WIND back to the 2008-09 season, Moseley are the opposition at Butts Park Arena, and after six minutes Coventry’s first try is scored by Alex Grove, a centre making his debut in a Blue & White shirt.
The same Alex Grove who is poised to make his second home league appearance for Cov on Saturday – against Birmingham Moseley and by another twist, the team he played for last season.
“It was Boxing Day in 2008, and Coventry won,” recalls Grove who, after that single on-loan outing for Cov, went on to make 152 appearances for Worcester Warriors and win three full caps for Scotland.
If that’s a good omen, then we’ll go with it!”
Solihull-born Grove was also on the scoresheet at Hull Ionians last Saturday – “I think with nine tries altogether I might have got some stick if I hadn’t scored” – which, following a summer move from Billesley Common, was his second competitive game for Cov.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “Naturally there was a lot of excitement because it was the first game of the season, there’s always going to be a bit of first-day nerves and we got off to a bit of an unfortunate start, but the second half was quite convincing.
“There was a lot of positive intent out there and, okay, we were 14-3 down early on, but I think their second try was just the bounce of a ball which you can put down to a bit of bad luck and we quickly turned things round.
“When we started playing in the right areas of the pitch we caused them quite a lot of trouble. We scored two or three tries off our driving maul and then things opened up in the second half when Hull fatigued.
“At half-time it wasn’t a case of getting a dressing down, it was just a bit of clarity of what we needed to do, and credit to the boys, I think we actually went out and did it.”
One of four payers to make the short trip down the A45 at the end of last season, Grove was drawn to Butts Park by Coventry’s future plans and their drive to return to the Championship.
”As players you want to win trophies at whatever level, and I liked the ambition of the club,” he said. “I think everything is in place for the club to make the step up to the next level.
“It’s fun, and what I’m really enjoying is that we’ve got a real target to go for this season in promotion – it’s nice to have something to shoot for, and I think we’re capable of doing it if we get things right.
“But it’s a long slog in this league and there are 29 games to go. When the weather turns you’ve got to adjust your game accordingly and you’ve got to be smart in how you prepare for the away fixtures. There’s a lot of travelling on the day and how we adapt to different things every other week when we’re on the road is going to contribute massively to where we finish at the end of the year.
“It’s tricky to say how much more there is to come. If you watch Saturday’s game back we could have scored a handful more tries, but if you take this week for example, no disrespect to Ionians but I think Moseley are stronger opposition and we’re not going to get as many opportunities.
“What we need to do is finish off more of the chances we create – we can’t afford to not do this against the stronger sides.”
Grove is just one of a number of players with Premiership and international experience who joined Cov in the close season.
“I was aware that other players were being spoken to, it showed the club’s intent and ambition, and because there were other signings being made by Rowland Winter it was quite clear early on that they were saying this is what we want to do, we’re serious about doing it, do you want to be part of it? The answer was yes.
“The other three guys who came from Moseley were three of the best players last year and it did help, but I already knew a couple of the other boys here as well and in this environment you quickly settle in.
“We’ve had plenty of time together in pre-season and had a trip to Jersey with a bit of a social out there to get to know the boys. We had a few beers at a good time to do it, it was important that we did that, and then when the season gets going it’s back to business.
“It’s nice to be around and playing with good players, and it’s crucial if you’re going to compete for the top in this league to have this and depth in the squad.
“We were unfortunate to lose Tony Fenner and Pete White at Hull, but then you look at who replaced them – Will Maisey was excellent and Dave Brazier could have been man-of-the-match.
“They’ve had a bit of a change round at Moseley, but I think they’re going to be much stronger than people thought at the end of last season when they seemed to lose a few players.
”I think they’ve also recruited well and they’ve got a new head coach in Simon Cross, who I know well from the Worcester set-up and will bring a different dimension to their game, and they’ll be well organised.
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but you can’t worry too much about what the opposition do – there is only a limited time in the week to prepare ourselves, so we’re more concerned about what we can get right and our own game plan.”