The Eeyore Syndrome, a miracle unpromised and succesful recruitment…

16Feb - by Tim - 2 - In Club talk

Promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As golden days break wondering
Chance as love takes a train
Summer breeze and brilliant light

Simple Minds – Promised You A Miracle

For a period of five or six weeks last summer, Quent Meluish (CRSC Secretary and all-round good bloke) and I watched the Coventry squad train over at Summerhill Lane.

Cov had ended the previous season on a winning run of eight games and there was a real sense of anticipation even then. The fourth place finish in April was probably as good as we could have expected and ending the season ahead of Moseley, after lagging behind them for so long, was very much the icing on the cake.

The club had recruited strongly and when we saw how quickly the likes of Sam Tuitupou, Luke Narraway, Phil Nilsen, Alex Grove, Jack Preece and Phil Nilsen had appeared to settle, we knew that the coming months would see us further strengthen our place in National One.

At that stage back in July and August, it was all about a top two finish. Top three at worst.

Promotion wasn’t really on the agenda over those summer months, at least not this season. The pre-season performances against Jersey and Rotherham, good as they were, weren’t enough to convince us that this was a group of players that would take the league by storm in the first half of the season.

We even spoke in whispers on the edge of the playing area that a couple of losses in the opening few games could see the season over before it had begun.

It sounds like heresy now, but it was merely the manifestation of the years of self-doubt that have been the curse of even the most ardent of Coventry supporters for almost as long as I can remember.

Season after season we believed that this was our time, only for things to go quickly awry.

Which is why even now it’s hard to accept that we’re in as a strong position as we actually are and why so many of us are still looking over our shoulders at Darlington, when all we should be doing is looking ahead to Cambridge.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say most, some perhaps…

…well, me anyway.

The feeling  that if something connected to Coventry can go wrong, it will,  is almost second nature to Cov supporters these days and I rather imagine that so ingrained is it in the likes of me and those of my generation, that even when (with my positive hat on) promotion into the Championship is achieved, there will be a few supporters uttering something along the lines of ‘we’ll probably come straight back down anyway’ over the course of the close season.

Guarantee it in fact…it’s the nature of the beast.

And it’s something that the coaches will have to do battle with when the time comes, as it surely will.

Call it the Eeyore Syndrome – and yes  ”e or, ‘e or,  ‘e ought to know better’.

Eeyore is the anhedonic character in Winnie-the-Pooh who is unable to gain much, if any pleasure, even from the most pleasing of activities, preferring instead  to suffer his unhappiness in silence.

Or mostly in silence.

There’s a little bit of Eeyore in most of us Cov supporters which means that at the exact moment when we should all be relishing our current position and enjoying the likely prospect of a successful conclusion to the season, some of us are still working out the scenarios whereby we could be caught by Darlington and end up an inglorious second.

Okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but there is an element of truth in there, somewhere.

All of which made Rowland Winter  an inspired choice as Director of Rugby some 18 months ago.

Leaving aside RW’s vision, his knowledge and understanding of the modern game and his capacity to lead – all of which we tend to take somewhat for granted these days – simply in terms of his character and temperament, he is exactly what the club needed after the failures of the previous few seasons.

RW doesn’t do self-doubt – at least not in public. Even back before the National One campaign had kicked off last season he was talking of when Coventry would be promoted, never if.

There was originally a three-year plan in place and I can clearly recall him saying on several occasions that he had no doubts that Coventry would be a Championship side – he offered no real time frame other than the three years, but promotion would be achieved.

End of.

Failure just wasn’t an option.

To some, it might have come across as perhaps a little arrogant – a young DoR, newly appointed to one of the great clubs in the history of English rugby with a total belief in himself and his team.

To me it was something very different – here we had someone who was clearly a winner, someone for whom failure wasn’t even a consideration. Despite a few wobbles early on, somewhat against the odds he’d guided Cambridge to promotion and was intent on doing something similar at Cov and in the process providing exciting rugby for the long-suffering supporters.

It was just exciting. After all the disappointments, here was someone who truly believed in the club and all it represented.

It wasn’t rhetoric in the way that perhaps it had been under past DoRs/Head Coaches at Cov – remember the hype pre 2015/16 when recruitment had ensured that the players coming in were at least as good if not better than those already here? It was just kind of reassuring.

Rowland Winter – untried and untested at this level…but talking a good game.

He would have been aware of that reaction I’m sure, but he did what all good leaders do.

Having said he would change things, even to the point of producing a checklist at the opening Fans’ Forum of areas he would address, he promptly set about ensuring he delivered on his promises. The changes came fast and furious, particularly with regards to the infrastructure in place to support the players – strength and conditioning, rehab, nutrition, training. Nothing was spared, and all done within budget despite what supporters from other National One clubs would have us believe.

Belief is a beauty thing

And whilst supporters still find it hard to come to grips with the position we are currently in, belief in the team and in the management is at an all-time high. As supporters,  many of us are waiting for the perfect storm to come and blow us off course, but we have complete faith in the likes of Nick Walshe and Louis Deacon.

Rugby Lions and Birmingham and Solihull might well be topping their respective leagues, but having seem the professionalism of the current set up, just how well equipped were Dave Addleton and Pete Glackin  two years ago to be coaching Coventry at top National One/Championship levels?

Both had Coventry at heart, especially Aggers of course, but in the light of what we know now, perhaps as coaches at this level they weren’t up to the task  back then. The impact of both NW and LD is there for all to see – and it has been sustained which it never was under either Phil Maynard or Scott Morgan.

It’s the difference between learning to tread water and earning your 500m badge.

Promised you a miracle

Well not quite. No one, least of all Jon Sharp or Rowland Winter, made any promises as such. They just stated what they saw as fundamental truths.

Cov would gain promotion into the Championship sooner or later.

As of now, it appears to be sooner, but even if it doesn’t come this season, few would bet on us failing to make the top 24 English clubs by the end of next season.

I would love to be able to say we should all be enjoying the moment and taking each games as it comes and savouring the next few weeks as we march on towards what should be Championship rugby next season.

But that would be hypocritical…

…I know I’ll be increasingly nervy as the season unwinds and will be going through all the scenarios, both probable and possible, that lie ahead. I am Eeyore in many respects,  if sh!t does happen, then I’m bound to step in it.

And fortunately, my faith in Messrs. Winter, Walshe and Deacon and the squad has always been greater than my belief that it would take a miracle for me  to ever see Cov promoted.

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It’s a measure of the respect that Rowland Winter’s former club, Cambridge, still have for him that next season’s Head Coach, Richie Williams, who takes over from current incumbent Ross Stewart at the end of the current campaign, was initially recommended by none other than RW himself:

It was former director of rugby Rowland Winter that provided the link to Williams, putting forward the ex-Chinnor player to replace Stewart.

“He [Rowland] said my skillset was one of those that would lend itself quite well to the job,” said Williams.

“I met him a few weeks ago and then Rob Dean [the Cambridge chairman] got in touch and I interviewed two weeks ago and got offered the job the beginning of last week. It’s all happened quite quickly. I coach at South Leicester in National 2N so I didn’t actively go looking for a coaching job.

And perhaps that also goes to show just how astute he is at picking the right person for the right job – the ability to see that someone has the appropriate skills for a particular role is one that few possess, especially when the individual concerned doesn’t necessarily see it himself.

Under previous head coaches, recruitment has been somewhat hit and miss, with some successes and  rather too many disappointments alongside of them.

Not so under the current management…perhaps a couple of players last year didn’t quite come off (Ali Bone, Sam Harry {maybe a little harsh on that one} and arguably James Pritchard) and Harry Morley this season (although by all accounts he is doing particularly well at Cambridge having been recommended  to the club by Cov), otherwise almost all the players recruited to the senior squad have made their mark.

(Eoghan Grace suffered a couple of injuries as did Tom Wheatcroft which meant they never really go the chances their abilities deserved  – discuss).

Have we had that sort of consistency of recruitment before – probably not?

And the same is true across the whole of the playing infrastructure, with the all coaches proving their worth and helping to move Coventry  forward to a position of strength from one of relative weakness just 18 months ago.

The right people in the right roles – and if things don’t work out and you’ve had your chance but not been able to take it, well you move on.

Tough, but fair.

As it should be.

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Promised You A Miracleor potentially a miracle unpromised in Cov’s case.

I really liked the early Simple Minds in the early days – I have both Life in A Day and Real to Real Cacophony  somewhere in the loft on vinyl but I’ll have to resort to listening to their greatest hits before they come to the BPA in the summer,  together with the purchase of their latest offering as they’re bound to throw in a few recent offerings. 

Chrissie Hynde or Jim Kerr?

Pretenders or Simple Minds?

Simple Minds, I guess.

Sorry, but KT doesn’t even feature…

Like so many of the post punk/ new wave alternative bands of the late 70s and early 80s once they achieved chart success I lost interest  in Simple Minds (The Clash, The Jam, even PIL)…’cutting’, ‘nose’,  ‘spite’ and ‘face’ are words that spring to mind…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Eeyore Syndrome, a miracle unpromised and succesful recruitment…”

    1. Thanks, Anne – here’s hoping for good result today! Btw, Rob ‘scored’ in the corner early on against Loughborough…we were right by the AR when he flagged that Rob had put a foot in touch and he was a good foot away from the line…awful decision.

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