Club talk

Cov supporters the real winners in the pre-match build up

Please please tell me now is there something I should know
Is there something I should say that’ll make you come my way
Do you feel the same cause you don’t let it show

Please please tell me now is there (please please tell me now) something I should know
Is there (please please tell me now) something I should say
That’ll (please please tell me now) make you come my way

Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know

Coventry supporters are rightly proud of their team’s current 19 game unbeaten run, but it still has some way to go if it is beat Plymouth Albion’s 50 game winning streak that began when they were back in Division 3 South and ended after their promotion to National One in 2002.

Two years later, in 2004, Plymouth’s third place finish was their highest for over 90 years.

In recent years, Plymouth’s situation has mirrored that of Coventry’s some 5-10 years previously to a certain extent, with the club only surviving bankruptcy in 2015 following a £250,000 donation from local businesses and even that wasn’t enough to prevent the club falling into administration a year later in April 2016 as a result of which they also received a massive 30 point deduction from the RFU.

Last season they finished a very creditable second behind Hartpury, 18 points ahead of Coventry, although in the second half of the season the two clubs’ results were very similar. It was only really Coventry’s loss of four games in the opening 6 that prevented them from challenging Ampthill and Plymouth for that second spot come the end of the season.

Plymouth are the second best attended club in National One, behind Coventry of course. However, whilst Coventry’s average attendances of the last three seasons have increased, the reverse is true of Plymouth, an indication perhaps of the belief amongst Coventry fans that we are entering a new period in the club’s history.

                                                       Coventry            Plymouth

2017/18 Average Attendances:      1706                   1034

2016/17 Average Attendances:      1263                   1066

2015/16 Average Attendances:      1152                   1178

Just out of interest, I took a quick look at Plymouth’s attendances when it was in the Championship –  for the last three years, the club enjoyed average gates of 1818, 1712 and 1714 in 2015, with the biggest attendance in that final season a staggering 3982 which I’m guessing would have been against Cornish Pirates.

With Coventry having arguably the bigger potential fan base, there’s no reason why our average gates shouldn’t be well in excess of 2500 should we ever make it into the Championship, although that’s a pure ‘guestimation’ on my part.

Heartening though, nevertheless.

I’ve always been impressed by Plymouth as a club. They have a fantastic ground, a great set of supporters and are one of the better National One sides in terms of the way they communicate with their fans.

The local paper, the Plymouth Herald, has always been an excellent source of material for the blog over the last three years in the week leading up to a Cov game, as has the club’s own website, and its always had one of the better Twitter feeds.

Plymouth’s official Twitter account is followed by some 8.2K whereas Coventry’s is followed by 5.9K, still a decent number but some way off Plymouth’s total. To be fair, for a long time Coventry were somewhat slow to make use of this form of social media, but it does show how popular it can be when used effectively.

In fairness, Coventry’s use of Twitter has improved immeasurably over the past 12 months and that figure of 5.9K will increase rapidly over the coming weeks and months, especially if we remain as successful as we are currently.

Plymouth also has its own unofficial messageboard, very similar to the one run so successfully by Russ now and having been set up by Dave Roach. It, too, has it’s own Prediction League.

What has surprised me though, is just how far ahead of the other clubs in this league Cov now is in terms of the way it communicates to its supporters. In the first year of the blog, I used Plymouth as an example of what Cov probably should aspire to in terms of the way its website was being used and how it kept its supporters up-to-date with information on the latest happenings from within the club.

Two years on and Coventry has made huge strides in this area and deserves great credit for the way in which it has gone about developing its use of IT to promote better communications with its supporters.

Take the last couple of weeks – a fallow period which saw no game last weekend and little happening in or around the club, other than a return to training this week for the players after having a well-earned break.

Pretty much the same for all clubs, I imagine…

The Plymouth website, serving as it does a significant number of supporters, and currently probably even more than Coventry’s given Albion’s following on Twitter, has remained fairly quiet over these last few days, with only 2 news items published since their last game against Ampthill, one about booking a Christmas party at Brickfields and the other about the unfortunate injury to the club captain, Herbie Stupple.

In contrast, the Coventry website has been a lot busier, with 10 items added to the website at virtually one a day, broken down as follows:

  • 3 player/coach interviews;
  • 2 news related to Saturday’s game;
  • 2 post-Ampthill comments, including the DoR’s;
  • notice of the Fans’ Forum;
  • notice of the Steps extravaganza (my daughters are so excited at that one!);
  • a brief summary of Coventry’s involvement (with photo) of Cov’s involvement in the Remembrance Service at the War Memorial Park.

Nothing from Plymouth at all about Saturday’s game whilst Cov has already begun the build up…early advantage to Cov, then.

Nice one.

Now given all this is during a period of relative inactivity as far as the rugby side of Cov is concerned, I think it’s to the club’s credit that it has continued to retain the attention of supporters in the build up to Saturday’s game against Plymouth.

Yes, it is very much in its interests to do so, but it’s worth repeating that this was a far cry from two years ago when the silence coming from the club was a source of great frustration for supporters at a time when the club’s results were poor, Maynard had been moved sideways to allow Scott Morgan to take control of playing affairs and there was soon to be an announcement of Rowland Winter’s appointment the following Spring.

For me, the real plus coming out of this is that Coventry has learned it lessons – or at least it has responded to a new DoR who was aware even before he arrived at the BPA of some of the problems that the club was facing, especially in the difficulties it was encountering with communicating with its supporters.

