Forty-odd years ago, I was taken to a magical place called Coundon Road.
A field of dreams where the finest rugby players in Britain bished and bashed and boshed, showed off fancy footwork and entertained in a way that a score bore draw a mile or so north east couldn’t.
Men sitting in the stands were keen to point out famous names and talk of their legend.
I can’t remember whether that Duckham bloke was playing, but the muddy blokes who pushed, pulled, punched and pounced seemed to be having the greatest fun.
But the XI a side game had a greater pull for me back then. You could play football in the back entries of Coundon, where I lived. Kicking a tennis ball against a wall or garage, you didn’t even need your mates.
I didn’t hold a rugby ball until I moved to Blue Coat CE School.
Then it all changed for the better. England won a Grand Slam. Coventry was a big club, still with internationals. Blue Coat weren’t doing so badly, either, with me on the flanks for a cup final against Coundon Court.
Then it all started to go wrong. Professionalism, leagues and a gradual crumbling of the old guard.
It’s typical that Coventry have found form again since I moved to Cornwall. I’ve been to three or four games in the last two years, since Rowland Winter’s arrival. Teams now don’t like being sent to Coventry.
Winter has impressed me, despite initial suspicions. I like the fact that he talks to the fans who turn up to watch training, I like the fact he fronted up after the Blackheath disaster (okay, okay, a blip). I like what the players have intimated in their interviews.
Phil Nilsen, a man who’s been around and knows his rugby onions, said in his recent interview on the club website: ‘I came to Coventry because of the ambition of the club. When I met Rowland Winter, that was the first thing that was evident to me – the club were ambitious to get back into the Championship, and it’s nice to be in that sort of environment.
‘I had a lot of offers, from Premiership and other Championship clubs, but it was just the enthusiasm of Rowland and the way he spoke about the club and what they were doing, it was something I wanted to be around.‘
That’ll do for me, Tom. I’m happy to put my hands up and admit I was wrong. Even if he leaves tomorrow, I’ll be glad of the difference he’s helped engineer.
So, there’s talk of a return to the Championship. We’re 15 points clear of nearest rivals, Darlington Mowden Park, although they have a game in hand.
Now I’m taking nothing for granted.
But we’re top of the table. We’re playing entertaining rugby. We’re winning. We’re snatching try bonus points like they’re going out of fashion.
The figures speak for themselves.
Played 19, won 18. Try bonus points in 17 of those games. Darlington, who we have yet to trouble home and away following a postponed fixture ‘up north’, have played 18, won 14 with try bonus points 14 times.
Coventry have broken the 800-point mark. No other club has passed 600. We average 42.6 points a game.
We’ve got the best defensive record. Plymouth, two games in hand, are next best. We’re shipping 15.5 points on average, they’re on 17.5. Take away the Blackheath result and teams have scored just 13 points against us a game.
We’re averaging six tries a game, taking us to 123 so far.
Even that drubbing by an old adversary saw us score five tries.
As an aside, Darlington average 29 points for and 19 against each game. It doesn’t really matter if you’re winning.
My sole care is with Coventry. My city. My club.
It appears the current coaching and playing staff, and the backroom teams at the BPA have fully realised how much our club means to us – the fans.
Because it means a huge amount.
I hope Championship rugby returns to the BPA. Especially as Cornish Pirates, the former Penzance club, is just seven miles away from me.
This era of Coventry is one to be savoured.
Even from 280 miles away.