Club talk

Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter on the BBC – radio really is the sound salvation

I was tuning in the shine on the late night dial
Doing anything my radio advised
With every one of those late night stations
Playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
When the switch broke ’cause it’s old

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason

Elvis Costello – Radio Radio

If you weren’t able to listen to Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire last night, then you can still do so using BBC’s catch-up service.

You’ll have to get a move on though, it’s only available for another 28 days!

Clicking the link below should take you straight there.

Jon Sharp/Rowland Winter on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire

It’s a long time since a full one hour of radio time has been dedicated to Coventry Rugby Club and too often in the past, when Cov has been the focus for such media attention, it’s been more about the club’s travails rather than its successes.

And whilst it’s probably fair to say Coventry hasn’t received the kind of press it has deserved in recent times, this was a programme that looked very much to the future rather than one dwelling on the past.

Despite all that is happening at the club at the moment, there’s always the temptation to linger on the club’s past, especially its financial woes and the problems it encountered in the late ’90s and most of the ’00s.

Wednesday evening, though, was very much about what is happening at Coventry now and its future prospects. For any  lapsed Cov supporter, or just a rugby fan interested in what is happening locally, then this was definitely something to whet the appetite. It was an opportunity for JS and RW to sell the club and I thought did a really good job in their marketing of it. Credit to Alec Blackman, too, for giving Cov the opportunity.

It’s rare to get the chance of some free advertising, which in effect is exactly what this was, and surely most of those who listened in will have been impressed not just by the vision of what Coventry  Rugby Club might look like over the next few seasons, but the determination of Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter to make it happen.

Whilst there was little that was new to those Cov supporters who have attended the forums and followed what JS has had to say about possible future developments of the ground, I was interested to hear his comments about the decision to push for promotion this year.

Although originally envisaged as a three year plan, it was felt that the RFU might look to ring-fence the Championship next year,  so this season might well have been the only chance of promotion for the foreseeable future were that to have happened. I’d just assumed we were slightly ahead of where we’d expected to be, but it sounds as if some of the recruitment this season was very much with the RFU’s possible decision to end promotion in future seasons in mind.

Jon Sharp did make it clear though whilst he would be delighted with promotion this season, now the RFU weren’t going to ring-fence the Championship, although it was still on the table for some time in the future,  promotion the following year would be fine, too.

Equally pleasing to hear was that fact that neither JS or RW will be going anywhere in the ‘foreseeable future’…

Jon reiterated his plans for the ground, including the possibility, or even probability, of a 3/4G pitch, although he did mention that to install one would cost something in the region of £1.5m once all the extras had been added on, including a sprinkler system for the pitch and new floodlighting – suggesting that when the current floodlights are switched on, the meter spins round at an alarming rate and ‘the rest of Coventry dims’…

In order to create a robust product, one that is sustainable in the Championship  (in 5 years time JS sees Cov in the top third of the Championship), Coventry will need to develop the facilities around the ground and Jon Sharp hinted that retail outlets are the most likely scenario. The club has been in discussions with the council and Jon Sharp suggested that the end result could be something ‘pretty sexy’ given the fantastic location of the ground and the potential it has for development.

All of which will provide important revenue streams for the club to develop the rugby side of the business.

I thought JS’s determination was made clear when he was asked how long such development might take…

…10 years, perhaps. Maybe 5?

Jon’s response was ‘beginning in the Summer’.

Amen to that.

Above all, though, he reaffirmed his belief in the club being very much part of the community, with an artificial surface made available to local schools (three junior schools nearby don’t have any grass between them) and the gym, which will soon be completed, opened up to the public, too.

It sounds very much as the club is expecting a big crowd for the Plymouth game…JS suggested maybe 2500 which would be in excess of 300 more than for Moseley in September. (He also believed the crowd for the December game against Mose last season was 3000, despite the officially figures being a little below that…and to be fair that wouldn’t surprise me at all, there was a heck of a lot of supporters at the BPA that day!)

From what JS said, it seems as if most of the hospitality for the game has been sold – I haven’t re-listened to the programme which I probably should have done before writing this, but if I remember correctly I think he said that 360 pre-match silver service meals have been sold which seems a phenomenal number.

It’s also providing much needed additional revenue for the club – someone behind the scenes has been working overtime to bring in those sorts of figures.

In addition, there will be three outside bars available and the club is experimenting again with pre-poured drinks at half-time in an effort to lessen the waiting times at the bars. With the sorts of numbers expected on Saturday, there is bound to be a wait, but the club is being proactive and should be commended for that…whether that is reflected on the Messageboard after the game remains to be seen!

For anyone who turns up to the ground 10 minutes before kick off and finds themselves in a long queue and struggling to get in for kick off – don’t expect any sympathy from the club. A question regarding late-ish arrival at the BPA, close to kick off, and the subsequent moans about delays into the ground, was given short shrift from both JS and RW. Their answer was somewhat predictable – get there early and enjoy a drink or two at the club!

When asked about Plymouth and the threat they posed, Rowland Winter was extremely respectful, mentioning how well the club had done last season and suggesting that the team comprises of a big pack and a set of backs who have plenty of pace and like to get the ball out wide.

