And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants
I’m going underground (going underground)
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground (going underground)
So let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow
The Jam – Going Underground
I’d chosen not to travel up to Leeds yesterday, a decision that on balance was probably the right one given the report in this weekend’s The Rugby Paper describes Coventry’s performance as being ‘well below par‘…
And not for the first time away from home this season either.
I’ve seen 5 of Coventry’s 7 losses on their travels in the Championship/Cup competition thus far and it’s a struggle to think of one that has been even ‘par‘ to be honest.
7 games, 7 defeats. It’s all a bit demoralising really and I can only admire the Cov faithful who made their way up to Headingley knowing full well Coventry faced another uphill struggle against an improving Carnegie side who will surely finish comfortably above their current 12th place in the league in April.
Still, Coventry’s ever-optimistic Director of Rugby, Rowland Winter, was yet again positive in his post-match comments:
The Cup competition has been a good opportunity to give squad players some experience and we’ll be better placed in our next league game against Nottingham as a result
I’ve booked my place on the Supporters’ Club coach to Nottingham next Sunday and am looking forward to seeing just how much Cov’s somewhat mediocre away form pre-Cup will have improved as a result of these opportunities given to the squad in the last few weeks of the Cup competition.
I have to say though, I’m not expecting too much.
Especially against such a strong Notts side that had won 6 games before the break and was on something of a roll.
Winter’s comment has confused me a little as pretty much everyone in the Coventry senior squad had already had plenty of Championship opportunities in the nine games leading up to the Cup anyway, so it will be interesting to which areas of Cov’s game will have benefited most.
Yesterday’s squad, at least on paper, looked a pretty strong one…?
In fairness, it appears that Cov’s discipline yesterday was much, much better than it has been on occasions this season, with Winter’s side conceding just 7 penalties in all. The penalty count does seem to vary from game to game, but if Cov are to come away with the points next weekend then they’ll have to show the same sort of self-discipline once again.
And even if that is the case that still might not be enough, as was clearly the case against Carnegie.
Cov’s early home form in the Championship was such that it ensured the club went into the break mid-table and in a decent position to force its way into the top 6 come the end of the season.
For that to happen though, two things have to occur.
Firstly, Cov will need to produce similar form over the remaining 6 home games to that which they produced prior to the Cup competition commencing. And that will be a big ask, especially given we still have the visits of the Pirates, Ealing and Nottingham to look forward to.
Secondly, we’re going to have to pick up one or two away wins as well and we have some really tough places to go – Jersey, Irish, Bedford, Carnegie and Scottish to name but five. It’s expecting a lot from a team that has yet to win away from home but Cov have always excelled against the better sides, so it would be churlish to dismiss their chances even on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far this season.
It was interesting to read Mark Forster’s post on the two Messageboards this week. His is obviously a far rosier, and better informed, view of what is happening on the Cov front than mine but, even so, I can’t see too many players in the current squad whetting the appetites of the Premiership clubs at the moment.
For me, there are too many players who still have to prove themselves at this level, both individually and as part of a team, before they can be thought of as possible Premiership acquisitions.
As good as sixth place is after nine games, at times we’ve flattered to deceive and, for me, relatively few of the senior squad have so far come out of Cov’s first 4 months back in the Championship with reputations actually enhanced (as opposed to ensuring they have at least remained intact).
And I must stress that’s a personal viewpoint and one I don’t necessarily expect to be shared by many.
One or two of the squad seem to have made little impression and with no mention of Jake Sharp for several weeks now in particular, the writing would appear to be very much on the wall for the former London Scottish fly-half.
Fortunately, there are some very promising youngsters within the club for whom this season has been something of a breakthrough one.
Much of the talk this season has been about the relative strengths or otherwise of the senior squad. Is it, for instance, a group of players capable of ensuring, at the very minimum, Championship rugby next season. Does it have the makings of a squad worthy of the investment the Board is working so assiduously to bring into the BPA over the next few years?
