Club talk

Fool’s Gold? No. But certainly not 24 carat, either…The biggest crowd last weekend? Why, at Cambridge of course…

Fools Gold – DEFINITION : Also known as iron pyrite, fool’s gold is a gold-colored (sic) mineral that is often mistaken for real gold. Fool’s gold is also a common term used to describe any item which has been believed to be valuable to the owner, only to end up being not so

(Investopedia…)

I happened to listen to Eddie Jones yesterday morning on Radio 5, talking about the first couple of years of his tenure and the build up towards the winter internationals and the six nations.

During the discussion, the England Head Coach made mention of there being a ‘Fool’s Gold’ in sport, this  being the phase in a team’s progression when it appeared to be doing particularly well, often after a period of relative failure.

As results improve, there is an immediate surge of enthusiasm and on the outside at least, there is little that appears wrong with what is happening on the pitch.

But for the coaches, it’s a question of ‘Fool’s Gold’ in the sense that everything is not always as it seems.

Although much of what he said was in reference to the England team, a lot would also be equally true of the current Coventry squad under Rowland Winter

Whilst Coventry continues to be win games, there is still much still to be done. The reality is that as far as the coaches are concerned, there are aspects of the team’s performance that always need to be improved if the targets that have been set are to be reached. And the bar is always being raised.

Although it might be harsh to say what we are currently witnessing at the BPA is in any sense ‘Fool’s Gold’, there is definitely a feeling that whilst we are presently enjoying a rich vein of form which currently sees us top of the league with a 7 point gap, we are by no means the finished article and if we are to win this league we are going to have to improve further. Those who believe we are already good enough as we stand are being fooled – all that glisters is certainly not gold.

Jones talks about wanting another 20% from his England side – I’m not sure how you quantify something like that, but the underlying point he is making is one that is transferrable to all coaches across all sports. Good is never good enough and you are always striving to better yourself and those around you.

Settle for anything less and I guess there’s always the danger of complacency setting in.

At training on a Thursday I’m always struck by the meticulous planning and preparation that Rowland Winter seems to undertake before each game. He comes across as being relaxed and very at ease with himself and those around him, yet when he starts talking about the players in his squad, the game at the weekend, the players and the teams he comes across  or just rugby in general, he has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge and will admit to feeling some pressure on occasions.

He can real off stat after stat, knows the opposition inside out  and will watch a couple of National One games most evenings. Okay, it’s his job…but even so.

As a teacher, I would mark a set of books or prepare my lessons in the evening (or both on a good day), but I wouldn’t analyse how each of my pupils fared in each of the other subjects they studied, important though residuals are. It would take someone exceptional to do that…

For most supporters, more of the same would be great. Whatever it is that is responsible for Coventry’s unbeaten start to the season, just keep doing it.

For Rowland Winter, I’m not sure that would suffice.

In fact I know it wouldn’t.

The trick for any successful coach must surely be to work out how to get to that next level, one that will move the team forward and is attainable, but one that is also going to take those involved out of their comfort zone a little.

‘Fools Gold’ might glisten and sparkle, but in the end it is worthless. The rugby Coventry is  currently producing is attractive and indeed of value, given the number of supporters returning to the Butts in recent weeks, but a poor spell at any stage this season and a third or fourth place finish would devalue much that has already been achieved.

I would expect that the performances we are currently enjoying at the moment, good as they are, will be bettered later in the season. You’d hope so anyway, because other clubs won’t be standing still and if we don’t strive for further improvements in our game, there are teams behind us who will surely catch us up.

One of the real bonuses for me over the last 18 months is that both the coaches and players are happy to talk to supporters and enter into a real discussion about Cov and about the club. Now this might have always been the case but, if so, I was never privy to it. By opening up training to supporters and by encouraging coaches and players to chat, the club can ‘educate’ its fans.

One of the big differences for me in the last two years is the willingness of the club to talk directly to its supporters. And I actually mean talk, rather than communicate – the website is there to do that.

In the time we’ve been in National One, I never spoke to any of the coaches, not once – partly because I am very reserved, but primarily because no one from the club was interested enough to know who the bloke was who walked 6 or 7 times around the pitch home or away with his son before a game back then.

That probably comes across as a criticism, but its not meant to be. I just took that as the norm. If it happened at Cov, then it would surely be the same elsewhere?

For me, supporting Cov was a 2.00 -5.00 Saturday afternoon activity and little else. I’d turn up, watch the warm-up  and the game and go home and join in the odd thread on the Messageboard. It was what I was used to and I was fine with that because I’d never known an alternative.

Even in the first year of the blog, that was still the case.

And I don’t think I was alone – some of those who now go along on a Saturday to watch a game, or training on a Thursday, and enjoy spending time chatting with the coaches, probably wouldn’t have done so previously.

Or maybe they did and I just wasn’t aware of it.

Within a few weeks of the announcement of RW’s appointment and well before he arrived at the club,  Rowland Winter had asked to have with with me simply because he wanted to  meet the bloke who would as likely as not be writing about him and his team the following year. And that’s before he’d even taken office. He explained what it was he was hoping to achieve and how he was going to go about it.

