Club talk

Beating down walls to open doors…Man of the Match result…how many loanees are too many?

It was the French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, who famously said:

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door

And whilst  I have no idea what the wall was in her life that she was trying to break down, its message certainly carries a resonance as far Coventry Rugby Club is concerned.

After so many years of the club beating its head against a brick wall, it’s only since the arrival of the Chairman, Jon Sharp, and more recently Director of Rugby, Rowland Winter, that the club has acknowledged that unless all the supporting beams are in place, the wall will crumble before the frame of the door is even fitted.

For too many years, even when Coventry was in what is now the Championship, the infrastructure, in the form of a business plan that would provide  much needed additional revenue to maintain and improve a squad capable of achieving even a top half of the table finish, was never there.

In short, those supporting beams were never in place.

Twice the wall cracked open and crumbled and twice the club almost faced liquidation.

Now, however, the surveyors have drawn up their plans, the building work has started and we know where that door will lead…

…directly into the Championship.

We even have an idea of what it will look like. A doorway made of a mixture of materials, solid and sturdy, locally sourced for the most part but also including some older, well-seasoned timber. It will be designed to withstand all the pressures placed upon it by other clubs, all hoping to use the same exit.

And once we’re through its threshold, I’m hoping we’ll find it opens just the one way, into the Championship and not back out again.

From the rubble of the cracked and broken wall of the past, Jon Sharp has already put most of the pieces back together, only this time he has left a gap for that door to be fitted.

Rowland Winter is the craftsman, the master builder who has carefully chosen the materials needed to make the door and is now painstakingly shaping it to an exact fit. It may take a few months or another year or more.

But when it’s finished, it will be a thing of beauty, a blue and white masterpiece.

And what of the supporters?

Well, they’re queuing patiently to take that exit along with the players, too…

And the queue gets longer and longer by the week.

1552 supporters made their way to the BPA on Saturday.

1552.

No disrespect to Loughborough, but of the 15 sides to come along to the BPA this season, it is going to be in the bottom three of in terms of Coventry’s home attendances.  Loughborough bring very few of their own supporters and it’s not thought of by Cov fans as being one of the more attractive fixtures  on the rugby calendar. So 1552 is a pretty decent crowd in my book.

There were 1703 at the BPA to watch Bishop’s Stortford, so it’s a fall of 151 in total, but BS brought a lot of their own support along to the game which explains why the difference is as high as it is.

1552 is well above the average of just over 1500 for the successful 2014/15 season and shows an increase of nearly 300 on last season’s average.

4 home games and there is now clearly enough evidence to show that there is a definite upward trend in the number of supporters attending Cov games this year. And that’s fantastic news for a club that isn’t quite self-sufficient financially just yet.

And it’s not just Phil Crossman and Jon Sharp who will be enjoying the upturn in the club’s fortunes off the pitch as well as on it. The Supporters’ Club, now in its second year, is attracting more and more members.

Nothing succeeds like success.

It has well over 200 members already.

A further 8 more signed up on Saturday alone.

That’s 200 plus supporters committed enough to pay £20 for the year and given that one of the key benefits of the membership is access to cheaper away travel on the coaches organised by the Supporters’ Club, then it’s also 200 plus supporters likely to cheer on their side away from home at some point during the season.

There will be well over 100 supporters down at Cambridge at the weekend… near 150.

It’s a fantastic achievement, although with member numbers increasing as rapidly as they are, it means the committee members’ workload will be increasing commensurately, something we ought not to forget.

We are extremely fortunate to have that level of support and I know the SC has been working closely with Coventry Rugby to maintain and improve the facilities for players and supporters, news of which can be found in the latest Supporters’ Club newsletter, In Touch, available to read by clicking on the link below:

‘In Touch’ – Issue 3

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Supporters’ Club Coaches to Cambridge – Update

Both coaches to Cambridge are now full, but if you are still interested in traveling with the Supporters’ Club, please drop the SC an email on CRSC1874@gmail.com with your name and contact details.

The plan is that if there are more supporters wishing to book seats, the Committee will book a larger second coach. Full details of the trip, including costings and times can be found at

  crsc1874.com/next-away-game/

Both coaches will be departing at the same time.

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DSCN1626

Brett Daynes immediately after Saturday’s game, complete with bloodied shirt.

Coventry v Loughborough Students ‘Man of the Match Award’:

Very many thanks to everyone who took part in the  ‘Man of the Match’ poll over the weekend.

