Some fools rave of happiness
Of blissfulness, togetherness
Oh, some fools,
They fool themselves, I guess
They’re not fooling me
And I know it isn’t true
Love is just a lie and it’s
Made to make you blue
Nazareth – Love Hurts
I love Coventry Rugby Club.
Always have and always will.
I want them to do well, am desperate to see them in the Championship.
Yet, the more successful Cov get, the tougher I find it is to watch them.
I would regard myself as a die-hard Cov supporter, someone who will always follow my club through both the good times and the bad.
I’m passionate about Cov, not in an overly-obsessive way, but enough to travel home and away and, now I’m retired, spend time blogging about all things Cov. Some people enjoy re-enacting civil wars, or tracking down real-ale breweries or even model railwaying.
Me, I just like to blog.
There are many, many Cov supporters who share the same feelings towards Cov as I do, and who put far more time and effort into supporting their club for no other reward than the personal satisfaction of being part of the club they, too, love.
They work hard behind the scenes and seek no acknowledgement for their efforts. They are appreciated all the more for so doing.
The same is true across all clubs and across all sports.
Cov is blessed to have so many supporters who live and breathe the club, who come to as many games as they can, despite commitments elsewhere, the difficulties of ill-health or old age, or simply because they are, quite literally in some cases, an ocean away.
And then there are those for whom Cov is less of a passion and more of an interest. Cov has a place in their lives, significant enough to come to a few games every season and follow the scores in those they miss. They keep up-to-date with what’s happening in and around the club, but have additional interests, sporting or otherwise, that often take precedence. They might not have quite the same passion for the club as some, but they are the core of the club’s support. They are in many respects the most important supporters of all – lose their interest and there’d be a major impact on attendance.
Inevitably, as Coventry ‘s form has improved and the local rugby community has begun to sit up and take more notice of events down at the BPA, interest amongst all supporters has been heightened, especially that of this second group.
Although I do believe Cov has come somewhat late to the party when taking advantage of the huge potential social media has to offer in terms of marketing the club, its media team is now making up for lost time and is reaching out to supporters in a way that the website two years back was never able to do.
The club uses Facebook and Twitter to regularly send information direct to the phones of the 5,800 followers it now has (a figure that has increased by getting on for 10% since July alone). It’s there at our fingertips – no need to actually have to physically log on to the website any more – phone notifications alert you of a tweet or a message without even having to look for them. We can read features about the club, the players, the coaches or reports of the games whilst having a break at the office or sitting on a train on the way home. Any time, any place or anywhere…there’s always a Martini moment if you’re a Cov supporter.
Supporters are encouraged to like or share messages and many now tweet directly to the club, to individual players or to each other. Faceless people, often with nameless names, but all chatting about Cov.
It’s out there and it’s happening. If you have a smart phone, you’re never more than a click away.
Supporting Cov used to mean 3 hours on a Saturday down at the BPA once every couple of weeks. Now it’s becoming a 7 days’ a week Covfest.
Away matches are much more accessible thanks to the Supporters’ Club, which in turn ensure supporters remain that much more focused on Cov in the weeks between home games.
A couple of years ago, during that bleak mid-winter when Phil Maynard was moved aside and Scott Morgan took over we asked, almost demanded, that the communication channels be opened between the club and the supporters.
The club listened, somewhat mutely at first, and then responded…
And now that Coventry is beginning to live up to all our hopes, riding high at the top of the National One table and looking like it might still be challenging for promotion beyond Christmas, interest in Cov is growing rapidly. Attendances are on the up, we are about to take two coaches to an away game for the first time for many a year and club membership is as high as it’s been since Cov was relegated to National One back in 2010.
We are exactly where we hoped we would be.
Jon Sharp has delivered. Rowland Winter and the coaches have delivered and, above all, the players have delivered.
It couldn’t get much better at this stage of the season.
So why is watching Cov proving that much harder this season?
Well, it’s at this point that anyone who is still reading this post (and well done you for sticking with it) might have difficulty in understanding what I’m about to say.
Cov has won the last 16 consecutive games. Okay, split over two seasons, but even so…16 games.
It’s fantasy rugby for many of us who have watched Cov struggle to be anything other than mid-table at best over the majority of the last 20 seasons (12 times in all) – with just the one season in the top 3. And even in the season we finished third, there was only perhaps a period of just a few weeks at most when promotion looked a possibility, but never a probability.
But this season, well it all feels kind of different…there’s a real buzz about the place.
And it’s not just on a match days, but during the week as well, as match reports and interviews with the key protagonists find their way onto social media. There is no let up…the excitement remains all week.
In those heady days under Derek Eves in the ’95/’96 season when we were last promoted to the equivalent of the Championship, I can remember the build up to the game would start on a Thursday, usually when the team was announced, drop off a little on the Friday, only to build up again on match day.
This is no more the case any longer.
Cov provides updates every couple of days and gives those who want it far greater access to the club. As a result there is a far greater emotional investment in the club on the part of many supporters than there ever used to be.
