Preview: Walsall

Not that it really matters much now, but the performance on Monday against Rochdale was, by many accounts, one of the worst in what has been a terrible season for the club. With nothing to play for now, we head into the last home game of the season with the focus primarily on what’s going to be a long and arduous summer for the club – Wembley already seems like a distant memory.

Possible Line-Up

Although performances and results don’t really matter at the moment from a fans’ perspective, Robins still has important lessons to learn about his team from these final few games. Perhaps it was beneficial to have been reminded on Monday just where this set of players are weak, having already learnt what their strengths are during the recent run of wins.

It isn’t helpful that Robins hasn’t been able to pick from a fully-fit squad, but it has provided him an opportunity to look at the various options available to him. Presuming that Stuart Beavon, Kwame Thomas, George Thomas, Ruben Lameiras, Jodi Jones and Kyel Reid are all fit for this game, Robins has a difficult decision to make over the complexion of his attacking line-up. In defence, it would be useful to focus on players who will be around for next year – although it’s likely that Robins won’t have as much control over who stays and goes as he might like.

Last Time We Met

It was in the midst of that upturn in form under Mark Venus when opposition managers were commenting on us that we wouldn’t be around the relegation zone for long that we faced Walsall at the Bescot Stadium. A decent first-half performance saw us take the lead via Andy Rose, only for a typical wonder goal from Walsall’s Erhun Oztumer to earn the home side a share of the points after they produced an improved second-half performance and possibly should have gone on to win the game.

How Are They Doing?

Having lost almost the entirety of a squad that narrowly missed out on automatic promotion last season, Walsall fans should really be content with a comfortable mid-table finish given that’s really about par for a club of their resources. However, with some of the players they had been able to recruit over the summer and some decent runs of form over the campaign, there’s also a genuine sense that they should really have been able to at least trouble the play-offs.

There are doubts surrounding manager Jon Whitney who stepped up from his role as physio to manager last season following Sean O’Driscoll’s disastrous reign at the club. The main bone of contention from Walsall fans is the sense that he’s tactically naive and has been unable to make the most of the talent at his disposal. Nonetheless, a switch to a back three formation around January led to an excellent run of form and suggested that Whitney was learning the ropes as a manager.

While the diminutive attacking midfielder Erhun Oztumer is the star of this side – he’s scored 14 and assisted seven this season despite being in and out of the team at times – Walsall have several other useful attacking players that have meant they’ve been able to get results when their star man hasn’t been picked. Winger/attacking midfielder Kieron Morris has been in good form of late, Franck Moussa has intermittently demonstrated the inspiration he showed during his time with the Sky Blues, and the playmaker Florent Cuvelier has had a strong season in midfield after overcoming injury issues that have previously dogged his career.

As mentioned earlier, a switch to a back three enabled Walsall to produce their best form of the season between January and February. Key to that working has been the form of wing-backs Jason McCarthy on the right and Joe Edwards on the left. Remarkably, neither McCarthy or Edwards are natural wing-backs, with the former having played much of his career in central defence and the latter being a right-footed central midfielder. Nonetheless, they have supplied the width and energy required to make a back three a truly effective formation.

Another key player for Walsall this season has been Neil Etheridge in goal, one of few survivors from last season’s team. However, Etheridge has missed the past few games with injury which could well mean that he has already played his last game for the club. In his stead has been Craig MacGillivray who has had to be patient in waiting for an opportunity after arriving at the club around three years ago and has been solid in his recent appearances for the side.

Prediction

This is a game between two teams with little to play for – we’re already down and Walsall are safely ensconced in mid-table. That being said, Walsall have been able to pick up results over the past few weeks to demonstrate that they’re not already on the proverbial beach, while Mark Robins has shown since he came back that he’s not going to tolerate a dip in standards despite our fate having looked already sealed.

Nonetheless, the mentality of either side heading into this game is up for question and it’s going to make it a difficult game to predict. I’m hopeful though that our players will maintain the effort they’ve shown in the recent home games and the should be enough to win this. I’m calling this as a 1-0 win for us.

Preview: Walsall

Two wins of differing quality in a week and we’re starting to look like a team that could quickly move up the table. It’s fair to say that we had our fair slice of fortune against both Oxford and Rochdale, but it was pleasing to see the team apply themselves with so much dedication in order to ensure that we held onto six very valuable points.

