So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu!
The Von Trapps – The Sound of Music
Just a typical post-match photo at the BPA in many respects.
Having shaken each others’ hands and paid their customary respects to the opposition, the players head off to their respective huddles to listen to their coaches and begin either the celebrations or commiserations, depending on the outcome of the game.
And as they walk in front of the main stand the Coventry players acknowledge the part the home supporters always play at the BPA – in this photo it’s Nile Dacres and Andy Brown who applaud the East Stand; the photo before and it would have been Tom Jubb and Dave Brazier.
It’s something of a ritual these days and one that is always appreciated by the home crowd.
However, this particular photo is different for one notable reason – and I must apologise as the quality of the image isn’t great. It’s one I snapped from the top of the stand and is a very poor imitation of those photos taken by Cov’s own John Coles.
However, quite unintentionally on my part as it happens, it does capture the moment when John Sharp warmly shakes the hand of former Coventry flyer Dominic Lespierre, rekindling the not so distant memories of when the then Coventry favourite was himself a Coventry player and scoring tries for fun here at the BPA.
In 2014/15, the year Coventry finished third in the league and went on an 18 game unbeaten run, Dom scored 15 tries, finishing just behind top try scorers Dan Rundle and Rob Knox that season. He only played in 17 games, breaking his jaw just after Christmas, an injury which gave Rundle his own big break…so-to-speak.
Lespierre became a real hit with the crowd and even when Coventry’s fortunes reversed somewhat the following season, he still managed to finish with 10 tries in 27 appearances, 1 behind Matt Price who was the top try scorer that year.
Seeing that photo made me wonder what Dom must think about the way things have panned out over the two seasons since he left Cov. Should he have stayed or was it the right decision to leave?
Dom has had great success at Old Elthamians since his departure, breaking all sorts of records with the South East London club. Last season in National Two (South) he scored 36 tries in total and has continued his good form this season with a further 15 to date, putting him 3rd in the list of top scorers in National One headed by our own James Stokes.
I imagine there will be few regrets on his part whatever the reasons were for his Coventry exit in 2016. He has done exceptionally well for himself and even if he doesn’t wonder what might have been had he stayed on, I’m sure there were one or two in the crowd on Saturday who would have liked to see him playing in the blue and white hoops of Cov rather than the blue and yellow of Old Elthamians.
In the two games we played against OE this season, Dom saw very little of the ball and was unable to make his presence felt in either game. But in a Coventry side, intent on playing expansive, attacking rugby wherever possible, I can’t help but wonder how would Dom have fared.
The answer, of course, is that we will never know. The move was obviously the right one for him and, in retrospect, for Coventry too, I guess.
Coventry’s other flyer at that time, Dan Rundle, remained with the club for much of that first season following Rowland Winter’s arrival and in that time he just wasn’t able to recapture his 2014/15 form. With Dom being far more of a natural finisher I think he probably would have fared far better, especially under Nick Walshe who would have made him a better player defensively.
Still, it’s all in the past now and everyone’s moved on.
But the photo is a reminder of another period in Cov’s recent past and Dom will always be welcomed back at the BPA by those supporters who remember him with great fondness. And given Rowland Winter’s glowing pre-game endorsement of Old Elthamians as potentially one of the promotion contenders next season, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we might yet see him back once again at the BPA wearing the colours of Old Elthamians.
I certainly wish him, and his club, all the very best for the rest of the season and beyond.
I’m not really one for mixing with either players or the coaches, partly because I’m not the greatest of socialisers and partly because I’m well aware that in writing as regularly as I do, at times over the course of the last three seasons I will have written things which won’t have gone down too well – unintentionally for the most part. Nevertheless, that is always going to be the case when you’re writing about the club on almost a daily basis, although wherever possible I try not to be critical of any person. Occasionally perhaps the team, or the club as an entity, but even then in a respectful way.
I mention this only because Jon Sharp was kind enough to come across at the end of the game on Saturday and have a chat – something I wouldn’t have initiated however much I might have wanted to.
To be honest, I feared the worst and as soon as he mentioned he’d like to have a word, the first I did was to rack my brains to think what I might have written over the last couple of weeks that might have caused the club some angst…that’s just the way I am and although I might seem quite assured writing as I do, I am anything but, fully appreciating that I write merely as a passionate supporter of Coventry Rugby Club, not as someone who knows anything about either the inner workings of the club or of even the intricacies of the game of rugby itself.
I was, to put it mildy, bricking it somewhat.
The Chairman of the Club asking to have a quick word? It was back to being the inky school kid summoned to the headmaster’s office for being responsible for one of any number of immature, petty pranks.
How I miss those days…
Anyway, to cut to the chase, I needn’t have worried – JS just wanted to mention a few things that were happening in response to a couple of the more recent posts. (I don’t know if anyone has picked up on the fact that in three years I’ve not referred to Rowland Winter as simply ‘Rowland’ or Jon Sharp as ‘Jon’ – it just seems wrong to do so in writing. Old school me, and hard core at that. They’re either John Sharp/Rowland Winter or JS/RW).
John Sharp is happy for me to include much of what he mentioned, although some of it hasn’t yet been made public so I’ve left those bits out.
On the issue of finances next year, JS stressed that Coventry has planned for Championship rugby for sometime and the infrastructure was already being put in place to make sure Coventry’s survival in the next tier of English rugby well before promotion became a real possibility this season.
The club has worked extremely hard to bring in new sponsors and there will be significant sums involved, very significant indeed, and JS certainly seemed upbeat in terms how the club would be able to cover the increased cost of Championship rugby, not just next season but well beyond.
I’ve said before that I’ve always felt JS is someone who is ambitious for the club, but not in a way that would jeopardise all the hard work that has gone into ensuring that the ‘boom and bust’ budgets of previous administrations will ever be repeated under his watch.
That belief was most definitely reinforced on Saturday.
As far as recruitment was concerned, he confirmed the one name that was already widely known and hinted that it would be a strong squad next season and whilst he stopped short of naming names, he certainly seem to suggest that there’s at least one big-named player that the club is hoping to bring in – and I don’t meant big-named as in Claudio Ravelonomenjanahary (who, before anyone asks, plays second row for Madagascar…).
John Sharp is a man on a mission to make Coventry a force in English rugby once again and he talked with real pride and a degree of humility about the fans who have supported both him and the club so well these past few seasons – and he spoke with genuine gratitude of the handshakes and words of gratitude he receives from people he doesn’t know but whom he saw as very much part of the Coventry family in the widest sense of the word.
He also clearly respects the players, too, and spoke of them more in an avuncular way than merely as their employer…on the way back from Darlington, he’d offered to buy them all a drink to celebrate the win, but they wouldn’t let him and he was even presented with a bottle of wine to enjoy on the way back by club captain, Phil Boulton.
As it was, he stopped the coach anyway and brought them all a Burger King (or equivalent) instead.
I do hope the Secretary of the Supporters’ Club is reading this. Burgers and chips on the way back from Ampthill, everyone?
That’ll do nicely.
For me, it was a just pleasure to have a chat with Jon Sharp – and a relief to know that at least I’m not quite the persona non grata that I sometimes assume I am.
Well, this one went to the wire…and in the end both Brett Daynes and Rob Knox polled not just the same percentage of votes, but also the same number in this week’s Man of the Match poll:
1st= Rob Knox – 29%
1st = Brett Daynes – 29%
3rd James Stokes – 18%
4th Niles Dacres – 5%
It’s no surprise to see Rob do so well this week – scoring a hatrick of tries is always going to put you well in contention for any match-day reward.
For that reason alone, Brett Daynes’ position up there alongside Rob probably is something of a shock – to do so well when another player makes such an impact on the game shows just how much his performance was appreciated by the supporters. His consistent form has been a real feature of the second half of the season and I’m not sure even Brett would have expected to start quite so many games back in September when he saw players of the calibre of Makaafi and Narraway alongside him in the squad.
There’s no point in me repeating the same superlatives about Brett week in, week out – suffice it to say, to feature so prominently so regularly in supporters’ polls shows how well-respected he is – he must be a real contender for the Supporters’ Player of the Season should there be one this season.
Earlier in the season I labelled Brett Daynes as Cov’s very own ‘Super Sub’ following a string of excellent performances coming off the bench in the opening weeks of the season.
That now needs upgrading.
He is one of Cov’s genuine ‘Super Stars’, up there with the very best this season and he is already, for me at least, a Cov legend in the making, in the same way that Alex Nash is…
Well done to James Stokes as well – another player for whom I’m running short of superlatives…
This is the last post for a good few weeks now, other than perhaps a brief one to acknowledge the moment Coventry are confirmed officially as Champions-elect.
I’m off to island-hop the French Polynesian Islands, not quite close enough to get to Tonga, Samoa or Fiji but close enough to get a feel of what the south seas isles are about.
I should be back for the last two or three games of the season, after which it’s my intention to post somewhat irregularly during June and July in the build up to what will be the most exciting of pre-seasons.
I fancy home friendlies against Wasps, Moseley and Plymouth and away trips to Saints and Cambridge, thank you very much.
Not forgetting a couple of Cov teams competing in the Olney 7s again.
All the best to Jon Sharp, Rowland Winter, the coaches and players for the next few weeks…and a huge thank you to all the readers of the blog who have been so, so supportive.
Up the Cov.
Tahiti – the land of love and romance...
Sounds good to me…although I’ve already got my own ‘Sweetie who’ll be in Tahiti’
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Jim Reeves…
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night…