(Apologies that this is rather rushed. WordPress went down in the early tours of his morning just as I was completing the final few sentences of the original post – and on it’s return a couple of hours later the draft had disappeared. Unfortunately, it’s not in my nature to leave things unfinished, so I’ve rewritten it, although it lacks some of the immediacy of the original).
I Got You (I Feel Good)”
Wo! I feel good, I knew that I would
I feel good, I knew that I would
So good, so good, I got you
James Brown – I Feel Good Lyrics
It’s a brave man, or woman, who takes issue with anything Rowland Winter says or does given the Midas touch he has brought to the club in the last couple of seasons.
Rarer still that it should be me.
And whilst I’m somewhat nervous so doing, and I’m anything but brave (even hiding behind a computer screen), for once I’ll disagree with the DoR’s post match comments after the Ampthill game and if not rush, then walk briskly, to the defence of the players.
Now this should be amusing…
RW hinted that there was an element of complacency creeping into the squad over the last couple of games following confirmation of the club’s promotion into the Championship with the win against Caldy some four games ago now.
He’s not alone in that as it’s a word that has also been used by one or two supporters as well.
Nevertheless I’m not sure I’d go that far. Nothing like in fact.
Maybe it’s just semantics, but complacency suggests to me a degree of smugness and self-satisfaction, both traits which are less than appealing and one’s which I certainly wouldn’t label the players with looking from the outside in. It was a word also used after the Blackheath game and the response from the players following that defeat clearly suggested that this just wasn’t the case then and nor, I believe, is it now.
Perhaps out of loyalty to the players, and indeed to the coaches, who have delivered Cov into the Championship this season after so many false dawns in previous years, I’d tentatively suggest that given the increasing expectations placed upon them over the course of the season and the fact that every time a question was asked of them, they responded so positively, the players have reached the stage where they are physically and emotionally drained. The pressure of leading from the front for so long is bound to take its toll, however experienced the squad is
Maybe I’m just being too soft – these are professionals we’re talking about, after all. However, it strikes me that having won the league at something of a canter this season, there was something rather inevitable about the response we’ve seen in the last two weeks.
I guess inevitability is a concept that is foreign to RW and that his role and that of Nick Walshe and Louis Deacon is to ensure that the scenario we’ve seen unfold in the last couple of games, namely two rather disappointing performances where Cov have appeared a shadow of the team that beat the likes of Darlington and Plymouth away just a few weeks back, just don’t occur.
One thing I’ve been really impressed by is just how grounded the players have been when interviewed by John Wilkinson for his weekly posts on the website. Barely ever has a player talked of anything beyond the next game, even when closing in on the National One title and that’s probably a lot down to the constant mantra from the coaches of taking each game as it comes. It’s no wonder really that we’ve seen a post-title winning reaction of this kind, even despite the best efforts of the coaches given the enormity of what the players have achieved this season. A safety valve has been released and the pressure’s dropped…
After the Caldy game Cov went down to Plymouth, a game that carried great significance.
Probably the start-of-the-season favourites, Plymouth had been well beaten up at ours before Christmas but a trip down to The Brickfields was always going to test the quality of the champions-elect. Despite the win against Caldy the week before and all the celebrations that ensued, there was no let up the week after and once again Cov did what they had done all season and produced a thoroughly professional display and deservedly ended up winners down at The Brickfields in what was, nevertheless, a tight game.
And then along came the Rosslyn Park and Ampthill games and perhaps it was only then that the fatigue, both emotional and physical, really began to kick in. Following the Ampthill game it was something that RW himself remarked on:
Unfortunately, I think it was coming a little bit
On the day, Ampthill probably wanted the win more than we did having been humiliated up at ours before Christmas, and needed it too in their attempt to finish runner’s up in the league. With so many players with links to Coventry in their side, they were always going to up the ante in the return leg and that, combined with the sickness that affected at least 4 of our players, meant we were always going to find it tough. And when Cov needed to hit the accelerator in the second half when they suddenly found themselves behind after somewhat fortuitously leading at half time, well they found there was just no gas left.
The players were left chasing shadows a little and Ampthill thoroughly deserved the win. I’d prefer to see it like that rather than it being a question of complacency anyway.
And here’s where I struggle a little with RW’s post match comment…
There’s probably been some complacency throughout the squad for a couple of weeks now since we won the title, and a combination of our indiscipline and some inaccuracy in our play meant that we were probably second best in every area.
although it will certainly resonate with some supporters whose expectations are sometimes set a little too high.