And so on.
Hopefully, the answer is yes to both. That said, it would only take a couple of defeats at home in the opening games of the New Year to put a very different perspective on just where Cov might finish the season, but as things stands we are in a healthy(ish) position.
However, just how good this squad really is, even in this first season back in the Championship, must be open to some conjecture. During pre-season, Rowland Winter was adamant that it would take time for the squad to bed in, but that we would see a significant difference as the players gained experience at this level.
I’m not exactly sure that there’s been any real evidence of consistent improvement out on the pitch up to this point, although we’re not yet half way through the season.
However, losing every single competitive game away from home is less than acceptable and it matters not that there might have been aspects of Cov’s play in all 7 of those defeats that have impressed.
Is it realistic to expect supporters to remain silent and not to start voicing genuine worries if we continue to lose so many games away from the BPA?
It’s not for me, anyway.
At the moment such worries are centred for the most part on the players and the players only. As far as I’m aware there have been no expressions of concern about the coaches abilities to turn things round away from home, at least not publicly. Rightly, Messrs. Winter, Walshe and Deacon are being given plenty of time to adapt to life in the Championship following their stellar achievements in National One, but the longer this run continues, the more questions will be asked.
It might be heresy to suggest that change might be needed at some stage, and I’m certainly not for a minute suggesting any of their positions are in jeopardy in the short or even mid-term. However, I think it is fair to ask if we are missing the input of a defensive coach or whether one day a week of Boris working with the forwards is enough, or indeed, whether the support of a coach with several years experience of Championship rugby might not be useful.
Many of the players in the current squad have plenty of experience of playing in the Championship, ironically far more so than the coaches.
Is that, perhaps, a factor in Cov’s current form away from the BPA? We’ve seen how competitive this squad is at home and we’ve got pretty close to winning on our travels as well.
But close won’t be enough for much longer, will it?
All I’m asking is are those 7 losses all down to the players’ inexperience?
And I do believe that’s a pertinent point to raise.
In the last three seasons, when there has been an occasional dip in fortunes or a run of injuries, we’ve seen the club bring in players to strengthen the side – where appropriate. Might the time not be right to buttress the coaching set up, too?
I guess they’ll be one or two folk seething as they read this, presuming they’ve actually got this far. I openly acknowledge that it might be something akin to heresy to even debate the current coaching line-up given its previous successes, but people are reading this post because they choose to be so and as such must accept that my views will often be out of kilter with those of most Cov supporters.
I’m not expecting to be flavour of the month…
Which is all the more reason to end the blog with this post.
After three and a half years and having typed out getting on for 1.75m words, it’s the end of the road for the blog in its current format. Any future posts will no longer be visible and will be password-protected. The only exceptions will be posts relating to the Coventry Bears, although I’m looking at setting up a separate blog to cover those.
I would just like to say a huge thank you to those who have followed the blog, regularly or otherwise, since it’s inception back in July 2015. There have been nearly a thousand posts in all and it’s been a real roller-coaster of a journey, with plenty of highs with a few lows thrown in for good measure.
Those who have kindly received the blog via email (and that is over 150 alone) will no longer receive notification of posts as has been the case in the past.
For the time being, the blog will remain visible and all posts up to today’s will remain accessible. A number of people have requested this but I’m not sure for how long that will be the case.
From now on, I’ll be writing for an audience of just one (or two). This gives me the opportunity to be a little more frank and open, something I’ll be able to do without incurring the wrath (often justifiably) of others.
Today’s post is probably a case in point!
I’m not sure how subsequent ‘private’ posts will appear on the blog so I’ll do a couple of test posts first.
There will be no notifications via Twitter either, obviously.
Finally, and most importantly, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year one and all…
Some people might get some pleasure out of hate
Me, I’ve enough already on my plate…
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
I don’t think the lyrics to any song I’ve used in a post better reflects its content than this…