The players looked sharp out there on the pitch yesterday evening…
Any concerns that last week’s layoff might not have done us too many favours were immediately dispelled once the squad started to go through the practice drills/routines. There was real pace to everything the players did, with the ball being fired first one way across the width of the pitch and then the other, with handling that was as slick as it was certain.
Forwards and backs worked seamlessly and with offloads and miss moves constantly changing the pace and/or direction of the flow; it all looked as good as anything I’ve seen at any training session I’ve attended this season.
And whilst we had the weekend off, Moseley made the long journey down to Rosslyn Park and lost a close game which they were probably the favourites to win.
Advantage Cov there I reckon…
On previous occasions, the players have emerged from the changing rooms in a very relaxed and light-hearted mood, with a bit of banter between them prior to the start of the organised training.
Not so yesterday…
A few players were out before the main group, making the most of the football posts that had been left up, but it was fairly subdued and when the main group of players emerged it was all very professional and focused and I was left very much with the impression that this weekend is just as important to the players as it is to the supporters.
Despite Pete White getting a bit of a knock in the A League game on Monday, he was out there with the senior squad and he will certainly have a part to play in the game tomorrow, although from the bench by the look of it. Tom Kessell will start what is looking increasingly like his last game for Coventry this season and from what Rowland Winter was saying, whilst Cov aren’t closing any doors on Kessell returning in the future to Coventry, the Saints scrum half will want to see what the opportunities are at Franklin’s Gardens under a new head coach before making any decisions about his future.
If I had money to spare, I would put it on Pete White starting the first game back after the Christmas break when Cov entertain Old Albanian at home.
There was plenty of other good news regarding the return of one or two of the longer term injuries. RW confirmed that Alex Grove will be available after the break and that Heath Stevens, against all odds, could be available as early as the end of February. They are two players of undoubted ability whose return will strengthen the squad still further, although with Tuitupou and Matoto looking to be forming such a promising partnership in midfield at the moment, I would venture to suggest that their immediate return isn’t guaranteed by any means.
Despite the seriousness of the injuries to players like Stevens, Grove and White, recovery rates have been very good , with players returning well before the initial estimated dates. Part of this must be down the work the individual players have put into their own recoveries, but both the Recovery and Physio teams, led by Max Hartman and Hannah Walker respectively, must take plenty of credit, too.
Waita Setu should also be available around the same time, a player whom Rowland Winter was extremely excited about prior to his injury at Old Albanian back in September and someone whom the supporters haven’t yet had a chance to really see a great deal of.
As of now, Waita isn’t able to take part in any contact work and whilst the squad were being put through their paces, he came and sat with us in the main stand. He clearly loves being part of the club and whilst he’s had a frustrating start to his time here, he can’t wait to get back on the pitch and is looking forward to getting back into the team, especially with the prospect of Championship rugby on the horizon. He appears to be enjoying all aspects of life in the UK and especially loved last week’s snow – the first time in his life he’s experienced such weather.
He was wearing a pretty gaudy Christmas sweater, too.
He was also full of admiration for the Coventry supporters and couldn’t believe the atmosphere at the first Cov game he watched – the home one against Moseley, which I guess isn’t a bad one to experience first time round. I’m not sure what he’ll make of Saturday’s game when it could well be that there are almost as many Cov supporters as there are Moseley’s.
He did find it difficult to understand why the club would take three coaches to Mose when it’s little more than 45 minutes away, but when 150 Cov supporters all arrive together at the ground and suddenly it becomes more of a home game than an away one, I’m sure he’ll get it then.
RW talked generally about recruitment, but no names were mentioned, either in terms of retentions or players coming in, although he did suggest there would be a number of the current squad remaining with us next season, whichever league we’re in.
One of the more interesting aspects of attending training sessions is that Rowland Winter will talk so openly and there are occasions when it would be insensitive to relay everything that is said. However, it is clear that the club are actively involved in preparing for next year and it will make announcements as and when it is appropriate to do so.
In his talk with us, Waita Setu had mentioned of the real belief amongst the squad that Coventry would be a Championship side next season – he stressed it was in no way arrogance on the part of the players, just a confidence that both as individual players and collectively as a team, Cov is a Championship club in waiting. Players are still taking one game at time, but their thoughts are very much about when rather than if.
