Training update #7 – ‘Strawberries are growing in my garden and it’s wintertime…’

I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing and endings are a disaster. The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap.

Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings which are already revolving towards another beginning.

Sam Shepard


Sam Shepard died yesterday.

It wasn’t unexpected as he’s been suffering from motor neurone disease from some time but the news, when it came, was a shock nevertheless.

I hate endings, too – especially those that involve such finalityWhilst not necessarily a household name, Shepard  was a Pulitzer prize winner and his play, ‘Buried Child’, was one I read as a student back in the very early 80s as part of an American literature unit I was studying at the time. He was also involved, extra-maritally admittedly, with punkette Patti Smith which immediately elevated him to the level of a legend in my book, even without his subsequent writing/acting successes.

I had originally intended to use a line from a song by The Dentists to start this post and whilst I’ve kept it for the title, the quote from Shepard seems more appropriate as a beginning – given the obvious irony involved.

It’s a quote I should have used before had it not laid quite so dormant in the dim and distant recesses of my mind all these years, summing up as well as it does these past couple of years as far as Cov’s recent history is concerned. To understand what Shepard was seeking to explain is to understand why the end of the Phil Maynard/Scott Morgan era was as painful as it was and, in contrast, why under Rowland Winter the future seems as exciting as it does.

Two seasons ago it wasn’t just the fact that we had such a poor season that was so difficult to accept, especially after all the hype back in the August of 2015, it was also that we lost so many players whom we had come to see as very much part of the long term future of the club, the likes of George Oliver, Chad Thorne, Sam Pailor, Jacques Le Roux and others.

At the time the ending seemed very much as Shepard maintained most endings are – a disaster.

Of course, in hindsight, it was very much the opposite.

The sweeping changes that took place were much needed and heralded the beginning of what was then, and remains now, a time of such excitement.

And that begs a question as to why, at the start of this, the second season under RW, things remain for most Cov supporters quite as intoxicating as they do – or at least for me, anyway.

We are, after all, into the middle of the three year project that both Rowland Winter and Jon Sharp referred to when RW took over some 15 months ago and, if Sam Shepard is right, it should all be starting to feel somewhat perplexing as the honeymoon period wears off and we enter into the central phase, the one where the cracks begin to appear. After such an auspicious start, the temptation on the part of the supporters, if not the coaches,  is  to seek an early resolution in the form of promotion sooner rather than later ; the ‘wrapping up of the package,so-to-speak’.

It is a ‘trap’  similar to that mentioned by Shepard, one that we have fallen into on so many occasions in the past.

One or two good seasons and we all believe at long last the leviathan has awoken and the club will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of its own self-destruction – and if that all seems a bit fanciful, then cast your mind back to the summer of 2008.

Or indeed 10 years prior to that.

I know I’ve fallen into that pattern of thinking on more than one occasion in the past.

And here’s where you get to see the genius of Sam Shepard – as well as the shrewd and canny nature of the Coventry board under the leadership of Jon Sharp.

Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings which are already revolving towards another beginning.

In retrospect, Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan made the fatal error of asserting back in August 2015 at the Fans Forum that the club was going all out for promotion that season, thus ensuring that whatever happened that season would result in an ending of sorts – either Cov would be promoted and the club would then face a new beginning or Cov would fail in its attempt, as it did, with disastrous consequences for most everyone involved.

And there would be few who would now argue against the view that, given the changes that we have witnessed over the last 15 months, Cov would have been ill-prepared for life in the Championship, especially off the field where the infrastructure was clearly not then fit for purpose. I guess it’s easy to say that now and at the time no one would have complained had Cov been promoted in the April of 2016…but in all honesty, would we have been ready for it?

It would not have been, in Shepard’s words, an ‘authentic ending’.

Which is definitely the case as far as the conclusion of the first season under Rowland Winter was concerned, back in April.

