High hopes for the coming season – high apple pie in the sky hopes…Jersey Reds

30Jul - by Tim - 0 - In Club talk

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

Frank Sinatra – High Hopes

You know the countdown to the season has really begun in earnest when you log on to your sporting website of choice and see the Championship fixtures are now available in full.

The fixture list above comes from England Rugby’s Championship website which is the one I’m currently intending to use, although whether that will be the case when the season actually kicks off is open to conjecture.

I certainly won’t be rushing headlong for the BBC Championship results service given the inaccuracies in its coverage of National One in recent seasons, although in fairness the BBC sports’ website isn’t alone in having difficulties in this area.

With rather more media focus on the Championship than on National One, I’m hoping that results generally will be available rather more quickly, and with a greater degree of reliability, than has been the case for leagues below the top two tiers.

 

For quick reference, there’s a link to the England Rugby’s Championship website at the top of this page, together with a few others that I hope might prove to be helpful resources over the coming season. If there are additional ones that are particularly useful, then please do let me know and I’ll add them as well – it would be great to have a ‘definitive’ list of websites that offer information relevant to Coventry supporters and to the Championship in general.

Perhaps it’s just me, but the closer we get to the season, the more unsure as to how we will fare I become. In the post-promotion euphoria, and in the wake of some really experienced players recruited for the coming season, I was confident of a solid top 6 finish.

In recent weeks though, the enormity of the task ahead and the memories of some pretty depressing seasons at this level in the past haven’t done a great deal to consolidate that initial optimism.

I’ve still go high hopes, just not quite as high as they were.

I certainly have high hopes of Cov causing one or two shock results this season as they consolidate their position in this league ready for a more sustained attack on a top 4 place in a couple of seasons time:

So any time you’re gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

Just looking at that first round of fixtures doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence either.

I’m  feeling something similar to what I imagine thousands of youngsters across the country are presently experiencing. Having just finished Yr 6 in junior school and  now enjoying the summer holidays, they are also looking ahead to what life might be like at the new ‘big’ school in September.

Yes, I’m most definitely excited, but we all know how tough physically some of the Championship sides can be. The last thing I want is to go down to, say, Pirates and be on the wrong end of a heavy beating, the secondary school equivalent of the ubiquitous ‘head down the loo’ treatment for Yr 7s from the Yr 11 bullies – a rumour designed to cause the Yr 7 newbies some sleepless nights.

Fortunately, that never really happens,  just as I don’t really believe we’ll get ‘bullied’ by any team in the Championship, but it still doesn’t necessarily stop you fearing the worst at times, especially when the fixtures are published and it becomes something of a reality at last.

Exciting yes, but still a little scary nevertheless.

Ants we maybe to some, but ants can give out a nasty little nip and the combined power of a whole squad of ants could well do some real damage to those clubs expected to dominate at the top of the table.

But there are still occasions when I look at Cov, look at the quality and depth there is not just in the squad but virtually in every position,  and I think yes, this team is going to do ok.

Better than ok in fact.

Watching the players training yesterday and listening to the quiet confidence that exudes from the likes of Rowland Winter and Louis Deacon, well it’s difficult in those moments not to believe. Winter has done exactly what he set out to do when he arrived at Cov in 2016, achieving promotion a year earlier than perhaps was expected. That said, I do think that Jon Sharp and RW probably set their stall out for a 2018 promotion once it became clear there wouldn’t be any relegation from the Championship in 2017 following London Welsh’s unfortunate demise.

That was always going to offer the club it’s best chance of promotion, although Rotherham’s progress in National One this season is something I’ll certainly be looking out for.

I do think National One will be stronger than it was last season  with one or two sides appearing to have strengthened their squads and with the teams promoted into the league very much in the OEs, Bishop Stortford and Caldy mould.  Chinnor and Sale, in particular, look far stronger than the teams relegated at the end of last season and  Cinderford have dual-registered 7 Gloucester youngsters to strengthen their squad.

Whatever happens this season, I’ll miss National One for sure.

Sorry, I digressed somewhat there….

…there are certainly times when I’m more confident and relaxed about the season ahead.

Listening to Winter on Saturday was very reassuring, and he seems to  believe that the season ahead will follow pretty much the same path as that of his first season at Coventry in 2016/17. Back then, Cov found it hard going initially, losing 4 out of the first 6 games, only to finish the second half of the season strongly, ending up an encouraging 4th in the league. The run of games from February onwards was very much the springboard for the incredible start we made to last season.

——————–

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that at the ‘Q and A’ session on Saturday, Tony Gulliver talked briefly about what his role as Team Manager involved over the summer break. Apparently,  it’s was one of the busiest times of the year for him personally, especially having to collate all the kit  – with each player receiving a staggering 31 items each.

That’s one hell of a logistical nightmare given the sizes must range from the likes of Dave Brazier at one end of the spectrum to Tom Jubb at the other.

