Club talk

Player accountability – time for some tough talking?

Another intriguing John Wilkinson interview on the website yesterday…this time with Brendan Burke.

And again revealing.

At least that’s how it seems to me, although I do accept that it might be more the case that I’m  simply reading something into what Brendan Burke has said that actually isn’t there.

Old habits die hard and as an ex-teacher I was forever encouraging students to read texts carefully to draw inferences from the evidence put in front of them in order to determine what the sub-text might be.

In short, to read between the lines.

Which is exactly what I’ve done…I might be way of the mark here, but let’s give it a go…

When Brendan states that:

We have to learn that you don’t give away penalties in your own half, it cost us a lot of points on Saturday, and some of them were just stupid. We’ll look through it again at the start of the week and people have got to be accountable for it now…

…it suggests that the coaches are have reached the point where they feel players need to be held more responsible for lapses in discipline, particularly when it results in the opposition taking advantage points wise. There were just too many mistakes made by Coventry on Saturday, mistakes that would have proved all too costly against some of the stronger sides in the league.

Rowland Winter has said a couple of times now that all the players in the squad have been given opportunities to prove themselves, to show what they are capable of contributing both on and off the pitch. With almost half the games gone, selection now will be more consistent with presumably less rotation other than in the front row. If you keep performing on the pitch you’ll retain your place, if you stop then be prepared for others to take over.

The language coming from the coaches certainly suggests a tougher stance of late and perhaps signals that the honeymoon period is well and truly over for the players who have had long enough to understand what is expected of them.

With options to bring in ‘lads who are fighting to get a chance’, if those who currently hold the jersey don’t perform at the level expected of them, then there are others waiting in the wings who deserve the opportunity…

And given the frustrations of the last couple of weeks, it looks like the coaches are firing a warning shot to the players publicly for the first time. I’m sure it will have been said out on the training ground and in the changing room before, but behind closed doors, so-to-speak, is very different from such a public statement of intent.

I imagine that the coaches have been angered somewhat by some of the comments that were made after the Rosslyn Park game by some supporters who questioned the desire and passion of the players and coaches.

Indeed, Rowland Winter’s post-match comments following the Old Albanian game suggested as much:

… last week some people questioned whether we’ve got passion and desire to play and work for the club. I didn’t question that, I questioned whether we were good enough.

Now I’ve never been comfortable with criticising a player’s efforts on the pitch (or coach’s off it) and have said as much on here recently. No player ever goes into a game prepared to put in anything less than their best and I can see why that might raise RW’s hackles a little…the suggestion that players or coaches aren’t committed to the club is just a complete anathema to me.

They might not be good enough, or have a day where things on the pitch don’t work out quite as planned, but not as a result of a lack of desire on their part…

We’ve not seen  responses to criticism from the coaches like this before, although I don’t think it’s scripted at all, on the contrary in fact.

I think the exasperations of the last couple of games are evident in the comments made immediately after the OA game…exasperations resulting from the high standards being expected of the team and the frustrations of watching  players who one week show glimpses of what could be and the next week struggle to produce anything like their potential away from home.

What is particularly interesting to me is the comment made by Brendan regarding the need for players to take far more responsibility themselves for what’s happening out on the pitch, rather than let the blame lay purely with the coaches…

I think the lads have now got to put their hands up and say it’s not the coaches’ fault, it’s about taking personal responsibility and if you miss a tackle, it’s your fault. It’s not acceptable any more.

And he’s absolutely right to say that. Yes, of course the coaches have to hold their hands up and accept that on occasions they might have got it wrong, whether it be regarding recruitment, selection, individual game plans or whatever.

The danger in saying it, of course, is that it could look like you’re absolving yourself of the blame if it’s done too often, but I have to say, following the Old Albanian game in particular, I think it needed to be said and said publicly.

Behind any successful side is strong leadership and both RW and Brendan Burke have shown that this week. The gauntlet has been thrown down and the players can expect fewer favours now we’re  into week 15 of the season.

