Coventry Rugby 2016/17 – the Pros and the Cons
Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now
And I will give the world to you
Speak louder than the words before you
And give them meaning no one else has found
The role we play is so important
We are the voices of the underground
And I will give the world to you
A Great Big World – This Is The New Year
Reflecting on what might have been come the end of any season is something of an occupational hazard for any Coventry supporter.
Season after season, we’ve had to marry up the anticipation of the pre-season against the reality of the close.
The expectation versus the reality.
And as if to reflect the current financial world in which we live, more often than not we find we are in negative equity and all we are left with is the triumph of hope over adversity.
The pros have, so-to-speak, been conned.
But not so this year…
Which is why Tip’s question on the Messageboard yesterday is such an interesting one.
It was simple and direct, as so many of the best questions are:
What do people think are the pros and cons of the season?
The same, sadly, will not be so true of my reply which is one of the reasons why I’ve reserved it for the blog rather than Messageboard.
There is no significance to the order of the points made.
Rather like a stream of consciousness, it simply represents the many (often random) thoughts passing through my mind at this one moment in time (cue Witney).
So, here goes:
- The DoR has remained true to his word and has done what he set out to do at the start of the season. We are where Rowland Winter said we would be. No promises were made, no guarantees of success given, just a list of structures that would be put in place and targets that would be set. The vast majority of these have been achieved;
- There have been far fewer injuries this season and where they have occurred they appear to have been treated quickly and effectively and players haven’t been rushed back, risking further injury. The likes of Hodgson, Knox and White have come back when they were ready to, with the result that they have all made important contributions since their return . The whole fitness/rehab/physio area has been transformed under Rowland Winter and has been crucial in ensuring Cov has had a competitive squad over the course of the whole season;
- The Development Squad has already started to show its worth with Jake Byrne, Will Priestly and Cameron Gray all involved in full squad training and, in Jake’s case, National One exposure and promotion into the full squad. It appears that there are plans for the DS to be further expanded into an academy of sorts, to include a 2nd XV/Extras side, with the opportunities to study for qualifications in addition to the on-field opportunities available;
- RW has worked hard to build the bridges with local junior clubs that had been burned over the previous couple of seasons, something he alluded to back in one of his first interviews with John Wilkinson. In fact, as recently as yesterday, in the Coventry Telegraph, an article by Paul Smith on Broadstreet’s promotion back into National Two (North) quoted Head Coach Paul Hurst praising the links between the two clubs:
Rowland Winter and Coventry have been superb this season, and we’ve got to sit down again with them.
- Links with Premiership clubs have developed very positively and the club has benefited considerably from the input of Freddie Tuilagi, Tom Howe, Owain James, Jack Willis and Josh Peters, as well as the likes of Ali Bone and Sam Harry getting A team experience with Wasps. It’s been a two way process and that reciprocity, however small, is important;
- A greater emphasis placed on both training and nutrition, as well over half the squad being full-time, have meant the club is far more professional both in terms of application and attitude;
- There is a greater camaraderie amongst the squad and a sense that the players believe in what they are part of – exemplified by the fact that only one of those playing regular first team rugby has opted to leave at the end of the season;
- Results over the second half of the season have been on a par with the top 2 teams outside of Hartpury, the runaway leaders. We were warned that it would take time for the squad to settle and so it proved, but there is momentum now;
- There has been a real improvement in the performance of a number of players over the course of the season as confidence has grown with improved results and the impact of quality coaching – plenty of names to throw into the ring here including Olly Povoas, Sam Harry, Max Trimble, Jake Byrne, Rob Knox, Tom Poole, Tom Jubb, Sam Grasso and Will Maisey. Many others have been consistent from the beginning of the season, especially the front row, Pete White, Tony Fenner and James Stokes;
- Attendances have not only stabilised but have also now started to increase as confidence in the club and its players/management returns. From an average of 1152 last season (low 851, high 1435) to 1227 this season (low 939, high 2712);
- Despite losing two coaches (see cons!) we have attracted quality replacements in the form of Nick Walshe and Louis Deacon (and Craig Newby in the short-term). Nick Walshe, in particular, seems to be having a major input and his ‘promotion’ to Head Coach looks to be a sound move on the part of the club;
- On the back of the results and the quality of coaching available, the club have made some key signings for next season;
- Communication between club and supporters has improved considerably for two main reasons. First, the DoR encourages openness and won’t shy away from difficult questions. Second, the appointment of John Wilkinson as the communications guru. Regular updates from coaches and pre and post-match comments from RW and John Butler mean that the Messageboard is now quieter than it’s ever been…or, put another way, there’s not a lot left to moan about.
