Club talk

Wasps v Sale…If you’re from a big city, I am from a little town

It’s soul killing
That’s what you need now
That’s what you should need

If you never hold us down, they can never hold us down
If you’re from a big city, I am from a little town

The Ting Tings – Soul Killing

 

ricohI went to watch the Wasps on Sunday…

Free tickets meant that it was a family afternoon out…my  grandson, daughter,  wife and me.

Three generations together as a family watching a game of rugby. I really enjoyed myself, but on an afternoon out with my family, I would do anyway.

Did we enjoy our afternoon at the Ricoh?

Yes, we did.

Was it because we were at the Ricoh…not especially.

It just wasn’t Cov…so it wasn’t anything more than just a game of rugby, enjoyable as it was.

And I have to lay my cards on the table…Wasps are to me what I rather expect Coventry Rugby Club would be to most Wasps supporters. Just a local team of whom I’m aware, but don’t have much interest in.

There is a connection, though.

Of course there is…

…the same city and three dual registered players representing Coventry on the weekends they’re not playing for Wasps. But little else.

And besides, when Jack Willis, Tom Howe and Owain James wear the blue and white hoops, they’re Cov players.

And only Cov players. And that is as exactly as it should be.

I don’t have any great affinity to Wasps, in the same way that as a part-time Baggies fan, I don’t have much for Wolves or the Villa. Or any, to be honest.

No, Wasps are our rich neighbours, perhaps not here by choice, but here to stay nonetheless. World’s apart in many respects, especially in terms of the sheer size of the Wasps brand, but still both playing the same game.

I wouldn’t have gone had it not been for the fact that as a driver insured by Aviva, my daughter ‘won’ some free tickets in a recent draw, as did many other hundreds there on Sunday, by all accounts.

And at the risk of upsetting any Wasps’ fans who might have popped across to read this…nor would I go again.

Not because it’s Wasps,  but because it’s not Cov.

It was all a bit too corporate for me…too impersonal and with supporters too far removed from the heart of the club to feel valued.

Let me give you an obvious comparison…

When I arrive a Cov on a match day, as a season ticket holder I’m greeted by the guy at the turnstile (one of just two or three turnstiles that are usually open on a match day) who knows me by  name, gives me a warm welcome, offers some comment about the weather/game/state of the nation and crosses me off a list and in I go.

Once in the ground, I have access to the clubhouse, any part of the main stand or covered area opposite and am able to walk round the ground add infinitum…I’ll bump into officials, players, ex-players, even the coaches before heading for the clubhouse for a drink and a chat if I’m so inclined. If I’m hungry, I can buy a burger or similar in one of two areas. Nothing grand, but served for you with a smile.

And after the game, many supporters will stay on and have a drink and talk to members of the board, the chairman, the DOR and coaches and players – it’s how smaller clubs work.

All very different to Sunday at the Ricoh.

When I did eventually get to gate E24, I had to scan my ticket and walk through the turnstile…and spoke to no one in the process. I had access to the area of the ground where my seat was and to a vast range of refreshment areas, but the ringing of the tills seemed more important than interaction with the supporter.

That’s not a criticism, just an observation.

I couldn’t get near the perimeter of the pitch, had no chance of walking around it, and had no interaction with anyone from the club whatsoever, other than the marshals. As a spectator, I entered the ground, spent my money on the ubiquitous refreshments, watched an entertaining game, and then left…and I don’t get the impression it would have been that much different had I been the most loyal of supporters…

I was impressed by just how slick an operation it was though. There were ground marshals everywhere and they ensured that the crowds were kept moving and whenever there was a difficulty, they were quick to get involved. Despite the 13000 plus spectators (and I would imagine it was still less than half full), you were never really aware of any crowding other than the queues into and out of the carparks (more on that later!).

And oddly, given the size of the crowd, it was all a bit subdued…even during the game itself. When Wasps were on the attack, the volume rose somewhat but I really missed the myriad of individual voices and comments that make for such great entertainment at Cov…the witty one-liners, the shouts of frustration or anger or the just the simple encouragement (or otherwise) of individual supporters.

When there was noise, which wasn’t often, it came as a chorus, with the involvement of the majority. It was fun to listen to and my grandson clearly enjoyed it, but…well I’m old school and the banter that goes on between supporters at games in the lower leagues, especially between opposing supporters sitting alongside each other, is always a feature of a game.

Glad to see they’re doing ok…

To be fair, there were lot of things that were better done at Wasps. Access to the seating was far easier, with the banking of seats far less sheer than at Coventry and the seats themselves  more comfortable. And despite the size of the crowd and of the ground, toilets were always close by and at half time it was quick and easy to get a drink or something to eat even though the queues were long such was the efficient service.

