I’ve witnessed your suffering
As the battle raged higher.
And though they did hurt me so bad
In my fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms.
Dire Straights – Brothers In Arms
I’d gone to training last night not really knowing what to expect.
For the first time in almost a year, training this week was on the back of a defeat, and a heavy one at that. For several of the players involved, it was unknown territory.
Would there be any obvious differences in the way the players approached the session, would they do anything different…would the level of intensity be that much greater?
As it was, there wasn’t a great deal of difference between this and the previous Thursday evening sessions I’d attended.
At least not that was noticeable straight away.
But there was some; and it became increasingly apparent the longer the session went on.
When I arrived, the Development Squad was already out, the players going through their routines on the far side of the pitch.
Even from outside the ground, it was noisy session and everyone seemed to be in a fairly relaxed mood – I’m not sure what was going on, but during what in effect was a mini-Captain’s run, several players removed their tops so as to be bare-chested, much to the delight of the others – presumably a forfeit of some sort!
I have to say it was pretty cold watching, but such was the energy they were expending, I doubt whether they would have felt it particularly.
Having beaten Blackheath so convincingly on Saturday, whilst they trained hard, it all appeared relatively relaxed. This was a group of players who were evidently enjoying themselves.
The senior squad didn’t emerge from the changing rooms for a while and when they did, they went straight into the first activity.
Often the players will come out in fits and starts before coming together, but yesterday was different in that respect. It was quieter at first but the noise levels built up noticeably – the longer it went on the louder it became. Training sessions are pretty much non-contact usually, with the ball carrier hitting the deck as the challenge comes in to avoid injury. Even so, there were one or two quite tasty hits going in when both squads came together and a couple of the Development Squad lads were more than happy to get in amongst the more senior players.
By the end, there was definitely an edge to the practice session and as spectators, we were half expecting something to boil over. As it was, though, it was nothing other than a group of players all working together to put last Saturday behind them and what started off as perhaps 50% match day intensity was hitting 75 – 80% by the time I left. It was reassuring from a spectator’s point of view, suggesting as it did that everyone in the club was working towards a far better performance on Saturday.
And once again Rowland Winter was as upfront as ever. After what was such a disappointing result last Saturday, it would have been easy for the DoR to stay pitchside and not face the inevitable barrage of questions from supporters, or to come over for just the last 5 or 10 minutes. That’s just not Rowland Winter’s way and within minutes he was in the stand, talking openly about the game and answering any questions that were asked of him.
And if as supporters we were hurting after the game, then make no mistake he hurt more.
By his own admission, he doesn’t take well to losing – no surprise there, but such was his frustration that on the Sunday he was such poor company that his wife suggested he go off somewhere for the day. He did.
Back to the BPA…
I don’t think his mood had been helped that much on Saturday evening by his dad singing over the phone ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’…
It was meant to make him smile…clearly Rowland had temporarily lost his sense of humour.
And one of the things he did whilst at the ground was to stick a photo on the changing room wall of Blackheath’s Leo Fielding showboating on his way to scoring, having intercepted a Luke Narraway pass – it annoyed Cov supporters at the time and it certainly won’t have impressed the players either.
RW’s watched the game several times over, as have the other coaches and indeed the players, and he still can’t really put his finger on why it all went so wrong.
How it went wrong, yes, but not why.
The players themselves have talked of complacency and all have put their hands up as to their own mistakes, with no finger-pointing or blaming of others – they recognise that everyone was at fault on the day and it needs everyone to put it right; corporate responsibility from top to bottom.
By all accounts it’s been a good week in terms of re-assessing values and making sure the squad refocuses. The players have said and done all the right things, although as RW freely admits, no-one will know just how successful they’ve been until the team takes to the pitch on Saturday. There are still some concerns – how will the players react, for instance, if they go behind early on as they did against Blackheath – was it just a one-off last week, or are there insecurities that could resurface?
RW also is hopeful of a passionate response from the crowd right from the kick off.
He feels Cov supporters could play a really important role in getting behind the team from the moment that first whistle blows – the lift the crowd can give the team is huge and he’s hoping for a real reaction from the supporters, just as much as from the players.
And that wasn’t said simply because that is what we, the supporters, want to hear – Rowland Winter is adamant that the crowd can make a massive difference.
Mark H was there yesterday and there are few more passionate supporters than he, so I’m sure we’ll hear him early doors drumming up some vocal support…
It was a call too arms, a rallying cry…
Your club needs you…
I’ve been asked previously not to divulge the team before the 9.00 am deadline on a Friday, so as I usually post at around 7.00 am, I can’t really name names. However, I think it’s fair to say that the coaches are sticking pretty much with the same match day squad as for last Saturday, other than a couple of injuries and enforced changes. Having performed so well previously, they deserve the opportunity to prove this was indeed a one-off and the coaches owe it to them to give them that chance.