This not-really-or-maybe-it-is-derby against Walsall is going to be a good indicator of this team’s ability to pull away from danger. There was pressure to get the wins last week, whereas a defeat in this game wouldn’t be such a disaster. It’s one thing motivating yourself for a game where you absolutely have to win, but being able to summon up the levels of concentration and determination on a week-to-week basis is going to be the difference between a season of struggle and pushing towards the higher reaches of this division.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

A massive part of last week’s victories was a sense of continuity in team selection and formation. However, the injury to Chris McCann may force Mark Venus to make a tactical shift, especially after Ruben Lameiras made the difference against Rochdale when shifted into a central position. As well as Lameiras played last week, the overall performance wasn’t good and losing the presence of McCann in the centre of the park contributed to that. It’s a genuine dilemma whether Venus maintains tactical continuity or makes changes to get the best out of one player.

Elsewhere, we’re probably going to be looking at a settled side. The defence is improving, without looking fully convincing, thanks to Jordan Willis really stepping up to the plate over the past few games. The balance of the front three of Sordell, Agyei and Lameiras doesn’t feel quite right, but it seems better to stick with a winning side rather than make changes in the elusive search for improvement.

Last Time We Met

Our meetings against Walsall last season saw us up against what was probably the best footballing team in the division over the course of the campaign. A trip to the Bescot on one of the last hot days of summer 2015 saw the Saddlers teach a Sky Blues side high on confidence after winning its first three league games a footballing lesson, pretty much playing us off the park in a 2-1 scoreline that flattered us.

It was much closer at the Ricoh Arena back in January of this year where Tony Mowbray’s Sky Blues were the better team for around 60 minutes, taking the lead via a Chris Stokes header from a Joe Cole set-piece, but crucially failing to add to that slender advantage. An attempt to sit on that lead was undone when a classic Walsall combination from last season earned the Saddlers a point, the mercurial Romaine Sawyers switched the play to the enterprising Rico Henry, who had the freedom of the left-side of the pitch, Henry’s cross was then turned home by the goal-poacher Tom Bradshaw.

How Are They Doing?

Like ourselves, Walsall have had to completely rebuild their team following a failure to secure promotion and have been inconsistent for much of this season, although to a lesser extent than the Sky Blues. Manager Jon Whitney stepped up from caretaker manager towards the end of last season but is still to fully convince as a manager in his own right, constantly making big tactical and personnel changes from game-to-game.

Walsall have however found some form in recent weeks and have lost just once in the last nine games. While that run seems to be related to Whitney playing a more settled side, it’s fair to say that the decision to sign Erhun Oztumer to replace Romaine Sawyers has played a large role too.

Although both Oztumer and Sawyers occupy the ‘sometimes misunderstood, mercurial, lower-league playmaker unlikely to ever fully fulfill their potential but will be all the memorable for it’ role, the two are as contrasting as it’s possible to be within that spectrum. The lanky Sawyers dictated play from high up the pitch, providing momentum and openings for other players to score goals The tiny Oztumer is more interested in the spectacular, shooting from ridiculous distances and taking risks most other players wouldn’t even think of taking. Oztumer has seven goals and three assists already this season, Sawyers managed five goals and eight assists in the entirety of last season.

Despite a summer exodus, a combination of smart recruitment and players already at the club stepping up has given Walsall a squad bountiful in useful attacking options. Academy-produced youngster Kieron Morris has built on a decent supporting role last season with three goals and two assists as a regular starter this time around.  Franck Moussa is someone Sky Blues fans will know all too well, a player on that Oztumer-Sawyers spectrum, who frustrates you until he goes out and wins a game on his own.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Walsall also have another, less fondly remembered, former Coventry City player in their ranks in Simeon Jackson. The decision to replace Tom Bradshaw with the Canadian forward was roundly mocked but Jackson has five league goals to his name this season which probably suggests he was a victim of poor service during his season at the Ricoh Arena. The giant Amadou Bakyoko has stepped up from the academy after several nondescript non-league loan spells over the years and has provided an alternative figurehead in attack from time-to-time. There’s also record signing Andreas Makris to call upon, but he’s struggled for form since arriving in the Black Country from Cyprus this summer.

Walsall’s defence this season has been the least functioning part of the team, with Whitney’s predilection for tinkering leading to some disjointed performances. Centre-backs Jason McCarthy and Kevin Toner have regularly been used at full-back, but the leadership of James O’Connor and the goalkeeping exploits of Neil Etheridge have seen things settle down defensively for Walsall in recent weeks.

