Enjoy yourself it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself while you’re still in the pink
The years go by as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself
It’s later than you think.
(Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself it’s later than you think)
The Specials – Enjoy Yourself
I’m not sure whether it was by luck or design, but leaving the BPA to the sound of The Specials ‘Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think’ was entirely apt for the occasion.
A Friday evening, getting on for 9.30…the time had flown by. It was, indeed, later than I’d thought.
But it also resonated for another reason.
I’m 60 now and a die-hard union supporter, someone who has dabbled with league every now and again, always enjoyed what he’s seen but never prepared to commit myself.
And now Coventry Bears’ have secured a deal to keep them at the Butts for the next three years, well I’ll be making sure I get to as many home games as I can.
Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Yes, it’s later than you think, but not too late for this old dog.
It was a really enjoyable evening, amongst a friendly and welcoming crowd that warmed to a Bears’ side that not just beat, but beat comfortably in the end, Broncos from the Championship, albeit there reserve side (thanks to Craig for the heads-up). The Bears of National One, semi-professional, against the pros from the South.
When Cov (the Union side) were in National One (the equivalent league to that of the Bears now), they had three pre-seasons in which they played fully professional sides from the Championship and whilst they pushed them hard, they never came out on top. Fair play to the Bears then for their fully deserved win.
I’m never going to have the passion for the Bears that many of the supporters there on Friday had. My colours are well and truly nailed to the Cov mast and they’re blue and white (or should that be red and green now).
But a couple of seasons ago I returned to the Bears’ fold after a gap of over 15 years, having watched them for a season or two soon after their formation. Nothing more than 7 or 8 homes in 2018, but enough to really enjoy the Bears’ experience and to miss it when the BPA was unavailable last season.
The Bears’ inevitably don’t have the resources that their union counterparts enjoy, but everything they do, they do well.
It’s the simple things that make such a difference.
Take the PA for instance…
…the criticism from Cov supporters is pretty constant. Little clarity, most of it inaudible from many areas of the ground including areas of the main stand. Yet that’s not an issue when the Bears are in town.
In Tim Griffiths (I hope I’ve remembered his name correctly) they have the best announcer that I’ve come across at any of the Championship or National One grounds I’ve been to in recent years. He comes across as passionate about the team, but never in a way that is disrespectful to the opposition or their supporters and the judicious use of sound fx, especially the roar/growl of the bear, always brings a smile to the proceedings.
And they always seem to choose a better selection of pre-match music – although that’s purely subjective on my part I appreciate.
It’s a small thing but it makes for a better atmosphere. And the atmosphere was excellent on Friday.
I have to say, I was very surprised to read the official gate was just 450 odd. From memory, gates a couple of seasons ago were around that mark or above, yet there seemed far more to welcome the Broncos…
Apparently the pre-match hospitality had sold out as well, so whatever the final total, it augers well for the coming season.
The Bears wore their new ‘two-tone’ strip for the Broncos’ game designed apparently in homage to Jerry Dammers’ record label back in the late 70s/early 80s and the ska/new wave sound it generated, especially in and around Coventry ( as well, I think, to the colours worn by the first rugby league side to be based in Cov in the early 1900s, but I might have got that hopelessly wrong, to be fair).
So that’s Cov City and the Bears then…
It’s a shame Cov haven’t come to the party over that one, really.
Had it not been for the story behind the strip, then I might not found it as appealing as I did, but it looked good and with an alternative kit of dark/lighter blue stripes still to come, there’s plenty of choice for supporters.
It was interesting, too, to see what the Bears’ had done with the scoreboard. The time had been removed so that the score was much clearer, although it did mean that the only clock available was the one that is situated by the main turnstiles. Not ideal but it’s there and visible to all. In the early days of the scoreboard, when there was a countdown timer at the bottom, underneath the advertising space, it was much more effective, although admittedly not if you stood that side of the pitch.