There was also more going on the pitch in the minutes leading up to the game and at half time. The flags brought in by children and unfolded, the drums and the giant Wasps shirt at the far end of the ground, the children’s choir at the interval…it kept everyone interested but because you were fixed to a small area of the ground, with no opportunity to pop to the clubhouse or  cross the others side of the pitch to chat to a mate, you needed something going on. And the buzz over the loudspeakers prior to the Wasps players taking to the pitch was very effective…the Wasps mascot was okay (not as good as Nelly tho’), but as it was the wrong side of the barrier between the supporters and the pitch, there was no interaction between it and the fans which was a shame.

The whole experience was also geared more for children, with most youngsters having flags to wave whenever Wasps scored. A nice touch and something that would be easy enough to arrange at Cov.

But as an outsider, someone with no emotional attachment to the either club, it was all a bit sterile for me. There was little intimacy and no interaction amongst supporters at all..in a crowd of 1300 at Cov ( a tenth of Wasps’ attendance on Sunday…OMG!) most people know each other well enough to pass some sort of observation on the game.

Each to their own though, and at Wasps you are very much on your own, or so it seemed on Sunday.

The more successful a club is, the more that is going to be the case and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoy National 1 so much. We are professional (or getting that way) but without the egos that sometimes go with it. Say hello to a coach or a player and they say hello back, say hello regularly and they’ll get to know you by name…

In the area where I was, you’d never get close enough to a player to even say hello…

The rugby itself was enjoyable to watch, exciting at times but even though there were plenty of stars on show, big names that attract big followings, the likes of Ashley Johnson, Joe Simpson, Danny Cipriani, Jimmy Gopperth, Kyle Eastmond and Christian Wade, I struggled to get involved in the excitement.

If James Stokes gets the ball at Cov, there’s an immediate expectation in the crowd, a feeling that something special is about to happen, and I would have expected something similar when players like Cipriani and Eastmond were involved in the play…but it just didn’t seem to happen, at least not in the part of the stand we were in (maybe that’s because most supporters were on freebies like ourselves…?).

It’s not often, in fact very rare, that I watch a game where I have no emotional attachment to one or other teams. For me, it’s either Coventry or England.

And without that attachment, the game becomes simply that…a game and I wasn’t drawn into it as much as I’d expected I would be. The introduction of Tom Howe and Jack Willis made it more interesting , with Howe getting rather more involved than Willis, almost scoring out wide after a decent run before being bundled into touch. But at least I was there to watch them make their Premiership debuts – at this point in their careers, both would seem to have bright futures ahead of them.

Wasps were far more clinical and in the first half and on the first four occasions they breached Sale’s 22, they came away with  points. And when the game did open up in the second half, their backs looked far better equipped to exploit the gaps.

All-in-all an enjoyable experience, but one that lacked a little atmosphere. I sure that’s because I’m not a Wasps’ supporter – but as a neutral it just felt a little flat. It’s a lovely place to watch rugby though and the facilities are to die for, especially with the live tv feed on the big screen, the drummers, the clocks that count down and the excellent refreshment areas all around the ground.

If I was going to have a moan, it would be about the parking. We arrived by car to be told that the parking had to be booked in advance and we would have to turn back and park by a Novotel hotel (?) and make a 15 minute walk back to the Ricoh (not great if you’re ageing or incapacitated).

Instead we managed to park in a nearby industrial estate, saving ourselves £10 in the process. It could have potentially spoiled the game; maybe we should have found out in advance, although you would have hoped there might have been something to that effect that came with the tickets.

Anyway, that was the only gripe and as it happens, and not a big one at that. And despite the number of cars exiting the ground, it was done in a very orderly way with marshals supervising the whole process, so well done the club on that front.

I did enjoy my visit to The Ricoh, but instead of feeling somewhat envious, as I rather thought I might, I came away with a sense of relief that Coventry are where they are and that despite problems in the past, Cov is a club that still prides itself in its relationship with its supporters.

And even more so this season than in recent years, to be fair.

Would I want to see Coventry in the Premiership?

Definitely…

…but if the Wasps’ experience is anything to go by, then part of the soul of the club would inevitably be lost in order to satisfy the financial needs of the corporate masters.