Prediction

This is quite a strong Walsall side but one that can be beaten if we play with cohesion, and get some luck along the way. Given the different manners of the wins last week, there’s no reason to not to believe that we can’t make it three wins in a row but it still feels like there are defensive errors waiting to happen and our attack is still far from convincing.

I’m going to sit on the fence with this one and predict a 1-1 draw.

Coventry City Must Move On

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.

We never thought we could replace McGoldrick, but Leon was okay wasn't he?

We never thought we could replace McGoldrick, but Leon was okay wasn’t he?

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?

Farid El Alagui and Pressley looking inseparable. Both moved on to better things just months later.

Farid El Alagui and Pressley looking inseparable. Both moved on to better things just months later.

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.

Season In Review: Part 1

Now that the season is over I take the time to look over Coventry City’s 2013/14, a season of joy and frustration as the club attempted to overcome various off-the-field worries and compete in League One. This review is an attempt to chart the campaign for Coventry City and pinpoint what went right and wrong over the course of the season.

Coventry began the season under a cloud and playing outside of the city at Sixfields in Northampton.

Coventry began the season under a cloud and playing outside of the city at Sixfields in Northampton.

Coventry City’s season began with the news that the club had been docked 10 points after a part of the club’s seemingly complex company structure was liquidated following a bitter rent dispute with the city council. The fiasco surrounding the club’s row over a rental agreement at the Ricoh Arena also meant that the team would be playing over 30 miles outside of the city at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium and was operating under a transfer embargo enforced by the Football League. Furthermore there were question marks over manager Steven Pressley’s managerial ability with the Scot having won 3 out of his 10 league games in charge and experimenting with various starting line-ups and a passing style of football.

Pressley had spent the summer trying to ignore the off-field troubles that the club had endured, attempting to build a younger, more dynamic first-team to match his footballing philosophy. The main departures over the summer were Gary McSheffrey after an underwhelming second spell at the club, Richard Wood, a sometimes commanding centre-back and Steven Jennings, a ball-winning midfielder who had endured a mixed season at the club. With no signings brought in for the opening fixture of the season with Crawley, senior players like Carl Baker, Joe Murphy and Leon Clarke were set to play a key role in leading the club through what looked set to be a difficult season.

After falling behind to two goals in the opening 20 minutes, Coventry City fans could be forgiven for having that sinking feeling that comes when you feel your team is doomed. However a second-half fight-back with goals from promising striker Callum Wilson and the inconsistent Franck Moussa levelled the game with 10 minutes to go. Yet inexperience at the back with youth-teamer Jordan Willis partnering the right-back Jordan Clarke in the centre of defence cost the Sky Blues a point with Crawley eventually finding a winner through Mike Jones.

Billy Daniels's late goal won Coventry their first game of the season 5-4 against Bristol City.

Billy Daniels’s late goal won Coventry their first game of the season 5-4 against Bristol City.

A League Cup tie in mid-week against Leyton Orient followed a similar pattern with the Sky Blues losing 3-2 once again with the game turning around a Leon Clarke missed penalty and a reckless Carl Baker red card. Going into the dreaded occasion of the club’s first ‘home’ game outside of the city against recently relegated Bristol City, it seemed like the team were once again set to play the role of unlucky losers in a similar fashion to Andy Thorn’s side who were relegated from the Championship two seasons before. Yet something miraculous seemed to happen to counter the misery and sense of doom above many Coventry City fan’s heads. The team raced into a 3 goal lead against the Robins with Leon Clarke and then Callum Wilson and Billy Daniels scoring in what was a display of furious pressing from a young Coventry side. Bristol City managed to wipe out Coventry’s advantage with 3 goals of their own resulting from unlucky deflections and poor defending from the Sky Blues. However the team didn’t let their heads drop with Wilson scoring almost straight from the kick-off and Billy Daniels heading in the eventually winner in stoppage time to seal the team’s first win of the season.

Pressley had seemed to have delivered on his promise over the first 6 months of his reign when he talked of building a small squad that will play a hard-pressing and passing style of football. None of the players released over the summer seemed necessary in the tight unit that he had forged. His two eventual signings over the summer complemented the team and improved it, Andy Webster added experience and an aerial presence to the backline and Mathieu Manset was the perfect impact sub with his height and strength. Coventry followed up their impressive win over Bristol City with a comfortable thrashing of Carlisle at Brunton Park, the team seemed set to wipe out their points deduction in record time.

