Coventry – a big fish in a little pond or a minnow with an over-inflated opinion of itself?
Steve Jackson’s review of the Cambridge game in last weekend’s The Rugby Paper includes an interesting final three paragraphs. Forgive me for reproducing them here in full, but they of interest:
Winter was full of praise for his side, but more so for the travelling support whom he felt made a big difference on the day.
It’s a difficult place to come but when you bring as many fans as we brought, it felt like a home crowd…
That Coventry roar, home and away, has almost been the 16th man this season
I’m guessing Steve Jackson is a local sports’ journalist who has a similar role to John Wilkinson’s prior to his appointment Coventry’s Media Manager. In a game where Coventry once again were outstanding defensively and remain top of the league, RW’s only comments relate to the supporters.
There was much that was positive in the game that he could have singled out, and might well have done in the original chat with the journalist, but the fact that the edited version of his comments only include the above highlights the genuine appreciation that the coaches and players have for the incredible support they are receiving this season.
This isn’t an interview for the Coventry website or indeed for the benefit of Coventry supporters, and given his comments will have been made pretty much immediately after the game and as such will be spontaneous, it’s a great tribute and I’m sure one that in turn will be appreciated by any Cov fans reading it.
And it’s not as if the bloke needs to win favour with Cov supporters right now, is it?
Top of the league and playing some exhilarating rugby in the process…certainly no brownie points needed at the moment.
The away support on Saturday was immense and there were times during the game when it did feel like we were home from home.
Coventry’s support does feel special, at least in National One – but it set me wondering just how well supported we are in terms of this league…
According to Statbunker, in the years since we’ve been in National One, attendances have been as follows:
Year Av’ge Att. Position (in Attendance Table)
2010/11 834 3rd (Redruth 866, Blackheath 945)
2011/12 1051 2nd (Jersey 2206)
2012/13 857 1st
2013/14 1201 1st
2014/15 1506 1st
2015/16 1152 1st
2016/17 1263 1st
2017/18 1736 1st
For the last 5 seasons we’ve always been the best attended club and it looks as if this season is going to be no different.
I know I, along with many others, have used the term ‘sleeping giant’ to describe Cov, a term that hasn’t always proved popular with some supporters.
However, the dramatic increase in the average gate so far this season to that of any previous year indicates just what an effect a prolonged period of success on the pitch could have in terms of the number of supporters attending home games.
Again, I’ve referred to supporters ‘returning’ to Coventry this season, but given the current average for 2017/18 is higher than in previous years, that hardly suggests a return, does it?
Nor is the ‘Wasps factor’ borne out by these number, unless I’ve missed something somewhere.
Wasps moved to The Ricoh in late 2014 (?) but the average Cov gates since then have really been commensurate with the team’s performance on the pitch rather than Wasps’ move to Coventry. Attendances were up in 2014/15 which was the year we achieved the 16 consecutive wins, there was a dip the following year where we finished one place higher but attendances were definitely hit by the World Cup early on and some disappointing performances in the last 10 games. Last year saw an increase, but in line with other years.
Are we, though, a big fish in a little pond and getting bigger by the week.
Or are we just a minnow with an overinflated opinion of itself?
For me, it’s a case of being the big fish. If the promotion place was still to be decided in the final two weeks of the season and Cov was in the mix, I’m sure attendances would top 3000. Rowland Winter has always acknowledged the important part Coventry’s supporters will play in the team’s success.
However, if results tail off and we don’t make it to the Championship, then we’re back to the 2016/17 kind of figures all too quickly, as has happened in the past.
Caldy this weekend is another team that under normal circumstances wouldn’t attract a 1500 plus crowd, rather like Bishop’s Stortford two weeks ago.
But circumstances are anything but normal at the moment and it’s difficult to guestimate just what the crowd might be but, as a guess, I reckon it with will be pretty close to the current average for the season, if not a shade above.
Now wouldn’t that be something…?
Sam was 11 when me and his mum went our separate ways…
That was definitely a good thing.
As is the norm in these situations, Sam and his two sisters went to stay with mum.
That was most definitely a bad thing.
It was back in 1997 – and I’m ashamed to say the only way I could recall the year was to Google the death of Princess Diana. I’m not a great royalist but the two events, my separation and her death, followed one another in quick succession…
The nation mourned and I grieved for a different reason…being apart from my kids was tough.
Fear not – this remainder of the post isn’t going to be a stream of consciousness in which I explore my inner feelings and, through some sort of cathartic multi-thought process, achieve a long sought after release from my inner turmoil.
For those worried that I might have spent the next 20 years refusing to come to terms with the breakdown of what was an idyllic marriage…
…I haven’t and it wasn’t.
I remarried many years ago, adopted another two lovely girls into the family and now live a happy and blessed life.
And that’s the truth.
I only mention this because from the separation until Sam came to live me in ’99, Saturdays were everything. Friday night’s he’d come over to me and, during the season, Saturdays would be given over to Cov.
