I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
I stretched my hands out to the sky
We danced with monsters through the night
I’m never gonna look back
Whoa, I’m never gonna give it up
No, please don’t wake me now
American Authors – Best Day Of My Life
With no game over the weekend, we decided to get away for a couple of days.
Sue is extremely patient as far as being a rugby widow on a Saturday is concerned, so it seemed like a good opportunity to renew our weekend vows, so-to-speak.
Whilst I do enjoy watching the Autumn internationals, they don’t have quite the same appeal for me as the Six Nations, so it wasn’t a big deal missing them.
We ended up in Market Harborough, for no other reason that Sue chose it.
And a good choice it was, too.
We roomed right in the centre of the town in an old coaching inn which was lovely, although I was a little unsure as to whether it was the right place to be staying when, on entering, we were immediately confronted with a framed Leicester rugby shirt hanging behind reception.
In fact there were several, even the most recent of which was from a good few years ago.
And it was the same elsewhere.
For research purposes only, we did call into several other hostelries and most had Leicester memorabilia on display. although oddly there was little in the way football souvenirs evident.
I don’t frequent the pubs around the Cov ground, and perhaps there are those that have signed shirts adorning their walls, but I guess you’d be hard pressed to go 15 miles outside of Coventry (the distance Market Harborough is from Leicester) and find several pubs celebrating Cov’s history in such a way these days.
For me, it was a poignant reminder of just what a strong side Coventry was back in the day. Whilst Coventry was winning the national knockout competition in 1973 and 1974, in 1975/76 Leicester lost in the first round of the national knock out and was forced to compete in the Midlands qualifiers.
In the intervening years, Coventry’s relative lack of success has been in direct contrast to Leicester’s rise to become one of the great rugby clubs of the last 40 years and whilst they adapted very quickly to the move towards professionalism within the game in the early 80s, Coventry didn’t.
Tile followed title, cup followed cup.
Over the years The Tigers have roared as the Cov Dog has whimpered.
The relative fortunes of the two clubs over that forty-year period couldn’t be more different.
A Coventry supporter born after 1980 will have had little success to celebrate. 1994 and 1996 were the last occasions really, when Cov was promoted to the equivalent of the Championship, although even then in the year between those promotions, the club was relegated back down to what was then the Allied Dunbar National Division 3.
And since 1996, nothing.
The supporters endured a pretty miserable spell in the second tier and then relegation to National One in 2010, where we have remained ever since.
For those Cov supporters under the age of 40, these probably are the best days of their lives:
It’s been tough being a Cov supporter, which makes the current successes all the more enjoyably, especially as they seem to be built on a far stronger set of foundations. The club is in a much healthier position than it has been for many a year, both financially and in terms of the infrastructures in place to support the players.
The squad looks to have quality and depth and Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter, two of the key players in the club’s future, appear to share the same vision, the leadership skills required to achieve it and the commitment to the club to carry it through.
Whether or not the club is promoted this season, the journey is now underway. The club has moved forward significantly in these last 18 months and whilst Championship rugby next season is a real possibility, the success of the club isn’t dependent on promotion this time round.
And that is the real reason to celebrate.
Back in 1994 and 1996 I think it’s fair to say Cov put most, maybe all, of its eggs into just the one basket and gambled on spending a small fortune on a squad that would gets us first into the National Division Two (the Championship) and then into English rugby’s top tier. We were just 80 minutes away from achieving the dream, but London Irish did for us in the second leg of the play-off and from then on we began to fall apart.
For far too long the rugby press, both within and outside the confines of the city, had lost interest in Coventry, and well before the arrival of Wasps at that.
That’s no criticism of the media, just a stark acknowledgement that Cov no longer command the attention of anything approaching the numbers of supporters that it once did. Whilst rugby as a sport has blossomed, sadly the standing of Coventry Rugby Club hasn’t and we are where we deserve to be – over the decades we can blame no one but ourselves. We failed to adapt to the changes that took place in the game in the late 70s and early 80s, ending up playing a level of rugby that which very much reflects the club’s past mistakes, but not its future ambitions.
However, things are beginning to change somewhat and those in the rugby world are once again beginning to take note of Coventry once more – if only because Cov has forced them into so doing following a number of high profile signings over the close season followed by an 11 game unbeaten run.
The rugby world can’t do anything but take note on the back of that, really.
Following on from so many years of relative mediocrity for a club that has had far better resources at its disposal than most others in our division , Cov has made huge strides in re-branding itself. In just 18 months we have moved from being a club with, rightly or wrongly, the reputation amongst others in National One of being a perennial underachiever, to one many now seen as clear favourites for the National One title this season.
I do think that there are those outside of Cov who like to build up the expectations on Cov if only to take the pressure off their own clubs…if Cov win promotion then it’s only what was expected, if another club achieves that honour then it becomes all the more of an outstanding achievement. whilst reaffirming Coventry’s own failings.
