I took a right, I took a right turning yesterday
I took a right, I took a right turning yesterday
I walked the streets to find the one I’d looked for
I climbed the stair that led me to your front
I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best to do the best I can…
To keep my feet, from jumping from the ground dear
To keep my heart, from jumping through my mouth dear
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today.
The Proclaimers – I’m On My Way
Yesterday evening’s training session was notable for a couple of reasons and both of some significance.
Firstly, it marked the return of training to the BPA for the first time this season. And, as if to celebrate the occasion, the sun decided to make a belated appearance, bringing with it plenty of warmth and a sense of excitement, adding further to the real belief shared amongst those supporters who were present that Cov is now embarking on the next phase of its journey…
…a journey that is taking us ever nearer to the target the club has set itself over the next couple or so seasons – Championship rugby.
The intention was always to return on a Thursday to the BPA for the final weekday session of training prior to the weekend fixture. That said, the last I heard it was going to be nearer the end of August before the switch from Summerhill Lane was made.
Whatever the reason for the decision to make the move a month early, it certainly went down well with the fans, with more there to watch Cov than at anytime last year. And there were some regular faces missing from last season as well, all of which bodes well for the coming season.
The interest is clearly there, as is the expectation, and whilst almost 20 supporters doesn’t seem a great deal, it’s over twice as many as we’ve had previously. We’re never going to get big numbers turning up, but the talk was all about the coming season, the new recruits, the selection imponderables, the Zoo League and so on and that will carry on away from the ground. Others will join in. And, hopefully, enthused by what they are hearing, they’ll come along to see what the fuss is all about.
Oaks from acorns again.
And if there is anyone reading this who is in two minds as to whether to come along on a Thursday or not, please do, whether a seasoned supporter or a relative newcomer to Cov.
Folk are welcoming, as are the players and coaches, and the conversation is always interesting. Often one or more of the coaches will pop by and say hello, as will the players – and it’s a great way to get to put names to faces before the season starts.
From a chat Rowland Winter had with supporters at a previous evening session, I know that coming back to train at the BPA on a Thursday is important to the club, despite the advantages of playing over at Tile Hill. We saw just what a stronghold The Butts was for the team last season and the coaches certainly don’t want to lose that ‘Fortress Cov’ mentality this season by spending all week training away from the ground.
Equally though, using the Massey Ferguson facilities at other times in the week should better prepare the players for the very different atmosphere experienced at grounds other than Cov, especially those where often there is very little atmosphere at all.
We didn’t travel well last season and, whilst things did improve somewhat over the second half of the season, training away from the relative comfort of the BPA could help the players better prepare for some of those difficult away games that they will face in the coming months.
There will be an extra two journeys down south (Old Elthamiams and Bishop’s Stortford) as well as the crucial trip to Plymouth Albion and wins away from home could come down to small margins brought about by decisions such as where the team should train midweek.
The other notable difference between yesterday’s training session and those held so far this season is that the vast majority of the hour and a half the players were out on the pitch took the form of a series of practice games, with getting on for 40 players involved at various times and involving the full squad, supplemented by some of the Academy players once again.
The likes of Max Trimble, Cliffie Hodgson and Will Maisey were absent and George Oram, Tom Jubb and Phil Boulton (wrist) were all side-lined – although none is a long term concern.
Where Coventry has really taken full advantage of its resources pre-season is by using Rhys Davies – Cov’s fourth official at home games – to referee these sessions and provide the players and coaches with precisely the kind of experience that should prove invaluable come the start of the season.
There have been a number of changes to the rugby laws brought in since April, especially around the scrum, and whilst seemingly minor in nature, Rhys’ involvement might better help Cov interpret them more effectively and use them to their advantage.
On Saturdays when Cov isn’t at home, Rhys still referees in South Leicestershire (I think – apologies if I’m wrong there) and he will be well placed to give the inside info on exactly what the men in black will be looking for over an above last season.
As for the session itself – well, it didn’t offer up too much in the way of things we don’t already know and certainly gave us no real clues as to what the make-up of the first match day squad to play Hull might look like. However, as far as the way Cov has been training so far this season, and especially on the basis of what we saw yesterday, the style of play doesn’t appear to be changing greatly – it just seems that little bit sharper and more physical, certainly as compared to the training this time last season. Players are quicker to the ball, the handling for the most part looks quick, and the defence is being better organised.
Some of the players who were recruited over the close season were very evident in much of what we saw happen on the pitch. Luke Narraway carries the ball well and is fast and agile and clearly likes to take on defenders. He’s going to cross the gain line regularly this season and it was fairly noticeable that quick, off-the-shoulder offloading is going to feature a fair bit amongst the forwards, with Latu Makaafi especially always looking to keep the ball moving where possible.
Jack Preece is definitely going to be the turnover king and is really quick around the pitch, as is Phil Nilsen and he appears to be another player who seems to like to get out wide and attack defences, although he looks as if he’s going to run through, and not around, the opposition most of the time.
Dave Brazier seems to have quick feet and an even quicker pass and although Pete White continues to look to be in impressive form, I think Brazier will get plenty of opportunities to show just why Rowland Winter brought him across from Moseley. To have such strength at scrum half is a real asset over what is such a long season and whilst I was sad to see young Rhodri Adamson move on in April, it was undoubtedly the correct move for him as he would be well down the pecking order now.
Even though Rob Knox had some heavy strapping around his thigh, I thought he looked even stronger than in previous seasons and when he has the ball in hand he is capable of inflicting real damage on the opposition – he’s had some terrible luck as far as his fitness is concerned over the last couple of seasons but if he stays healthy, even with the calibre of backs we currently have on our books, he’s going to feature prominently at key moments this season.
There were one or two eye-catching performances from the Academy players, too, although one might well have been a trialist. As yet though, I don’t know all the youngsters names, but there was plenty more evidence, if evidence was needed, to support the belief that we are going to become very familiar with several of the Academy players this season – either in the Zoo League or maybe, towards the end of the season, in the full match day squads too.
Fortunately, Saturday will go some way to resolving some of those still unfamiliar to Cov supporters – I know much work has gone into setting the afternoon up and once again there has been plenty of involvement from the Supporters’ Club, many members of which have given up their time so generously to support the club. Many thanks to all concerned.
It was an evening well very well spent and hopefully there will be a few more supporters coming along in the weeks to come. It was especially good to see Steve Hood back from his antipodean travels and I am now the proud (very proud) owner of a Lions’ beanie which I shall unveil at some future game, sooner rather than later given our autumn weather.
I also had a copy of ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ given to me, a book that recounts the rise and fall of Pontypool RFC, so I shall be engrossed in that over the next few days. Many thanks, Paul…
Not only that, I also managed to use the correct setting on the camera this week, so at least I have some reasonable photos to include – they’re worth having a look just to see how many players you can, or can’t recognise! I don’t think any of us present yesterday knew more than probably 80%, if that, of those there.
I do think I should also mention that I took some unnecessary abuse at the hands of some of my fellow supporters over my photographic abilities, or otherwise.
You make one small mistake..
Personally, I’m really looking forward to the Saturday- supporters and players socialising (and playing!) together makes for a great way to start the season which officiallly begins in just 13 days time, with the trip to Leicester Lions.
Exciting or what…?
I’ll do my best to do the best I can…
To keep my feet, from jumping from the ground
I last saw The Proclaimers at Warwick Uni and they had the place rockin’ by the end of their opening number which was, coincidentally, I’m On My Way…
Impossible not to sing along to…