At no time during his tenure at Cov has the DoR put any time limit on promotion. Talk of at least a three year project, extended now into a fourth year with RW’s recent three year contract  signed, sealed and very much delivered, has meant that success isn’t measured in promotion for the time being, it is instead measured by the degree the club is seem to have made progress, both on and off the pitch. Potential endings have been astutely turned into new beginnings with contract extensions, both amongst the coaches and the players and, instead of setting finite targets, the club is purely stressing the need for continuity and development – no door remains shut, it’s just that others continue to open.

Everything is revolving towards another beginning.

As it should.


Sam Shepard’s death is very much an ending.

But he leaves a legacy – as we all will do, to varying degrees, when our time comes.

I’ll re-read ‘True West’ and ‘A Lie of the Mind’ – hell, I might even re-watch ‘Black Hawk Down’ or ‘The Pelican Brief’.

And there will be others who will have the joy of discovering him for the first time, albeit posthumously.

For them it will be a new beginning…

…and for him it will very much be the most authentic of endings.


This post was going to focus, as its title suggests, on yesterday’s training – the last Monday session before the pre-season at last kicks off with the away trip to Leicester Lions.

For those disappointed at the lack of reference to the morning’s activities, I can only apologise.

Sometimes, you just have to go where the mood takes you and this morning it’s taken me somewhere that I hadn’t been expecting.

However, I will include something a little more relevant in, hopefully, tomorrow’s post as there were a couple of interesting things that came out of it.

I’d actually decided on the title before writing the post which is unusual for me and causes a particular problem in this instance as it bears absolutely no relations to the content thus far.

‘Strawberries are growing in my garden and it’s wintertime…’ is actually the title of a little known song a the little known band, if the truth be known,  The Dentists – one of those indie groups that sprung up in the early 80s and were around for a few years before plummeting into deserved obscurity. They worked with Jon Hegley, the poet, for a while which is how I got to hear of them and whilst I have never owned any of their music, I do recall the song ‘Strawberries…’. if only because of the bizarre title for a post-punk band.

It’s relevance here is simply that I happened to meet Rowland Winter in the car park at  Summerhill Lane and as we walked up to the training area, he chanced to mention that he and the players had had the week off last week. Whilst he had, inevitably, been unable to take a complete break from all-things Cov, he had been able to spend time in the garden and as a result it was looking better than it had for many a long while. At which point, somewhat bizarrely, the line from The Dentist’s first single  ‘Strawberries are growing in my garden and it’s wintertime…’ appeared from nowhere in my head and hence it was going to be the starting point for the original post…

Probably shouldn’t have bothered, but there you go…

It’s actually a really pessimistic song and other than the above anecdote it bears no relevance to the rest of what I was going to write…that’s said it’s not quite as bad as I remember 🙂 🙂 🙂

There’s nothing to do
Nothing to show for my life
I look to the sky
Look to you in the air
Strawberries are growing in my garden
And it’s wintertime
Strawberries are growing in my garden
And it’s wintertime

The Dentists – ‘Strawberries are growing in my garden and it’s wintertime’




And seeing as Jon Hegley got a mention – here’s one of his many poems about dogs…

Jon Hegley 

The Price of Art in Luton

On the bridge approaching the railway,
the man was begging.
I said draw me a dog
and I’ll give you a quid.
So I gave him some paper
and he did.
And I said, there you go, mate,
you can make money out of art!
Will you sign it?
As I handed him the one pound thirty-odd
I had in my pocket,
he informed me that the signed ones were a fiver.

2 thoughts on “Training update #7 – ‘Strawberries are growing in my garden and it’s wintertime…’

  1. Hi Mark. Totally agree – all part and parcel of the same thing. It did them, nor the team any favours and supporters quickly lost faith after a handful of games. Poor judgement really…

  2. Actually the biggest mistake by Morgan was saying how many games we could afford to lose, especially how quickly that figure was achieved.The season was killed there and then….an inexcusable error

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