However, even the most pessimistic of Coventry supporters will surely now accept we are very much one of perhaps three or four teams with a realistic chance of promotion into the Championship in April. We are in pole position, but with a crucial run of games to come.
Much can, and almost certainly will, change in the coming weeks.
And hopefully to Cov’s advantage.
The media are quick to recognise a potential winner when they see one and suddenly there is real interest in the club, not just locally but also from further afield.
A couple of months ago it was The Rugby Paper that came a-courting.
This week both Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter will be live on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio talking to Alec Blackman, with the phone lines open to supporters to ask questions of the two of them about all things Cov.
Whilst I freely admit BBC C&W isn’t one of the pre-programmed stations on my radio at home, I shall be tuned into the Rugby Show for what appears to be a Coventry Rugby Special. I’ve even sent in my question, although I’m not sure whether one centring on the relative merits of Istanbul’s ½ pounder with cheese over that of the Cov’s own pie and chips is necessarily going to get an airing, important as it is.
To be fair though, that is my second question.
I do hope that others also get involved in the phone-in, if only to show the rest of the rugby fraternity in and around Coventry just how passionate and excited we are about what is happening at the club at the moment – maybe that in turn will create interest elsewhere.
Nothing wrong with having a Tesco moment every now and again.
It’s not just locally, though, that Coventry is creating plenty of interest…
…Talking Rugby Union, the official media partner of NCA (National Clubs’ Association, the official body that represents clubs in the national leagues in their dealings with the Rugby Football Union) has also given plenty of time to Coventry of late and in the opening to a recent article looking at the first third of the National One season, it suggests that:
…there is only one place to start and that is with National One. Coventry have been the standout for me. It seems the obvious choice but 11 wins from 11 has been an excellent beginning for Rowland Winter’s side.
After finishing fourth last season, Cov are building towards a return to the Championship – where they have not been since 2010. Winter came into the club at the start of last year when the Midlands side finished mid-table, but 18 months later, the men from the Butts Park Arena are certainly heading in the right direction.
and confirming what everyone has been saying for the past few weeks now:
…Coventry have a tough run of fixtures. Matches against Plymouth Albion, Ampthill & District and Darlington Mowden Park will be the most concerning, but if Cov come through those fixtures then they will be clear favourites for the title.
In addition, the NCA has also interviewed Rowland Winter and whilst it doesn’t offer us anything new, how could it with John Wilkinson giving us first dibs on the any news coming out of the club via the official website, it is yet another indication that the rugby press is having to sit up and take notice now Coventry is starting to show signs of promotion winning form. RW wisely isn’t drawn into any comments other than stressing that Cov is taking each game as it comes and that:
It is a great start, but that is pretty much all it is…The boys are really pleased with their form and we are as well as a coaching group. We worked hard over the summer to make sure we had a good start to the season, but we are well aware of the fixture list…
There’s not a lot else that can be said, and I imagine he’ll say something similar again at the Supporters’ Forum next week. What is important, though, is that Coventry is at last getting this sort of coverage; a clear sign that it’s no longer just Coventry supporters who sense the changes taking place at the BPA these days.
So for many Cov supporters under 30ish, this is just about as good as it’s ever got given the upturn in Coventry’s fortunes both as a rugby club and as a business. Yes, there was a long period in which the club was in the equivalent of the Championship, but that period in the club’s history didn’t offer much in the way of optimism for supporters back then.
Cov only once finished as high as 3rd (the year we beat Newcastle and lost to London Irish in the playoffs) and more often than not only managed a mid-table position.
The difference now is that supporters understand that we are on a journey and that there is a longer term plan in place, so if we don’t go up this season then we will continue the drive for promotion next season, with further strengthening of the squad and of the infrastructure to support it.
Back in the ’90s and ’00s, it always seemed that any ‘long’ term planning lasted no more than a season at a time, after which we’d make wholesale alterations to the squad, there would be few, if any, changes made behind the scenes and then we’d begin all over again.
I might well be mistaken but that’s how it always seemed – maybe because DoRs back then, or even the club, didn’t communicate effectively with the supporters.
he best days of our rugby lives? Well not for me, but still pretty good, nevertheless.
For someone like Sam, my son in his early 30s…then very likely.
This is gonna be, this is gonna be, this is gotta be
The best day of my life
Everything is looking up, everybody up now
This is gonna be the best day of my life
Best Day Of My Life was a hit in 2012 for American Authors…
Instantly recognisable and another one of those songs that you only have to hear once and it will stick with you for the rest of the day.
I couldn’t tell you anything about the band, other than they were pretty much one hit wonders, but the song was used in adverts for Hyundai televisions in this country.
If you’re brave enough to put the volume up high and play the video, don’t blame me if it’s still in your head come night-time…