Rowland Winter will talk about what life in the Championship could mean for Coventry when asked but he, too, also looks no further than one or two games ahead. Whilst those of us there last night were discussing life in the Championship with expectation rather than hope, RW was, you might imagine, a little bit more circumspect.
However, a few weeks back he did say that were we to carry a 5 point lead into the Christmas break, he would see us as favourites for the title as this is a squad he firmly believes will get stronger over the second half of the season. As it stands, even if we were to lose tomorrow and Darlington beat Hull as would seem likely, then we would still have an 8 point cushion over DMP…
I did ask RW how much of a financial reward the winners of National One receive as I was asked a while back and had absolutely no idea..
Not a penny.
Even the trophy is somewhat underwhelming and certainly is no inducement in its own right – my suggestion of a trophy cabinet in a previous post might be a little redundant in the light of what RW said.
I suppose the real incentive is Championship rugby itself and the £550,000ish handout received by all clubs involved in Tier 2 rugby, although I am somewhat surprised there is no prize money available at all in National One.
Even a relatively small sum might ensure that teams in the positions immediately above the relegation spot through to those just missing out on promotion have something to play for right up to the final game of the season which, at the moment, isn’t always the case.
Rowland Winter took us on a guided tour of the new gym, although in fairness a tour might be overstating it somewhat given that at the moment it is little more than just a shell. The walls are up and the concrete floor laid. However, it’s one of those structures that seems far bigger on the inside and the intention is to enable up to 30 players access to its equipment at any one time.
There’s still a fair bit to be done, but it should be in use by the players some time next month. Most of the equipment has already been procured through a combination of loans, sponsorship, lease or purchase. RW did say that Cov is the only club in National One to have it’s own dedicated gym on site and there are a number of Championship teams who won’t have such facilities so readily available.
It means that pre-season Cov will be able to make the most of it and as a result be bettered prepared in terms of players’ strength and conditioning than it has ever been before.
If we are to be a Championship side next season, then the players will have to be even fitter and stronger than they are at present. The building of the new gym certainly gives them more opportunity to hit what will be very challenging targets over the coming weeks and months and puts us at something of an advantage over some of the sides already there.
Once the gym is in use it will still need further work on it to make it more a community resource as well, something which is important as it is hoped that the some of the cost can be recouped through opening it up to members of the public. I would imagine that with the Bears and Coventry United also using the ground, there will be wider interest, so provided it is well looked after, as I’m sure it will be, it could prove to be a very useful asset.
RW didn’t talk too much about the game on Saturday, other than to go through the Cov side and the reasons for certain selections. However, he did say that Cov are expecting a very physical opening 30 minutes, although it was difficult to second guess the sort of team that Moseley might put out.
However, they’ve done their homework and are happy with the referee, the same one coincidentally as officiated at the Moseley v Coventry game last season in which Tom Jubb was red-carded.
It’s another of those games that as a supporter you feel that so long as Coventry plays to its strengths, in the second half we should be too strong for the opposition. The general feeling amongst those watch training yesterday was that it could still be quite tight at half time given the derby feel to the game – but Cov’s superiority will tell in the end.
RW thought that we might take up to 1000 to the Mose game – if that were the case then Cov fans will almost certainly be in the majority. And with each club having such catchy terrace chants – the Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooseley of Moseley and the COV-EN-TREE of Coventry, it should make for an afternoon of high entertainment.
That said, Mark Oddy did proffer the following refrain:
Everywhere we go-o
People want to know-o
Who we are
And so we tell them….
We’re the mighty mighty COVENTRY
which certainly is a step up from Cov’s usual offering. Not so sure of the tune though…?
I’m looking forward to Mark starting that one off from the main stand on Saturday.
I did ask RW if the club could make available a DVD of the all Coventry’s tries this season, or if not allthen a good few. I got the impression that this was something the club would look favourably at, especially when we assured RW that it would be a good seller. I’m guessing that it wouldn’t just be those supporters who attended games who would be interested, either. With now over 6000 followers on Twitter alone, if it’s priced sensibly it could be a sure fire winner.
A reminder that voting closes for the Coventry’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2017 poll on Sunday…if you haven’t yet voted, please give it ago. It remains very close at the moment and your vote could make a real difference (without giving away too much!)…
For the poll, and further details, please click on the link below: