Good or Requires Improvement…?

2Dec - by Tim - 3 - In Club talk

Hurt so good
Come on baby make it hurt so good
Sometimes love don’t feel like it should
You make it hurt so good
You don’t have to be so exciting
Just trying to give myself a little bit of fun, yeah
You always look so inviting

John Cougar – Hurt So Good

A few thoughts, some of which probably go against the grain and might annoy one or two, especially those who read this expecting to be annoyed…

But there’s plenty of alternative opinions offered elsewhere to redress the balance…

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1.jpgPlease forgive me for starting with something that might seem somewhat off-piste, but hopefully as the post develops its relevance will become somewhat clearer.

In the world of education, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted for short, inspect and regulate schools and children’s services according to a number of performance indicators. For schools, such factors as academic success, attendance, behaviour and leadership go into forming the final Ofsted judgement of ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ (Special Measures).

‘Satisfactory’ was replaced by ‘Requires Improvement’ a few years ago now as schools should be constantly striving to make improvements; anything less than ‘Good’ should be seen as ‘unsatisfactory’, ie requiring improvement. A ‘satisfactory’ school would be one that is deemed to be coasting and that just wouldn’t be acceptable either from the perspective of a teacher or parent.

Despite concerns from many teachers, exam results remain the driving factor in determining how a school is judged.

Fortunately, though, over the years Ofsted has moved away from a simple analysis of final results in favour of pupil achievement to ensure that it is the progress that a child makes that determines real outcomes, not just the result itself. Schools where children with low starting points at 11 achieve national averages or above at 16/18 are often deemed to be more ‘successful’ in many respects than schools where bright pupils with top SATs results at 11 achieve anything less than the top GCSE results 5 years on.

And rightly so…

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I mention this only because with 13 games of Cov’s season already completed, we are already pretty near half way through the 2018/19 campaign (unless we progress into the knockout stages of the Championship Cup of course…), so a mid-term report seems appropriate…

So how would you rank Cov’s season so far using Ofsted’s 4 categories of ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’? Okay, it’s an academic exercise but one that might be an interesting point of discussion for those who follow Cov or, more especially, regular readers of the blog.

Purely on results 6 wins from 13 games, Coventry’s first three months certainly wouldn’t fall into the outstanding category, at least not for me. But nor is it inadequate. Far from, in fact.

The central question is whether Cov’s performance so far this season has been ‘Good’ or ‘Requires Improvement’…?

Seventh is the league in what is Coventry’s first appearance in the Championship for 8 seasons is no mean achievement and perhaps automatically warrants  a judgement of ‘Good’ in Ofsted parlance. Other clubs in their first Championship season have fared a lot worse.

But if that is the case, then it’s by no means a secure ‘Good’ from me and it would only come with several riders attached…

Given it is only fair to take into account the whole journey, rather than simply a snapshot of where the club currently is at this stage of the season, Cov have undoubtedly made a good start to life in the Championship. Though welcoming Cov’s promotion into the second tier of English rugby, few supporters of rival clubs on Rolling-maul felt Cov would finish above 8th or 9th and history has invariably shown that newly-promoted clubs struggle in their first season at this level.

And we still might, but mid-table mid-season is certainly a ‘good’ start. However, it shouldn’t mask the fact that Coventry’s away record in the league of played 5 lost 5 is poor (played 7 lost 7 if you include the Cup games) by any standards. Should such a run continue over the next few away games, then  it threatens to undermine the strong performances, for the most part, we’ve seen at home since the season began.

In itself, our away form doesn’t merit a ‘Requires Improvement’, it actually necessitates an ‘Inadequate’.

But judgement about Cov’s season so far should be made on the basis of a number of factors and there’s no doubt that for me (and I repeat this is a personal opinion)  our woes away from home are already beginning to destabilise what has been a good start this far.

And, if part of judging the success of Coventry’s 13 games is about determining the progress Cov are currently making, then would ‘Good’ be an accurate refection?

