A chair is still a chair
Even when there’s no one sitting there
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
Dionne Warwick – A House Is Not A Home
I’ve tried to get excited by Coventry’s first season back in the Championship, really I have.
I’ve enjoyed it, but I certainly haven’t got overly enthused by it.
As many supporters are quick to point out, the team is the most successful of the promoted sides in the last 10 years, if not in the history of the Championship so far. And that’s something that the players, coaches and management deserve great credit for.
Such success is a source of pride for everyone connected with the club, myself included, as well as a relief for many supporters for whom at the start of this season the talk was of ‘consolidation’ and avoiding the drop, as much as it was about a possible mid-table finish.
And yet I do feel that in some respects we haven’t pushed on as much as we could have, that games have been lost that could and should have been won and that, in some of the games, performances have been disappointing, even when winning at home.
The mood amongst many Cov supporters leaving the RAG on Friday night was one of frustration – another game where most of us felt we’d contrived to lose a game that was ours for the taking. The last 60 minutes were depressing to watch as Scottish controlled the play and we seemed unable to get ourselves into any sort of a decent attacking position.
Our kicking game misfired and too often we handed them possession without putting any great pressure on their receivers.
And not for the first time this season, either.
I’m sure it’s not that simple but from the stands it all looked a bit one-dimensional. Scottish did enough to win the game, but we made it far too easy for them at times. Sitting close to where the bulk of the Coventry supporters were seated, we could see Nick Walshe in particular getting very frustrated.
The final score, 15-14, meant we picked up a bonus point, but in truth it felt it was three points lost, rather than one gained. Several of the Coventry Twitterati, those not present at the game, felt that against a decent Scottish side and away from home, all-in-all a narrow defeat was a reasonable result.
I just don’t get that, personally.
First, I don’t think Scottish are anything other than an average Championship side based on the couple of occasions I’ve watched them this season. We beat them at home and they certainly didn’t offer a great deal on Friday, although they were good enough to capitalise on our repeated lack of discipline which cost us so many penalties either side of half time.
Secondly, whilst I concede that as a one-off, picking up a point away from home might appear a reasonable result, in the context of our away record this season, in both the league and cup, it was another very disappointing Coventry performance. Indeed, for me the final hour ranked alongside the away games against Richmond and Hartpury as being the worst Cov performance of the season.
And I have to admit, my frustrations are more the product of Cov’s performances rather than their results. Purely on our current league position, yes this has been a good first season so far.
In terms of performances, less so.
If we were winning even the odd game away from home, and picking up a few bonus point defeats here and there, I reckon that would represent a decent haul in your first season. So, yes, the 1 point picked up at Scottish might have been an acceptable result in isolation.
But context is everything, for me anyway.
There have been 12 competitive away games this season, 8 in the league and the rest in the cup, and we’ve come away with 11 defeats and just the draw against Nottingham. 7 (?) points from a possible 40 in the league.
Not a great return, however you look at it.
And in that lies the difference between my view of the season, as someone who has attended most away games and that of someone who has tended not to travel and is judging the success of the season principally (though not entirely) on what they’ve seen of Cov at home.
Were I a supporter who had attended all the games at the BPA but hadn’t travelled to watch Cov away from home, I’m sure I would be far more enthused.
10 wins from 12 home games (7/9 in the league) and one of the two losses being the close defeat to Irish and a performance as good as any I’ve seen from a defeated Cov side in many a year, well yes, I reckon I would hold rather a different opinion.
In terms of just home games, Cov have an impressive record of 80% wins:
They are riding high in the home league table, 4th behind Irish, Ealing and Jersey on games won and deservedly so.
Home supporters have seen Coventry establish the Butts as something of a fortress in the Championship, a place to be feared even by strongest of oppositions. Attendances have increased over the season with hospitality regularly sold out (including for Cov’s remaining two games of the season). Sponsors must delighted with the publicity the club is receiving.
Yet for supporters who have travelled away from the Butts Park Arena to watch Coventry, the story is a very different one and the mood amongst many of them is somewhat different. There is still the belief that Cov have done ok, but the overwhelming feeling for many is that Cov haven’t always delivered as they should – it’s be a decent season, but not perhaps as good as some have suggested.
Someone just attending the home games has only seen 2 defeats, someone attending away games as well has seen 13.
A huge difference that is clearly going to influence your judgement on Cov’s season as a whole.