However, it was fairly evident that whilst Plymouth are going to be a strong side, even at the BPA, RW’s focus is on Coventry rather than the opposition. If Cov are on their game then they need fear no one. And whilst it’s an important fixture for Cov, it’s probably more so for Plymouth. If Albion lose then they are 15 or 16 points behind and only play us the once again, if we lose, we’re still top and clear by between 4-6 points.

However, the win would set us up nicely for the remaining games in the run-up to Christmas…if we can be 15 points clear of our nearest rival then, well that would give us a real advantage going into the second half of the season.

With such a big crowd expected, the atmosphere should be fantastic – I can only repeat what I said in the previous post, I have yet to see Coventry perform poorly in front of a big and passionate Cov crowd.

RW confirmed that there would be no more signings coming into the club over the remainder of the season, although I did think there was one due shortly – a full-back? Anyway, the belief is that the squad is more than capable of achieving success this season as it stands and despite a number of injuries, it remains unbeaten. There are quality players coming back almost weekly from now until Christmas, Andy Brown this week, Sam Tuitupou next week along with Pete White, and then there’s Dave Brazier and Alex Grove…quality players who will be available to strengthen the side when the pitches get heavier and the players fatigued. In addition, there are those still to come in after Christmas, Waita Setu, Tom Poole and Heath Stevens.

Whilst the injury problems have clearly made it more difficult and there are players currently playing who would have benefited from a break had there been suitable replacements, the situation is beginning to look much better and it could actually work in our favour ultimately, given there are so many to return. RW also made mention of the Development Squad where there are some younger players coming through who will play first team rugby before the end of the season  – so there is plenty of depth available should it be required.

Judging by some of the messages that were coming in, listeners liked what they were hearing. Jon Sharp made it clear that Coventry was selling a different product to Wasps down the road, and that Cov has a deep-rooted following. The club is still something of a sleeping giant that still has to realise its full potential, but there is a groundswell of support now that is seeing average gates up by 300 already and likely to increase further following the game on Saturday. JS is proud of the city and of the club and that pride is inherent in all that he does…his past echoes that of many of the Coventry faithful, a Coventry lad who want to see the clubs a force in national rugby once again.

His pride is our pride, too.

Even the most neutral of supporters will have been left with the  feeling that Coventry is very much a club on the up following Wednesday’s broadcast. As JS said, it’s a great franchise with a prime city-centre base and the club’s future lies in its own hands.

As a Cov supporter, it was good to hear JS in particular reiterate the vision he has repeatedly outlined over the last 18 months. Nothing has changed, it is the same now as it was back when RW came in, only we’ve moved that much further down the line now and Jon S appears even more resolute in his desire to see it through.  That consistency off the pitch is a relief, something that we’ve not always enjoyed in the past…

There still an awful lot to be done to get to where JS would like the club to be – the small matter of procuring the £1,5m needed for the synthetic surface for starters, but it looks like the club is already working hard to obtain the necessary finances and the Cov chairman even mentioned the idea of crowd-funding which seems to be a particularly innovative and successful way of bringing in monies these days…although, I’m not altogether sure how it works!

The spotlight falls back on the players again tomorrow.

Listening to Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter has certainly added to the pre-match excitement and under floodlights a 2500 plus crowd will be sure to get behind Cov, although Plymouth always brings up a fair few of its own supporters as well.

The butterflies are there already…

If you are coming along…

…remember to get there early.

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

For a long time I’ve resisted the temptation to play Elvis Costello – for me the greatest singer/songwriter of my generation.

He burst onto the scene in the late 70s, typifying what ‘new wave’ was all about following on from the extreme punk of The Sex Pistols, The Adverts and The Dead Kennedys. His longevity is matched only by his ability to experiment with so many forms of music, from his early attempts at country and western to a love of blues and classical music.

The real Elvis is still very much in the building…

Radio Radio – we heard Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter on the radio on Wednesday and it really was a sound salvation…

Take it away, Elvis….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories:Club talk

2 replies »

  1. Love Costello, a true creative genius. And, as I remarked on the NCA twitter feed, following its interview with Rowland Winter, I’m impressed by what he has brought to the table.
    We’ve had so many false dawns at Coventry, people using the club for their own ends or completely out of their depth.
    I still don’t know about the shambles of the move from Coundon Road to the Butts Park Arena, and how the money the sale of that ‘field of dreams’ was used, but certainly, the club fell from grace again, having been slow to grasp the professional game.
    That, as you so rightly say, Tim, is in the past and Coventry are moving in the right direction thanks to WInter and Sharp.
    It is very exciting.
    But as they say in the army, even the best plan goes to rat when the first bullet fires. There will be troubles along the way, I’m sure, but we’ve a good fanbase and hopefully can build upon it.
    There’s more interest from the media, somewhat lacklustre after decades of cuts have bitten hard, but I also put that down to the fine efforts being made on social media, including the club and yourself.
    That social media presence has helped the club sell itself better and, now as an exile, I feel more involved than ever.
    That’s a big difference to when I was working abroad and struggling to keep in touch with events on and off the field.
    Tomorrow is a big day. Win or lose, Coventry are heading up. In more ways than one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even if we don’t go up this season, the changes made over the last 18 months means that as a club we’ve moved forward a long way. Definitely no false dawn. The club is in a much healthier place and that alone is reason to celebrate.

      Like

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