The atmosphere in the Bishop’s Stortford clubhouse after the game on Saturday was a little bit special…
It’s not the biggest of bar areas and it was packed to the rafters with supporters from both clubs; mainly Stortford’s obviously, but with a good 40 or 50 Cov fans as well.
News of Plymouth’s defeat had filtered through by then and the mood amongst the blue ‘n white army was pretty euphoric, a mixture of great pride in the team and its performance, relief that normal service had been resumed and the growing belief that promotion is now down to a two-horse race.
And it wasn’t just a question of normal service being resumed – it was bettered even, considering one or two of the performances away from home this season.
The Stortford crowd were welcoming and there were plenty of happy, smiling faces in both camps.
It wasn’t long before the players started to filter in…mostly from the development squad at first, with those from the first team soon after. And as each made his entrance, so the Cov supporters would chant a welcoming, if not rather unimaginative, ‘Coventry, Coventry’...
Loud and proud they were.
The younger players looked somewhat uncertain as to how to react as supporters called out their names, the senior players responding with smiles and nods and the odd handshake…
…it’s surprising just how much noise so few supporters can make.
As for the Stortford supporters, there were some incredulous faces at first, although they soon turned to smiles as they watched on for a couple of minutes.
It wasn’t long, though, before the home supporters took up the challenge and as the Cov supporters greeted each and every player, so the Stortford supporters countered with their own, equally imaginative…wait for it…‘Stortford, Stortford‘.
It was all very friendly, and recognition on the part of the home fans of the loyalty shown by the visiting supporters mixed with pride in their own team who had fought so hard in such difficult conditions.
But it made for some good entertainment for a few minutes and Cov players must have enjoyed the reaction they received.
The Cov away day supporters are a fairly disparate group, a mixture of young and old and a fair few in between. Whilst a number travel on the coaches arranged by the Supporters’ Club (and what a good job it does), many others make their own way there and I would imagine of the 420 at the game, getting on for 80 or 90 were travelling fans.
At least 80 or 90.
And they do make a difference. Every player has at some time spoken of the lift he gets when he hears the Cov support. Every single one.
As have the coaches and the chairman.
Now I know I’m talking out of turn here, but wouldn’t it be good if there were some sponsors out in the ether willing to donate some money towards providing a least one, maybe even two, additional coaches for the Darlington game.
Free transport, even free entry to the ground if there was enough interest.
It’s not something the club could run to, obviously, but who knows who is out there – a closet Cov supporter who longs to see the team back in the Championship, perhaps.
And probably a wealthy one at that.
It’s a long return trip and with the increased costs involved (two drivers as opposed to one), it will put many supporters off making the journey, even though arguably it’s the most important game in the club’s recent history, probably since it’s been in National One – and that’s going back to 2010/11.
150 Cov supporters at the Northern Echo Arena would be quite something. And given the significance of the game, provided we didn’t lose prior to the our visit there on 24th February, a win would make it very, very hard for Darlington to claw back enough points in the remaining games. And we would have to have a disastrous run-in to the end of the season before that could even happen.
Something of an unlikely scenario at present.
I remember how much Pete White said he was looking forward to the Moseley game before Christmas and playing in front of so many travelling supporters – a similar lift for the Darlington game could be an important fillip for the players.
And whilst the extra transport might be a short-term cost, it could be a long-term investment were Cov to win up there and thus pretty much secure Championship rugby.
It won’t happen now, if only because it’s just four weeks away, but it’s the kind of thing you sometimes hear happening and maybe there’s a benefactor out there who would be prepared to help out.
As it is, I think the Supporters’ Club had enough supporters interested to make one coach viable for the postponed game back in December- although I’m sure that will increase given the importance now attached to the game and the effective advertising campaign that always precedes an away trip.
But we could always do with more…and before anybody suggests I’m after a freebie, I’ve already paid for my seat! 🙂
There have been some outstanding performances from Cov away from home this season.
In some respects, Saturday’s win at Bishop Stortford was the best.
We have yet to play the three teams immediately below us, we lost to Blackheath and although the first half performance against Moseley was unbelievably good, that of the second half was less than comfortable. Old Elthamians was nail-biting in the extreme but not the most convincing of displays by any means.
And Cov were under more pressure than they’ve been for a long time following the result two weeks beforehand, something that has to be factored in. Despite what has been said elsewhere, I thought Cov’s performance on Saturday was better than their display against Bishop’s Stortford over at the BPA in October.
Yes, BS did have some changes from that first game, but so did we, with some significant players absent, including Tuitupou, Stevens and Dacres which might explain why we were less than convincing in that first encounter, despite the opposition raising their game..
Bishop Stortford threatened early on, just as they had in October, with their backs creating holes in our defence on a couple of occasions in that opening 20 minutes.
But unlike the home game, our defence was far more effective with the forwards dominating the loose and as the game entered the second quarter Stortford were denied the good ball that their backs could feed off.
Rowland Winter made the comment after the game that:
we shut them down and to keep them try-less for the majority of the game with the back line they’ve got and their style of rugby was an exceptional performance
which can hardly be said of Cov’s performance in that first game.
