Club talk

Saturday’s no time to be caught ‘sleeping on the job’…Coventry Dream Team revealed

Well man you know
You win some and you loose some
Yeah guess you’re right man
But you know brother
If losin’ would make you king
You would own everything

Fats Domino – Sleeping On The Job

If losin’ would make you king
You would own everything…

It’s one of those lyrics that might well strike a chord with many long-suffering Cov fans who have witnessed season after season of disappointment these last twenty years or so….

…and no pun intended, honestly.

For a club of Coventry’s potential, for too long we had been drifting in a sea of relative mediocrity.

Cries of, ‘Cov are too big a club to be where we are’ eventually turned to whispers of, ‘We are where we deserve to be’.

The club took far to long to adapt to the move away from the amateur game towards the modern, professional era.

We might have been the strongest club side in the country before the era of national leagues, but pride led to a fall and once fallen, the club took too long to pick itself up, shake itself down and begin again.

But all those false dawns never quite dimmed the burning embers of optimism that fired the hopes of the Coventry faithful. In the end enough was enough and after the club’s near bankruptcy back in 2010, things had to change.

Coventry Rugby Club was less than 24 hours from folding. It was that close. It took the likes of Peter Rossborough and the then Cov Board to do what King Canute couldn’t quite manage, they reversed the tide of misfortune that had beset the club over so many years. We almost lost it all back then.

Suddenly, from having almost nothing,  we had one more chance of owning everything.   And to get back to Fats and ‘Sleeping On The Job’, along came Jon Sharp.

No king, for sure…but with the wisdom of Solomon.

A change in focus, an emphasis on procuring financial stability rather buying our way out of the league and, 5 years on from his appointment as club chairman, the future looks a lot, lot brighter.

If promotion into the Championship is akin to winning everything, then it’s the years of disappointment that will have made us kings of our own destiny.

If losin’ would make you king
You would own everything

Fats Domino died yesterday.

Now ain’t that a shame….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yesterday’s post  included the 32 man squad of players selected on the basis of the votes cast in last week’s poll to determine the 2010-2017 Coventry National One Dream Team.

Readers were able to choose from every Coventry player who had made at least 14 appearances for the club over the seven years we’ve been in National One, together with the players brought in by Rowland Winter over the summer in preparation  for this season’s promotion challenge.

Whilst I know there are one or two who feel that the likes of Tuitupou, Preece, Narraway and Nilsen shouldn’t have been included in the poll, hopefully yesterday’s post will at least have explained my reasons for so doing (Coventry’s 2010-2017 Dream Team – the squad).

The squad was made up as follows:

Props: Brown, Parkins, Litchfield, Boulton (Thorne/Steenkemp)

Hookers: Tolmie, Nilsen (Price)

Second Rows: Poole, Jubb, Dacres, Oram (Wright/Morgan)

Flankers: Oliver, Preece, Makaafi and Daynes (Alex Nash/Povoas)

No 8s: Narraway, Le Roux (Pailor/Dyer)

Scrum-halves: White, Evans/Brazier

Fly-halves: Fenner/Jones, Maisey

Centres: Otutaha, Tuitupou, Grove, Stevens (Myring/MacBurnie)

Wings: Lespierre, Hurrell, Knox, Rundle (Trimble)

Full-backs: Stokes, Hodgson

Below are the xv players that make up the Coventry 2010-2017 Dream Team. The player(s) receiving the most votes in each position is promoted into the starting XV and the bench is determined by the player with the next highest number in the appropriate position.

  1. DreamBrown
  2. Nilsen
  3. Boulton
  4. Dacres
  5. Poole
  6. Makaafi
  7. Preece
  8. Narraway
  9. White
  10. Maisey
  11. Knox
  12. Tuitupou
  13. Stevens
  14. Hurrell
  15. Stokes
  16. Tolmie
  17. Litchfield
  18. Daynes
  19. Evans
  20. Grove

I have to say I was surprised by just how many of the current squad made it into the final XV. Will Hurrell (along with Evans who is on the bench) is the only player representing the Pre-Winter era, although of course Stevens, Knox, Maisey, Poole and Brown all played for Cov prior to RW’s arrival (as did Daynes who is also on the bench).

With players like Le Roux, Oram, Jubb, Oliver, Jones, Grove and Lespierre all pushing for a place in the match day squad, there would be plenty of opportunities for players to be rotated and given time to recuperate where necessary. This is a squad with real strength in depth  and the inclusion of Le Roux, Jones and Lespierre probably gives it the edge over  this season’s squad.

The current 2017/18 back division with the addition of Will Hurrell out wide, the only position in the current team that still has an unsettled look about it, would be a sight to behold. The Hurrell of 2014/15 playing alongside this season’s backs would cause carnage amongst opposition defences, although there would inevitably be calls to move Hurrell into midfield, but that would most likely have to be at the expense of Tuitupou?

Prior to  RW’s announcement of last season’s squad, there was some pretty robust discussions on the Messageboard and elsewhere regarding the number of players he would, indeed should, retain, players who had performed so well prior to the 2015/16 season.

In the end, it was in single figures, but the result of this poll suggests that despite the angst at the time, the decision not to keep hold of the likes of Pailor, Oliver, Lespierre and others was, in the end, the right one.

I didn’t vote for Evans, if I’m honest. I had some reservations about him in his final season at Cov; despite being awarded the captaincy he seemed to have lost  some of his fire and enthusiasm for the game and when George Tressider came to us on loan he made an immediate impact. At his best, Evans was a fine player and for in his first season with Cov, he and Matt Jones were the strongest pairing at 9 and 10 we’d seen for a long, long time.

As good as White and Maisey?  I wouldn’t like to choose between them.