Away from home, and in front of considerably smaller attendances for the most part, Coventry don’t seem to be able to lift their game to the same extent. Home crowds this season have seen Cov sides play with a confidence that hasn’t always been obvious away from the BPA and some of the performances have been pretty ordinary, enough to test the resolve of even the most passionate of Cov supporters.
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out. A few weeks ago, Coventry were comfortably mid-table and talk was of achieving a top six spot by the end of the season. Cov remain in 7th still, but the clubs below us have now caught up to the point now that we’ll do well to finish even 9th given our end-of season run in.
Suddenly, the likes of Carnegie, Scottish and Doncaster are all snapping at our heels and whilst Richmond and Hartpury are probably too far behind us to reel us in, their form is rather better than ours.
If, as seems likely, we finish 9th or 10th, the final table will look rather less rosy than it currently does and maybe with it there’ll be a slight reassessment of Cov’s first season back in the Championship for 8 years.
Position rather than points is arguably a better indicator of a club’s success…?
For some, this season was all about avoiding the drop. I do get that, it had to be the priority, so in that respect it’s mission accomplished…hopefully. However, part of my frustrations are borne of the high standards set by the club in the previous couple of seasons and by Rowland Winter’s pre-season comments back in July and August.
Winter made it clear that he expected the club to achieve a mid-table finish this season and that whilst it would take a while for the squad to ‘bed in’, we should expect to see improved performances/results after Christmas.
I’m not sure that has been the case.
Or, if we have indeed improved, perhaps other clubs have improved at a similar rate, or more so in the case of Hartpury, Carnegie and Richmond. And whilst I accept Carnegie and Hartpury (fairly or otherwise) have recruited heavily post-Christmas, we’ve taken on a good few players too.
Granted the away performance against Bedford was encouraging but defensively it wasn’t great and the last few games against Hartpury, Irish, Richmond and Scottish have, to me, just highlighted the inconsistences in performance that beset Coventry in the first half of the season. Maybe the coaches would see it otherwise, but sitting in the stand the Cov I’ve watched these last few weeks doesn’t look any better than the one I witnessed beat Jersey and Scottish and narrowly lose to Irish in those first few weeks of the season.
I was certainly more enthused back then than I am now.
I’m probably in the minority here, but I know from speaking to other supporters in the last couple of weeks, I’m not totally alone in thinking this. The Championship is a tough league, far tougher than I remember it even back in the early 00s when Cov were struggling to achieve even mid-table mediocrity. We have yet to establish ourselves as a club capable of picking up points away from home and therefore establishing ourselves as a top 6 club.
I’m sure it will come and with the players Winter and the coaches are bringing in, together with, hopefully, a further strengthening of the coaching set up, Cov will push forward next season and compete with the top clubs away from home as well. With so much happening at the club at the moment, especially with all the plans for the ground as well, it’s a fantastic time to be a supporter of Coventry Rugby Club.
However, watching Cov has been tough going this season at times and some of the performances away from home in particular have served to show just how far Cov must improve in order to be sure of even a mid-table finish over the next 5 games.
Had Coventry reproduced some of the performances away from home in front of the Coventry faithful at the BPA and reserved their best performances for their travels, perhaps some supporters might have a better understanding of why not everyone feels quite so satisfied with Cov’s first season back in the second tier of English rugby.
Getting home well after midnight on a Friday evening after what was a really disappointing Coventry performance, and paying £25 a ticket for the privilege, certainly tested my resilience, as it did some others. However, it’s only temporary and with a trip to Jersey already booked and plans to travel to Leeds and Doncaster, I still hope to see that elusive away win before the season’s out.
The home game against Nottingham perhaps remains Cov’s best chance of picking up a win from the final 5 games, with the only other home fixture being against Ealing who have struggled in their last couple of games and will doubtless be keen to finish on a high (whilst hoping Irish also come unstuck again as they did against Carnegie yesterday). It’s not the easiest of run-ins, so Cov will do exceptionally well to retain their 7th place – but it’s a great test of just how much this side really has improved and of their character, too.
And mine… 🙂
It’s been a good season so far but, for me, but not a great one. The final 5 weeks could yet change that somewhat.
A couple of away wins and things might look very different.
When you’re sitting in the stand at London Scottish on a cold, wet Friday evening, it’s a far, far cry from a buzzing BPA…
…’this house is definitely not a home‘.
Categories: Club talk