoring record.

Hopefully, he’ll remain injury free this season and he’ll continue to get the rave revues and perhaps we’ll see him back at the BPA next season.

Unless of course…

But let’s not go down there just yet.

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

Definitely a sparrow for me…

Every time.

 

 

 

9 replies »

  1. BTW Old Elthamians are in Kent rather than Surrey. They are less than a mile from Blackheath another National 1 side

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  2. Just happened on this blog by chance. Of course by now you will know OEs are headed to National League 1 via the play-offs and Dom Lespierre was the leading try scorer in National 2 by a country mile…

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    • Hi Kevin….I think we’re all well aware of Dom’s scoring prowess at Cov – a great finisher who will get a hatful of tries in a team that provides a bit of width. Not quite so convinced when his side are on the backfoot…in the season he left when Cov struggled somewhat, defensively he wasn’t quite so convincing. Certainly he always played with heart and soul and was popular amongst most supporters…will be good to see him back at the BPA

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      • Hi Tim – many thanks for your response. Certainly will be a thrill to go to my local team the OEs and watch them against famous names from my youth such as Coventry, Fylde, Moseley and Rosslyn Park. Defensively, Dom and the team saved their best for the heroic play off final against Sale where they only had 34% possession. I think they will be quite competitive in N1. Our home ground College Meadow is a clubhouse and school playing fields at the moment but the club has planning permission for new facilities including a stand which I hope will be in place by the time Coventry visits.

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      • To be honest, Coventry’s record against teams in the greater London area isn’t great and if we are looking at a top three finish, then we’re going to have to start winning more consistently on our travels. There are a couple of other grounds in National One…Ampthill and Loughborough spring to mind, so if you do go to away games, wrap up warm! Looking forward to visiting OEs, always enjoy visiting new friends.

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  3. Tim, it’s somehow reassuring to know there are kindred spirits who share what might be described as the ‘curse’ of watching Cov in the glory days.

    I’m usually asked by my wife, on my return home after the game, whether Cov have won, to which I’ll often ironically reply ‘yes, we managed to beat mighty…(enter the name of any of our National League One opponents)’

    You’re right, it’s not a healthy or helpful attitude – and it’s patronising to our fellow league members – but it’s one that’s hard to shake.

    With so little left of those days within the structure of the club – apart from maybe Peter Rossborough – maybe now is the time to move on and appreciate Cov for what it is rather than what it was a very long time ago.

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    • I have a very similar conversation with mine, only she usually adds a comment on the lines of ‘Oh..I didn’t know x played rugby’…just for effect. This is the ideal time for someone to begin supporting Cov…no baggage and the prospect of a really interesting couple of seasons ahead of us.

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  4. Great Blog Tim
    I am surprised you never found room to insert “the Boss”
    “Glory days, well they’ll pass you by
    Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
    Glory days, glory days”
    As stated before, i was not a “Supporter” in the halcyon days, so for me it is very much about the last 4 seasons and the journey we have taken, which i always allude to as being a Roller coaster.
    I have no long term memories to compare so maybe that is a blessing in some regards because i don’t really know what i am missing! However i am enjoying the ride thus far.
    I am also a firm believer that the “table does not lie” theory, you are as good as your table position, how good you were in the past is just that, the past. The memories for those of you who did witness the glory days are there to be cherished but should not be a hindrance, we must all look to the future and what is being built and established at the club, in regards to the Team Management, the Squad, the communication and of course the success of the Supporters club, has in reality happened in a very short period of time.
    Can we ever get into to the Premiership, who knows? with all the shenanigans going on with ring fencing, it may make it impossible anyway, but we can certainly get back into the Championship and that is something that we can all look forward to!

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    • Hi Phil – yep ‘Glory Days’ would have been a good option but you have given me a great way into the next post!!!

      Absolutely agree with the ‘table doesn’t lie’ argument – all the things you’ve mentioned in your comment do suggest that we are on the cusp of a new era in Cov’s history, perhaps one that will be looked at as fondly in the years to come as some of us remember the bygone times of the 60s and 70s. But above all, it’s about enjoying the moment rather than worrying about what is, or isn’t to come.

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