Team selection…but what if it was Darlington this week?…something to go with your Hobknob
Thursday and the last training session of the week prior to Cov’s home game against Esher on Saturday.
I’ve missed the last couple, a combination of the cold weather and a number of post Christmas/New Year get togethers, but I’m hoping to get there today. Should be an interesting one.
With Saturday’s evenings during the rugby season tending not to be the social occasions they often are in the summer, especially on away days, I’m hardly in a position of strength when it comes to arranging dates for mid-week soirees, even if it means a clash with a Thursday night training session. I hardly count as one of the regulars these days :).
- “Thursday evening out with some friends, Tim?“
That said, the older I get, the more nesh I become and the prospect of a warm night in, or out for that matter, as opposed to 90 minutes in the freezing cold, sitting in the main stand on a Thursday evening, definitely looks more attractive now than it ever used to.
Disclaimer: Just in case Sue reads this, I would add that she is extremely tolerant of all things Coventry, helped by the fact that we are both retired and so do most things together, other than on a Saturday. Phew…situation saved. Just.
This week, though, provided training is at the ground, then I’ll be there. I’m interested to see whether there’s any obvious reaction from the players following the disappointment of last weekend. Training sessions are always quite intense affairs, physically that is, but maybe there will be an extra edge to tonight’s session given the Blackheath result.
By all accounts the players were extremely disappointed and upset by the team’s performance and they will want to put things right on Saturday. In order to do that, the preparation must be right during the week. The team had one of those inexplicable days where little went right however hard they tried. For me, there were no standout individual performances, no one player who excelled, it was ‘simply’ a case of a poor team performance, although obviously Matoto’s hatrick was one of the few highlights on a day when most of the other lights were turned down very low.
So it will be interesting this evening to see if there is any noticeable change in the way the players approach training.
That aside, another benefit of going to these Thursday sessions is that you do get a sneak preview of the match day squad and provided there isn’t anything major happening elsewhere, Rowland Winter will often come over to the supporters and chat informally about the team and its selection and what we might expect from the opposition, as well as any other news that might be relevant that week.
What’s said isn’t always for general release and if that is the case, I have to remember not to include it in the next day’s post. I even check with RW sometimes…can I, can’t I or shall I wait ’til it’s official?
There are some weekend’s where picking a Cov XV/XX is fairly straight forward. Most players pick themselves for the bigger games, although there’s always some discussion to be had when we’re playing one of the struggling sides in the league as to who you might choose to rest and who deserves an opportunity outside of the regular match day squad.
24 consecutive wins over the last 10 months must have made selection a relatively straight forward job for the coaches with the tough decisions often being who to rest rather than who to drop because of a loss of form. Players are sometimes rested to prevent them burning out or to give some of the fringe players some much needed game time or the younger players in the Development Squad experience of first team rugby. Injuries have also meant one or two forced changes but that’s about it, other than very occasion instance of players being dropped,
But otherwise it’s not too difficult for supporters to predict what the team is going to look like on most Saturdays, although invariably there’s the odd surprise.
However, the squad to face Esher isn’t quite so straight forward to select – in theory, anyway.
One thing we won’t get from the coaches this week, I believe, is a series of wholesale changes as a reaction to last week. I don’t think that’s RW’s style at all. He’s not one for a knee-jerk reaction and rightly so, far better to build confidence rather than destroy it.
The fact that it’s Esher on Saturday and not, say, Plymouth or Darlington probably make things a little more straightforward. Without wishing to show any disrespect whatsoever to the visitors, I do think it’s probably fair to assume that they aren’t expected to be one of the sides most likely to cause us problems at home, especially having already beaten them 26-61 down at Molesey Road earlier in the season. Any team has the capacity to spring a surprise on the day, as we found out against Blackheath, but even after that first loss in 25 games, Cov should be too strong for the visitors.
Esher would be one of the games I reckon that the coaches would have previously earmarked to bring in players either on the fringe of the senior squad who have so far have had relatively little game time, or those in the Development Squad whose performances warrant them being given experience at a higher level.
So I’m of the opinion that last week’s result won’t have changed selection much, if at all, from what it would have been anyway. This game might well have been targeted as one in which the coaches could rest several key players and I do think we might see that’s the case when the team is officially announced on Friday.
I certainly don’t think blame for Saturday’s result can be placed on any one player, or group of players even. It was just a poor performance against a side that played some great rugby on the day – and other than Hartpury away last season, it’s the only game I’ve watched since RW came in where had we played something approaching our best rugby, it still would have been a real test.
