The legends – L to R: Jason Minshull, Mick Curtis, Peter Rossborough, Dave Addleton, Julian Hyde, Steve Wilkes, Matt Gallagher (credit – John Coles)
Coventry Rugby will on Tuesday face Nottingham in front of an anticipated Butts Park Arena crowd of over 4000 wearing the club’s specially commissioned 150th anniversary kit for the first time.
And in a surprise to the players, on Friday a group of seven Coventry ‘legends’ returned to the club they served with such distinction to individually present each of the matchday 23 with a distinctive navy-and-white shirt during a special ceremony.
The event was the brainchild of head coach Alex Rae who said his squad were thrilled to meet some celebrated names from the club’s past and hear memories built up across nearly 1900 games for the club.
“Introducing the current squad to some of the club’s biggest characters and most loyal servants just seemed like the right thing to do in our 150th anniversary year,” he said.
“Having a connection with those who wore the jersey before you makes it all that bit more special.
“It was great to hear from some names that I have heard plenty about and one or two that I remember being a big part of the club when I was growing up locally.
“Hopefully we can make this kind of event a more regular thing as everyone enjoyed it and we certainly got plenty from it.”
Prop forward Steve Wilkes, hooker Dave Addleton and second row Julian Hyde between them had Coventry careers spanning 1977 to 2009. Recent Warwickshire RFU President Wilkes led the way with 366 appearances, Addleton (355 games) went on to play a prominent role as a coach while Hyde (213 games) captained the club in the 1991/92 season.
This trio presented shirts to the 13 forwards named by Rae to make up the starting pack plus replacements for Tuesday’s round six Championship contest.
Club President Peter Rossborough whose Cov career began when he first wore the no.15 shirt in 1967 was the oldest of the legends’ group and also the most ‘capped’ having represented his home city club 368 times.
He was joined in the group that presented shirts to ten backs by former fly half Matt Gallagher (100 games) plus centres Jason Minshull (230 games) and Mick Curtis (204 games) all of whom played most of their rugby in the 1990s when Cov were based at Coundon Road.
Hyde echoed the sentiment expressed by all seven Cov legends when he said a connection exists between former Coventry players of all generations.
“Generations change and the game of rugby has changed since we all played but the core of it is that we all bleed blue and white,” he said.
“Just like us the current players go out there, really enjoy it and give everything for the club and the city which is an amazing feeling and that tradition continues.
“Being back here today feels just like it did when we were playing – you can feel the excitement in the room in the run-up to the big game on Boxing Day.
“You end up curtailing your Christmas a bit to make sure you’re ready for the game, but like when we played the atmosphere will be amazing and it’s all worth it if you get a win at the end of it.”
Tickets for Coventry’s Championship clash with Nottingham on Boxing Day are available from: https://www.coventryrugby.co.uk/tickets/matchday-tickets/