Why can’t you see this boat is sinking
(This boat is sinking this boat is sinking)
Let’s go down to the water’s edge
And we can cast away those doubts
Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out
Turning inside out…
Turning inside out…
Annie Lennox – Why
Spare a thought for Ealing Trailfinders.
29 players recruited over the summer, a settled management team and looking set to be promotion favourites alongside London Irish. Yes, they finished some 20 points behind promoted Bristol last season, but they were a very comfortable 15 points ahead of third placed Bedford.
Hard to see them as anything but a top two side in 2018/19.
And then out of the blue, just a month or so before the pre-season friendlies begin in earnest, Head Coach Alex Codling is snapped up by Harlequins. Suddenly Ealing find themselves somewhat rudderless.
Despite the heavy investment in players, Trailfinders are in potential disarray.
It’s every club’s nightmare and one can only imagine the panic a similar defection involving Rowland Winter, or even Nick Walshe and Louis Deacon, might induce among the ranks of the Coventry faithful.
Even a new contract tying Winter to Cov until 2022 and Walshe and Deacon to 2020 isn’t enough to completely dispel all fears of a future move for the Coventry talismen, although Cov’s ability to commit them to the club is nevertheless a bold statement highlighting, as it does, its continuing ambition under the current chairman, Jon Sharp.
So a thought spared then for Ealing…
…but only a momentary one.
The club is obviously well-resourced and within days it had appointed former London Welsh supremo, James Buckland. And whilst I wish Ealing well over the course of the season, I’ll happily take any advantages Cov could gain from the uncertainty such developments might cause the London-based club.
What it definitely does do is reinforce just how lucky Cov is to have a settled management team of its own, that despite the recent loss of forwards’ coach, Luke Narraway.
I also make mention of Ealing and, in particular James Buckland, because the newly appointed Head Coach makes reference to Coventry Rugby Club in this week’s The Rugby Paper, suggesting as he does that Cov is one of the teams most likely to be challenging at the top end of the Championship next season:
We’re ambitious, Coventry are coming up at a rate of knots, and you’d put Yorkshire Carnegie, Cornish Pirates and Bedford among teams looking to challenge as well….so we’ll try and ensure that London Irish do not have things their own way
Buckland is not the first head coach in the Championship over the summer to express a belief that Coventry might be a real presence in the Championship over the coming months, but is he right to believe that the club is ‘coming up at a rate of knots’?
Is it, indeed, a case of full steam ahead as Coventry Rugby Club continues to plan for a steady rise up the pyramid of English rugby?
To further the metaphor, is it calms seas ahead or are soon to face some stormy waters?
Sea-son sickness perhaps…(sorry)?
www.rolling-maul.com has its own 2018/19 Championship Predictions thread running at the moment (2018/19 Championship Prediction Thread) and it makes for some interesting reading, especially when there is such little news emanating from elsewhere about the Championship.
Now I appreciate there are those for whom predictions of this nature are something of an anathema given the season has yet to start.
Fortunately, most supporters in most sports take some pleasure in predicting how the league they’re in might unfold. And I always take particular interest in how fans of clubs other than Cov see our potential, even at such an early stage of the season.
Of course, we’ll have a better idea once the first few games have been completed, but you’d have to be something of a killjoy not to enjoy second guessing how the table might unfold during the course of the season, even at this early stage.
Just as Head Coaches are happy making forecasts so, too, are most supporters.
And as you might expect, there’s no real consensus this season, especially outside of the top two teams which, understandably, most supporters believe will be London Irish and Ealing Trailfinders in 10 months time. According to many Championship fans, it appears to be one of the most open seasons for many a year.
The good news is that no one as yet sees Cov as the relegated side come April – that dubious honour going to Hartpury College for the most part, with Richmond also getting a (dis)honourable mention.
50% of those taking part have put Cov somewhere between 9th to 11th, with the modal position being 11th. However, several supporters seem to believe that Cov could finish mid-table, whilst a couple have rather encouragingly suggested Cov might end up even as high as 3rd.
If that is the case, then Hannah Walker will doubtless be treating more than the occasional supporter for bouts of epistaxis over the latter part of the season.
The one poster who put Coventry as low as 11th added an interesting comment to partly justify his/her prediction:
11. Coventry, fully professional ! Everyone seems to underestimate just how tough this league is.
Now I presume the ‘everyone‘ mentioned here is directed at those posters who have put Coventry rather higher than the 11th place s/he has opted for.
And it’s a fair comment I guess.
I rather imagine that the standard of play expected of teams in 2018 is somewhat greater than it was back in 2010 and as a supporter bereft of Championship rugby these past 8 years, it’s difficult to know just what to expect as far as the quality of the opposition is concerned.
Be that as it may, I rather doubt that underestimation is a criticism that can be levelled at the club itself. That just wouldn’t be fair.