I was impressed with the way the travelling fans reacted to Cov’s defeat at the weekend given how relatively poor the performance was. There was no blame attached to the players, far from it and there was almost a sense of relief when the news that some of the players had been taken sick before and during the game filtered through…there was the reason to justify the disappointing display from players who had performed such heroics all season away from home, other than at Blackheath of course!
Now RW will know far better than anyone the mood of the camp and will have seen the players probably on an almost daily basis since the Plymouth game, but complacency is such a damning word, especially when directed towards a squad that has had such an impressive season. Maybe the standards are so high these days that any drop in focus and form is regarded as complacency.
However, I’d turn it round really and suggest if there is a degree of complacency then its amongst he supporters and not the players in this instance. One or two of us are quicker to criticise than we are to praise and having watched Coventry perform at levels well above anything we’ve seen in the previous 6 or 7 years, there is understandable frustration when the team fails to deliver as they have against Rosslyn Park and Ampthill. Still, a record of 26 wins from 28 games remains a remarkable achievement.
In 10 years time I’m sure we’ll be remembering the highs rather than the couple of lows…at least very much hope so.
So the blip we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is somewhat understandable and whilst the coaches might see it has the onset of a degree of complacency following the euphoria of the Caldy game, I would prefer to put it down to the players just being mental and physically exhausted, A few injuries haven’t helped either.
To be fair, also in his pre-match comments after the Ampthill game, Rowland Winter also stated that:
I think the boys will respond, as they have done before – they won’t want to finish the season with two more losses, so they’ll need to step up and there’s no greater challenge really than second-placed Darlington at home
We can be sure to expect a response this weekend. They won’t want to finish the season with two more losses leaves little to the imagination. This is going to be a tough week for the players and you can kind of imagine that they’ll be left in no doubt as to the level of disappointment felt by the coaches following the last couple of performances.
And Darlington are the ideal opposition if Cov are to reinforce their dominance over National One this season.
For much of the season DMP were close enough to catch Cov in the final games and it was only the away game up at the Northern Echo Arena that really brought it home to me that this was to be our year.
Like Ampthill before them, they will have a point to prove.
42 of them to be precise.
And with Coventry’s home record at stake too, Cov will need no greater motivation than to ensure we remain unbeaten all season. In front of another 2000 plus crowd, a similar performance as that of last week wouldn’t be greeted so sympathetically this time, especially as many in the crowd haven’t seen Cov lose at all for over a year now. Complacency creeping in, no doubt.
Max Hartman’s tweet on Monday morning made it clear there would be no let up in the build up to Saturday, There have been Mondays this season where the players have been let off training following some notable Saturday performances, but that’s not the case this week:
Straight back to work for the @CoventryRugby boys this morning after a tough day out on Saturday. Lower limb strength > @wattbike conditioning > mobility and recovery. Big week building again for another strong showing @ButtsPark_Arena #Coventry #Rugby #Strength #Build #GoAgain pic.twitter.com/DaL7dZ9P8F
— Max Hartman (@maxhartman4) April 16, 2018
Indeed, it’s probably not even business as normal as the coaches up the ante in preparation for Darlington’s visit.
Max Hartman, Coventry’s Head of Support and Conditioning, and his team are clearly wasting no time in working individually with the players to ensure they are ready. The photos show James Stokes on the weights (I recognised the bun) and Tom Jubb practising his poolside dives with Harry Gaunt in readiness for the summer. I thought it was Luke Narraway at first but I’ll go with TJ…
And talking of Luke Narraway…his presence on the pitch was sorely missed last Saturday. He is a natural leader. totally committed to the cause, and he was vociferous in his comments from the touchline at Ampthill. However, it was on the pitch we really needed him and his ability to lead by example and to organise the defence might well have prevented Cov from falling away in the final 20 quite as dramatically as they did. He has been something of a revelation for me this season and his influence as a coach and a player has been fundamental in the success of the club. I’m really hoping that his injured toe will have improved enough for him to play this weekend…
Whether last Saturday’s performance is a simple physical and mental reaction to at last winning the promotion everyone at the club has worked so hard for these past two season, or as RW suggests, the result of a degree of complacency creeping in, I’m more than confident that on Saturday Cov will produce a far better display in beating Darlington at home.
In fact, I feel good about it…
Cue The Hardest Working Man In Show Business…