I’m not so sure it would be

There’s seems to be little consistency at the moment. Two steps forward and two back a lot of the time…

Quite rightly, the coaches have often highlighted areas of the 7 games away from home that we’ve lost as being positives, whether it be the better discipline on Friday (conceding just the 10 penalties), a much improved second half performance against Ealing, or the excellent start against Nottingham two Saturday’s ago. However, frustratingly the fact remains that although we might improve in one or two areas of a particular game, we’re still losing so I’m not altogether confident if that counts as real progress.

Friday’s game was a case in point. We should have taken more from the game and I’m still not sure why Cov opted to decline three points in the closing minutes to earn themselves an extra bonus point when a converted try would still not have been enough to give us a win.

To be fair to Rowland Winter, he did start his post-match interview by saying how disappointed he was with the result. He mentioned we had a dominant set piece and scored four tries whilst also suggesting our defence was at fault.

Did we deserve to win the game? I didn’t think so but reading comments elsewhere, others would disagree. Nottingham defended their line extremely well and when they attacked our 22 they left with points on most occasions, something we struggled to do all too often, the first 12 minutes and the final 5 minutes of each half being cases in point.

Accentuating the positives is absolutely the right thing for the players and coaches to do, but after seven away games and seven post-match interviews where those involved have done just that (other than at Hartpury!) as a supporter who travels to most of them, it’s getting somewhat predictable and frustrating.

Our away form is now a real concern even for a newly promoted side, especially when we have been competitive in every home game and in several of the away ones as well this season.  And that needs to be said…at the moment everyone outside of the club is being extremely loyal and understanding (other than me), but loyalty to the club and to the coaches and players doesn’t exclude some sort of criticism.

Hopefully, of the positive variety…

I think I’m growing increasingly exasperated because it’s becoming the norm now to talk of how Coventry are putting out significantly weakened sides and when we can select from a full squad things will be very different.

Personally, I just don’t get that and before anyone shoots me down in flames, I’ll try and explain why…it might be that I’ve got completely the wrong end of the stick, in which case as always I’ll hold my hands up and in the future simply plead the fifth.

Friday’s match day squad contained 17 of the top 25 Cov players this season in terms of Championship appearances (see table below). Of the 8 who weren’t included, 5 (Jeannot, Knox, Stevens, Halaifonua and Peters were injured) and three I assume were rested (White, Sharp and Junior B – although he might have been injured, too?).

0511-0809-1401-2848_Full_House_Poker_Hand_Clip_Art_clipart_image.jpg
From Statbunker.com

In addition to those 17, Boulton, Trimble and Oram all started. But for injuries they would surely have been in that top 25. 20, then, of the regular players this season.

Hardly a particularly weakened side, and there have been squads in the Championship games so far this season that haven’t looked that much weaker on paper at least…?

Of those involved in Friday’s game, only Dan Lewis and Will Flinn aren’t members of senior squad (recognising that Scott Tolmie was on the bench as a back row forward, a position where he has played for spells late on in games both this season and last as I recall).

And, as I understand it, it was a match day squad made up of 20 players all of whom should be competing for places in the Championship this season and all of whom could fit into any Cov side without impacting dramatically on its effectiveness? That was the point of recruiting in such depth, I think? It didn’t look a second strong side to me, anyway…

But, for the second away game running,  and playing a side away from home that was under strength and which has included the odd academy player, Cov continued to struggle. For me, it’s spurious to say that x numbers of players in Cov’ squad on Friday didn’t play in the last one or two Championship games as RW has often rung the changes from week to week, either out of choice or necessity, but a simple look at the above table clearly shows that all but Flinn and Lewis have appeared in the Championship this season already and many of them in half the games at least.

It might not have been Cov’s strongest side, if indeed anyone knows what Coventry’s strongest side looks like, but I’d maintain it was one that should have fared far better than it did.

