When you reach number ten
And think the struggle ends
But it ain’t the end
It’s only a trend
You have to unbend
‘Cause it’s only a trend
Don’t lose all your friends
Don’t make heroes end
The Police – A Sermon
In just two weeks’ time Cov travel to Jersey to play the Championship side in a pre-season friendly.
Jersey Reds, along with Rotherham Titans, will provide by far the toughest opposition in the series of games leading up to the start of the league campaign and the 25 or 26 players that Cov takes over to Jersey are likely to be the core from which the opening match day squad of 20 for that first game against Hull Ionians will be selected. It will be the first true test of Cov, circa 2017/18.
In the corresponding fixture last season, again away, Cov lost 47-5, conceding 7 tries and scoring just the one – although Cov’s second half display was much better than that of the first 40 minutes, spoiled only by three very late tries following Rhodri Adamson’s unfortunate yellow card.Jersey looked a very strong side back then, especially in the pack, and the club went on to finish 5th, just missing out on the Championship play-offs, reaching the final of the British and Irish Cup and in the process having their best ever season in the English pyramid structure.
Just how Coventry perform then this time around should be a good indicator both of the improvements the club has made over the last 12 months and, just as importantly, how well the new players coming into the squad this season are bedding in. I’m sure the coaches are hoping for a better performance, and hopefully result, than was achieved last season, something they will be able to use as a marker for the following few games.
However, although things were extremely positive for the Reds on the pitch last season, the reverse was very much the case off it, with the club having to sell most of its assets, including the clubhouse, to meet it is outstanding financial obligations and continue to compete in the Championship over the remainder of the 16/17 season.
In a recent interview on Radio Jersey’s ‘Sportscene’, Chairman Mark Morgan talked candidly about the changes that have taken place within the club over the last few months.
In avoiding another London Welsh scenario, the club had to reduce it’s budget by some £300,000 and in the process lost a large proportion of last season’s squad, with only 16 of the current squad of 35 staying on. The present squad has an average age of just 23, with the club being forced to release many of its more experienced players – 6 being snapped up by Premiership clubs. With 5 of those six on one year contracts, Jersey only received compensation for one of them.
However, by all accounts the front row remains pretty intact and the scrum is still strong, although untested as a unit. Morgan, who comes across very well in the interview, talks very much as Rowland Winter did this time last season, stressing that it will take between 6-12 months for the squad to really gel and whilst the strength and conditioning team are already working hard to build up the players’ muscle/weight, it will take time for this to impact on performance and he urges the Jersey supporters to show some patience if results don’t immediately go the club’s way.
The club’s success last season was the culmination of a three year project and, realistically, it will be a similar period of time before Jersey can expect to achieve the same sort of league position again. That said, Morgan believes that the squad is good enough to survive in the Championship, even with such a loss of key players.
Jersey Reds have opted for just the three pre-season friendlies, with the home game against Cov sandwiched between away trips to Vannes (France) and Harlequins. By reducing the number of home games to just the one, Jersey has saved itself a not inconsiderable sum of money as there is a cost to the club involved in bringing clubs over to the island – especially Premiership sides that tend to bring a large entourage of support staff with them.
Morgan suggests that with only the one home game, he would expected a larger gate than the 300-400 the club enjoyed last season given the focus at home will just be on Cov in the run up to the start of the Championship – which would certainly be good for Cov in terms of the ‘away day’ experience. He also mentioned that Jersey has already secured return visits from both Vannes and Harlequins for the 2018/19 pre-season and that there would only be 3 games in all again, but he made no mention of Cov…
By far the biggest cost to the club is the players’ salaries and he and Harvey Biljon (Head Coach) have taken a long time to get ‘the right players in at the right price’. It will take them a while to bed in, as indeed was the case with Cov last season…hopefully Cov can take advantage of that in two weeks’ time following what has been a very successful period of pre-season training for the National One side and with a far more settled squad than this time last year.
Many of the younger players who have joined Jersey this season are keen to have a crack at the next level and are determined to make their mark with Jersey as they believe it is very much the sort of club that encourages its talented players to move on where possible. Morgan made it clear that they are particularly excited about getting ‘up close and personal’ with Harlequins in the final pre-season friendly and see just what is involved in playing against a Premiership club – hopefully Cov might derail them a little before they even get there!
Jersey’s average attendance was 1769 last season (which surprisingly put them 3rd in the Championship), yet Morgan pointed out that as far as cash revenues are concerned, the gate money is well behind payments received from sponsorship and the RFU – something that probably isn’t so true for National One clubs where the RFU contribution is that much smaller. Indeed, the club has actually reduced the cost of entry into the ground on a match day this season, presumably feeling that the additional potential spend on refreshments, the result of the increase in supporters through the turnstiles, will more than make up for the shortfall caused by the reduction in the cost of admittance into the ground…?