The scoreboard is still very underused in terms of what it should be able to do – hopefully, someone with the nous will be able to get it functioning properly, although I rather imagine the onus is on Cov Rugby to get that sorted.
And then there’s the Bears’ mascot.
What one earth is that about?
He’s loveable yet also quite scary and not the usual cute-looking mascot you get to see at most grounds, as is the case with the Cov elephant for instance (not that he’s around much these days).
Think Muppets. Think what the progeny of a union between Animal and the Cookie Monster might end up as. Then imagine a shade of blue that you kind of imagine might be the colour of one of Dracula’s victims after the Count has just enjoyed a hearty meal…
He’s going to be a popular figure down at the BPA this season, even though he scares me witless.
Loved him, though, to be fair.
As for the game itself, well it wasn’t the free flowing kind of rugby that I’d got used to seeing a couple of seasons ago, although for the first few games back then it was mainly flowing in the opposite direction!
In 2018, the Bears were on the wrong side of three or four big losses 50+ and more when I chanced to see them, but the refreshing thing as an outsider was that the home support never moaned or expressed dissatisfaction towards the players or the coaches. They were very appreciative of the visitors and generally upbeat because they knew their side were, and still are, very much a work in progress at this level. And after a run of several losses they turned things round and deservedly won a great deal of respect for what they had achieved
I’m ashamed to admit the names and faces meant nothing to me on Friday and the only person I recognised (other than AR) was Tom Tsang and he’s now with the Broncos as an assistant coach! Hopefully, in future games I’ll get a better understanding of the squad and the support staff…and of how the game differs to that of union beyond just the blindingly obvious.
The Bears’ defence was mightily impressive on the night and although Broncos scored three quick tries in a 7 minute period immediately after the break, for the most part the Bears were resolute in defence; well organised and working very much as a team. Just when it looked as if the Bears might succumb, they regrouped and held firm for the remaining 20 minutes or so, having several chances to increase the lead as well.
The Bears enjoyed a lucky break from the restart after the Broncos 3rd try when their restart was fumbled by the Broncos receiver and kicked through for the Bears’ to score…but equally, the Broncos first try had an element of good fortune too, so the one cancelled out the other.
I really got into the game and found myself clock watching for the final few minutes even though I’m by no means a true Bears’ fan.
Sam, my son, came along with me and he’s far more judicious than I am and not so easily pleased, so when he left the ground, humming ‘Enjoy Yourself’, and confirming that he’ll be back to watch the Bears whenever he can this season, then you know the product is a good one.
In an article on the Cov Rugby website, Managing Director Nick Johnston stressed how important having the Bears back at Coventry is:
Butts Park is expanding all the time as a hub for sport, health and well-being and is now the city centre’s home for rugby union, rugby league and football, as well as the other sports such as American Football which have been played on the new pitch. Having the Bears return is another piece in the jigsaw that is coming together and will reinforce the venue’s place in the city’s community
…echoing Chairman Jon Sharp’s vision of the BPA at the centre of community sport in the city.
And here’s the thing for me…
…most of the 2500 plus Cov fans who regularly support their team won’t watch any other sport at the BPA. The Bears and Cov United (including the womens’ team) have their own sets of supporters and there’s little overlap between them.
So in addition to the usual season ticket, why not think about offering Cov Rugby supporters an extra option? For another £50/£75 on top of the current cost, provide a pass for all sport at the BPA for a period of 9/12 months.
The league and football sides won’t miss out because it will be only on offer to rugby supporters who by and large don’t attend their games, but they might get more through the turnstiles which in turn could result in extra sales in merchandise, drinks and refreshment and additional support as they bring along friends etc.
Cov will be very much the centre of national attention in the next few years – why not be innovative and gain the initiative, earning recognition as the sporting hub in Coventry for those wanting to play sport, as well as for those wanting to watch it as well?
Maybe it’s naïve on my part but it sounds like something worth considering…?
A selection of some snaps from before and after the game – apologies for the quality, David Bailey I most certainly am not…