Out on the pitch, it’s the players who have to take ownership of both the successes and, more specifically, the failures – missed tackles, forward passes, wrong calls, a misjudged kick or penalty conceded are more often than not the result of player misjudgements rather than anything to do with the coaching…

I think we’ve just got to cut down our error count, it makes such a difference. At the moment we’re doing some stupid things and making stupid mistakes

I don’t think  there’s anyone reading Brendan’s interview and who watched Saturday’s game who will disagree with the need for Coventry to cut down the error count.

On Saturday it was so costly.

And to put it those last 4 or 5 minutes into some sort of context, it was the players’ passion and desire to succeed that was the ultimate deciding factor in a game that most other teams in our league would have lost.

Stupid, stupid mistakes but resilience in abundance.

And that’s the third time it’s happened this season…pride and passion? Definitely not in doubt as far as I’m concerned.

And yes, having  watched  Cov on their travels for all but one of their games this season, the performances have been hugely disappointing for the most part…but only because the players have been out thought and outplayed on 3 or 4 occasions. There was no lack of effort, they just weren’t good enough on the day.

As Brendan says, for most of the season:

We haven’t played to our potential

That’s down to the coaches as well, it has to be to some extent, but the errors in some of the games, particularly poor tackling and ill-discipline leading to higher than acceptable penalty counts, well surely blame has to be laid squarely at the feet of the players?

It’s a strong squad. Whereas we were told that last season, we’ve actually seen it for ourselves this season and if players do underperform then it seems only right and proper that those not playing at the moment should be given a chance, provided that have proven they are ready to do so in training or with the clubs they are attached to, where appropriate.

I might have totally misjudged the mood of both Rowland Winter and Brendan Burke and read far too much into what has been said post the Old Albanian game, and if that is the case then obviously I would be the first to accept I’ve got it wrong.

But it’s certainly an interpretation…

And I rather hope I have got it right because I think it needs saying. The coaches are the ones who inevitably take the flak and do so in order to protect the players at times. But however enjoyable Saturday’s game was, the most basic of errors almost cost us the win and on the back of some disappointing away performances as well, the coaches can’t always be held accountable.

Maybe it it’s a shot over the bows prior to the next couple of games leading up to the Christmas break, away at Darlington Mowden Park on Saturday and then the crunch game, as far as spectators are concerned, Moseley at home.

The coaches have made it clear that performances similar to that which we saw on Saturday just won’t be tolerated, even when the team wins. As a supporter, the OA game was a great spectacle and hugely entertaining – with 5 points to boot. As a coach, it was unacceptable and could, and should, have cost us the points.

As such, the comments made by both Brendan and RW show a tougher edge to the their leadership than we have seen up to now, but nevertheless a welcome one…

A final thought – can you imagine what the reaction of supporters would be in two weeks time were we to put in a similar performance against Mose as we did on Saturday,  only for the referee not to award a penalty for that final scrum or Will’s kick doesn’t go over…?

 

 

 

 

Categories:Club talk

2 replies »

  1. Hi Quent…phew, I’m glad someone else thought along the same lines…sometimes I do tend to read things into what is, or isn’t said, that aren’t there or exaggerate their significance unintentionally. As you say, selection will be extremely interesting over the next two games…for once I’m not even going to try and second guess the side…I’ve got a team in my head, but I think I’d be so wide of the mark as to embarrass myself even further! Whatever the team selected, it won’t be short of pride or passion, that’s for sure!

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  2. Tim, having read Brendan’s & Rowlands comments, I too came to the same conclusion as you have so well described in your Blog. The coaching staff early in the New Year, if not already, will certainly know which players will be departing in the summer and they will have a good idea as to who they want to bring in to strengthen the squad. The team selections for Darlington & Moseley will be very interesting, particularly the players who are fit to play, but are not selected.

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