And talking of TJ – I think this must be the first season he’s been at Cov where he hasn’t been sidelined with an injury pre-season. If he can produce the kind of form he showed against Darlington at the Northern Echo Arena and the final few games of the season thereon in, he must be in the running for a place in the match day squad, even with the arrival of Voss and co.

——————–

Fewer games (necessitating a better start perhaps) against stronger opposition obviously makes things that little tougher, but we know one of RW’s strengths, one of his many strengths, is to recruit players whom he knows will fit into the squad and add to it. He’s had very few ‘duff buys’ so to speak, unlike  one or two of Cov’s previous coaches.

The new recruits will take time to settle and the team time to gel, and doubtless there will be a few tough results early on…but that’s when as supporters you just have to believe and have faith.

A couple of good home performances early on would be hugely helpful here. The crowds at the first few games will hopefully be several hundred up on last season’s average of 1850-ish, but the nature of Coventry crowds is they tend to fall quickly when things aren’t going well. If we can make the BPA an intimidating place to play for away teams in the Championship, then that will help the cause greatly.

Wins against Jersey and Bedford would go some way to achieving that…a 2500 plus Cov crowd in full voice won’t be easy to play against, that’s for sure, although a 1300 crowd with Mark H in full voice is still something to be reckoned with…

Cov took a lot of confidence from their pre-season friendlies into the start of the National One campaign last year . Even though we lost to both Jersey (a) and Rotherham (h), the performances were encouraging and created a real sense of expectation. Wasps and Leinster will be really tough games, even against their academy sides, but two strong performances there will be important if the club is to go into the game against Jersey with real confidence.

Here’s hoping…

I’ve booked our flights/hotel for the trip to Dublin but would feel slightly happier about the visit if I could find a reference, of any sort, to the fixture on the Leinster website. It’s not a game that seems to feature highly in their thoughts, even in the ‘A’/Academy sections.

Talking of friendlies, I see Jersey Reds (whom we play in the Round 1 of the Championship) played their first pre-season game against RC Vannes at the weekend. Vannes play in the second tier of French rugby and in the corresponding fixture last season they beat Jersey comfortably at home

The following two reviews are taken from rolling-maul.com and are unedited:

Result today: Jersey Reds 27- R.C Vannes 17.

Only the first of three Pre Season games but so much promise in the Reds squad to enjoy.  Good pack, solid defence which was well tested especially second half and some pacey backs who looked as if they really mean business.  Thought the Reds new right wing looked a very good new asset.
Early days yet of course, and a much tougher game against Harlequins in 2 weeks time, but today was really encouraging against level 2 fully professional French opponents. Jersey looked like a team who know each other well and are ahead of schedule as the season approaches.  Will be some tough selection decisions once the League starts; bring it on

Early days in the campaign but I was very impressed by both teams at St Peter yesterday. The huge turnover of replacements probably meant that neither side ever had their best 15 on the pitch at the same time but the effort and pace of the match was relentless. Both defences were exceptional and the two packs of forwards Jersey played in separate halves were very well drilled. the second half pack looked incredible but the slope makes an enormous difference and I suspect the second half Vannes pack were mainly “probables” rather than first choice. Jersey’s maul and scrum down hill in the second half looked unstoppable and the huge newbie loose head and back rower with the white scrum cap and huge band aid both caught the eye. The lineout looked solid throughout and Rory Bartle had a fantastic second half but surely he needs to play at 6 rather than lock. All of the half backs on show looked the part and hats off to the little scrum half Mudariki who absolutely flattened a huge Vannes forward with a cover tackle. Lots of obvious players with great claims to a starting shirt like Joyce (my player of the season last year), Sexton, Pembo & Ma’afu not on show yet so more to come I hope. Great to see live rugby again at St Peter on a gorgeous sunny day with the pitch looking brilliant.  Great control by the match officials – a penalty try properly awarded imo against each side for collapsing a maul –  consistent and firm throughout I hope we get those lads regularly next season.

It’s important not to read too much into the game, but it is interesting to see that both Jersey supporters were encouraged by their side’s performance.  Clearly they continue to have a big, strong pack and there seems to be some pace out wide, too.

But then we have some dangerous backs too, and the likes of Stokes, Halaifonou, Trimble, Bitirim, Stevens, Knox, Tuitupou, the Bulumakau brothers etc are all pretty useful themselves :).

(Apparently, The 14 for RC Vannes went by the rather unfortunate name of Faraj Fartass and, according to one Jersey fan, he ‘runs like the wind).

And it was only 12 months ago that Birmingham Moseley were beating a very strong Worcester side in a pre-season game, only to blown away by Cov in our first home game of the season.

——————–

As crooners go, there’s none better than ol’ blue eyes himself…

Hard not to sing along to this one and maybe the message in it is an appropriate one for Cov this season, too

All problem’s just a toy balloon
They’ll be bursted soon
They’re just bound to go pop
Oops, there goes another problem kerplop
Oops, there goes another problem kerplop
Oops, there goes another problem kerplop, kerlpop

Watch the video and then imagine Tony Gulliver doing something similar to Frank, only with the Didis…

Now that would be worth a listen.

 

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