From what I saw of the training session, they look like they’re going to grab it with both hands.
The Cov Director of Rugby also intimated that the club is bringing in a further three players before deadline day in February to strengthen the senior squad. Following a couple of injuries last weekend, Cov have acquired a back row and centre, as well as another prop. Saints Senior Academy player Paddy Ryan is one, a big bruising 6/7/8 who is in the Senior Academy side at the Saints. As RW was mentioning his arrival, he put in a huge hit on one of the senior players and it was clear he’s not some one concerned by reputations…
Two of the three will be here for the rest of the season and one might be here next season as well, although that’s about all I know.
Cov certainly aren’t going to sit back and rest on their laurels and the players coming in are definitely going to be competing for places in the first team, which is exactly what you want at this stage in the season. And probably not what the opposition want to hear.
RW mentioned that at the moment Cov are selecting their senior squad from a pool of around 24 players, so with 20 involved on a match day, there aren’t too many in reserve. The squad is 32 in total , which would increase to probably 36 should we be promoted into the Championship. In addition, if that is the case, there will also be an A and a B squad underneath that, with the B squad amounting to what is currently the Development Squad and an A squad being made up of players who are on the fringe of the Championship squad.
At the moment that would be the likes of Olly Povoas, Luc Jeannot, Cameron Gray and so on – this group would more than likely get some game time during the season.
The jump between the Development Squad and the Championship is just too great for there to be nothing in between.
There will be a specialist scrum coach next season who will also be a member of the senior squad and who will work with the junior squads as well – although I’m not sure if that is dependent on us gaining promotion or whether his appointment is guaranteed whatever league we’re in.
However, whatever happens come April, there will be an U18 Academy in place in September. A new coaching/management structure will be set up to support the U18s and the DS, but I wasn’t listening carefully enough to go into it in any more detail with any confidence.
The BBC were filming at the ground for a local news item in tomorrow’s evening slot, although when I was there they seemed to be concentrating on the Development Squad as the senior players hadn’t as yet come out of the changing room – whether they knew that or just saw some players and decided to film anyway in the belief they were the senior squad was unclear!
One final thing – Sam Tuitupou wasn’t able to train yesterday but turned up anyway and came and sat with the supporters, which was a really nice touch.
He’s seems really happy to be at Cov and admitted that he’d probably been at Sale too long and coming to Cov had renewed his enjoyment of the game. Having been told before he arrived that the standard of rugby at National One wasn’t very high, he’s been really impressed with what he’s seen and with the fitness and skill levels of the Coventry squad, as well as by how hard the training was pre-season.
He’s definitely bought into the Cov family and was at ease chatting to supporters about all aspects of the game – when asked if he had any players whom he could encourage to come to Cov, he just smiled and said something to the effect that he’s working on it…
To Sam, coming across and chatting to a small group of supporters on a cold Thursday evening was nothing, it’s clearly in his nature to be so sociable.
But it was a great moment for me. I’m never going to be someone who will stay behind in the bar after a game and sit and chat with the players, especially now I write about them. I’m far too diffident for that.
So Coventry’s willingness to open its doors at other times and openly encourage supporters to be part of the life of club, however small a part, is much appreciated.
Long may it continue…
For those who had a crack at the anagrams yesterday, the answers are below.
I must apologise for the couple of typos that made Andy Brown and Luke Narraway’s name’s somewhat harder to decipher!
Fortunately, they were spotted fairly early on by eagle-eyed Quent and Dave D and I was able to correct them without too much inconvenience (I hope).
1. Brawny Don (changed) – Andy Brown
2. Reggae room – George Oram
3. Varied zebra – David Brazier
4. A wily smile – Will Maisey
5. Mr Abel Pen – Ben Palmer
6. Ocelot mitts – Scott Tolmie
7. Wipe teeth – Pete White
8. Rancid eels – Nile Dacres
9. Hell in spin – Phil Nilsen
10. Fanny Enthrone – Anthony Fenner
11. Unsocial ode – Louis Deacon
12. Unclean jot – Luc Jeannot
13. Angora mercy – Cameron Gray
14. Twirly ellipse – Will Priestley
15. Loopy ovals – Olly Povoas (thanks, Dave!)
16. An away lurker (changed) – Like Narraway
17. Poem tool – Tom Poole
18. Hate hen vests – Heath Stevens
19. Hacking jigs – Jack Higgins
20. Ha! Tony Ottoman – Anthony Matoto
Dire Straights – one of the best live bands I’ve seen.
And Mark Knopfler is second only to Eric Clapton as the greatest guitarist I’ve ever seen…(although only 27th on the American Billboard top 100!)…
Come Saturday, all supporters will need to be brothers in arms…