In every possible sense now, we must move on as a club from the events of last season. SISU need to accept their defeat in the courtrooms and find a way to get the back into the city, either at the Ricoh or at a new stadium. We have to accept that a number of our star players from last season have left the club to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Pressley needs to find a new style of play that will suit his new playing resources for the next season.
For many, the events of this summer have been viewed as having a largely negative impact on the club. There can be no doubt that the prospect of another season at Sixfields with a smaller budget than last season is not the ideal scenario by a long shot. But for us to be successful this season we need to accept our circumstances, and perhaps use them to our advantage or at least maximise what we can get out of them.
This time last season there was a similar, if not greater, sense of doom and gloom both around the club and concerning the first-team squad. We had lost Mark Robins just months before the prior season had ended, Steven Pressley was regarded as something of an unknown quantity and we had last around 5 or 6 players who were first choice last season. No-one expected us to be able to be as competitive as we were for much of last season, especially when a 10 point deduction was dished out against the club. Yet somehow it seemed that the team was better in many areas than the more expensively assembled one from the past season.
In a way the club had been viewed using its financial and footballing resources in an ineffective manner for many season prior to the 2013/14 season. We had players like Callum Wilson, Jordan Willis and Connor Thomas as well as Danny Philliskirk, who were sitting in the reserves and not even close to making the first-team. Looking at the squad now, it seems as if there isn’t the same level of quality or quantity in the ‘development’ squad. But in a similar vein, we haven’t seen enough of players like Lee Burge, Aaron Phillips and Ryan Haynes to judge whether they are deserving of first-team status. It could be that they have been unable to get into the first-team due to the perceived value of experienced players ahead of them.
One of the features of supporting a football team, especially in the lower leagues, that very few seem able to accept is that your best players leave, almost on a season-by-season basis. The best case scenario is that you can get the highest possible fee, which can then be reinvested in the squad. Losing Franck Moussa, Cyrus Christie, Joe Murphy and Blair Adams on free transfers is hardly an ideal way to run a football club, these players should all have been commanding a minimum of £500k each in today’s transfer market. However the reality is that the changing economy of English football is increasingly orientated towards free transfers, why spend £500k on Cyrus Christie when you could get Lee Peliter on a free transfer?
Luckily we have a manager is all too used to this scenario, having cut his managerial teeth in Scotland where this has been happening for much longer than in England. Take the example of Farid El Alagui, he was a trialist at Falkirk after a spell in amateur French football. Pressley took a gamble on an unknown player by offering him a one-year deal. After scoring 18 goals in his first season, El Alagui signed for Brentford for free. This left Pressley in the same scenario where he was the previous summer, what did he do? He took another gamble on a trialist who had struggled to impress at League Two level, Lyle Taylor. Falkirk fans would have surely seen Taylor as a downgrade on their previous hero El Alagui, however Pressley found a way to exploit Taylor’s strengths as a forward, he eventually scored 29 goals with Falkirk before leaving for Sheffield United.
When you lose your best players for nothing, it’s not the end of the world. With the transfer market as it is, there will always be quality players available for free. There’s also the element of being forced to use your existing playing squad in a smarter manner. Necessity is the mother of invention. Pressley build the team last season around that very principle, combining Leon Clarke’s link-up play with Callum Wilson’s pace as well as Fleck and Jordan Clarke’s passing ability. Yet had we been able to be more active in the transfer market, perhaps Wilson would have been released, we certainly wouldn’t have played Jordan Clarke at centre-back.
Arguably having such talented players in the squad such as Leon Clarke and Franck Moussa, who could produce something out of nothing. Meant that other players didn’t have to step up, or that we could defend with much less concentration, or that we didn’t have to control games as much to win them. Pressley, like last season, has the chance to make the collective of the team much stronger than last season now that he doesn’t have to accommodate the talents of 4 or 5 star players. He can focus on building the team around either Callum Wilson or John Fleck. Without a transfer embargo and some room for in the wage budget, he can focus on bringing more committed players who won’t shirk responsibility during tough times.
To close this article, the situation we are in is far from ideal. Where there’s crisis, there are opportunities. We were in a similar scenario last season and Pressley found a way to build a side that could possibly have made the play-offs. If I could chose any Coventry manager from the past and present to manage this situation, Pressley would be my first-choice, he has the experience of having to constantly rebuild his first-team during his time with Falkirk. What’s more, we don’t start the season on -10 points, we have the opportunity to use the first weeks of the season as a bedding-in period. Sure we had some great players last season, but it’s time to accept their gone and find a new way to win games and enjoy the football as we did last season.