Brick by brick,
We can build it from the floor
If we hold onto each other,
We’ll be better than before.
And brick by brick,
We will get back to yesterday
The sky has made it back to blue,
Everything that’s left
Is telling us the worst of it is through.
Home has never felt so right,
There’s nothing in the way.
Train – Brick By Brick
Walking around the ground between games yesterday afternoon, more than ever it was evident just how far the club has come on its planned journey to the Premiership over these past three years.
Okay, so I might be overcome with optimism following what was a promising win against Bedford and a first look at the new, and much improved, facilities the club has unveiled this season but it seems to me we are closer to a move to the Premiership now than we are a return to National One.
And that’s something I didn’t expect I’d be writing this season.
Early days though…
The final few months of Phil Maynard’s tenure and then those of the luckless Scott Morgan saw Coventry Rugby Club in something of a tailspin. The club looked to be rudderless on the pitch and leaderless off it. Clearly, Jon Sharp already had a vision of where he wanted to be, but back then few of us knew about it.
Yet here we are, three years on, and there’s a real buzz about the place.
Cov appear to have secured its place in the Championship for a good few seasons to come with a strong squad that has been assembled over several seasons. Winter has built on that initial group of talented youngsters he recruited in 2016, recruiting senior players who have added much need experience, ensuring promotion to the Championship was achieved a year ahead of schedule and a higher finish than any club in its first year in the Championship.
The likes of White, Stokes, Trimble, Knox, Tolmie, Maisey and Boulton still remain – testament to Rowland Winter’s recruitment drive in that first summer, back in 2016. He saw what so many of us didn’t back then.
It’s hard not to get carried away by the club’s success in recent years and Rowland Winter still continues to enjoy that Midas touch, with the club seemingly intent on going as far as it can in the Cup competition this season. Yes, clubs like Ealing, whom we face at home on Friday, and Newcastle are massive hurdles over which Cov must leap if they are to progress further than they did last year, BUT when Winter says things like…:
We want to win this. Simple as that. We’ve got the calibre in the squad and we’re capable enough to win this Cup. We’ll take every game as it comes and pick our best 23 and we’ll go from there…
…then you have to sit up and take notice.
So no obvious experimentation in these Cup games. He’s in it to win it and his sides reflect that. I wonder how many changes they’ll be for the Ealing game; arguably the best side in the division and with one less day to recover? Hard to see how he can pick a stronger side than the one that we watched yesterday given the players out currently with injuries…?
From the little I know of Cov’s DoR, he’s not a great one for bravado and if he makes a statement like the above, well he means it.
Nor is he one to make predictions or set targets as to where he expects Cov to finish at the end of a season, but the above does offer us an indication that he sees the club as a) being competitive and b) as a top 4 team or thereabouts (simply because any team winning the Cup this season is likely to come from one of the top four finishing clubs…?).
These are exciting times for a club that has for too long flattered to deceive and lived off the back of its successes 40 years or more ago.
Indeed, The sky has made it back to blue/Everything that’s left/Is telling us the worst of it is through…
The changes off the field mirror those that have taken place on it and yesterday it certainly felt as if the ground is gearing up to be a top four Championship side this season. The new playing surface and the changes around the ground certainly give the appearance of a greater sense of self-belief. The installation of the marquee and the improved catering area in the far left of the pitch (looking from the main stand) are a huge improvement and create an atmosphere of their own, with people milling around and enjoying the build up to the game, something that was noticeable by its absence until last season.
The decision to remove food sales from the bar and provide additional catering options outside isn’t without its critics though, with a number of supporters bemoaning the absence of a food outlet in the main bar area. However, as I understand it, this is only a trial and there might well need to be a rethink when the weather takes a turn for the worse. That said, I do like to see the street food pop-ups though and they seemed to be doing a brisk trade as the 4.00 pm kick off approached.
Whether a crowd of 2000 is sufficient to make such a move financially viable for those running the 5 external outlets remains to be seen. I have my doubts. (I was reminded by Alan S that there are actually six outlets, with an additional one by the Guinness Bar – I’m not sure who runs that one, in the past it has sold food prepared by the club, although I’m not sure that is still the case…thanks AS).
The new marquee is a particularly impressive addition to the ‘around the ground’ facilities. The pre-match dining that took place in the Millerchip Suite is now held in the marquee enabling the whole length of the clubhouse to be given over to supporters. This means that there is less pressure on bar staff and less time queuing for drinks…a win/win for everyone concerned.
And it also looks the part. It’s a permanent feature too, taking three weeks to erect. I always thought Bedford’s ground look the better for its marquee. Now we have something to match it. Happy days
On match days, especially against the teams that will attract the bigger crowds, that bottom corner of the ground will become an intimidating place for the opposition. After a good meal and with a few drinks inside of them, the home supporters round there will certainly make their presence felt during the latter stages of the game. Woe betide any Newcastle player, for instance, under a high ball on the 5m line in the dying minutes of the game.
Or the referee having to make an important call for that matter…
…seems like a shrewd move to me.
