I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing
‘Til they got a hold of me
I opened doors for little old ladies
I helped the blind to see
I got no friends ’cause they read the papers
They can’t be seen with me and I’m gettin’ real shot down
I’m feeling real mean
Alice Cooper – No More Mr Nice Guy
A cautionary post this one…
For those who have followed the blog over the past couple of seasons, Season Four of the blog will offer something very different.
It not be to everyone’s taste.
For too long I’ve been guilty of accentuating the positives whilst ignoring the negatives. Admittedly, they have been relatively few and far between since the arrival of Rowland Winter but, nevertheless, no club is devoid of its problems or supporters of their concerns.
But in future, if they’re there then they’ll get a mention.
I jumped aboard the Coventry bandwagon early doors and was happy to spread the word and defend the cause, always publicly supportive of the huge changes that were taking place within the club, even if at times I had a few doubts myself.
I will admit I was sickly saccharine on occasions, something I’m not altogether comfortable with right now.
In retrospect, I enjoyed far more writing the posts in that first year of the blog, the season of Maynard/Morgan. I was by no means a lone voice and whilst I shouted, others screamed, but the blog did have an edge to it. I felt I was always fair and when critical I tried to be constructively so, which wasn’t always the case elsewhere.
It was never personal and I’m sure I got it hopelessly wrong at times – but it was honest. As it has continued to be.
But over the past two seasons I’ve been rather more selective in what I’ve chosen to write about, ignoring the concerns and wherever possible highlighting the successes.
But for this season, or however long the blog lasts, it will revert back to the good old days of Season One. It will have far more of an edge to it, it will be punchier and more direct in its approach.
The reason for this change is borne of my own personal disappointment and frustration over the last couple of seasons.
This is all going to sound petty and selfish but it is as it is and I’m not ashamed in the slightest to admit why this has come about…I am at least being honest to myself.
I’ve produced almost a thousand post in three years and have written well over a million and a quarter words which equates to the equivalent of twenty plus 300 page novels. The vast majority of the posts have been supportive of Coventry and have positively highlighted almost every aspect of the work done by the club. Players, coaches, backroom staff, some more than others, but all have had a mention.
The blog has almost 800 followers, some more regular readers than others. There are amongst them those whose enthusiasm for the club has been rekindled by what they’ve read. Ex-pats abroad (the blog has been read in over 140 countries) have been able to read about the club they once supported back home, parents have contributed, spouses have followed match day Twitter feeds from the games and past players still follow it.
The blog is approaching it’s half millionth viewing (although it’s actually more than that as it doesn’t include multiple views).
The club has had three years of what amounts to some pretty decent publicity.
In short, Coventry has done okay out of it.
I mention all this not to boast, not to brag, just to put the next few paragraphs in context.
As far as I’m aware, at no point in the last three seasons has the club publicly acknowledged the existence of the blog. None of the near 1000 posts has ever been ‘retweeted’ or even ‘liked’ via Twitter, no mention of one of them made on the website or elsewhere. It’s never publicly reacted to the existence of the blog at all.
I’m actually okay with that, although there have been times when, say, I’d spent half the night writing up a post on the Fans’ Forum over the last couple of season when just a simple message along the lines of ‘If you weren’t able to get to the meeting last night, here’s Tim’s summary’ might have been welcome.
In the two seasons when no updates from the games were available and I tweeted the scores, well the club weren’t exactly overly appreciative.
If I highlighted what was happening behind the scenes and tried to involve those who weren’t often credited publicly for their efforts…again nothing.
Now before I go on, I must point out that individuals from within the club have been very patient and kind. Hannah, Lara and co have all been very welcoming and have always thanked me privately if I’ve highlighted what they do in a post and I have absolutely no bones to pick with them, none whatsoever.
But again nothing from the club to say ‘have a read’ of….or ‘you might be interested in’.
These are posts emphasising what a great job they’re doing on behalf of the club, and yet…?
Rowland Winter has seemed very accepting of the blog and if he’s said something that he felt shouldn’t be included he has mentioned it, but I’ve only really spoken to RW at training with others supporters present, so it’s never been about the blog itself. What I’ve included is almost without exception what Rowland has said to everyone present.
And Rowland is a sharp operator. He asked to meet up with me even before he took over from Scott Morgan and was honest enough even then to say he wanted to meet the person who would be writing about him more regularly than anyone else. He understood the blog was going to happen with or without the club on board…so best accept it.
Which is exactly the way it was…and still is.
I never spoke to Jon Sharp in the first two seasons at all, so I don’t really know what his thoughts were about it back in the early days, although I was told in no uncertain terms at the end of the first season by someone in the know that it wasn’t something the Board had welcomed. Last season Jon said some kind words on a few occasions and offered his thanks for keeping him informed whilst away which was greatly appreciated.
But neither Jon or Rowland are the club.
For me it would have been nice just to have had the odd post, out of three years’ worth, retweeted or even ‘liked’ by the club itself.
Almost on a weekly basis I’m asked how the club views the blog and in truth I don’t know.
And sadly, I’m no longer that bothered.
Until earlier this year I would have been happy to let the status quo continue – saddened and somewhat downhearted, I would have continued to ‘post positive’…
…but then things changed and frustration actually turned to real annoyance on my part for a while.