No peaks and troughs during the week; maybe the odd dip mid-week, but there always something new to read via social media or the website. There’s also plenty of information available on other clubs in our league – their results, match reports and news to catch up on as well. I really enjoy getting stuck into it – and whilst my days are very much taken up with visits to friends, family and grandchildren (it’s pumpkin picking today!!!), the odd shopping trip and a bit governor-related work, I’m not a great TV watcher. So, in the evenings whilst Sue gets her fix by watching Corrie or maybe the post watershed thriller, I get mine by a quick read of Rolling-maul or a look at Statbunker.
So by Saturday the excitement is already pretty high – doubtless Sam and I will have exchanged a few thoughts on Thursday and Friday and there are always plenty of messages crossing over the ether between like-minded supporters eagerly anticipating the game on the Saturday.
I love that pre-match build up and I have the added bonus of the blog – certainly a stress-buster for me and whilst it’s always an early morning finish, I’m off to bed tired and but always far more relaxed. Sleep isn’t a problem any more!
But actually watching the game itself – well that is definitely becoming harder for me.
I know it’s an obvious thing to say, but the longer this run continues the more significant it becomes. and the more significance it becomes, the more the pressure builds.
The record itself, great as it is, counts for very little, as do the games that we have carried over from last season. Those first 8 games of the run took us up to fourth and ensured we leapfrogged Moseley, but not a lot else in terms of this current campaign. Starting on the back of a decent run before the summer break might have enabled us to be in a better place psychologically than we might otherwise have been in September, but really it’s only the last 8 games that have really captured my imagination.
That emotional attachment I mentioned earlier has grown each time we’ve won this season and the further into the run, more the tension increases. In the last three weeks we’ve seen Darlington falter and Cov take the top spot, and Plymouth struggle at home. There’s a now a six point cushion; a game in credit.
Whilst everyone publicly is quick to say it’s early days and we’re not even a third of the way through the season, each game takes on an added significance. In my head, it’s already beginning to become a three-way battle for promotion with Blackheath and Plymouth. I’m like a kid counting down to Christmas…only for me Christmas comes in 28 weeks time, on Saturday 28th April.
I’m just as naïve, just as irrational and with as big an imagination as any 5 year-old. I should know better, I do know better, but the distance between knowing and doing in my case is one that is just too great to bridge.
This weekend sees us visit Cambridge, and whilst it’s a game we really need to win to ensure the gap remains the same between ourselves and those teams snapping at our heels, there are so many other twists and turns that have to be negotiated as well. There’s RW’s return to Cambridge and the friendly rivalry there, as well as between several of the players on each side who have been former team mates. And most importantly of all, there’s the real threat of Cambridge actually turning us over on the day. They’ll be really up for it and, as those who travelled down to Cambridge last season witnessed, Cambridge at home are a tough nut to crack. They pushed us hard last season and having had a great win at Ampthill last week, they must feel they are in with a shout. We struggled over at Ampthill earlier in the season, and how.
There’s also the small matter of second v third as well, as Blackheath play hosts to Plymouth – provided Cov win, at least one of those two teams will fall further behind. So a Cov win strengthens our position yet again, and the pressure continues to grow.
With so much at stake, I know I won’t enjoy the game as much as I might have done had we been in 5th or 6th place in the league and far less to play for.
Each game becomes that little bit harder to watch. The nerves are already on edge come 3.00 pm and, inevitably, I have an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach… and that’s even after a visit to Istanbul’s for a quarter-pounder with cheese.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be anywhere else by choice, but since we’ve looked more and more like a team that will be challenging for honours throughout the season, so I’ve become that much more nervous on match days. Taking pictures beforehand, texting updates during the game, both take the edge of that tension…but when it’s close run thing, the fingers start to shake, the throat goes dry and my in-built optimism gets pushed to one side.
My Happy becomes Mr Grumpy for the remainder of the game.
Fortunately, in most games this season, Cov have been out of sight by half time.
But it’s only going to get worse as we hopefully keep on winning.
For the last 20 or more seasons Cov haven’t proved themselves real promotion contenders; even in 2014/15 there was never the belief or anticipation there is currently. Cov’s seasons have usually ended by now as far as chasing the top spot is concerned.
Suddenly, though, we’re in pole position and we’re learning what it is like to be chased rather be the chaser.
The fox struggling to keep ahead of the hounds that are snapping at its heels.
Maybe that’s the best analogy for me, rather than being able to sit back and enjoy the moment, there’s a growing unease as Saturday comes that one slip and we’ll be swallowed up by the chasing pack.
I will always love watching Cov, but it doesn’t always meant that I enjoy it. It’s not going to get any better, there will be moments this season which definitely won’t be for the faint-hearted. If Cambridge really take the game to us, then Saturday might well be one such occasion.
I love my club, but:
Love is like a cloud
And it holds a lot of rain
Love does, indeed, hurt sometimes..
Remember Nazareth, the Scottish rock band of the mid-70s? No, nor do I really, other than for this song, a power ballad of sorts, which is very different from the normal Nazareth fare of heavy rock. In fairness, Bad, Bad Boy and Broken Down Angel were also big hits for them and anyone of an age would recognise them.
Jimmy Cliff did a much better version of ‘Love Hurts’, but I’ve opted for this one if only because I was doing my O Levels (yes, it was that long ago) around the time it was released.
And besides, there might be someone keen to revisit the sight of Dan M Cafferty’s bare-ish torso…