The results of the votes are as follows:

1st – Brett Daynes– 29%
2nd – Latu Makkafi – 20%
3rd- Jack Preece– 15%

 

The supporters who took part in the poll agreed with the sponsors for the second game running, something of a rarity in recent times.

As far as the official MoM award is concerned, I believe it’s the first that Brett has collected since his return to Coventry for his second spell here. Might be wrong on that one, though…

I’m not going to repeat what I wrote about Brett in yesterday’s post, other than to say his was the stand-out performance for me. Coincidentally, Mick Carter (or CovMick as he is affectionately known) turned round towards the end of the game, probably a minute before the announcement, to ask me who I thought the sponsors would choose.

Brett was my choice then and remains so now, although in terms of the poll, it was a lot tighter than in most weeks.

In the blog poll, just below Jack Preece were George Oram and Scott Tolmie, both on 13% – an indication of just how much supporters felt Cov’s win on Saturday relied on the dominance of the forwards.

It was a tough game, and when the going gets tough…

…along comes Brett Daynes.

Or Latu Makaafi, or Jack Preece, or George Oram or Scott Tolmie and so on.

(What I’ll try and do, if I can remember, is to keep an up-to-date list of players in receipt of the coveted sponsors’ MoM and pin it to the front page – together with attendances – both of which might be an interesting, if not useful, resource on occasions).

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It wasn’t until the end of the game that a remark someone had made before the game concerning the influx of Leicester Academy players into the Loughborough side really sank in.

It might have been Roger Pulley, but I’m not convinced.

Most of the pre-match discussions had been about how much of an impact the Leicester contingent might have. In the past, we’ve played Premiership Academy sides, usually pre-season or as a Nighthawk’s fixture, and been on the receiving end of a hefty defeat, so naturally there were some concerns as to how the pendulum might have swung away from Cov and towards Loughborough as a result of the 7 or so Leicester players selected in the Loughborough match day squad.

No one expected Cov to lose as a result of these additions, but there was a general consensus that their presence would make it a lot harder game than it might have otherwise been.

It was Roger, I think, who made the point that there would be a lot of very frustrated players already at Loughborough who would now be having to  play BUCS rugby, denied the opportunity of a run in the senior side by the inclusion of so many Leicester youngsters.

It’s a tough one – but it was always going to be the case when Loughborough took the decision to form a partnership with Leicester Tigers and ‘accept coaching, playing and support input from the Tigers’.

So when does ‘some’ become ‘too many’?

In including 7, 8, 9 or more Academy players into their side, there’s seems to be a tacit acknowledgement on the part of Loughborough that their current squad just isn’t good enough at this level, although in doing so you’re hardly giving your own players a) the chance to prove themselves at this level and b) the opportunity to learn on the job, so-to-speak.

I can only imagine that if I were currently a 17 year old rugby-mad college student, hoping to undertake a sports’ science degree whilst also playing competitive rugby at a national level, I’d be thinking twice now about putting Loughborough down as one of my UCAS choices, given the number of places taken up in the first team by Leicester Academy players in the last couple of weeks.

It’s something of a catch-22 for the National One side at the moment…rely mostly on your own squad and risk the likelihood of relegation, or rely on a Premiership side to bolster your squad and get it wrong and risk a drop in the number of talented players applying to Loughborough in future years.

It does seem particularly harsh though on those players who would be in the Loughborough side were it not for the Tiger cubs.

…and whilst on the subject of loans from Premiership clubs, are Cov moving away from Wasps towards Northampton Saints this season?

We’ve had Gabriel Oghre on loan from Wasps and Cameron Gray is playing some A team games over there, but it appears the two players that Rowland Winter suggested could be ours, should we have need of them, namely Tom Willis and Will Porter (the scrum half), are both now at Rotherham. With the injury to Pete White, Will might have been a more than useful addition to the squad.

That said, Tom Emery looks to be a superb prospect, so no worries there. I’m just wondering if we’re looking more to Saints now and less to Wasps for potential Academy dual regs?

Happy either way!

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I’m going to end the National One 2010-2017 Coventry Dream Team poll at the end of today. Many people have already voted and I’d like to get the results of the poll in Wednesday and Thursday’s posts, before the build up to the game on Saturday against Cambridge starts in earnest (and what a game that looks like being).

