Waking up on Tuesday morning I feel that the majority of Coventry fans would have been relieved to find that Leon Clarke, Carl Baker, Callum Wilson and Cyrus Christie remained with the club. Additionally we also found that the remaining three members of the ‘bomb squad’ had parted company with the club. Given our transfer restrictions of late this now gives us extra room to maneuver in the forthcoming loan window as well as with free transfers. It also marked the end of three players’ Coventry careers who each had a very different time of it from the others.
Kevin Malaga was probably the most welcomed departure from the squad. That he was given a reported 3 year contract despite having played only a handful of senior matches at 25 years old says a lot about how poorly run this football club has been. Featuring in just 2 league matches in his season at the club and transfer listed just under 3 months into his Coventry career he has proved an expensive waste of money, time and space at the club. Perhaps there was something there deserving of a 3 year deal, we’ll never know simply because we didn’t see enough of him to judge.
Steven Jennings was probably the most surprising member of the bomb squad when it was announced. Having played an integral part of the club’s season although underwhelming ever so slightly it was a genunine shock to see Pressley decide that he didn’t have what it takes to be part of the squad this season. Perhaps his wages relative to his squad status dictated the decision, not being overpaid yet too expensive as a bench warmer. At times last season I felt as if Jennings only needed more discipline positionally to become top defensive midfielder for this level. However Pressley’s style of football clearly doesn’t accomodate a spoiler in midfield with a limited passing range, anyway Conor Thomas and John Fleck’s performances this season have so far justified the decision to freeze Jennings out of the first team squad.
So we move onto the exit of one of the club’s few iconic players post-2001, Gary McSheffrey. Aside from perhaps Michael Doyle there hasn’t been many players as loyal and as regularly seen in the starting line-up since our Premiership relegation than local lad McSheffrey. During the zenith of Mickey Adams’s reign McSheffrey played a vital role with his pace, energy and finishing on the left side of the front three. His departure the first-time round was a genuinely gut-wrenching, heart-breaking moment for me. Not only had he played so well but it felt like watching a fan playing for the club rather than simply someone playing for their wages.
His return under Boothroyd felt low key in contrast to his previous departure. A bright start with Birmingham was followed by years of struggle both with the Blues and away on loan to Forest and Leeds. There was still hope that a return to his hometown club could reignite the McSheffrey of old. However perhaps his usage as a more orthodox left midfielder or it was a lack of that spark which once made you proud to watch him but it was clear that this was a different more jaded McSheffrey to accompany a Coventry side losing hope of ever returning to the Premiership.
There were though glimpses and hopes that he might be able to inspire an ailing Sky Blues over the past few seasons. His role in a dramatic win over Leeds which sparked life into a hopeless Championship relegation battle springs to mind. His role providing balance on the left during our good spell under Robins last season was also a highlight of his return to the club.
However for some reason the ‘boo boys’ at the Ricoh Arena soon picked him out as our play-off challenge fizzled out. He’d changed from being like a fan on the pitch to the new Chris Hussey in these peoples’ eyes. Perhaps it was a sense of frustration that the McSheffrey and Coventry of old was long gone maybe it was a few notable misses during games which could have provided momentum for our attempt at the play-offs. Soon enough accusations towards McSheffrey’s off-field behaviour became louder and used as a stick to beat him with. You could also tell that Pressley had sensed this dissatisfaction at McSheffrey’s performances and had to leave him out as an act of mercy, he’d reached the point of no return.
Perhaps like Chris Hussey now performing well at a new club McSheffrey can overcome his torrid spell at the club and recapture something of his past or be free to develop his new on-field persona at a new club where he has now baggage. I’ll watch with intrigue as to where he finds his new pastures with part of me hoping against hope that it isn’t too late for McSheffrey to make a meaningful impact at a club.
Ultimately though our focus is now on what Pressley can now do with the resources he has available after the departure of his unwanted 7. All the players who left were because they weren’t wanted at the club, which is something I didn’t expect to be saying. Pressley has shown himself to be a good judge of both playing ability and character and now should be allowed to operate under his own terms with his own squad to hopefully make something of a season that promised little from the very outset.