To have been lucky enough to watch both pairs at Cov in the last few years has been a privilege. White would be ahead of Evans for me, but it would be a close call between Jones and Maisey. Jones controlled tight games in a way that Maisey doesn’t, but the current no 10 is the best attacking fly half we’ve had since…Luis Criscuolo perhaps, or Elisa Vunipola…and his  distribution is exceptional. Horses for courses – to have both in the squad would be special, although I think Fenner is a Championship fly half in the making as well.

At the time, the thought that the 2014/15 squad might have underachieved in finishing third wasn’t something I ever entertained  – but under the current coaches and with the present infrastructure, would that squad have done better?  I think they probably would…but that’s one of those great imponderables that make coach journeys sitting next to my son that much more entertaining.

The season just petered out after the record run and the last 10 games were very disappointing , with Cov winning just 4 of them. I think the last couple of seasons have really brought home to me how important the coaching/support set us is. Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to attend some of the training sessions and have seen at first hand how well the coaches work with the players.

If you haven’t spent time watching the players go through their final routines in the minutes leading up to  kick off, it’s well worth a look. It’s timed down to the minute and just gives the impression of a side that is focused and professional in its approach. Under Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan, it appeared far less intense and organised and at times one of the coaches even spent time playing with his son whilst the players trained. I never really understood that.

Anyway…there it is, the Coventry Dream Team covering the last 7 seasons.  I think it was probably the wrong time to have carried out the poll, given the success the current squad is enjoying in comparison to some of the fairly indifferent seasons we’ve had since 2010. But it does show the respect supporters hold for this current crop of players, with only Will Hurrell able to break into the team.

The results of the poll serve to reinforce what we already know, that this is the best squad we’ve had at the BPA in the last 7 seasons and that it is a team that this season has to be viewed as one of the three or four serious promotion contenders in National One this season.

As votes of confidence go, this is a pretty big one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hopefully, I’ll be at training this evening, if only to get my pre-Saturday Cov fix.

There are now a group of up to 20 supporters who will turn up on a Thursday, some more regularly than others, but there’s usually 10-12 there at any one session. If you haven’t been but feel you’re missing out, then pop along – there’s always some interesting discussions and most sessions Rowland Winter will come across and chat about the team and the opposition and he is always willing to answer questions.

There’s already a different feel to the build-up to the game this weekend, with plenty of supporters using social media to convey their excitement about Saturday’s trip to Cambridge. It’s all positive, whilst also acknowledging that Cambridge will be up for it and they’ll push Cov more than many teams have this season.

There will be some nerves amongst supporters on Saturday, but those who are travelling down need to make sure that these aren’t conveyed to the team. We need to make it as near a home game as possible, although I rather suspect there’ll also be more Cambridge supporters there than is usual on at home game.  Their club is playing the league leaders , as well as welcoming back Rowland Winter and former players James Stokes, Brett Daynes and Northampton loanee, Fraser Dingwall. That said, 130 plus Cov supporters can make an awful lot of noise….and that’s a conservative estimate.

It’s a good test for Coventry.

I think even the most ardent of Cambridge supporters would agree that this is a game Cov should win. However, the pressures caused by being top of the league, of players returning to their old club and of the possibility of breaking the club record of the most consecutive league wins make this an even tougher fixture for the visitors  than it might otherwise be. How Cov responds to those pressures will be particularly interesting as the longer the season goes on, the more of these sort of games they are going to face.

In order to win the league, not only have Cov got to produce their best rugby consistently across the whole season, they have also got to show a mental toughness. Games like Saturday’s will provide a clue as to how the team will cope in the pressure situations that will come thick and fast as we approach Christmas and games against Ampthill, Plymouth and Darlington.

You’d hope this is where Phil Nilsen, Latu Makaafi, Luke Narraway, Jack Preece and Sam Tuitupou will really come into their own. They have played much of their rugby on far bigger stages than Granchester Road or the BPA and  the coaches will be looking to them to bring their experience at international, premiership and championship levels to the fore. It’s the key moments in big games that can often decide if not the outcome, then certainly the direction the game will take over the next few minutes.  It’s precisely these sorts of occasions  where you want to see your senior players control the game.

That’s what they’ve been brought in to do and so far they have done all that has been asked of them.

Away from the BPA, Cambridge could be a tricky game for Cov, but the blue and whites should have the power, pace and experience to overcome any  threat they pose. It might take a while to break Cambridge down, but if Cov’s defence remains as solid as it has been for most of the season, then we should have enough in the tank to come away with the points.

It’s one of those games where I’d actually settle for 4 points and take the win with no major injury scares, but Cambridge will score tries and it might well be that we’ll need the bonus point from the fourth try just to ensure the win.

It’s all pointing towards a fascinating afternoon’s rugby…

Whatever the result, there’ll certainly be a big contingent of Cov supporters there to watch it.

Come on Cov.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s hoping Cov don’t get caught ‘Sleeping On The Job’…

RIP, Fats Domino..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 replies »

  1. Great team Tim, and it has been nice thinking about some of the guys that were here. What I like is how much it is made up mostly of the current players, which I guess shows how we have all taken them to our hearts. Was tough choosing who to leave out,but out of the 20, 18 of them are still here, and I can’t imagine Will Hurrell not making a Coventry dream team, was definitely one of my all time favourite players. I’m sure it has provoked the kind of debates you were hoping for. Noticed in Pricey’s testimonial, there is a match between Coventry dream team and international 15 (unless I dreamt it), now that would make some interesting choosing?

    Like

    • Thanks, Roger…yes, the Cov dream team v an international XV makes for plenty of interesting discussion. No idea what the club have in mind…would be good to get Will back in a Cov shirt just one more time though.

      Like

  2. At least one plus point if we lose on Saturday – there will still be enough games left to beat the win record within the same season!

    Like

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