If you haven’t yet taken part and would like to do so, please select the relevant number of players from each position found below. If you would like further clarification, please refer to  National One 2010-2017 Coventry Dream Team

Hopefully, it’s refreshed a few people’s memories of the players of a few years ago and whilst  it’s never going to be a fair comparison of  like with like given Coventry’s circumstances are so different today than they were back in 2010, it’s just a little something designed to while away a few spare minutes over a cup of coffee and a  chocolate Hobnob (although my preferred biscuit of choice these days would be a mint Viscount, 69 p for a packet of 7 from Tesco ( today’s top grocery tip, brought to you by www.coventryrfc.me ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 replies »

  1. I’d suggest that they change the name for their team in NL1 – Loughborough Students is quite misleading. I notice Hartpury College in NL1 are now Hartpury RFC in the Championship.

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    • Harrpury changed their name last season.Many clubs in ND1 just used the previous name in match day programme and any adverts.

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  2. Tim – this must be one of your finest posts, in my opinion. Your comments about rugby matters are always poignant but some of the prose in this piece is superb. You even managed to find a use for that photo of an old Greek door that’s been on file since the 70’s!! Your use of analogy is always clever, but today, like Cov, you’ve upped your game! Thanks.
    Richard.

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    • Hi Richard – I don’t know how to respond to that, other than to say that it’s such a generous thing to say and it is hugely appreciated. Unlike Cov, though, sadly my game won’t stay upped. I’m afraid!
      Many thanks, Richard, as always…

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  3. It looks like Loughborough have been in N1 since 2012. When Dave Morris was there as DoR it was his aim to stay in the division. He knew it would at best be a fight each year. With the new DoR that seems to have changed and maybe their new goal is to do a Hartpury and be a junior club to Leicester like Hartpury are to Glos. They are also in the Bucs Super Rugby Division and then have 3 other men’s teams in BUCS Leagues plus a women’s side. Therefore plenty of rugby for aspiring young players of varying talents.
    My Cameron had wanted to go there to study and to immerse himself in that rugby pathway. Unfortunately he was one grade off so Coventry has become his home for these 3 years. I feel he has progressed really well by choosing this route & arguably got further, quicker, than might have been the case at Loughborough. Last year loaned out to N3M Champions, Broadstreet, and this year breaking into playing some 1st team games for Cov. What he has missed in not playing Uni rugby has been replaced with his training & playing A League on the Monday nights for Wasps and he still does his s&c with them 3 to 4 days a week.
    Cameron was at prep school with Tim Bitirim who started at 15 for Loughborough at the w/e and who is in his final year there. I guess if you are talented and want it enough you will get there somehow. Here’s to a great season at Cov and being in the mix come April.

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    • Hi Ed – interesting that Cameron had hoped to go to Loughborough and even more so that in retrospect, as his dad and mentor, you feel he’s probably done as well by taking a different path, He’s certainly impressed at Cov and is very well respected by those who attend training on a Thursday He kind of epitomises what we hope the Academy will bring to the club – talented youngsters brought on to the next level, initially with Cov and then perhaps beyond should opportunities arise.
      Thanks for adding such insight – thoughts and opinions such as mine, often but shadow of the reality of which we write, are made all the better for it.
      As always, thanks Ed for taking the time to come over and leave a comment. It is always appreciated by those who read this blog.

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  4. Interesting about the loanees. Coventry and other clubs at this level will depend on these signings if they are serious about promotion/survival. But it should be two way traffic (often, it’s not). If I was at Loughborough, I’d be eyeing the chance to impress and maybe get a step on the ladder into Leicester.
    But if you’re not good enough, it’s the old ‘silk’s purse’ argument.
    I wasn’t good enough to play in some of the teams I did. But I had determination, heart, whatever you call it. I also worked hard on my fitness. Then I was allowed to have a run in the team, and they looked after me and my skills etc improved.
    I like to think I survived. But as you say, if someone who could do well is robbed of the chance of putting things right, then they won’t.
    It’s a fascinating dilemma, but the sad reality for Loughborough is that, with or without the Leicester lot, at the moment, results and the table say they’re not good enough.

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    • Great comments – the two way process is often over looked. Cov had Ali Bone and Sam Harry involved in the Wasps A fixtures last season and Cameron Gray this year. The problem with hoping to impress is that if only 4 or 5 of your own squad are playing and the rest of the places are filled up by loanees, there aren’t many who are going to get that chance. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, really.
      Clubs sometimes need a short term fix in order to stay in the league but it is at the expense of long term planning and bringing on your own youngsters for the future. But as you say, it doesn’t look like either approach is going to work for Loughborough if results continue as they are, although I reckon they’ll be safe by April…just.

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