BS threatened to do just as they had done before, but this time we were far better organised.
Their line-out misfired, but having seen the recording of Coventry’s dominant line-out against Esher the week before, they will have been very worried about Cov’s strength in the set piece. Dacres and Oram are way ahead of any other second row pairing in National One and they will cause that sort of reaction at times…just their physical presence in the lineout is going to cause uncertainty, especially if the first couple of lineouts aren’t secured. Part of the credit there must go to Cov, even if it’s just a question of the psychological pressure they apply on the opposition.
No, I thought it was a really good Cov display. They kept it simple all afternoon and when the chances came, they were clinical.
For me, it was more about Cov’s dominance on the day rather than a poorer display from Bishop’s Stortford, although I totally accept that is just one opinion amongst many.
I’m a little loathe to mention this, given what good hosts Bishop Stortford were, but nevertheless it’s a point worthy of discussion, even it might cause some angry responses.
There are a number of grounds in National One that have no seating of any sort available to supporters – Old Elthamians, Bishop Stortford, Ampthill (as far as I recall) and Loughborough, bar the odd bench.
And that worries me a little because it does mean that there are supporters who won’t travel to these grounds simply because there aren’t the facilities there to provide them with even the most basic of shelter/comfort.
I say won’t, but actually in many cases it’s can’t…
I totally accept that Coventry take more supporters to away games than most, but it will be an issue that must effect other clubs too.
There are a number of supporters for whom standing for the best part of two hours, exposed to the wind and the rain, just isn’t a sensible option. Age, frailty, ill-health – whatever the reason, it makes travelling to these grounds difficult, if not impossible.
A couple of Cov supporters brought their own folding seats to the game on Saturday, but the area around the pitch was so soft that it made using them impossible as the legs just sank deep into the ground.
By the end of the game, having stood up for so long, they were uncomfortable in the extreme.
We have a number of supporters of a goodly age at Cov – many just couldn’t have stood to watch the game and therefore supporting Cov away from home that weekend just wasn’t an option. And certainly anyone wheelchair bound or using sticks wouldn’t have been able to get near enough to the pitch to have got a decent vantage point from which to watch the game.
I appreciate that the erecting of temporary seating comes at a cost, both financial and in terms of the utilisation of areas of the ground that may be needed for other purposes – as is the case at Bishop’s Stortford where the main pitch is sandwiched between a rugby and a football pitch.
But even so, rugby at national level should be open for all to watch and shouldn’t preclude those who just are not up to standing for the length of time a game lasts.
Just as there are (or at least were) regulations for teams going into the Championship and presumably the Premiership as well, so should there be for teams progressing up the tiers and into National One. Some of the games at the clubs I’ve mentioned attract large crowds – 1600 plus watched OE play Blackheath earlier in the season and that must mean there were supporters standing two, three or even four deep around the perimeter of the pitch which is hardly ideal.
And actually it’s probably in the long-term financial interests of the clubs as well to offer some seating, whether sheltered or otherwise.
Prior to Saturday’s game, Bishop’s Stortford’s lowest attendance of the season was 562.
Against the league leaders, a team that on its travels has attracted some of the top attendances for the home clubs up to this last weekend, BS attracted its lowest attendance of the season, down a whopping 25% on their season’s average to just 420.
And as previously mentioned, there was a large contingent of Coventry supporters in that 420 as well.
That’s quite shocking.
Hardly surprising given the weather, but it does show just how much potential revenue is lost as a result of having no seating or shelter.
Even had the game attracted an average attendance, that’s a loss of revenue of roughly £1250 (excluding any concessions) and the likelihood is that had it been a warm day in March or April, there might have been a crowd approaching the season high of 760, which would have been an extra £4000 in the coffers, without even taking into account additional revenue from refreshments etc.
I appreciate there is only a finite pot of money available and clubs have to make difficult decisions about allocating resources – should money go on strengthening the squad and the infrastructure to support it, or on providing additional facilities for supporters.
It’s not hard to see what most boards would opt for.
However, the health and well-being of supporters is important and to marginalise those who would come were there even the most basic of shelter available seems a tad unfair to me.
Should all clubs in National One be required to have a minimum number of seats available, preferably sheltered?
It is a legitimate question to ask, even if in the end the answer is no.
I’m certainly not blaming clubs for deciding that they’ll not go for that option, more just raising the question as to whether it should be a requirement.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post…Bishop’s Stortford have a lovely set up and in some respects their facilities are better than those at Cov, especially the outdoor eateries (there were 4 there on Saturday as I recall, all catering for a variety of tastes).
Which is great…
…but I’d rather have my Tesco meal deal and be able to sit in relative comfort to watch the game, and preferably sheltered from the elements as well, than enjoy a gourmet pizza in the rain.
Again, it’s just an opinion. No more than that and I’m sure it’s one that clubs in Bishop’s Stortford position will have heard countless times before.
But that doesn’t mean it’s one that shouldn’t be repeated.