In recent months we’ve seen Cov take great strides on and off the pitch to ensure it is as prepared as it can be for the demands of Championship rugby. Medical and performance support, recruitment, coaching, finance, business development and communications are all areas of the club that have seen significant investment, both financial and in terms of additional personnel.
Whilst there are criticisms that can, and I’m sure will be, directed at the club in the coming months, underestimating the challenges ahead is surely not one of them.
One of the great unknowns, and the reason why such predictions are of such interest, is we can only guess at to how just effective the club’s recruitment over the summer has been.
Which begs the question – just how effective has Coventry been in the bringing in players who will have the additional experience and skills needed for the club not just to survive, but also thrive at this level?
Well 11 months ago we saw Cov play two Championship sides pre-season – Jersey Reds and Rotherham Titans. Whilst we didn’t necessary play either club’s strongest side, we saw enough to believe that the gap between ourselves and the bottom/middle of the Championship wasn’t perhaps as great as it was 12 months previously when Rowland Winter first arrived at Coventry.
Since last August Coventry’s performances have undoubtedly improved for the most part. The win at the Northern Echo Arena against a strong Darlington Mowden Park side, unbeaten at home all season, for me was good enough to suggest that Cov could compete on an equal footing with perhaps the bottom two or three sides in the Championship even without the additional strengthening of the squad this summer.
Okay, I accept that’s something of a bold statement, but for most of those Cov supporters there that day, Coventry produced a display as good as anything we’ve seen from any National One we’ve played home or away since we were last in the Championship.
And when you factor in the level of experience Rowland Winter has brought into the club over the last couple of months, then a lower mid-table position come the end of season is certainly a possibility, and a strong one at that…
Across the whole team players have been brought in to strengthen last season’s squad and further improve performances :
- James Gibbons (Ealing Trailfinders)
- Daren Dawidiuk (London Irish)
- Charlie Beech (Yorkshire Carnegie)
- James Voss (Leicester Tigers)
- Adam Peters (Rotherham Titians)
- Jack Ram (Doncaster Knghts)
- Ben Nutley (Northampton Saints)
- Tom Kessell (Northampton Saints)
- Jake Sharp (London Scottish)
- Junior Bulumakau (Doncaster Knights)
- (/13) Andrew Bulumakau (Doncaster Knights)
- As above
- David Halaifonua (Gloucester)
- Tim Bitirim (Loughborough Students)
The rumour of James Voss arrival at Cov on a season’s loan from Leicester Tigers has been floating around for a while now but I’ve avoided previously mentioning him in posts until now as it was something I was told in confidence; now his name has appeared on the Coventry website I’ve included him on the list of players recruited.
And there’s still at least one more prop and a second row to be announced as I understand it (although the second row could well be James Voss).
In effect then, it’s practically a whole new team of players recruited – some with Premiership experience and the vast majority with considerable experience of playing to at least a level comparable to the Championship. Add this to what was already a squad that arguably could have avoided relegation without such an influx of players and I think we can all look forward to this coming season with some confidence.
Bearing that in mind, I don’t think an 8th place finish would be that unrealistic, although for our first season back 6th or above would be a very, very encouraging return.
Ironically, the only inexperience of any note is perhaps to be found amongst the coaches, where (I think!) only Nick Walshe has spent any time coaching at a level above National One (although Louis Deacon had a very successful season working with the England U20 squad). RW has plenty of experience leading junior sides within a Premier league/divisional set up, but leading a club as a DoR is, and forgive the pun, a completely different ball game.
However, the same ‘criticism’ could have been directed at RW two seasons ago when he joined Cov from National Two side Cambridge. No experience of National One…yet that didn’t hold him back, did it?
If you’re good enough…
And here’s his chance to prove just that.
I’ve mentioned before the value-added factor that the likes of Winter, Walshe and Deacon bring to the table – it just can’t be underestimated. The squad on paper looks like it should be good enough to be competitive in the Championship even before you look at the difference Cov’s management and coaching staff can make on top of anything the players themselves might bring to the club.
Everyone seems to underestimate just how tough this league is…?
Maybe some do, but not everyone…
…and those who underestimate Coventry’s preparation do so at their peril.
Maybe that will be the undoing of one or two sides who face Cov this season, just as it probably was for Darlington back in February.
I’m not going to be running any match day player polls this season, but I will still include polls outside of those.
And here’s the first of them…
…now recruitment is virtually complete and before pre-season performances can be assessed (and just as a bit of fun and interest prior any competitive action), where in the Championship do you think Coventry are likely to finish this season?
Annie Lennox’s ‘Why’ isn’t perhaps the most appropriate of songs to choose for a post looking at Coventry’s possible success or otherwise over the coming months.
…’the boat most definitely isn’t sinking‘ but we do need to ‘cast away those doubts‘ with regard to Coventry’s ability to not just to survive next season, but also to prosper.
And besides, it was one of the songs Sue chose for our wedding…(the nautical theme was continued when I opted for Jonah and the Whale :))