Not quite the perfect pitch…

Then I awake
and look around me
At four gray walls
that surround me
And I realize
yes, I was only dreamin’

Arm reachin’ smiling sweetly
It’s good to touch

the green, green grass of home.

 Tom Jones – Green, Green Grass Of Home

 

So still no official statement from Coventry Rugby Club regarding the apparently imminent installation of a synthetic pitch at the BPA and this despite an unofficial one from the Coventry Bears and plenty of speculation amongst its own supporters. For what it’s worth, it was clear on Sunday when we travelled down on the supporters’ coach  to London to watch the Barbarians v England that those in the know were adamant that we would have a synthetic pitch in place for the start of the 2019/20 – or thereabouts.

It’s a shame the club have been so reticent about discussing its plans with supporters. Whilst we have no absolutely right to expect any details regarding the minutiae of the proposals, I do think a few more updates over the last few weeks and months should have been more forthcoming – are discussions still under way, what type of pitch are the club hoping to install, the possible deadlines involved and how this might affect pre-season friendlies (presumably most of these will be away from the BPA?).

In the end I gave up waiting and brought my season ticket, but it would have been good to know in advance if games in August, possibly going into September, might be affected or indeed whether there might be an impact, adverse or otherwise, on facilities around the ground. Even if there is no change to either fixtures or the match day experience, common sense (and courtesy), suggests that just a brief statement as to what is or isn’t happening would have put minds at rest. The laying of a new surface, together with the changes to the pitch environs, is obviously going to have some impact on spectators and those buying season tickets might have expected more info at hand when deciding to splash the cash.

In fairness, it might be that such details were discussed at the end of season Fans’ Forum (or whatever it called these days) but fewer than 100 attend on average.

There are over 8300 follows of the club on Twitter.

(As an aside, in the past I used to detail the main points coming out of forums in this blog which were always well read, if not always well-written. Perhaps a summary on the website would give greater access to supporters. I’m sure it would be well received).

I’m not sure that such uncertainly about the pitch has been altogether healthy, especially during close season when supporters’ contact with the club is minimal and expectations about the coming season are pretty high. Communication between club and supporters is much better than it every was – and the Supporters’ Club deserve plenty of praise on that front – but the club’s reticence to make any comment publicly in recent weeks on the future of the Coventry playing surface shows that there is still plenty of work to be done.

It hasn’t been Coventry’s greatest pitch…

…if you’ll pardon the pun.

A move to a synthetic surface is a massive change for the club and I do think supporters could have been kept better informed over the course of the last few months. Obviously discussions between sponsors/contractors and the club  have to be treated sensitively, but personally I can’t help but feel a few more updates here and there wouldn’t have involved much effort on the club’s part and would have been greatly received by those interested in its future.

Plus ca change and all that…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One of the things I’ve always tried to do is be pretty honest about how I see things. I’ve not shied away from being critical but have also tried to be constructive when doing so when the opportunity has arisen.

In so doing, I know I’ve upset one or two folk.

I can think of a couple of people from within the club who have been keen to chat and pass the time of day when posts have been complimentary and supportive, but who have declined to even say hello if they have in any way been negative.

I have to say, though,  Rowland Winter isn’t one of them.

Whilst I’ve often been fairly vocal in my support of Cov’s Director of Rugby, I appreciate I’ve written things that, if he’s read them, will surely have irritated him in the extreme at times, especially coming as they do from someone who has no rugby playing experience of any note. To his credit, he’s always been willing to chat and answer questions where appropriate.

And I do owe him and his team something of an apology.

Going into April I hadn’t been especially encouraged by Coventry’s first season back in the Championship. Before the final two wins against Doncaster and Jersey the season had looked like ending with a poor run of results and even poorer performances for the most part, with one or two notable exceptions. I’d spent too much of the season looking down at the teams below us rather than up at those above. No away wins, 10th place seeming highly likely and an increasing amount  of frustration surfacing on social media and in pre and post-match discussions amongst supporters.

RW had long said that he thought this current group players capable of being competitive at this level even in their first season. However, up until mid April that hadn’t often appeared to be the case and the season looked to be spiralling into mediocrity until those wins against Doncaster and Jersey showed the real potential of this group of players. And together with this season’s summer recruits, next season can’t come quickly enough. It’s incredible how just two games so changed Cov’s season – suddenly confidence was high and Coventry looked a completely different team away from home. Having contrived to lose 12 out of 13 games  on their travels  (the other being the draw against Notts), suddenly Cov looked far more of a threat and more than capable of competing for a top 6 spot next season. Beating Jersey away from home, the fourth placed side in the league, was possibly a landmark win.

That said, take away the wins in those first two home games and last two away games and the overall degree of optimism lessens somewhat. However, even with all the uncertainty of the will we/won’t we situation regarding the BPA pitch, the confidence amongst supporters going into pre-season will surely be higher than it was 12 months ago? They know what to expect from this league now and whilst second seasons are notoriously difficult, it’s hard not to feel that this squad will end next April a couple of places higher than they did last season.

