This wheel spins, let me off
It’s not for lack of trying
Can’t put my finger on it (3 wheels)
You can’t help being hard up
Can’t trust the god you trusted
Don’t think that’s any insurance
Could I be happy with something else?
I need something to fill my time
Could I be happy with something else
I need someone to fill my time
Gang of Four – What We All Want
Blimey. I’ve only been away from the blog a little under a month and so much seems to have happened on the Cov Rugby front.
Two wins and two losses, the departure of Nick Walshe and a Fans’ Forum as well.
I’m well aware that in no position to comment on the games I’ve missed, other than to perhaps say that the Hartpury result was a little disappointing only because I felt we’d improved enough since our last visit there to reverse the result of 12 months ago, irrespective of the progress Hartpury have made in that time. Others might well disagree, but going into the game that’s what I genuinely felt.
Wrongly as it happens.
However, after 12 games, Cov are still 8 points ahead of where we were last season (remembering of course that the tracker tracks the win/draw/bonus points earned against teams in the Championship this season with those in the corresponding fixtures last season so you can quickly determine the progress (or otherwise) year-on-year). So, in the same games last season Cov stood on 26 points compared to 34 this season.
The Newcastle result has replaced that against London Irish as has Ampthill instead of Richmond.
Although when I left back in early January we were a point ahead of where we currently are (ie a 9 point lead back then), we are still well in front of where we were 12 months ago, even if we haven’t progressed post-Christmas as much as many of us had hoped/expect we might.
Which is why the departure of Nick Walshe caught me somewhat by surprise.
I’ve read everything that’s been posted on the Messageboard about the dismissal of NW and accept that there is much that we don’t know. However, I would like to throw a couple of things into the mix, late though it is.
First, I don’t remember anyone commenting on Nick Walshe the man. In the last couple of years I’ve felt that the ‘open door’ policy that was in operation in the first 18 months of RW’s tenure has become more of a ‘slightly ajar’ one, with supporters no longer welcome at training and far fewer opportunities to chat with those involved with the club informally since we have been in the Championship.
However, Nick was very much the exception. At away games Sam and I have tended not to make a beeline for the bar, preferring instead to ‘walk and talk’ round the pitch or sit in the stands for a bit until things quieten down. On several occasions, Nick W would seek us out and chat about the game, not just for a fleeting moment but for several minutes, offering his thoughts and keen to listen to ours. He was always courteous, even on days when he was clearly frustrated by the performance, and when he spoke he never showed anything but respect for the travelling supporters.
Whatever the reasons for Nick’s departure, I always felt he was interested in what supporters felt. He knew I wrote a blog and that there were things he couldn’t and wouldn’t say, or if he did, they would be in confidence – just as I knew what I could and couldn’t ask. I genuinely warmed to him, especially over the last 12 months or so and wish him well, wherever he ends up.
A couple of supporters mentioned on the MB that he had ‘lost the changing room’, whatever that might mean, and that is certainly something I’d heard voiced too, but Coventry Rugby have rightly refused to make a statement on Nick’s departure as I believe there’s still a contractual issue, although I do think the club could have better handled his original absence other than by saying nothing.
Clearly, though, RW and Jon Sharp felt it necessary to act; the progress that we’d seen before Christmas just wasn’t sufficient to keep Nick Walshe in his post.
I have to say, had we been told a sacking amongst the coaching staff was imminent, my money would have been on the forwards’ coach, if only because the line-outs have been misfiring far too regularly with sometimes disastrous results, not just this season but last as well.
That’s said, the scrum as improved and has looked very competitive at times, and that must be at least partly down to the influence of Louis Deacon as well.
Whilst Cov’s home record since joining the Championship is excellent, just 4 defeats in 16 games, the away form is poor to say the least and must have been influential in the decision to move Nick Walshe on.
Just 3 wins in 18 games is a real concern and were it not for out home record, we would again be struggling at the bottom end of the table. At some point pressure to halt the slide away from home, either from within or from the supporters, was going to mount. The departure of Nick Walshe (as well as the delay in announcing his replacement), whether deliberate or otherwise, is going to give Cov a little more breathing space.
1 win in 7 outings away from home this season on paper suggests little or no progress, although this season Cov are conceding just 26 points away from home as opposed to 33 last season, perhaps a sign that the defence has tightened up under Anthony Allen since September.
Other than against Newcastle Falcons and Ealing Trailfinders, the games we’ve lost away from home this season have been very close with four of them resulting in a losing bonus point. Close then, but as the tables show, not close enough and there is still some way to go before our away form is anything like good enough for us to be seen as a genuine top 4 side. The fact that we remain 4th in the league as of now lies as much in the inconsistency of the teams around us as it does our own strength at home where we’ve won 5 from 5 and have the luxury of playing Yorkshire Carnegie at the BPA on Saturday.
Coventry Rugby have invested a lot of resources, financial and otherwise, into moving the club forward and whilst I believe that improvements on the playing front from last season are evident, the progress this season has been less than in any other so far under RW and maybe that is the reason why changes in coaching personnel have been needed.
Cov have a drawn up a flightpath for the future, one that involves steady progress over the next 2/3/4 years to ensure the club is Premiership-ready. Outside of the playing front things seems to be progressing well but results haven’t perhaps been as good as was expected this season on the rugby front and a slight re-adjustment has been needed to ensure the current stutter doesn’t become a stall.
The dismissal of Nick Walshe can’t have been an easy decision for either Jon Sharp or Rowland Winter. Nick Walshe came in early on in RW’s tenure and helped mastermind promotion from National One (a year ahead of schedule as well) and all seemed to be going swimmingly last season, with no hint of any discord that might have resulted in Nick W’s departure. But we know from past experience that Rowland Winter is always prepared to make the difficult decisions where necessary.
Remember his refusal to offer the likes of Oliver, Pailor, Jones and Le Roux contracts when he arrived, or Snyman and Pritchard’s sackings early on. Decisions which were surprising at the time but all ones where RW was proved right in the end. And the odds are that he’ll be proved correct again, however hard it is on Nick Walshe.
In Shakespeare’s Henry IV (part 2), the beleaguered king talks about the pressure he feels:
“Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
Those with responsibilities must worry constantly, having the influence to do both what is right and, occasionally, what is wrong. RW and JS have both shown that they have the propensity to get things right far more often that they do to make mistakes, so as supporters all we can do is back them to make the right decisions whilst sometimes sympathising with those who might lose out as a result. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
This is one such instance. Sometimes we forget that guys like Nick Walshe have young families and mortgages to pay, so any decision of this nature must be a huge concern to those who are on the wrong end of them, as well as for those who make them.
Nick Walshe served Cov well in his 3 seasons with the club and supporters owe him a big debt of gratitude, whatever has gone on behind the scenes.
I, for one, wish him well.
Heavy, indeed, lies the head that wears the crown and I’m sure it can’t have been the easiest of decisions for Rowland Winter. However, the Head Coach has gone and we await news of his replacement with real interest in the hope that whoever succeeds Nick W will have the same kind of impact that he had had when he took over the role at Cov.
We aren’t much more than half way through the season as of now, so there’s plenty to play for and, despite all the inconsistencies, with 6 out of the 10 games still remaining at home and only Pirates to play away from home from the top 6, Cov have a big advantage over the other teams vying for 4th place.
It’s all set for an exciting run-in.
I do believe Cov have the squad, and the supporters behind them, to end the season on a real high. By all accounts Cov didn’t play badly down in Bedford and the win against Pirates was impressive even at home, given the visitors form this season. If the camp is a happy one, and even despite Nick Walshe’s exit, I’ve no reason to believe it isn’t, then we could yet achieve something special, even exceeding most supporters expectations back in the pre-season.
Onwards and, hopefully, upwards…
(Many thanks to Sam, again, for all the Stats).
I was shocked to hear of the demise of Andy Gill of Gang of Four whilst I was away.
‘At Home He’s A Tourist’ was one of the first post-punk singles I’d bought, mainly because my flatmate at uni (and from Leeds) had ‘discovered’ them and it was played incessantly until his next unearthing – probably Teardrop Explodes or Magazine or the like. Thanks to Alan S for sending me the lyrics to ‘What We All Want’, a song I can now recall from back then but had long since forgotten, the lyrics of which resonate still today…
Can’t trust the god you trusted?
Don’t think that’s any insurance
Could I be happy with something else?
I need something to fill my time
Sometimes you have to trust…