Every post where I’ve used a photo, or a tweet or a quote from an article, including those from the official club website, I’ve always, always tried to acknowledge the person responsible for the original by thanking the person by name or naming the source.
It’s just what you do…or maybe not.
Now over the last three Christmases I’ve run a poll where readers of the blog vote for Coventry Rugby Club’s MVP (Most Valuable Player). The results are published over the 12 days of Christmas and the last post announcing the winner is invariably in the top three posts of the year with up to four times the average number of views.
It all takes a bit of time and effort to be fair and involves me posting on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I try and write a fair bit about each player and that takes more than the normal amount of research. I always buy a trophy and drop it off at the club and Rowland Winter is kind enough to pass it on to the winner.
The Christmas period is always a slow one as far as news coming out of the club is concerned and often the posts were the only Cov related ‘news’ on the Messageboard that day. It kept a bit of interest ticking over holiday break.
I enjoyed doing it in the past.
There won’t be another MVP award again though.
There’s never been any acknowledgement from the club as to the poll or the winner which is strange given that it was the supporters who were voting, not me. No ‘well done, Jacques, or James, or Jack’, no photo of the winner with the trophy.
Nothing. Again nothing even to suggest publicly Coventry Rugby Club was remotely interested in either the blog or any poll its supporters might have voted in.
Except…and here’s the beginnings of my real frustration…
Two months on and suddenly the MVP was being used as part of the club’s own self-publicity. Except it had become a supporters’ poll with no mention of the blog at all. In fact the article concerned, one that appeared both on the website and in the Coventry Telegraph and elsewhere, did nothing to suggest that it was anything other than a poll approved by the club and therefore probably organised by them.
The article on the re-signing of Jack Preece even refers to the poll in the title:
The poll features heavily in the article including:
The result of the supporters’ poll, which was revealed across a period of 12 days over the New Year, came as a very pleasant surprise to Preece who says the fans are ‘Cov’s secret weapon’ and made his decision to re-sign so much easier.
“I really couldn’t believe it,” he said. “When the vote came up and someone explained to me what it was, I thought that with the players we’ve got it would be good just to make the top 12.
“As the days went by I was thinking ‘have I made it?’ because some good players were being named early doors and I thought if they’re in the bottom half of the table, I’m not going to get in.
“I was absolutely delighted when I got it, it’s something else given the squad we have.
“The biggest thing the club has is its fans, the numbers are the best in the league, and it makes this a special achievement for me which I really appreciate.
Now it’s one thing to ignore the existence of the blog publicly. That was okay…as I’ve said before it surprised me and even saddened me a little, but over two and a half years I’d got used to it.
At least Jack appreciated it!
If the poll was worthy of a mention then fine, I’d have been more than happy to say yes…
..but like this?
Having never even acknowledged the poll in its three years?
It’s taking the mickey somewhat.
For the club to so openly use it in this way to publicise its own recruitment drive really hurt. I should have said something at the time, but I’m not the most confident of people and just let it fester which was the wrong thing to do, I know.
Also round this time, at an away game, I was introduced to a member of the Board by another supporter. The chap concerned said something along the lines of ‘This is Tim Smith, he writes the blog…’.
The response was a classic.
He looked me in the eye, smiled and said:
‘Yes I know who you are’…
…and promptly walked away to talk to someone else.
That sealed the deal.
There are plenty of other such anecdotes, some of which might well crop up in the blog over the course of the next season, but these two just highlight the fact that all the efforts that have gone into the blog might well be appreciated elsewhere, but they don’t appear to be in the very place where I’d most have liked them to have been.
And they are appreciated elsewhere and it’s the lovely comments and the generosity of spirit from amongst those who regularly read the blog that have kept me going. The irony is that other clubs in National One have taken far more of an interest in the blog than Coventry and several senior officials from other clubs have followed the blog for some time now.
I’ve had local and national press contact me, I’ve had requests to appear on radio, on rugby blogs and so on. I’ve always declined because I’ve never sought my own publicity.
I’m looking forward to the next request though.
So here’s what’s going to be different this season.
They’ll be no ‘Man of the Match’ polls at home games, no tweeting from games, no MVP poll over Christmas. I’ll not be attending any training sessions pre-season or those during mid-week.
I’m just going to revert back to a supporter who attends games, some home, some away.
Nor will I be reporting on Forums in the detail I’ve done previously either – if the club wants to get the message across to supporters living too far away to attend or who are otherwise engaged that evening, well they can do that themselves from now on.
I’ll not post a link to the blog via the Messageboard, for various reasons I’ve lost faith in MB as well, but more of that in a later post.
I’m also deliberating as to whether to remove the Twitter/Facebook/email links so that the only way of accessing the blog is via the web address itself. It will mean a significant drop in the numbers reading the blog but I’ve always maintained it’s just a hobby for me, and if I only write for an audience of Sam and my mum, and occasionally Sue when she remembers, well that’s fine.
I’ve said what I needed to say and, to be honest, feel so much better for saying it.
This might appear arrogant on my part and perhaps it is, but three years is a long time to write about the club you love and in return to receive no public acknowledgement of its very existence.
Not of me, or any effort that might have gone in to writing it, just of the blog itself.
So it’s back to basics for me. Writing what I think and feel – mostly positive, but also highlighting the concerns; critical but hopefully constructive as well.
Truth is, I never was Mr Nice Guy…