Many of last season’s squad were arguably more experienced at Championship level than either Winter or Louis Deacon. With 12 months of Tier 2 rugby now under his belt, RW will have a far greater understanding of what is required of a top 6 side. Last season, I predicted a 9th/10th placed finish, so at its simplest 8th represents a slightly better season than I’d expected. However, some of the performances over the middle four or five months were disappointing, especially away from home, which meant supporting  Cov on its travels didn’t make for the easiest of viewing. But just as I was beginning to question whether the current set up was good enough to achieve the kind of goals the club has set itself over the short to mid-term, the players and management turned it round. What was looking no more than an acceptable first season back turned into a pretty decent one.

If I remember, I’ll offer a similar poll in August – it will be interesting to see if supporters expectations are any higher now we’re a season on in our quest for the big time.

I was definitely lacking a little faith in those final few weeks leading up to the Doncaster game, although I wasn’t alone in that. Apologies to everyone involved for that.

I should have known better and had a little more confidence in the ability of both the players and the management team to sort things out. I guess that’s just highlights the importance of giving the team and the squad the time they clearly need to build a squad capable of becoming a top two side in the next two or three seasons.

That doesn’t come naturally though as most supporters tend to expect results sooner rather than later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And we have a new badge, now.

I’m not a great fan of it really but appreciate that the club feel a rebranding of Coventry Rugby Club necessitated a new one. In fairness, it has been pretty well received by most who have passed comment on it. I’m very old school I know and whilst the club has to move with the times, tradition too is important and for me the  badge it’s replaced was synonymous with all things Cov Rugby. Whilst no one wants Cov to live on its past glories, remembering them is still just as important.

Yes, red and green are the dominant colours on the city’s coat of arms and perhaps therefore better represent the city of origin, but as someone not indigenous to Coventry,  that doesn’t carry to same significance for me as it does to most. I’m sure I’ll get used to it and perhaps the suddenness of the change is part of my unease. It goes back to my original comments on the current discussions, or lack thereof, on the Coventry pitch…a need for better communication. Just presenting it as a fait accompli wasn’t perhaps the best way of doing it?

Some notice that it was at least in the offing might have softened the blow.

Or perhaps I missed that.

Personally, I think it was probably an opportunity missed. A chance  to involve supporters and the local community/schools in designing a badge or simply providing three or four options and then asking members to vote on the one they like best.

Empowerment often helps ensure acceptance far quicker than having something forced on you.

At least it does most of the time.

 

UPDATE

Many thanks to the club forwarding me info pertaining to some of the points made in the above:

  • Cov have been in regular communication with the Bears, so they will have been aware of the situation regarding the pitch, although I’d still maintain supporters have been a little left in the dark. Hopefully everything will be sorted by the end of next week;

 

 

 

 

 

  • The new badge actually reflects the earliest Cov badges as shown in the above image – somewhere along the way it got lost in translation but the original badge is n display on the main stairway at the club. The Supporters Club were involved in quite a few focus feedback groups. Whilst better understanding the decision, I still prefer the previous one. Just personal preference though.
  • The players started back last week and have already ‘stepped up’  – hopefully one more signing to be announced.

Again, many thanks for the feedback!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Looks like the days of the green, green grass of home are numbered…

Perhaps I should have opted for ’24 carat plastic’ by ABC…?

 

 

 

Author: Tim

6 thoughts on “Not quite the perfect pitch…

  1. Thanks, Alan. Lol…nowhere near as bad at the RFU! According to Jon Sharp’s comment (see above), the club are expecting the season to start on the 21st Sept.

  2. Tim, Just a quick couple of points to update you and your readers –

    We have long stated our ambition to install an AGP to facilitate not only our own games, but also training, use by other clubs and the community. We have not yet signed a contract and so until then can only reiterate our intention. We hope very soon to be able to update that.

    The new logo was discussed at length with the supporters club before a decision was made.

    We expect the season start to be 21st Sept, but we still await the fixture list.

    Best wishes, Jon

    1. Jon, thank you for taking the time to post a comment – it is must appreciated.

      I think we’re all hoping that the news is positive on the AGP front; I guess the slightly delayed start to the season would help if the contracts are signed soon.

      I did add an update about the badge. In fairness I genuinely hadn’t realised there had been discussions with supporters and was quick to amend that when I heard this was the case.

      Hope you are well…you must be eagerly anticipating another huge season, as we all are.

      Kind regards,

      Tim S

  3. Tim, nice to see you back on open Forum. Interesting article as expected. All the pointers are for a new artificial pitch (Coventry United/Ladies 10 year contract – unofficial announcement by Coventry Bears). Unless they have an agreed timescale with the Contractors for the announcement they seem to have been usurped a bit by social media. I am told the RFU are planning to delay the start of the season because of the World Cup and this would make sense. I think the new badge is quite powerful and makes a statement but may not suit all tastes. Best regards

    1. Hi Bob, as ever thank you for coming over to leave a comment. Jon Sharp’s comment above clarifies things somewhat – it sounds good news though reading between the line.

  4. Yes the margins of success and failure are very fine indeed, as illustrated in both our wins and our defeats last year. But over all what a great first season back. Communication from the club seems a little intermitant of late but not as bad as the RFU and perhaps that is holding up some of the clubs press releases. Does anyone know when the season will actually start because of the World Cup? A World Cup that has been on the RFU calendar for sometime I might add. But an honest read as ever Tim.

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