With training returning to the Butts on Thursday, I thought I’d venture down there after a good few weeks of absence.
The numbers of supporters attending seem to have dropped, with only 5 of us present, and two of those had to leave midway through the session to attend a sponsors’ dinner.
With the car park absolutely chocka by the time I made my apologies, it must have been a packed clubhouse and you can only hope that with Coventry now assured of Championship rugby, sponsors are currently queuing up to buy advertising space in readiness of the huge increase in media attention that promotion will inevitably bring.
Evidence of the that has indeed already begun, with the club confirming a deal with Elonex to install a giant digital scoreboard and LED pitchside perimeter screenings, as well as further screens to follow.
Great news, but perhaps of even greater significance is the 7 year deal that has been struck between Cov and the Birmingham-based computer hardware and IT services company. I can’t imagine such a well-known concern as Elonex would consider such a lengthy contract if it didn’t believe Cov were a club on the up. No such commitment would be forthcoming from the IT giant if it felt relegation in the next couple of years or so was a likely scenario.
It bodes well.
And if Nick Smith, the CEO at Elonex, is right and…
the visual technology planned for the stadium will hugely enhance the spectator experience at Butts Park, and its implementation really does demonstrate the ambitious nature of the club and its vision for the future
…then maybe that will impact positively on season tickets sales and attendances generally. If the main scoreboard is up and running for the last game of the season and those operating the software can use it to its full potential, supporters could be greatly influenced by the atmosphere and excitement it’s bound to generate.
One of the problems with the current scoreboard, on those rare occasions when it was working this season, was that it was never used effectively. That was made evident when I watched Coventry United – players’ names scrolled across the screen and there were some simple graphics too. It was efficient and definitely added to the overall enjoyment of the game.
Anyway, well done to Cov for pulling off such a great coup and particularly to Lara Hunter who I know was instrumental in sealing the deal. Elonex has never been involved with any rugby team outside of the top flight which speaks volumes about how they view Cov’s potential.
Anyway, back to Thursday.
Before the players were all out, Hannah came over to say hello. By all accounts she’s had a busy week, with several players suffering from various niggles and aches, the culmination of a long season in which they tended to keep minor injuries to themselves until after the Caldy game and promotion was won. Understandably so given everyone wants to be a part of a promotion-winning squad and players will play through pain to do that.
There are no major concerns, other than those already known, but there are a number of players who need a few weeks off sooner rather than later now in order to recover fully. 17 players in all were unavailable for training…
Players will return to Coventry in the first week of June just for a few tests to ensure they are hitting their fitness targets for the summer. Those who do won’t be required back for a further month, those who don’t will be playing catch-up and be more frequent visitors between then and the official returning date. RW thought that might involve getting on for a dozen!
(Before I forget, there will be a Cov side entering the Olney 7s this year, but it will be made up of mostly Academy players. One or two first team players picked up serious injuries last year (most notably Max Trimble) and it’s not something the club wants to risk happening again. Still, it was a great day out and, all being well, I’ll be there to watch the youngsters retain the trophy this July.
As for the sickness that beset the players last Saturday, it appears to have cleared up as quickly as it started. Andy Brown was the first to fall victim, having to dash off the coach on arrival at Ampthill without even collecting his bag. The last to suffer the effects was George Oram when he finally got home that evening. Even Max Hartman had been unwell…up to 8 players and staff were affected in all and there seems no sensible explanation as to where the bug originated.
Once Thursday’s session was underway, a dapper(ish) looking Rowland Winter stopped by to have a longer than expected chat given he was due to talk to the sponsors as some point during their dinner. By the sound of it, he was preparing to go cap in hand and see if he could raise any additional funds.
On that front, it seems that Cov will have a pretty similar playing budget to last season, added to which will be the RFU monies (from memory, another £570,000ish ). RW seemed pretty happy with that and thought it probably put us mid-table in terms of what the other Championship clubs would be getting. Further monies, a lot of it from the Chairman’s own deep pockets, will help subsidise the soon to be created U18s/Academy projects. Jon Sharp isn’t one for blowing his own trumpet but once again he is investing his own monies into the club for which I’m sure everyone is greatly appreciative.
As you can probably imagine, a fair few questions were asked of RW about recruitment and as always he was as forthcoming as he could be. He mentioned that there were another 4 players to come in, with two retentions still to be announced. One of the four won’t be named until August and if finalised (it’s likely but not guaranteed) then it will be very popular with supporters…
In addition, there are a number of VERY talented Academy age and slightly older players to come in, one of which is from a Premiership club who, according to RW, will without doubt be the best player in that position in the Championship.
The front five next season will be huge, as they have to be to compete at the next level up. To put it in context, Nile Dacres is probably 10kg lighter than the average second rower in the Championship which is why he’ll get more opportunities in the back row next season. George Oram, who has the physical presence needed, is at 6ft 3inches still on the small size.
If I’ve got it right, there is a 6ft 7ish, 22 stone monster of a second rower on his way who is quick with it…before anyone gets too carried away, I might have got that wrong – Mark H, Quent and Rich C were also there so they’ll be able to confirm/deny that one!
The backs next season will be almost as big as some packs at National One level, with a big utility 15/wing/centre to come in. Listening to RW, it is clear that he intends to play the same attractive style of rugby that we’ve seen on so many occasions over the last couple of seasons, constrained somewhat by the far more forward driven game play that is currently so prevalent in the Championship..