And that would lie heavy on me…

It’s soul killing
That’s what you need now
That’s what you need now
It’s soul killing
That’s what you need now
That’s what you should need

If you never hold us down, they can never hold us down
If you’re from a big city, I am from a little town

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

The Ting Tings – Soul Killing

No video, but great son…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 replies »

  1. I just thought I would put my thoughts in here. I like your passion for your club but your love for watching the game is surely what it’s all about. I’m new to the midlands as a rugby fan. My lad is at Cov Uni & training with Cov Rfc on Monday nights. He’s then at Broadstreet for the rest of the week. I enjoy watching them play & see they are progressing. They should hopefully be in contention at the season end. He was injured on Friday night & won’t play for 8 weeks but that won’t stop my, or his, enjoyment of the game. His desire is to play for Coventry & Ireland U20’s in the coming year (why not?). I spent last Saturday watching his old club Maidenhead take on Oxford Harlequins. Great atmosphere, great beer (Marlow Rebellion) & thoroughly entertaining. On Sunday I was at Saracens to see them take on Glos. Fantastic hospitality (the best) and the game was close. Chris Ashton & young Tom Whitely for the pre-match banter & MotM Brad Barritt for the after match chat. All the players have to cross the 4g pitch to get over to friends & family in the main stand. All the kids running around on the 4g have the chance to meet their heroes. I had a good chat with Alex Lozowski after another decent game for the young man & then he was back off to the England camp. Definitely a future senior International. So yes, I love the game. I know things aren’t there for Cov but this is a new set up. I really think it will bear fruit. I hope things improve on the road for the team and Cov are up there at the end of the season. It’s a great game!

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    • Hi Ed…many thanks for coming across an leaving a comment and such an interesting one at that. Yours is, of course, a much healthier attitude than mine, but like you I love the game, but just don’t get the same sense of attachment and passion watching other teams as I do Coventry or England. I enjoyed watching the Wasps game (perhaps didn’t come across), but just there was no real spark there for me in the same way that there is watching Cov. Whether that makes me any less of a fan of the game I don’t know…although I totally accept that I have a very limited knowledge of the game outside of Cov. But I am happy in my ignorance… 😉 . There are always those like me at any club, in any sport, a little blinkered (or a lot?) and naiive in many ways, but still with a genuine love of the game, although limited in its breadth. Me, I’m happy having a more parochial outlook.
      Yours is a very different perspective to mine and I’d imagine having a rugby playing son would change my attitude to rugby somewhat as well. It must become a huge part of your life, perhaps, where it is a hobby for me, albeit a time-consuming one at times. Your passion is greater than mine…watching Cov once a week is more than enough!
      Hopefully, he’ll fulfil his ambitions this season and we’ll see him make his debut for Cov (hopefully at a home game given the team’s present form!)…once gain, thanks for coming across…great post.
      Tim

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  2. I entirely understand your sentiments Tim but would suggest you try the fan village before and/or after the game – if you ever get more free tickets. It’s not the BPA clubhouse but is the place where supporters of both teams congregate and there’s a bit of a buzz (excuse the pun).
    Last time I was in there Kyle Eastmond was chatting to supporters, so that may be an effort by Wasps to make their players a bit more accessible to fans.
    Just playing Devil’s advocate…

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    • Wasn’t even aware of a fan village…oops! Fair play in that case but if the main experience at a rugby game is that of watching the rugby, well then that was lacking a little for me. No real atmosphere or interaction amongst the crowd. I am VERY blinkered I know, having only ever watched Cov, a few internationals and perhaps a handful of other games, so I’m going to be the least likely of supporters to hitch a ride on the Premiership bandwagon. It worked for 13000 plus on Sunday so they’ve obviously got it right…it’s just not for me, that’s all.

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  3. Tim, another excellent blog. Exactly how I feel whenever I go. Great matchday experience, but soulless. No personal interaction. As a neutral (and just like you it’s Cov, England, the rest) good to see these top players in action, but I do have more affinity with the old style “proper” clubs like Exeter, Gloucester, Bath etc than Wasps, who just feel like a franchise happened to be based in Coventry as a ground was available. So if we do happen to ever reach the dizzy heights, I would hope we would be more akin to the traditional clubs than the franchises of Wasps, Sarries etc

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    • Hi Roger,
      Fair point about the likely differences with those clubs you mentioned…trips to Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, even Leicester, were always the highlights of the season and we were always enjoyed the atmosphere…intense and raw as it was on occasions! But again, that was with Cov, so I felt very different as a supporter as I would do now going to watch any of those teams play. It’s really a comment on my own one-eyed view of rugby than anything else. Crowds in the Championship wouldn’t be a whole lot bigger, so I don’t worry about promotion as far as my own enjoyment of watching Cov is concerned…and beyond that, well it’s all a bit of a pipe dream anyway.

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