Mark Morgan is keen to create a sense of stability following the uncertainties off the field last season and he has awarded his Head Coach, Harvey Biljon, a three year extended contract, having been impressed with what he saw of him in last year’s campaign.
The club has also taken on a new CEO to move the club forward (sounds familiar) and Morgan believes that it won’t be too long before they’ll be buying back some of the assets they had to sell in order to survive last season, perhaps within the next couple of years.
The club has plenty of initiatives under way to raise additional funds, including a Sports’ Lottery and a cashless members’ card – with the club adding an extra 10% to any money members might load onto their own personal card – so £100 put onto the card earns £110 of credit that can be used anywhere within the club.
The full interview on BBC Radio Jersey can be found at:
There are plenty of parallels with the Coventry situation of 12 months ago and whilst Jersey away is undoubtedly going to be a very tough fixture indeed, the Reds appear to have a very different squad from the one we played last season and as such it is difficult to know quite what to expect. It’s certainly not a case of comparing like with like.
Fingers crossed that the weather is as good as it was last year – it was scorchio back then!
Many thanks to those of you who have already sent in your answers to the current competition that’s open to everyone – young or old, local to Cov or living somewhere further afield.
The questions can be found below and the link to the form follows. Please do give it a go, it only takes a minute or two to complete and you can either email it to me or submit it by hand at one of the pre-season friendlies.
There will be a cup awarded to the winner…
(The figures in red at the end of each question refer to the 2016/17 results – they might help as a starting point for your answers…):
All questions refer to end-of-season predictions:
1 Total number of Coventry tries scored (130)
2 Total number of tries conceded (98)
3 Tries scored at home (79)
4 Average home attendance (1263)
5 Highest home attendance (2712)
6 Most points scored by Cov in a match (73)
7 Most individual points scored in a match (22)
8 Total number of league points scored by Cov (101)
9 Total points scored for Cov (974)
10 Total points scored against Cov (738)
11 Number of bonus points won by Cov (17)
12 Number of points scored by leading points scorer (244)
13 Number of tries scored by leading try scorer (10)
14 Total number of yellow cards conceded (25)
Tie break question: What will be the official home attendance vs Moseley
All questions other than 7, 10, 12 and 13 – answers ranked and then points awarded. So, if there are 15 people involved in the competition, the nearest gets 15 points and furthest away gets just 1…
Questions 6, 10, 12 and 13 – spot on 5 points, within 1 either way, 3, within 2 either way, 2, and within 3 either way, 1. Outside of 3 either way, no points scored.
The winner will be the person with the highest total score and said person will be awarded a trophy. In the unlikely even
If you would like to enter, please use the link below that will take you to a form – this should be filled in using a word processor and emailed to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or completed by hand and submitted directly to me at the ground by the final pre-season game, (Rotherham Titans on 26th August). If you don’t know me, I’m the bloke with the camera snapping away during the pre-match warm-up…usually looking cold and grumpy.
It would be great if a few folk got involved, otherwise I’ll just end up losing to Sam…again.
So here’s the link to the form…
Please don’t forget to include your name and an email address if possible…
For more details, use the following link and scroll down:
Finally, the results of the recent poll to determine which number would be the most popular choice to have printed on the back of the new Cov shirt…
They are as follows:
- No. 10 – 17%
- No. 7 – 14%
- No. 3 – 11%
I guess part of the reason is that the fly half position has always been associated with the glamour and romance of the game, from Barry John to Jonny Wilkinson – fly halves always seem to attract the attention of the public as well as being seen as the playmaker of the side. Also, of course, there’s the Will Maisey factor here at Cov – Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Season. I’m sure that has had a bearing, too.
That said, I’m not quite so sure about the glamour and romance attached to the position of tight-head – interestingly Nos 1 and 2 received very few votes (above only No 11 which received no votes at all) – make of that what you will. Perhaps Phil Boulton has an even larger following than was at first thought.
I’ll be interested to see if many people have chosen to have numbers put onto their shirts – were I able to fit into one, I’d opt for 28 – which in bingo parlance is, I’m reliably informed, ‘2 and 8 and overweight’…
I was lucky enough to ‘discover’ The Police before they became well known and somewhere in the attic I possess a very early and limited edition pressing of Outlandos D’Amour in a pretty lurid blue vinyl – together with the singles Fall Out, Roxanne and Can’t Stand Losing You again in coloured or picture vinyls.
However, as soon as Regatta de Blanc proved so popular I ditched them and moved on to another relatively unknown band at the time – probably The Teardrop Explodes or The Only Ones. They were heady days…
‘A Sermon’ was the B-side of De Do Do Do…a single which proved Sting was fallible after all…the B-side was far superior, raw and edgy and hinting at upheavals that chart success often creates
Always had a bit of ‘bromance’ for Sting –