Is there enough depth to the current squad, possible recruitment and those Hersham Boys…?
Hersham boys, Hersham boys
Lace up boots and corduroys
Hersham boys, Hersham boys
They call us the Cockney cowboys
Sham 69 – Hersham Boys
As I start writing this post both the official Coventry Rugby website and the unofficial Messageboard are down.
Unlike myself, as I’m quite upbeat…
Whilst I imagine both are undergoing some sort of update at the moment, it is frustrating not to be able to access reports of the game or, more interestingly, the usual weekly report from one of the coaches regarding Saturday’s performance against Hartpury. They are always of interest but this week’s will be particularly so. (nb – the website is back up and the match report and coach’s comments are there to be read. Many thanks, again, to JW for keeping us so well informed. Last season had the website been unavailable for a couple of days I don’t think too many people would have worried, or possibly even noticed – just shows how much better the communication is these days).This season all the coaches, including Rowland Winter, have been very open and honest in their assessments of Coventry’s performances and haven’t held back when they have felt the team has underperformed away from home. After a couple of days to digest the performance and discuss the game amongst themselves and the players, it will be really interesting to see if they are at all downbeat following the 50-19 defeat against Hartpury on Saturday or whether they actually feel there was enough there in the first half performance to suggest that Coventry are progressing well towards the longer term goal of being capable of competing against the very best sides in National 1.
On the face of it, a 31 point defeat would appear to be a drubbing and the points difference was certainly a good deal more than anything I was expecting. That said, I’m not altogether sure the margin of defeat reflected Coventry’s overall performance as, in many respects, for a good portion of the first half, prior to injuries and yellow cards, we were competitive and put Hartpury under a fair amount of pressure at times.
We’re clearly some distance off the pace at the moment and whilst performances from Cov like the ones we’ve seen over the past few weeks might be enough to get us into the top three or four, I do think we are going to have to play at the next level if we are to be regarded as real challengers for promotion next season.
Ampthill is now in second place, and deservedly so – the win against Moseley on Saturday was a great result for them and one that shows that, Hartpury aside, this league is as open as it’s been for some time. We saw when we visited Dillingham Park before Christmas just what a good side they are and how influential their forwards are. Age is no barrier when you have players like Molitika and Lutui in your side.
However, I think most Cov supporters left the game that day feeling that had Coventry performed in the final 20 minutes as they had in the first 60 minutes, then the result might well have been a lot closer. I’d certainly argue a case for saying that the Cov performance in the first 40 minutes against Hartpury was better than that at any stage of the Ampthill game and for me that represents a significant improvement over time.
For some that might be clutching at straws…both games were losses and shouldn’t be seen as anything else. But if this season is about making progress, about putting things into place that will enable us to compete with the top teams in 2017/18, then we are moving in the right direct. I don’t think we’ve seen a poor performance since Rosslyn Park.
However, I do worry a little about the depth of the squad. We certainly have a core of 20 plus players who look as if they will form the basis of next season’s squad, but that’s barely more than a match day squad and once we start picking up some injuries, as we did in the last game, we’re somewhat scuppered.
Since Week 7, we’ve made really good use of loanees – initially James, Howe and Willis and then Tuilagi and most recently Peters. Their presence has undoubtedly made a big difference but in a sense it actually heightens the lack of depth and choice available to the coaches in the current squad.
A quick look at the number of appearances made by members of the squad players this season shows 19 players who have played less than half the games up to and including Hartpury. Many of those on the list have been injured or are on loan, but 13 of them are current squad members (I haven’t counted James Pritchard).
From this point onwards this is purely a bit of speculation on my part…but it’s always fun to try and work out what might happen as far as recruitment is concerned (and besides, there’s a lack of news coming out of the club with the website down so why not!)…
I reckon the names in red are ones that must be doubts as far as next season is concerned purely in terms of age/fitness/other commitments (Boris/Brendon Burke) or the lack of any significant contribution to this season’s campaign. I haven’t included Sam Grasso because of his long term injury, although I thought he was ready for consideration a couple of games back, or Rob Conquest as I’m presuming he is still injured – I certainly rate him and would be surprised if he doesn’t make a return at some stage with the dismissal of Brendon Snyman.