Again in his post-match interview, RW mentioned that they were down 10-15 players for the Notts game, but if I’ve got it right  the senior squad is more than strong enough for players to step up and replace the likes of Jeannot, Stevens, Knox, Halaifonua and co. If not, and playing devil’s advocate here for a minute, then isn’t that a tacit admission that as it currently stands the senior squad isn’t strong enough even in the Cup competition? Reading  various fan boards of some of the other Championship clubs, they too have been hit by their fair (or unfair) share of injuries so it’s not necessarily a problem that is unique to Coventry.

These Cup games seem to have played out rather differently to how I’d imagined. I thought we’d see more than just two Academy players involved,  it being a chance for them to show how they’d cope stepping up a level or three. RW has been true to his word, picking stronger (again, just my opinion) sides than I’d expected with every intention of getting through the round-robin preliminaries and into the knockout stages.

As it stands, one or two players from the senior squad seemed to have picked up knocks in the process which is fine if we do progress but if we’re lacking depth for the Notts game on the 23rd, will it have been worth it?

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For me then, Cov have had done well so far and are just about worthy of a ‘Good’ in their mid-term report, despite some reservations over their lack of consistency in terms of their overall progress these last three months and their extremely disappointing results away from home.

Winter said he believed this season would mirror that of his first season in charge of Coventry back in 2016 when Cov struggled away from home in those opening 5 or 6 games before winning at Hull Ionians and then drawing up at DMP in December. After Christmas, of course, everything came together and we looked well worth the 4th place finish we achieved come the end of the season.

Just now, though, it’s hard to see us replicating that sort of form.

A win against Carnegie in two weeks will be important if we are to go to Nottingham in good spirits (for the supporters as much as the players!), otherwise it’s hard to see just when we’re going to achieve that first win on our travels.

A ‘Good’ from me then, but unless things improve a fair bit over the coming weeks, the second half of the season is looking as if it’s going to get a good deal tougher.

Given Cov’s starting point as the newly promoted side this season, Cov have done well and have probably matched or bettered a lot of people’s Championship expectations, but there are areas of Cov’s performance so far that have caused concern and continue to do so.

It’s not made for the easiest of watching at times but, even so, on those occasions it still ‘hurts so good‘.

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(Footnote – great to see Josh McNulty (on-loan Harlequins?) with the Cov squad on Friday. With Luc Jeannot disappointingly out for the rest of the season, it looks as if he’s the replacement RW referred to mid-week.)

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Remember ‘Jack and Diane‘?

Apart from ‘Hurts So Good‘, it’s the only John Cougar song that I can remember…

Watching Cov away from home this season involves some sort of masochistic pleasure for me, so ‘Hurt So Good‘ is an obvious choice…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Good or Requires Improvement…?”

  1. Tim, regarding defence, as far as I am aware the club do not appear to have a defence coach. To your knowledge is this correct and could it be a solution to some of our defence problems?

    1. Hi Pils…as far as I’m aware, Narraway was never replaced and I think I’m right in saying that the defensive coaching is done in-house, presumably most of it through Nick Walshe…I mentioned something similar a while back. From a post a couple of weeks ago:

      ‘Interesting to see Bordeaux-Bègles have sacked their Head Coach, Rory Teague.

      Or maybe not that interesting.

      Except that it was to Bordeaux-Bègles that Luke Narraway went soon after Teague’s appointment, leaving Coventry short of a defensive coach.

      And now Teague’s gone, will Narraway soon follow?

      And if he does, could Narraway be tempted back to Cov, now in the Championship and arguably very much in need of someone to tighten up a Cov defence that is leaking an average of 27 points a game?

      And if he could be, do Cov have the resources available to bring him back?
      Probably not, but I’d certainly welcome his return.

      I’m officially starting the ‘Bring Back The Nazz’ campaign as of today…’
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      Not sure Narraway’s sudden departure was well-received by RW but there’s definitely a need for someone to come in and do some work with the squad I would have thought…

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