Club talk

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….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 replies »

  1. Tim, that’s fascinating that your experience should so much reflect mine. I was divorced in 1995. Our daughter had effectively already left home by then, having gone to university and then straight to work in London. Our son, however, who was 24 at the time, lived with me until he set up home with his girlfriend with whom, inevitably, he was heavily involved and spent most of his time. So I found myself largely on my own. The comfort and succour (have I spelt that right?) which I found from Coventry Rugby, still at Coundon Road then, was my life saver. I went to al the away games and was very happy to deflect my suicidal impulses by immersing myself in rugby. I suppose that level of commitment even then was always going to lead up to the regeneration of the Supporters’ Club and here we are, all these years later, still absolutely committed to all things Coventry Rugby. The down side unfortunately is that I’ve had my wings clipped a bit as far as going to away games is concerned by “She who must be obeyed” with whom I’ve been sharing my life since 2001. That said, my commitment to Coventry Rugby is as enthusiastic as it ever was. Come on Cov!

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    • Hi Cliff…yes, similar in many respects although I’m happy to relate I never got to the dark places that you clearly found yourself in.

      Nothing wrong with having your wings clipped, everybody needs to get the balance right and what works for some does not for others. In times of crisis, or even just periods of unhappiness, having a constant in your life is important and I would imagine your story, and indeed mine, would be replicated many times over amongst supporters up and down the land.

      Maybe you could run a monthly counselling group as part of the benefits of SC membership…alcohol one month, single parents the next…

      I’ll be along in December when it’s the first meet of Burger Munchers Anonymous…

      Like

  2. Brilliant read Tim

    The honesty with which you have compiled this blog is absolutely refreshing, in a world of fake news and tyrannical tweets it is a daily pleasure to take 10 minutes out of the day to have a read and reflect.

    The attendances are a fascinating insight to our Club and the potential is there for all to see, I remember a few years ago, when we were all really concerned about the Wasps factor on our club and as was stated at the time, if we have a successful team we will not need to worry about them, how true this has proved!

    One thing of interest if you do get the time and in relation to the “big fish” scenario would be to compare them same years with the Championship attendances.Indeed it would be very interesting to see how we would compare.

    Like

    • No sooner said than done Phil…had a couple of other folk ask the same thing! Purely from the stats, we certainly would look out of place. It was always something of a risk to bringing RW to the club, given he was relatively untried and untested at this level – how Jon Sharp must be thanking his lucky stars he did…his legacy will last long after he moves on.

      As always, Phil, thank you for your support!

      Like

  3. A great piece Tim, and having been through similar situation, glad your current state, also like mine, is so good. Took my daughters to Coundon Road, but they never felt the love, so it’s only in last 4 or 5 years have I been able to become a fully fledged season ticket holder. My wife is a dyed in the wool Sky Blues fan, so far been unable to convert her to game with proper shaped balls, but she has been to the odd game at BPA and enjoyed it. So our “home game” Saturday routine is me leaving the house circa 1 o’cock, and leaving her with the CWR to follow Sky Blues, so when I get home it’s a catch up on our 2 teams, obviously she usually knows our score when I get in, so a bit of banter often ensues. She will be there for Plymouth game, as The Rooters are playing in the bar afterwards. Anyway, still loving the blog, and like so many others, it’s a huge part of my daily routine, even managed to get wifi in Venice last week to keep up to date :-), plus tweets when we’re away, so I for one am so pleased about your passion for this great club.

    Like

    • Hi Roger, I wondered if including a personal piece would probably be a step too far, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Every supporter has a different tale to tell, everyone’s journey is slightly different and something that fascinates me; it would make a good feature in the programme alongside the current supporter’s column.
      We tend to go out on Saturdays – most of the friends we share don’t have rugby as an interest, so an evening at the BPA just wouldn’t work too well! Sports a bit of an anathema to her, she’s far more arts and literature which works wells as I should be too, but am lapsed!
      As always, thank you for your continued support!

      Like

  4. Wow Tim, what a fine read. I am sure the majority of Cov supporters can align themselves to your commitment to the club. For most of my life I was a round ball supporter with occasional forays into the oval ball game. However in my latter years I have become a total convert to Rugby especially Cov and cannot get enough. I eagerly await your articles and cannot compliment you enough.keep up the great work.

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    • Hi Bob…thank you for your kind words! I think as the season progresses there will be more and more articles and info on Cov as they hopefully consolidate their position at the top, which is good news for those of us for whom more is never enough!
      Thanks for your support of the blog. it is much appreciated.

      Like

  5. Tim, your reminiscences about Cov will ring a bell with many, including me. I can see why following Cov is one of your anchors in life. I’m sure it is similar for many……. (ps Peter glad to hear you made it to Cambridge, and hope your new hip behaves – Kevin O’D your lunch companion at Fylde.)

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  6. Nice piece, Tim. If you have a chance, have a scan of some idle thoughts I put onto my WordPress about Cov – sleeping giant, definitely.
    I used to talk to fellow journos about sharing something of themselves in comment pieces and like what you’ve done here. I’m glad that you and Sam have such a good relationship and love in common.
    For the record, I split with my first wife when my son, Henry, was four. That was when I lived in Cyprus. He stayed with his mum and a couple of years later, I returned to the UK. That was tough. Now, aged 11, he lives with me, my wife and his half sister and will be getting his first taste of Coventry rugby in November.
    Along with six month old Elizabeth, too!

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    • Your lad will be hooked for life. Sam used to love it at that age…the club is still very much family orientated, buy him an autograph book and a pen and hang around after the game. There’s no turning back from there. Elizabeth’s got a while to go yet…hope she’s already wearing a Cov babygrow though!!!! Will certainly look your WordPress site…can you forward the link here and then others can see it, too

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  7. Great sentiments Tim, and I’m personally happy that you’re comfortable to be able to communicate that. Rugby gave me far more in terms of security and life experiences than any other single facet of my life, and Coventry gave me renewed hope for life when I first went there on August 25th 2006 and ran the line in a pre-season match against Northampton. Why was it so important? I met my wife to be. I’ve been a Coventry convert since.

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    • Thanks, Rhys. That is just a great story…Sue is happy that I’m happy following Cov, but it’s not for her! Moseley perhaps once every couple of years is quite enough! That’s said, even Sue’s got a little caught up in it all and might make the trip over to Billesley.

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  8. Tim talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve, yes we dedicated supporters are so die hard with Coventry Rugby blood running through our veins.
    I forgot to ask my surgeon, following my recent hip replacement, if Coventry Ruby was imprinted in the middle of my bones, it certainly feels so.
    I also closed my eyes at Cambidge and thought we were t a home match, looking forward to having three coaches to away matches, could be Moseley?

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    • Hi Pete…talking of a love of Cov – you and Jacky take some beating! Hope the hip is on the mend now. I can almost see the look of amazement on the surgeon’s face as he sawed through your femur to find ‘Come On Cov’ stamped through it, rather like a large piece of Blackpool rock!…looking to Sat and hopefully another good performance.

      Like

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