Club talk

Some people have everything, and other people don’t…

Some people have everything, and other people don’t
But everything don’t mean a thing if it ain’t the thing you want

Express Yourself! Express Yourself!

You don’t never need help from nobody else
All you got to do now:

Express Yourself!

Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Express Yourself

A quick check on xmasclock.com tells me there’s only 188 days left until Christmas.

Even at the grand old age of 57, I still get somewhat excited at the thought, especially with  5 children (who should know better than to get excited, too) and 6 grandchildren (who certainly shouldn’t).

Far more exciting, though, is the fact that there are just 44 days now until supporters get a chance to see some of the Coventry squad in a Cov shirt for the first time this season – against Leicester Lions on August 3rd.

The side chosen to play against the Lions probably won’t much reflect the team selected for the first competitive game against Hull in September, but it’s a good opportunity to see some of the Development Academy players alongside some of the senior squad who might not feature too heavily in the friendlies against Jersey and Rotherham towards the end of August.‘Training’ started a week ago last Saturday, although it appears to have been more of a bonding exercise with go-karting and a meal very much top of the agenda. With only a dozen or so players joining the club this time round, last season’s ‘Getting to know Coventry’ quiz around the city clearly won’t have been needed, but another group activity seems in keeping with the importance attached to the team/squad ethos that was so evident last year.

Judging by some of the comments on social meeting coming from the players, the remainder of the week was rather more demanding, with players presumably having their levels of fitness tested and individual programmes put in place.

Max Hartman – the new head of Strength and Conditioning

And on that note, congratulations to Max Hartman who has been appointed head of strength and conditioning following the departure of Rob Norman. Max’s appointment almost slipped under the radar, placed as it was at the end of the announcement of the return of fly-half Ben Palmer to the club.

Given Rob Norman had been with the club for sometime, the statement was odd that it simply wished Rob well:

Rob has been an important part of the team for a number of years and we wish him well with his next venture.

whilst making no comment on where that next venture might be…strange really given the importance of the role he had with the club and his length of service, unless it was a hasty departure. All the very best to Rob, wherever he goes.

I know from chatting to Rowland Winter last season that Max was very much the unsung hero of the rehab/fitness team and was highly respected within the club, so his appointment comes as no surprise given Rob’s departure.

Whilst a number of other clubs also started back last week, including Plymouth and Moseley (who will be training three nights a week as well), Coventry has the added advantage of having upwards of 23 players on full-time contracts (including outreach/community work via the club) so they will presumably be other opportunities for them to be involved in training – physical or otherwise – during the week.

I mentioned at the start of the post that I was excited at the prospect of watching Cov again, as I’m sure everyone connected with Cov will be, other than perhaps a good view rugby widows/widowers who will have their weekends once against disrupted by their partners’ Saturday afternoon absences.

There will understandably be much talk (even if it’s only up to the final whistle of that first game against Hull!), of a promotion-chasing season and expectations will run high as they always do. This season, though, there are some real grounds for optimism on the back of the very successful second half to the season last year, what appears on paper to be some very impressive signings that certainly seem to have significantly strengthened the squad and Rowland Winter’s signing of a new three year contract that should see the Cov DoR here until 2020 at least.

All appears rosy in the Coventry garden.

So small wonder then that expectations are indeed high and that supporters will have aspirations of a top two finish come April of next year.

And whilst I’m sure the club will want to distance itself from promotion talk early on and won’t publicly be setting a long overdue return to the Championship as a target this season, with the arrival of the likes of Dacres, Oram, Makaafi, Preece, Narraway, Brazier, Grove, Tuitupou, all internationals at one level or another, the club can’t really expect supporters to do anything other than harbour the hope of a top of the table finish come the end of the season.

And that’s not even including  Phil Nilsen who was named in last season’s Greene King IPA Championship Dream Team…

Coventry appear to have recruited exceptionally well, and by all accounts on a budget that is very similar to that of last season, something that speaks volumes about the respect in which the club is held at the moment and the belief amongst the players coming into the squad this season that this is a club very much on the up and one that has the potential to compete at a higher level than National One.

Huge praise must go to Jon Sharp for turning the club’s fortunes around after such a long period of financial upheaval.

No one can persuade me otherwise that the players coming to Coventry this season will be doing so in the belief that they will be playing in the Championship within the next two or three seasons, other than the likes of Makaafi and Tuitupou who, at the end of their careers, perhaps see helping Cov gain promotion as their last big challenge before they hang up their boots.

With no team relegated from the Championship, promotion is that little bit easier this time around and whilst other teams will have recruited well, Coventry appear to have fared better than their closest rivals.

For instance, another team touted as being a promotion contender, Plymouth Albion, has recently re-signed Eoghan Grace – one of their significant signings for next season. Now I happen to rate Eoghan and I really don’t think we saw the best of him last season before he was forced out of contention for a place in the team following injury to his hand (I think…seems a long time ago now?!).

However, whilst Plymouth strengthen their back row with Grace…

Coventry bring in Preece, Narraway and Makaafi.

Not difficult, then, to see why Coventry is rightly being touted as one of the two or three favourites to win the league  this season.

As the club is every season…

…although more often than not it’s because other teams fear our name and not our team, rightly or wrongly seeing Cov as one of the leagues big spenders and therefore, almost by definition, a clear promotion contender.

The prospect of Cov being up there in the top couple of places in National One with three or four games remaining and pushing for that one promotion place is hugely exciting.

And, for me, that’s a more enjoyable prospect than winning promotion itself for with that comes the worry of Championship rugby, with all its financial implications and the thought of probably losing more games than you win in the first season. It’s about doing little more than hoping you end up in at least eleventh place.

Yes, I want promotion as much as the next Cov supporter, but the thought of the journey is  rather more exciting than the actual destination at the moment – winning the right to play in the Championship fills me with far more excitement than actually being there, if that makes sense.

More so this season than any other for a long, long time.

And when we do win promotion, this season or beyond, then we will do so in the knowledge that we will have played attractive, enterprising rugby along the way.

Even last season, after a relatively poor start, Cov still amassed a record number of league tries and along the way entertained supporters, initially at home and then towards the end of the season on its travels as well. Players were given far more license to attack than perhaps in the past and if Cov went through the phases and retained possession, more often than not good yards would be made.

Too often rugby is played between the two 22m lines and that doesn’t always make for a great spectacle. Not so last season and hopefully that will again be the case in the coming months.

Many of the players recently brought into the squad  are exceptionally good ball handlers, even in the forwards. Dacres, Narraway and Oram are all great athletes and I think we’ll see an even more mobile pack than that of last season. That, combined with the likes of Stevens, Tuitupou, Grove and Trimble (plus another wing?) being given the space by White/Brazier and Fenner/Maisey to run at defences, is the reason why Cov crowds will again be on the increase this season and a good start to the campaign could see us breaking the 2000 mark several times over the course of the season.

If the players are allowed to express themselves again as they were encouraged so to do last season, then we really do have something to look forward to over the coming months.

Sexy rugby returns to Cov:

Some people have everything, and other people don’t
But everything don’t mean a thing if it ain’t the thing you want

Express Yourself!
Express Yourself!

Oh, do it! Oh, do it
Do it to it, go on and do it
Yo, do it, give

Express Yourself!
Express Yourself

A mixture of soul or funk, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had a huge hit with ‘Express Yourself’ back in the early ’70s which then got ‘rappified’ by NWA 20 years or so later.

Charles Wright’s version is a classic and is a real ‘feel good’ song and never fails to bring a smile to your face when performed live…trumpets and trombones a go-go.

Come on Cov, just express yourself…

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