The ‘local boy made good’ storyline may be a staple of paperback novels, but sadly in the real world very few translate fiction into reality.
However, Cov centre Rob Knox, who is a Coundon Court and Barkers Butts product, has over the last five years managed exactly that.
In generations past, the Warwickshire rugby conveyor belt served Cov (and England) outstandingly well. But at least for the time being, 26-year-old Knox is the only true – and extremely proud – Coventrian in the blue-and-whites’ senior squad.
“We have a few development players who are from Coventry, and I suppose I’ll let Will Maisey be a Cov skin, even though he’s from Kenilworth,” he says with a smile.
“For me it’s very rewarding being part of what’s happening here at my local club, and seeing where it is all going. I am hugely proud – I don’t want to sound cliched but it’s an honour and a real privilege for me.
“I’ve been here nearly five years, and at first it was about being a rugby player. But as time has gone by, being at a club in my own city, where all my friends and family come and watch has become increasingly important.
“I have made some really close friends both in the current squad and among players who have now left, and with how things are now going at the club, being a rugby player here is at least as important to me as being a rugby player.”
Knox looks quizzical when I point out that he is something of a throwback. But his route into Cov ranks would have been as commonplace in the 1970’s as it is rare in the current day.
“I was late to rugby as I was football through and through until I was 14 or 15,” he begins. “I went to Barkers Butts because my friends from Coundon Court were there, and ended up playing in their colts then first team until I was 21.
“I was very lucky with how Cov came about. Pete Glackin, who was backs coach here then, also helped out at Barkers, and in December 2013 he invited me to have a game for the Nighthawks.
“I thought nothing of it at the time – it was just a game of rugby in which a few of my mates were playing -but I had a good last 20 minutes. I then trained for the next three weeks on a Tuesday while still playing at Barkers, until I was chucked in at the deep end playing outside centre away at Cinderford.
“I remember being very proud, but also trying hard not to over-think it – which nearly worked against me. I only had moulded boots at the time, and on the bus everyone was saying how bad the pitch is there, so I thought I’d ruined it before I’d even started. Thankfully I got through it and had an alright game.
“I was a student at Cov Uni back then, doing a sports science degree, and also helping out a friend who had just started his own business doing loft conversions. A year later I was still working all day then coming to training, but I was then offered a new contract at which point I decided I really wanted to focus on rugby so when a chance came up to do some coaching I took it.”
Knox is relishing his club’s move into a more full-time working environment, and while he isn’t quite in the ‘old dog’ category yet, you sense the ‘new tricks’ are being eagerly absorbed.
“The professionalism brought in over the last few years has made a huge difference,” he confirms. “Everything from medical support to gym to training has much more structure.
“It’s gone from a typical Tuesday and Thursday nights arrangement into having a lot more time together. This enables us to prepare much better in every area from conditioning to rehab to analysis.
“That has changed my approach hugely over the last couple of years, and I have really benefitted from it. For instance, I had a lot of injury problems in the past, whereas now I know how to stop the hamstring issues which kept recurring. I now recognise the signs and know how to prevent them getting worse.
“The extra time spent on analysis using the new software we have has also really benefitted me. Having the likes of Walshey or Deacs in your ear is very helpful individually and also for us as a team. Everything we do is about making us better players, it is why we’re here.”
Knox is sampling life in the Championship for the first time, and despite acknowledging the step-up in intensity Cov’s promotion has brought, he believes it is far from unmanageable.
“There were games last year and in previous seasons which weren’t that dissimilar in level,” he says.
“Overall it has been a step up in physicality and in the speed of the game. From an attacking perspective there are less opportunities which emphasises the need to be more clinical.
“You can tell teams are more organised, and because of the quality of their analysis and the amount they train there’s more structure, but there are opportunities out there which we are very capable of taking.
“It hasn’t been a shock to us, as we knew what to expect. We’re certainly not feeling out of our depth. The seven tries we scored against Carnegie felt like they’d been coming for a few weeks.
“The boys did a good job up at Doncaster and we didn’t get the result we possibly deserved. Last week showed that when we work hard and deliver what we have practiced and talked about the results will come.”