Home or away, we went everywhere…as we’d done in the past…but post ’97, Cov was the one thing that provided the stability in both our lives. The girls would be there in the evening and stay over on Sunday and weekends became such a happy time…there was never a tear or a cross word.
All this probably explains why Cov is so important to me now, and whilst I’ve never really discussed this with Sam, probably to him as well. The girls had ballet, horses, gymnastics and trampolining and a myriad of friends who ensured their lives were kept busy, even in the darkest of times.
Sam had Coventry, West Brom, WWF (as it was then), his sisters, a few friends and school. But it was Coventry that provided him with the most stability. Saturdays were always so special back then.
And they still are, but for different reasons. Seeing Sam is still the biggest and best part of any Saturday whether or not there’s any rugby on.
Nowadays, it’s a chance to catch up on a week’s gossip, and then to talk all things Cov. Both of us have very understanding partnerss, but any rugby-based conversation is limited in my house to ‘Did you win?’, ‘What was the score?’ and an ‘Up the Cov’ when I exit the house on a Saturday morning.
And it works fine that way.
I know many supporters have their own pre-match routines…meet at a local hostelry, have a pint or two and maybe a bite to eat, get to the ground for another beer and be seated in time for kick off.
And I have my own which, since the move to the BPA, involves arriving at the ground ridiculously early, having a burger and chips and then doing several laps of the pitch whilst watching the players warm-up. Or so it used to be.
Since the blog, and the surrender on my part to rather an acute form of middle-aged spread, it’s more a case these days of a walk into Cov to gets a Tesco’s Meal Deal – a cheese and ham sandwich, a bottle of fizz and a bag of crisps in a vain attempt to lose some weight. The rouble is, I hate losing.
And then a sit in the stands whilst I do my David Bailey impression, only with rather less aplomb.
Those who get to the ground early will have seen me succumb to the odd Istanbul’s quarter pounder with cheese, but not quite so often of late, although I did have one at the last home game just to celebrate Sam’s completion of the Birmingham Marathon the weekend before.
Cov has unwittingly become a very important part of my life. It’s wasn’t ever planned to be that way, but for a few years back in the late 90s and early 00s it provided the stability that was lacking elsewhere. Cov was always a safe place to go and it was the glue that held my life together for a short while when it could so easily have fallen apart.
And if it had been a difficult week either at work or home, I knew that Saturday’s watching Cov in the company of Sam and his grandmother would always be a haven of sorts, as would coming home afterwards to my two girls.
Whilst it’s probably different for others , Cov is synonymous with some really happy memories for me irrespective of the club’s successes or failure.
It has become something more than just a rugby club. It’s the old friend on which you can always rely. Whatever else is happening in your life, it’s always been there when needed (although there have been a couple of times it very nearly wasn’t).
And that’s why I have remained so loyal to Cov and could never consider supporting any other team so long as it remains. Ever.
It’s in my blood now, and like so many of the Cov faithful, it’s hard to contemplate a life without it.
The club is very much the sum of its parts.
Whilst I get immense enjoyment from watching the players and listening to the coaches, they are all transient, they’ll come and go and represent no more than a moment in time in the club’s long history.
The longer you support Cov, or any club for that matter, the more those individual moments become subsumed into its past to create something far bigger. The present becomes a mere reflection of the past.
And reflections are mirror images, the reverse of the original, which is why so many of us of an age will refer back to the golden era of the late 60s and early 70s, or earlier still for some. The present will only ever be an imitation of then. The present is rarely going to compare favourably…
…the secret is to live for the present and respect the past, I guess.
This is a great club.
How can it be anything other than great given its history and tradition? It might have fallen on hard times for too long and we definitely deserve to be where we are…but we are still a great club.
History tells us so. Maybe not so great if you’ve only been supporting Cov for a couple of seasons. but great nonetheless.
If I won the euro lottery and had a spare million or two, I’d make sure Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter had the monies they needed to get the infrastructure ready for Championship rugby and beyond, with the synthetic pitch and the funds in place to develop the grounds to ensure sustainability…
…but I’d also do one other thing.
I’d somehow redesign the changing rooms so that the opposition would have to walk through a long corridor along which would be displays and photos of the all the Cov memorabilia that the club could get its hands on. Trophies, awards, shirts, caps, boards of honours, old programmes, team photos…you name it and it would be on those walls.
And as they walked out onto the pitch there would be a sign above their heads, something similar to the ‘This is Anfield’ one at Liverpool, just high enough so that players wouldn’t have to stoop but low enough for them to be all too aware of. It would be a reminder that they are playing Coventry Rugby Club…the Coventry Rugby Club…and they had better remember it.
And from the speakers along the length of that corridor from the moment they stepped out of their changing room, they would be greeted by a a sporting anthem that would heighten the moment and bring a lump to their throats… The Chain, Chariots of Fire, Eye of the Tiger…anything synonymous with the great sporting events.
We’d be 7-0 up before they even got onto the pitch….