- The formation of the Supporters’ Club has also created another channel of communication. Travel to away matches has become affordable and accessible to almost everyone and the additional activities it’s run have proved informative and interesting. The importance of the work the SC has done and in particular the efforts of Cliff Bennett and Quent Melhuish (without detracting at all from the work done by the rest of the Committee), cannot be underestimated;
- The involvement of the SC in the running of the club shop hasn’t been mentioned for a while and whilst the lack of a replica kit available to supporters is a definite ‘con’; the alternative as offered by the SC has probably spared a few blushes elsewhere. A big bonus for many supporters;
- The promotion/marketing of the club is far more visible this season with activities such as comedy evenings and the impending visit of UB40 opening up the ground to a wider audience;
- The freezing of the cost of a season ticket next season ( a reduction if you include the free entry to friendlies) is very welcome, especially as I imagine that expenditure will increase given the depth of the squad;
- Free wi-fi in and around the ground;
- Community links with local schools continue to thrive and are to be expanded further next season – good for the community and ultimately for the club too;
- A definite improvement in the official website in terms of working your way around it and it’s visually much more appealing, but it would be good to see more content in the future – match day programmes archived, video clips/interviews etc
- Slightly provocative this one but….Coventry City’s relegation. It could mean there are a few hundred supporters who won’t be renewing their season tickets in the coming weeks? An additional 10% reduction on a Cov season ticket on proof of membership to City last season…? Just a thought…
(some of these aren’t ‘cons’ so much as ‘disappointments’ or ‘could do mores’…)
- The early season away form (although this is tempered by the performances in the last 4 games (including Plymouth) which have been much more encouraging)…still a ‘con’ overall though;
- The length of time it took for the squad to settle – only in that with 10 players (give or take) coming into the side for the start of next season, the squad will need to gel quicker than we did this season. Not a ‘con’ as such, more a concern. It was something we had been prepared for ;
- Problems with Under Armour and the lack of availability of replica kit – with other clubs in National One seeming not to have the same problems that we’ve encountered, this has been a real disappointment – especially to my grandchildren to whom I’d promised shirts;
- The lack of a credible club shop over the first half of the season and the need for the Supporters’ Club to intervene before anything was sorted;
- The loss of two coaches early on – especially Brendon Snyman. No fault of the club’s at all, but still a disappointment;
- Uncertainty over the future of the ground and the links with Coventry City. Again, there’s not a lot more that the club could do to end speculation other than categorically deny it will ever take place, but it has caused (and doubtless will again in the future) some frustrations;
- The lack of more dedicated drink and food areas around the ground. A perennial problem and one that I appreciate is being discussed at Board level, but it does detract from the match day experience and might well be costing Coventry serious money over the course of the season;
- The PA system still seems to be causing some problems in some areas of the ground;
- The misreading of the mood of supporters regarding the ‘Player of the Season’ award. A definite PR own goal by the club there…even more unfortunate is the fact that the Supporters’ Club Committee are taking a lot of the flak for something that appears to have nothing to do with them. I hope that is addressed at some point…
- The difficulty in keeping one’s feet planted firmly on the ground after such a great season on and off the pitch. It would be easy to get carried away by the current success we are experiencing and set expectations too high for next season, which is, after all, only the second year of a three or four-year plan….
Plenty of Pros and relatively few Cons and even then they are more moans than anything.
But then again, I am wearing those blue and white tinted glasses…
Got a bit of help with this one!
Apparently it appeared on MTV as the theme tune to some programme or other and has something to do with Glee…
Was going to use it for a different post, but it seems appropriate here:
A Great Big World – This Is The New Year
Not sure about the song but a GREAT video!