The club shop has also been relocated to the railway end of the ground, with the ‘container’ in which it was previously housed now being given over to the match day medical team (for the ground, not the players). There was obviously more footfall passing by there given it was adjacent to the main turnstiles, but the new shop is far superior in every other way, with more room to wander round and the merchandise displayed in a far more appropriate manner.
The changing rooms are a particularly welcome feature. Trying on a new top can be somewhat embarrassing for those of us with a one pack…
It’s another very positive move on behalf of the club and judging by the interest shown yesterday in the club shop, it will be a profitable one too.
I arrived at the ground fairly early in the day, well before the start of the Nighthawks game (please, someone, think about renaming the team – turning up to watch the ‘Nighthawks’ for at 12.30 pm kick off is somewhat ironic, surely?). Rowland Winter happened to be out on the playing surface and he was kind enough to give up a few minutes to chat with me. He knew I’d not been on the surface so he was keen I took a walk on it…
…it was all a bit surreal, standing as I was on the same surface as the players who were warming up, but it was very much appreciated and I certainly have a slightly better understanding as to its benefits. The surface is regular watered, taking 8 minutes to complete and in weeks where there’s been a fair amount of rain it’s not always necessary to irrigate it as much or as often. The heavy rains last week didn’t cause any surface water apparently, with drains underneath taking the surplus rain water away and, according to RW, onto the main carpark in the area where the car washing takes place – it was ‘awash’ (unintended) for a while apparently.
Neither Ealing or Newcastle opted for the full package as Cov has done when they had their pitches installed, including the irrigation system. The surface has a ‘non-stick’ coating (I can’t remember the phrase Rowland used) and this, together with the watering and regular brushing to ensure the ‘grass’ blades remain upright rather than flattened, should prevent the type of injuries that have been reported in the national sporting press over the last few months.
It was very ‘spongy’ underfoot and not at all as I expected.
If carefully maintained, and we know it will be at Cov, the surface has a life expectancy of between 8-10 years depending on usage. Cov already have tons and tons (again I can’t be sure of the quantities to be confident I’m giving the right figures) of rubber ‘bits’ (me, I know all the technical terms) and sand to maintain the pitch for several months. In addition, the Board is sensibly building up a contingency fund each year to ensure that the surface could be relayed in as little as 3-4 years should it be required – another example of the prudent financial approach the club is insistent on taking.
No short cuts these days…(anther unintended pun – apologies. Jet lag kicking in!).
Underneath the pitch all the necessary utilities are in place for the next phase of the ground development, including WIFI, so in that sense it is also future-proof.
RW also said that two larger portacabin dressing rooms will be installed behind the medical area in the next month – I got the impression these would be for the 1st team, although I might be incorrect there. Yesterday, Bedford had to use Ampthill’s dressing room which wasn’t ideal and I believe they had to wait outside until they’d been cleaned :). The addition of these new dressing rooms does mean that there will be further opportunities to double up games in the future, something that I’m sure will be welcomed by many supporters whilst also increasing match day revenue, or so I would imagine.
The ‘pay and display’ system in the car park also seemed to work well, although being something of a Luddite, I did struggle to pay by card and ended up having to hunt around for some coins. I’m not sure what the problem was, other than my inability to grasp new technology.
One slight concern from me though…
Whilst paying for one’s parking on match days (and at other times too) makes sense and should bring in some much needed revenue for the club, I do have real reservations about having to pay an extra £4 or £5 to park my car on Saturday’s when Cov are playing away from home. Jon Sharp has made a big thing about the importance of the support the club receives and how Cov supporters are the best in the league (something he reiterated yesterday).
For those supporters who do travel to away games, it is a big commitment both in time and expense – to then charge them an additional fiver for the privilege of parking their car in addition to the coach fare would be tough on them.
Or so it seems to me.
I’m sure the Supporters’ Club are in discussions with the powers that be and I do hope common sense prevails. A simple pass given to those who travel to put in their car on the day would suffice – we’re only talking about something in the region of 20 -25 cars tops, so it wouldn’t be a huge loss of income for the club, but it would be a big saving for those supporters who travel by coach.
All-in-all though, these are good times (such good times). I understand the next phase of the ground development is advancing nicely and that the Supporters’ Club is being consulted, so further developments are likely at some point in the not too distant future.
If the Club continues to progress at the rate it has over the last three seasons, it’s hard to imagine how it will look in Sept 2022.
I wouldn’t mind having a small punt on us being in the Premiership by then…
it’s not be too often that my musical tastes have been influenced by Sue.
But she did introduce me to Train…
‘Soul Sister‘ is probably the one song that most will recognise, but ‘Brick by Brick‘ is a classic Train song and so relevant given all the changes that are taking place at the BPA at the moment.
Everyone talks about the glories of the past – well perhaps Jon Sharp and the Board, together with Rowland Winter, Nick Walshe and co are taking us back to yesterday…
…but only better than before.
Hard not to like Pat Monahan’s voice – the video is well worth a watch!
Brick by brick,
We can build it from the floor…
…We’ll be better than before.
And brick by brick,
We will get back to yesterday