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Knock, Knock, Knockerin’ on Heaven’s door…

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
 
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Bob Dylan – Eric Clapton

December 2013…

…and a rather fresh-faced but clearly talented 21 year-old made his debut for Coventry, away from home against Cinderford.

And duly scored.

Four and a half seasons later, and making his 100th appearance for the club later today, Rob Knox will lead the team out to take the deserved applause from what will be hugely appreciative crowd. Rob’s record of a try every two games, near enough, is up there with the best in Cov’s recent history.

After something of a stellar start to his Cov career, Rob was beset with injuries and in the 2015/2016 season he  struggled with niggles and strains and was never fully fit when he played. It was only when the new rehab and S&C teams worked with him when they arrived in July 2016 that he was able to regain his fitness and begin to recapture the kind of form he showed in his first couple of seasons at Coventry.

As the table above clearly illustrates, including today’s game Rob will have started in 93% of the games he’s played in.

In other words, if he’s fit, he’s in.

Much has been made of that fact that he’s a local lad made good, joining Cov from Barkers Butts who at the time were third from bottom of Level 6. Cov’s success indeed needs to be built on the back of local talent as well quality players brought in from elsewhere and it’s something that Coventry’s Rugby Pathway has been set up to address in the years to come. With youngsters now able to play for Cov from the U18 age range and upwards, if Cov can spot and nurture the talent that’s within the Coventry and Warwickshire areas then we should be seeing a few more Rob Knoxes playing senior rugby for Cov before too long.

But Rob’s popularity with the Coventry crowds doesn’t just rely on him being a Cov kid. That’s part of it for sure, but if there’s one thing that warms the cockles of the Cov fan’s heart, it’s a player who gives it their all.

You always know what you’re going to get with Rob. He’s a powerhouse of a player who has grown stronger the older he’s become and physically he looks so much bigger than in those early days back in 2013. I know the word ‘CovDog’ isn’t one that the coaches particular like to use, but supporters do and it’s one that applies to Rob just as much as it does to players like Matt Price, Tom Poole and Brett Danes.

Rob playing for Barkers Butts back in the early days…

Rob is such a direct runner and the Knox, Stokes, Trimble triumvirate not only has had something of a settled look to it this season, it has also caused the opposition all sorts of problems. All three are different but each complements the others. As with the other two, when Knoxy gets the ball there’s always an air of expectation. Whilst you’re hoping James and Max have a bit of space to run into, it’s not quite so important for Rob as he’s just as likely to run through the defender than round and that always makes for great entertainment.

The coaches have to take some credit for revitalising Rob’s career, too. It was something of a relief when it was announced that he was one of the few players to be retained when Rowland Winter took over, but there was a fair amount of uncertainty when Rob was initially moved out wide, then back into the centres and then out wide again. Rob didn’t seem convinced initially that his best position was on the wing and his first few games did nothing to suggest he would turn into the player he has since become.

But the coaches had seen something else in Rob that most supporters hadn’t and they quickly worked out that it was as a wingman that he would thrive.

And so it’s proved…

And who would bet against him scoring today? Were he to do so, he would beat his previous season’s best with Cov (16 tries), something it might well have in the back of his mind.

In talking about next season during training a couple of weeks ago, Rowland Winter thought that the Championship would suit Rob’s style of play. Whilst there’s always room for the creative spark that comes with players of the quality of Stokes and Trimble, Rob’s no mess, bulldozing approach (my words, not RW’s I hasten to add) might be the order of the day at times against teams where opposition defences are going to be somewhat more parsimonious than they’ve been for most of this season.

Rob is referred to as ‘Knocker’ (or ‘Nocker perhaps?) by everyone at the club which gives me the perfect excuse to front this post with ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’. Okay, maybe the song is about a man’s premonition of his forthcoming death which I’ll discretely ignore, but otherwise…it’s just perfect.

Cov have knocked at the door of the Championship a few times since Rob’s arrival at Coventry, albeit far too politely and without permission to enter. However, this season Cov did away with just knocking, instead preferring to batter the door down wholesale. And it looks like they’re preparing to make themselves at home in the next flight, until of course we decide to go a-knockin ‘ on the door of the Premiership.