Jake Sharp is by all accounts a player who is made for the Coventry of the last two seasons. He is very creative, full of little tricks and innovations and capable of unlocking even the toughest of defences. Interestingly, RW compared him to Carlos Spencer, as did the LS poster (I presume he was from London Scottish) on the Messageboard on Thursday. His defence isn’t the strongest facet of his game apparently, but his kicking is in a different class to anything we’ve seen at Cov in recent times and his restarts hang in the air for what seems like ages. Jake Sharp will have a huge influence at Cov on and off the pitch.
Sam, my son, got it spot on when he said that the other player announced on Thursday, Adam Peters, looks to be a shoe-in for Brett Daynes:
Adam is a big, athletic forward and has regularly shown this season to be a hard-working player with a great skill set. He has played at 4, 6, and 8 and is a very good line-out technician.
He will develop further under Louis Deacon and will be another great addition to our pack
If that is the case and Adam can fulfil the same role as Brett has done so competently over time he’s been with us, then his will be one of the best signings of the season for sure.
The title of this post is a reference to a comment RW made about club’s capacity to attract quality players.
If last season we were shopping at Lidl and Aldi, then this season it’s more like Tesco Finest…
We’re not quite ready to do our season shop at Waitrose just yet…but hopefully it won’t be too long.
The club has been inundated with enquiries from players interested in coming to Coventry next season…700 plus in all. Probably not dissimilar to most Championship sides, though. Many of them can be removed from any shortlist either because they aren’t of the quality needed or if they are, then they come at a price that is well in excess of what the club’s budget will allow..
The coaches were able to narrow the numbers down to three potential players for every position which is a pretty healthy situation to be in.
In total next season, including the Academy, loanees and U18 players, there will be around 96 players on Coventry’s books, a sure sign of just how much the Coventry Pathway is becoming a reality.
Once of the difficulties as far as the Academy is concerned next year is that whilst the majority of players involved have made real strides, Coventry’s promotion has meant that for many the transition from Academy to Championship will be just too great. As a result, some of those youngsters who might have been given contracts for another year may well be released to enable them to move to clubs more suited to the level of rugby they are currently playing.
Success always brings with it some problems and certainly that will be disappointing for those who will have to move on, but there will be a good few who stay, hopefully to continue to push for a place in the senior match day squad.
One of the really encouraging things to come out of our conversation with Rowland Winter was that he is going to go full on when it comes to the Champions’ Cup or whatever it is that will replace the B&I Cup, as was. He feels a cup run, if possible, would be in everyone’s interests and he won’t be holding back in terms of selection (depending of course on the circumstances at the time).
That can only be good news for supporters and anyone still wondering about value for money as far as the price of a season ticket is concerned need worry no longer – it will be well worth the cost, especially given the early-bird offer. (RW had expected the cost to be well in excess of what it is). 14 games guaranteed, plus Wasps and Moseley.
Sales are going well and there will be a further push this weekend and next.
Finally (although I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple of other snippets of info), there’s Little chance Cov will lose its way on the pitch next season (which was going to be the alternative title to day’s post)…
For the last few weeks Coventry have been using GPS to track their players during training sessions (and I imagine during competitive games too). Whilst it hasn’t come cheap, it does mean that the club can monitor the distance a player covers during a match as well as the areas of the pitch involved. In training, coaches can then replicate similar number so that training better reflects match day experiences. I’ve oversimplified that somewhat, partly because I’m not altogether sure of the complexities of its use…
On Thursday night there was someone from the IT team in the main stand logged onto a computer as we were watching and the data being produced was being closely analysed.
RW thought perhaps only London Irish and Ealing will have anything similar next season and whilst he didn’t say it, I’m guessing that success could ultimately be down to small margins, depending of course on what your definition of success is. With all the money being waved around by Ealing, I’m guessing their definition might be somewhat different to ours, next season at least.
Ooops, one other thing.
RW did feel that by totally rebuilding their side, Ealing might be taking a real risk and when the fixtures are announced in the Summer he’d be more than happy to see Ealing at the Butts as our first game of the season…
…he and about 3000 other people
If you haven’t yet voted for the Supporters’ Player of the Season Award, then you can do so by clicking the following link which takes you directly to the relevant page on the Supporters’ Club website:
It is something that the players value very highly and there is no great accolade supporters can bestow on a player. Anyone can vote, although only the once. For details accompany the poll.
Last season nearly 300 people voted…hopefully with your support it will be even more this time round.
Once again I’ll be tweeting from the game…
…so if you can’t make it to the game the usual info applies:
Cov has its own match day Twitter feed (@CoventryRugby) – mostly just the scores and the main moments in the game, although always informative and of interest.
I should add DMP has its own, too, @MowdenParkRFU
However, if you are interested in something slightly different, then I try and give a sense of the atmosphere/occasion as well and tend to tweet rather more than Cov, a lot more in fact, so if you’re at home and just surfing the net trying to find out anything you can about the game, this might be a different option.
The tweets, when combined, make a crude ‘commentary’ of sorts and it will be rather more personalised than the Coventry feed – the two might work well together though (I’m talking myself out of some followers here)
Be warned though, you might get well over a 150 plus tweets during the course of the game – so if that is too much, mute me and use the club’s official feed.
Please bear in mind, I am a bit one-eyed when I tweet. I’ll certainly be fairly emotive I imagine, so be warned if you are tuned in!
I’m on @Cowshedtim
Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. For some though, the deciphering of the tweets adds to the occasion.
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on the homepage of this blog (www.coventryrfc.me) just click on any post and my Twitter feed can be found on the right hand side. Just click on it to expand the size.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, have a great afternoon.