In most other defeats, and I think there have only been 10 in all, I would have fancied us to beat the opposition at our best, including away at Plymouth last season. Not so on Saturday though, not convincingly. It would have been one heck of a game.
Down at Well Hall, we played poorly and they played well, as well as, if not better, than we’ve probably played all season in fairness. Blackheath playing as they did last Saturday against a Coventry side performing as they did in the first half against Moseley – well that would be a tough one to call.
So I think there will be a few changes this weekend but not necessarily as a result of the Blackheath game. These changes would have been made anyway, even had we won, as the coaches tend to rest some of the senior pros for the bigger games…and Bishop’s Stortford, away the following weekend was always going to be a challenge and it carries extra importance now. It’s a game we really could do with winning.
But what if…
…it had been Darlington this weekend. Would selection have been any trickier?
DMP would require us to put out our best side out and that’s probably also our most experienced one…and that, in turn, means it might not have been too dissimilar to that selected to face Blackheath.
If that’s the case, and the selectors would indeed have had a similar squad in mind for this weekend had it been Darlington, then what would the coaches have done as regards selecting the side for this weekend following such a poor performance from the same group of players the week before? I appreciate it’s a hypothetical question, but an interesting one nevertheless.
Shown faith with the side that was so well-beaten the week before or, given the importance of the game to the possible outcome of the league title, bring in places who won’t have been part of what was such a poor performance the week before and who might be in a better place psychologically?
A tough call that would have been…
Any individual changes might suggest that particular players were at fault for the performance, something which I’m not sure was the case and whether that is true or not, it might not be the best way of motivating either them or the team as a whole.
With so much at stake, I think I’d have been tempted to stay with the players who have been the backbone of the club’s success this season and last ( those who were here then). That said, Scott Tolmie was quick to accept that when he was dropped earlier in the season it was exactly the wake up call he needed to work that much harder to rediscover the form of last season.
But if good teams don’t come bad ones overnight, the same is true of good players too.
One of RW’s strengths is his ability to motivate players and bring out the best in them. Players don’t often play poorly under the current coaches and if their attitude is wrong or they’re not getting the game time they need, then having been given a chance, they are moved on.
Whilst some might want to give players a rest and bring in some ‘new’ faces into the side, I think if we were facing Mowden on Saturday, I’d have pretty much the same team out there as last week. As a team, they know they let themselves and the club down, and I can’t imagine that having had a break a Christmas, it was a question of them being Zafira-ed (overtired). Any play who played against Blackheath will surely be desperate to make amends, as well as prove a point to the coaches. No motivation needed, other than the desire to set the record straight.
No…had it been a first plays second or third scenario, I’d have kept the same match day squad and made sure that in the changing room, in those final minutes before the game, I reminded the players that there are 1700 supporters out there who will be urging them on – now was the time to believe, to focus on what success would bring to them and the club this season and next, and to do themselves and the club proud.
The roar would be there when they emerged from the tunnel, they should listen to it and deliver.
That’s the theory. anyway.
In practice, I’m so lacking in patience that had the Blackheath result have happened as part of some fantasy rugby manager game (which I do play!) and I’d been leading the league by 18 points, I’d probably have thrown my dummy into the dirt, put the whole squad up for transfer and played the Development Squad for the next game.
Petulant is probably the word.
We’ll never know what the team would have looked like this weekend had it been Plymouth or Darlington, but it would be interesting to know what others would have done.
Plenty to ponder on this week.
For anyone who enjoys a cup of coffee and a chocolate Hobknob, here’s something else to sit down with…
…or failing that, something to keep the kids quiet for a few minutes.
As I was sorting through some old files on a laptop, I came across an anagram generator that I used on occasions as a teacher, just to create a few starter activities or to reinforce names of characters in books and so on.
Anyway, during the one time in the evening when conversation is guaranteed to be down to a minimum in the Smith household (namely when Sue watches Corrie, especially as the Phelan (?) saga unfolds), I tapped out a short coffee break activity for anyone with a bit of time to spare during the day and nothing better to do than work out a few anagrams of players and support staff connected with Coventry this season.
No prizes, just an excuse to sit down for 5 minutes or so.
Probably best not to do it in the workplace though. Thanks to Quent for the updates!
Of the 20 names included, 16 players are in the senior squad, 3 are from the development squad and there’s 1 coach/or member of the support staff.
Answers in tomorrow’s post…
- Brawny Don (changed)
A wily smile
5. Mr Abel Pen
- Ocelot mitts
Hell in spin
An away lurker (changed)
Hate hen vests
Ha! Tony Ottoman