BRENDAN Burke is no stranger to the Butts Park Arena having played in Coventry’s first ever game there and after returning as player-coach for the 2016/17 season, Burke is confident the current crop of players can compete with the best in National League One.
The 34-year-old has returned as player-backs coach for next season having played against Irish Province back in August 2004, a year after featuring in the pre-season game between the two sides at the club’s old site Coundon Road.
Burke went on to make 174 appearances for Bedford during a six-and-a-half year spell and he also helped Ampthill win promotion to National League One in his first season of coaching.
He repeated that feat with Cambridge last season by playing an instrumental role as they won the National League Two South title, but Burke has revealed he will be watching more from touchline in a coaching capacity after joining Coventry this summer.
He said: “I’ve had a couple of bad injuries over the last couple of years which, with work, has made it hard to get ready for games every Saturday, so I probably won’t be involved so much as a player as in other years, but really I don’t think they will need me – the back line and development players we have are certainly good enough to do well in National One.
“I’ll be there in reserve and I’ll show them up at training – in a game of touch, I’ll be fine.”
Burke arrives at the Butts Park Arena with a wealth of knowledge having worked under some the great coaches in rugby in a professional career spanning more than a decade.
“In my first year with Leinster I was coached by the Australian international Gary Ella, who was very good, and after that Declan Kidney came in and then Michael Cheika,” he continued.
“I had Mike Rayer as well at Bedford, so I’ve had some very good coaches down the years.
“Go back to basics is the way I coach – if you get those right, everything else will sort itself out,” he said. “Rugby is a very simple game if you do the basics well, it opens everything up.
“Catch, hands, pass. If you can do that perfectly, which we’ll work on a lot in pre-season – and I’ll literally just go back to basics, nothing complicated – you’ve pretty much won the game.”
Rowland Winter was hired as Coventry’s new director of rugby and after previously working with Burke at Cambridge, he was quick to reunite the pair again at the Butts Park Arena and Burke revealed is was a ‘no-brainer’ to make the move back to the West Midlands.
He added: “This will be my third year of coaching and I’m really looking forward to it. There was no way really that I was going to turn it down.
“We started recruiting quite a long time ago, picking the right type of players for how you want to play is important.
“I think we have got a good squad together, but then again individuals don’t win games and we have got to make sure the whole back line gets it together and plays the right way.
“We have got to be patient. It’s a very new squad, and where some sides gel straight away, some may take a bit longer.
“The main aim is to play some good and enjoyable rugby that the fans can sit back and appreciate, and hopefully get the crowds coming back to Coventry in the way they used to be ten or 15 years ago, and if we get the wins we’ll be happy with that.”