STALWART hooker Matt Price has been with Coventry every step of the way through their seven seasons in National League One.
And, very much the elder statesman of the current squad in playing terms with 171 appearances, added to his role as head of the thriving community rugby programme he is well positioned to look at the then and now of the club.
“I remember how things were when I had my first chat with Phil Maynard and Dave Addleton in the summer of 2010, and when I agreed to sign I think I was only the fourth person in the squad – that was it,” said Price, who turned 34 last month. “It’s come a long way from there.
“The business as a whole has moved on so far and a lot of people behind the scenes have got to take credit for that. We’re in a position now where we are one of the leading clubs in this league, and we just need to replicate that on the pitch to compete the job.”
Price is justifiably proud of the way the community programme has grown and the work being done in local schools by the players involved.
“In terms of the numbers of children we’ve coached, the amount of schools we’ve been into and the hours we deliver per month, I worked it out that from September four years ago, when we first started, there has been a 2,099 per cent increase which is massive.
“The community team has grown from eight coaches last year to 15, including myself, and this season we’ll have coached just over 10,000 children across Coventry and Warwickshire.
“We’re in the process of structuring next season, it’s important to make sure that all areas are looked after adequately and we continue to grow and improve. The lads all enjoy it.”
Price will continue as head of community rugby next season and has no intention of hanging up his playing boots just yet while acknowledging that his role in the squad might be a little different.
“I’ve always said that if I can impact a squad and be a real force in some way or another, then I’ll continue to play as long as my body will let me,” he said.
“I haven’t started as many games this year as I have done in the past, but that’s probably not a bad thing, and I think whenever I have come on I’ve made an impact.
“There’s a certain role for me within the club that I’m looking forward to doing – bringing on the likes of Scott Tolmie and Willie Priestley, working with these guys on certain areas of their game.
“A lot has changed from whenever another hooker turned up and I’d be scrapping with them to now working with these guys to develop their games as much as concentrating on my own.”
Has he thought about the possibility of joining Coventry’s 200 Club next season?
“Not really – others have spoken about it to me a bit and it’s something I would like to achieve, but only in the right way.
“I don’t think it would do justice to the shirt, and the likes of Dave Addleton and Tony Gulliver who did it the hard way, if I just got there by playing five minutes here or there – I want to get there by warranting it first and foremost and feeling that I deserve it. That’s important to me.
“If that doesn’t happen and I don’t get there, it doesn’t matter – I’ve represented the shirt the best I can.”
An undoubted highlight for Price this season was captaining the internationally renowned Penguins for the first time in their game against Cambridge University.
“Whenever I’ve represented the Penguins it has been a highlight – they’re a great organisation, they do a lot of good work around the world in terms of coaching, going into certain areas where you wouldn’t expect anyone to go.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to possibly doing in the future.
“Whenever you captain a side that’s made up of international, Championship and National One players it’s pretty special.”
For the present, however, Price is focused solely on a strong finish to the current season.
“Next season is going to come, but we’ve got to concentrate on how we finish this season and we can’t look any further than Blaydon away this weekend.
“We’ve never won up there and they’ll be on a high after beating Moseley last week, so we have to go up there with the right attitude and put to bed some of the doubts questions about our away form and how we travel.
“It’s such a cliché, but there are no easy games in this league and there are challenges every week which mean you have to always be on your mettle.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction. There’s a lot of work goes into what the supporters see on Saturdays.
“We’re at a time when it can be a little bit difficult with boys going through contract talks and we’re still in a way finding out who we are.
“To beat Moseley at home just before Christmas was massive and we’ve had some real big performances, but if you want to compete at the top of the league you have got to be consistently good and that’s the biggest thing we’ve now got to get as a squad.
“I’m loving it – the boys are all good lads and want to be challenging at the top, and if we get the consistency, we’ll do that.”