I use Plymouth as a gauge against which to compare Coventry’s progress simply because I have always seen it as a club that looks after its supporters and one that enjoys a very good relationship with them. It has played Championship rugby far more recently than Cov and perhaps when it first dropped into National One it was well ahead of the other clubs in the lower league in most areas.

Not so now…at least not as far as Cov is concerned. Maybe it sees its prime method of communicating with its supporters as Twitter now, but for me the website remains the real core of the club in terms of communication.

Coventry made the excellent decision to bring the venerable John Wilkinson on board to provide far more information to supporters via the club website, rather than having to rely on simple pre-match reviews and post-match reports in the local newspaper, together with the occasional feature as and when it was warranted.

John’s appointment, something of a masterstroke, pulled the rug from under supporters like myself who had been genuinely critical of the club’s willingness to work with supporters; now we are probably the best informed group of supporters in National One, helped also by Rowland Winter’s willingness to be so honest and open.

So a big, big pat on the back to the club for moving with the times as they have so clearly done of late. Whilst I have singled out John W’s contribution to the website, I’m sure the likes of Jo and Lara and several others involved in the backroom all make important contributions and they, too, deserve a mention. For folks like me, and all the countless others who look forward to hearing the club’s latest news almost on a daily basis at the moment…a big thank you.

As far as the build up to the game is concerned, it’s Cov who take the early advantage given its willingness to work with the supporters and keep them up-to-date with what’s happening around the club. Stoking the interest of supporters by drip feeding news and information from the club via the website might also increase Saturday’s gate, so whilst it keeps supporters happy, in the longer term it also has its own advantages to the club as well.

And in what well could be a close game, the increasing bond between the supporters and the club could yet be crucial. A gate of 2000 plus, which I’m hoping it will be – perhaps even close to that of the Moseley game back in September – could be important in inspiring Cov onto bigger and better things at home. A couple of recent Cov performances haven’t really been up there with others we’ve seen this season, but I have yet to see Cov play poorly in front of a big and noisy home crowd.

The wall of sound emanating from the main stand, and sometimes even echoed from the supporters stand opposite, does have a big effect on the team’s performance. There can’t be a Coventry supporter who isn’t aware of the significance of the game and whilst there are other distractions going on this Saturday, most notably England’s game against Samoa, I still think there will be a fair few making the trip down to the BPA for the first time this season.

Here’s hoping Cov provide them with reasons to come to the remaining home games this season as well.

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

One of the players who never quite lived up to their reputation last season, for me at least, was Eoghan Grace.

He came highly rated, having joined us from Championship side Ealing Trailfinders. He’d played for Ireland at U19, U20 and 7s level, and has plenty of experience from his time at Exeter Chiefs, Plymouth Albion and Connacht.  Unfortunately, injuries and another call to fatherhood meant that he never really had a lengthy run and he only appeared in 15 games in total for Cov over the course of the season.

I know Rowland Winter rates him very highly and spoke very well of him earlier in the season. Now back a Plymouth, he has taken over the captaincy from Herbie Stubble whilst he recovers from his back problems and by all accounts he has settled extremely well. He’s currently playing at no 8 and his performance, together with the rest of the Plymouth back row, will have a real say on the outcome of the game on Saturday. He was Plymouth’s Man of the Match in his last game against Ampthill, so he’s clearly in good form.

Eoghan Grace is without doubt a strong leader. Coventry made him joint captain with Tom Wheatcroft last season and he’s been called up to cover for Stubble already. Hopefully, Coventry will be able to negate his presence around the pitch on Saturday, if not he’s a player who could cause us some problems. He’s not the biggest of players, especially at 8, but he’ll be very quick and at the breakdown and  it could be an interesting contest between him and Luke Narraway.

Eoghan’s tweet immediately after the Ampthill game which Plymouth won…

Eoghan seemed a really nice bloke, humorous and with that lovely Irish brogue as well. With some players you often feel there are scores to be settled when they move on, or points to be proved at the very least, as was the case with Dom really.

Not so with Eoghan…

He’ll want the win for Plymouth, of course he will, but you don’t get the impression that he’ll be out to get one over the Coventry lads. I’m sure after the game he’ll be enjoying a beer or two with them after the game, sharing some fond memories of his time at the BPA.

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

Brum’s finest…

…so some say.

New Romantics, anyone…too arty for me, I’m afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 replies »

  1. Could it be that the recognition which Cov Rugby now gives to the supporters by way of regular and open communication is a direct result of there being an official Supporters’ Club?
    Plymouth Albion don’t have one. They have the Albi Travel club, which is all about travel to away games, but they don’t have anything formal by way of a Supporters’ Club and representation from the supporters.

    Like

    • I’m sure you’re right, Cliff. The concerns expressed by supporters two years ago led in part to the club moving towards a more open approach to its supporters. I hadn’t realised Plymouth lacked an SC – perhaps that why their fan base is waning a little eat the moment. Lessons to be learned from us for a change! Keep up the great work!

      Like

  2. Couldn’t agree more Tim regarding the sense of supporters being valued, this was also emphasised in the one hour BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio broadcast on Wednesday night. Jon and Rowland emphasised how integral the supporters were to the ongoing success of the club, something we should be proud of.
    Also the fantastic improvement in lines of communication and the awareness that the club needs to enhance the facilities at the ground are so welcoming.
    Looking forward to this contest of the Titans with real relish, see you there Saturday.

    Like

    • Yes, under RW the club seems to have been far more willing to embrace the supporters, not forgetting the role, too, of the Supporters’ Club as mentioned in the comment above by Cliff. The Your City, Your Club approach works, even though the tagline is one that is overused a bit in sport these days.

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