Sorry to personalise it, but it does illustrate the difference in approach.

A year and a half on and the club is far more accessible to supporters. And whilst there was nothing wrong with the pre-Winter approach, I just feel the club functions better when everyone is working together.

And actually, it works very much in the club’s favour. By speaking directly to supports, Rowland Winter can get his message across far more effectively than by newsletter or a post on the website. Supporters have a far, far better understanding of what the club is trying to achieve and how they are setting about achieving it because the club, and in particular RW, talks to people and he’s happy to answer even the most direct of questions. It’s individualised and as a supporter you’re left feeling a part of the process. The barriers that seemed to be in place a few years ago have been pulled asunder and there is far more of a ‘family’ feel to the club than there ever was.

And because RW’s so approachable,  supporters feel at ease and there’s an element of trust in place. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ becomes simply ‘we’.

During the weeks that led to Phil Maynard’s move away from the rugby side of the business and the subsequent appointment of Scott Morgan, supporters asked question after question on the Messageboard as to what was happening and when no answer from the club was forthcoming, we answered them ourselves as best we could.

And didn’t that work out well?

Had someone from the club just been prepared to talk, things might not have changed in the long run, but a lot of the unpleasantness might have been avoided.

Again I might be wrong here, but would the Supporters’ Club have thrived in quite the same way as it currently is under the two previous Head Coaches/DoRs?

I’m not altogether sure it would.

Even in the couple of seasons where we finished 4th and 3rd back in 2009-2011, conditions wouldn’t have been right. And if ever there was a case of Fool’s Gold, it was back then.

I appreciate I’ve wittered on a bit here, but there is an important point to be made in all of this, namely that no successful team is ever going to be where it wants to be in terms of performance. There’s always areas to improve. At the moment, whilst the team is enjoying a run of success unparalleled in the club’s more recent history , it is a long way from where it needs to be and never far away from a turn in its fortunes.

Fool’s Gold?  No, I don’t think so.

But it’s certainly not 24 carat either…not just yet.

18 carat gold is 75% of the real deal…Eddie wants a 20% improvement from his squad, perhaps we should expect 25%.

18 carat sounds about right for now, but I hope by the end of the season it proves to be pure gold.

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

Half time on Saturday over at Cambridge…

There was an attendance of  912 at Cambridge on Saturday…well over twice Cambridge’s average gate for the season so far.

It was the highest attendance of the day in National One which I’m guessing is probably a first for Cambridge in this league, even outstripping Darlington’s 890.

Having checked with one of the Cambridge officials, the feeling there is that probably as many as 300-350 of those present on Saturday were Coventry supporters. And that’s a lot more than I’d anticipated.

That’s 20% of our average gate this season.

Possible one in five home  supporters made the trip down, one in four if you go on the average attendance for last season.

I’m staggered really.

It’s a massive statement of belief in the squad, in the coaches and in the Board and a great example of the way in which Rowland Winter and the team

 

have brought supporters on board.

We certainly never saw Cov fans travelling in quite these numbers even back in 2014/15 and if performances continue to improve and we remain in contention, those numbers are only going to increase.

What are the odds on three coaches for Plymouth in April?

Not that great I would imagine.

Cambridge provided all that was needed for a great day out, and despite the numbers, which surely must have exceeded expectations, it all seemed to run like clockwork.  Having a bar and hog roast outside worked especially well and took a lot pressure off the clubhouse – if only Cov could work to a similar model.

Some clubs just seem to have a friendlier feel than others and Cambridge is certainly one of those.

I’m sure they’ll be an equally warm welcome for theie fans when they come over to us in February.

It could all be rather exciting by then…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 replies »

  1. A great post Tim as always, and you have managed to perfectly express my sentiments about the way the club has been run over the last few years in words far better than I could have put together. Cov have been my team now for going on 40 years and they always will be, whatever. I really believe that a true supporter decides on their team and then sticks with it through thick and thin, Surely that’s what “supporter” means. There have been some great times in the past and also some pretty awful ones but it’s always been Cov for me.. The bonus now is that due to the current ethos brought about by Jon Sharpe and Roland Winter ably supported by their back-up teams, (not forgetting the wonderful Supporters Club Committee and your blog), I have never felt more part of the club.. I’m certain that many people feel the same way. From a Saturday afternoon activity CRFC is now a 7 day a week essential giving much pleasure. It’s a tremendous feeling being a Cov supporter right now so let’s all spread the word of “Our City – Our Club” and bring in those supporters to the true home of rugby football in Coventry.

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    • Spot on, Roger…supporters support, through thick and thin. Yes, there are times to be critical but only in a positive way. I was always a it sceptical of the ‘Our City – Our Club’ mantra as I’m not a Coventrian by birth (although my mum is), so it just doesn’t have the same feel to it for me as it might well do for most supporters. But the ‘Our’ club is important – we have been empowered to take more control in what happens, exemplified by the great work of the CRSC which you so rightly allude to. Happy times…

      Like

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