That’s nine players in all who appeared on the original squad list, along with Adam Canning who has yet to make an appearance. I should hasten to add that I’m not making any judgements on those players at all, indeed one or two I’d like to see back, but for the purposes of this exercise I’m trying to be as objective as possible.
The original squad list included 32 names (including Brendan Burke and Boris Stankovich and Brendon Snyman), so that would be down to around 23 if there’s anything in my logic and that figure of 22 presumes that the coaches see the remaining players as all being important in terms of next season’s campaign (and, of course, that they all stay on – which isn’t guaranteed at all…).
So by my rather haphazard reasoning, I reckon RW will be looking at recruiting probably 10-12 players for the start of next season which is a few more than perhaps was originally suggested (I think a retention rate of 80-85% was mentioned).
There are some interesting names on the list I’ve highlighted…for instance, Ali Bone and Olly Povoas are still relatively young and might be seen as good longer term prospects, as is the case with Sam Harry.
But if next season is to be the beginning of a sustained challenge to reach the Premiership, does there perhaps need to be a larger core of players than is available, to include at present who already have the necessary experience ensure that Coventry hit the ground running in September – in short can we afford to carry so many youngsters when there’s so little time to bed them in? Is such a trade off needed, I wonder?
There are just 11 games left until the end of the season and in the remaining weeks I’m sure Rowland Winter will want to win as many games as possible so that there is already some momentum going into pre-season and to do so he’ll most likely need to pick the strongest sides available. That said, he has also indicated that he hopes to give some of the development squad game time – presumably the likes of Jake Byrne, Joe Foreman and Will Priestley – so there could be some interesting selection meetings going on over the coming weeks. Whether that also means players like Bone and Povoas will get games is debatable, but with the absence of Willis and Tuilagi and what appears to be a long term injury to Grace, maybe they’ll be in contention for a starting place sooner rather than later.
Before Christmas RW suggested that the recruitment for next season had already started and that two players had been signed. Clearly, names can’t be released until much nearer the end of the season to protect the players concerned as well as the clubs from which they’ve been signed, so we won’t know who they are for a while yet.
I’m sure they’ll be a few more to added, with talk amongst some supporters at the Hartpury game of a ‘marquee signing’ – presumably as an additional beer outlet? We all have our own thoughts and ideas on who we’d keep and who we’d let go and there’s bound to be some surprises along the way. However, if we can keep a core of 20 -22 players and add to them, presumably with players at least as good, but preferably better, than those who will leave at the end of April, then we’ll have the every chance of challenging for that promotion place.
Esher on Saturday – and a chance for the travelling supporters’ choir to give their rendition of ‘Hersham Boys’ in front of the stand before the main event. Given that those who travel by coach to away games have been subjected to repeated versions of this ’69 classic on every trip, maybe it’s now time for it to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting BPA crowd. It will be worth cost of entry into the ground just to see that.
Sadly, whilst Coventry have shown plenty of signs of progress this season on the pitch, those forming our very own Sham 69 tribute band have not – maybe, in the nicest possible sense, they needs to get themselves a new coach…?!
For those of you with interested enough to see hear what ‘Hersham Boys’ should sound like…
As I recall, their live concerts were plagued by NF yobs and I think they eventually stopped all live performances. I have to say, I quite liked them – anyone around the time must have sung along to ‘Hurry Up, Harry’ or ‘If the Kids Are United’. It was always Costello, The Cure, Graham Parker, The Teardrop Explodes etc for me, but Jimmy Pursey, along with The Ruts, UK Subs, The Leighton Buzzards – they were all in my record collection at that time.