Rob, in an interview with Brian Dick in the Coventry Telegraph immediately after his try-scoring debut, said:

I just want to keep improving, keep learning off the coaches and try and get as much game-time as possible. It would be great if we could go up, I think we are definitely capable of it as long as we keep playing well.

To which Brian Dick added the comment:

Barkers Butts to the Championship in six months – that would be a story.

Maybe it didn’t quite pan out as planned. For six months, read four and a half seasons…

…but even so, it’s still quite a story.

Enjoy your day, Rob – here’s hoping you make it 17 for the season.

Rob Knox in full flight earlier in the season and on the way to another try (photo courtesy of John Coles)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If Hull Ionians are relegated today, as I rather fear they will be, it’s a shame it has to be Cov that delivers the final blow.

I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Brantingham Park. It’s a great set up there with a lovely clubhouse, a small covered stand and supporters who are as knowledgeable about the game as they are friendly.

There are other teams that I would prefer to see go down to be fair and, just to be a little controversial, they’d mostly be those who have survived the season on the back of an over-reliance of dual regs.

However, Cov need to finish on a high and as Rowland Winter made plain at the Fans’ Forum on Tuesday, picking up the National One Trophy after the game having lost to Hull would be unacceptable, despite all the victories that would have preceded it.

And whilst Hull are no DMP, they will be fighting for their National One lives and anything less than a bonus point win won’t be enough for them with the two teams above them, Rosslyn Park and Loughborough, both having a game in hand as well as a two point lead. A four point win might not take them clear come the final reckoning if either of the other two teams pick up bonus points in defeat.

Tired bodies there might be, but Cov will be under no illusion that what should be such a special occasion will be somewhat dampened by another disappointing performance from the home side. For the players as much as the supporters, the abiding memory of today ought to be one of happiness and celebration and not of a day tinged with regret. I’m sure the players will also want the win to give a proper send off to Tom Poole, Andy Browne, Brett Daynes and Matt Price, and of course to John Wilkinson too.

Good servants one and all.

Rowland Winter has given the team that started last week’s game against Darlington the chance to make amends for what was , in his own words, ‘an unacceptable performance‘.

It would have been easy to make wholesale changes and bring in players like Matt Price and Jimmy Litchfield, as well as some of those on the fringe of the senior squad, so as to give the battle-weary players who are suffering from fatigue or minor injury an early start to their holidays.

Quite rightly though, he and the coaches have gone with the players who have fought so hard all season. No sentimentality, no emotional farewells. And besides, it’s just as important to ensure that Cov are seen not to do Hull any favours by playing a weakened side, much as I want them to survive the drop. It should always be an equal playing field for all teams wherever possible.

I’m not altogether sure whether other teams always see it that way, but even so…

And with Phil Nilsen and Luke Narraway both on the bench, the finishers will be there to do just that. Finish the season off, and hopefully in some style, too.

Luke N has been greatly missed and you can sense his frustrations when he gets so vocal on the side-lines. Phil Nilsen’s absence has caused problems as well, especially his physicality in and around the loose at times, great player that Scott Tolmie is.

I’m not sure what to expect this afternoon outside of the rugby. Plenty of things going on, an abundance of children and a lot of noise most likely. On the pitch, that’s somewhat easier to predict, or should be, although the last couple of Saturdays have meant even that isn’t guaranteed.

However, the players know what is expected of them, understand the importance of the occasion and want to end the season on a real high on the pitch as well as off it.

Cov to win, Will Maisey to remain the leading points scorer, James Stokes to remain the leading try scorer and Rob Knox, Scott Tolmie and Max Trimble all to finish in the top 10 as well.

I’d be more than happy with that..

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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, @Ioniansrufc

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.

ever

2 replies »

  1. What a great day for Coventry Rugby… and perfect timing for Rob. Thank you for such a lovely read.

    • It was a great day and one that will live in the hearts and minds of those who were there for a long time to come. Cov had pulled out all the stops to make it a day to remember and fair play to them, they did a sterling job. And to cap it all Rob scored…and a corker at that. Great for us but I can’t imagine what it was like for mum and dad!

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