Preston were next up for the Sky Blues in the second game at Sixfields. Simon Grayson’s robust and competitive side appeared to be Coventry’s toughest opponents of the campaign thus far and took the lead in the 10th minute. Leon Clarke’s equaliser 15 minutes later saw Coventry somewhat fortunately make it to the break level. Preston regained the lead from a set-piece but Wilson levelled 6 minutes later. Wilson improved his early season goal-scoring record by giving the side a lead with 7 minutes left on the clock. However the team seemed to get a bit cocky with one too many passes as the crowd ‘oled’ at their football, Preston struck a hammer blow against the Sky Blues with 2 goals with time running out. Somehow Steven Pressley’s team found a way to snatch another late goal through Mathieu Manset to take a point in another heart-stopping game of football at Sixfields.

Coventry moved into positive points thanks to a brace from Callum Wilson against Colchester at Sixfields.

Coventry moved into positive points thanks to a brace from Callum Wilson against Colchester at Sixfields.

A trip to Shrewsbury seemed like the perfect chance for Coventry to move into positive points. However a low-key display where the team struggled to build on an early Callum Wilson goal saw the Sky Blues remain on negative points after conceding early in the second-half. Two ‘home’ games in a row against Colchester and then Gillingham saw Coventry move into positive points and then out of the bottom 4. Against a makeshift Colchester side, Coventry demonstrated poise and control to comfortably win 2-0 with Wilson scoring each of the goals. Against more dogged opposition in Gillingham the Sky Blues eventually scored a late winner after ex-striker Cody McDonald had cancelled out Leon Clarke’s early goal.

Going into a trip to Vale Park the team were brimming full of confidence and looking to surge up the table and make it a memorable season. Callum Wilson was yet again on the scoresheet as the Sky Blues were looking to give a sizeable travelling contingent something to cheer about. Port Vale, managed by former manager Micky Adams, snatched an equaliser via a hopeful punt seized upon by Tom Pope. Franck Moussa scored a sensational goal form long-range to restore Coventry’s advantage going into the break. A tactical change from the Valiants caught Coventry City cold in the second-half as Doug Loft and another former Sky Blue in Chris Birchall gave Port Vale what turned out to be a fully deserved 3 points.

Brentford's skill and physicality were too much for Coventry to handle as they slipped to a 2nd defeat in a row.

Brentford’s skill and physicality were too much for Coventry to handle as they slipped to a 2nd defeat in a row.

Brentford were Coventry’s next opponents at Sixfields, a venue where the team were unbeaten thus far in the season. However another naive display from Coventry saw Brentford win out easily by 2 goals. Coventry City’s defensive frailties were clear to see in the early weeks of the season, the team struggled to cope with physical opposition and were regularly undone by either set-pieces or long-balls. Another cup tie against Leyton Orient saw Coventry City lose on penalties to exit the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the first round. After 9 league games, Coventry were in the bottom 4 and had now failed to win in their past 3 games. Steven Pressley’s side needed wins to restore confidence and momentum ahead of a tough looking month of October.

City travelled to Stevenage in their following league fixture, one which was won after Leon Clarke seized on a poor back-pass to give the team all three points. The game was marred by an injury inflicted to Cyrus Christie which would rule him out of action for a month. Aside from Coventry’s front two, Christie had been one of the team’s key players, providing forward thrust with his entertaining runs from the right-back position. His two replacements were the inexperienced Jordan Willis and Aaron Phillips who had barely 10 league appearances between the two of them.

Callum Wilson and Leon Clarke combined superbly to see of Sheffield United at Sixfields.

Callum Wilson and Leon Clarke combined superbly to see off Sheffield United at Sixfields.

With the Sky cameras on them at Sixfields, Coventry built on their solid win over Stevenage with an enterprising performance against a managerless Sheffield United. It was an entertaining first 60 minutes for Coventry fans as Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson dovetailed brilliantly against a cumbersome Blades team featuring former striker Marlon King who put in a poor display. However the win was made more uncomfortable thanks to two goals from Lyle Taylor, a former Pressley player at Falkirk, which saw the Sky Blues nervously hold on to a 3-2 victory which should have been much more emphatic.

5 Things We Learned In September

Perhaps We’re Not One Of The Best Sides In The Division

We started this month as one of the form sides in League 1. In addition to that we also were breaking records on a game-by-game basis. First it was getting into a positive points tally, second it was getting off bottom of the table and then we (briefly) escaped the bottom 4. Prior to the Port Vale game many fans were wondering whether this team was not only one of the best sides in the division but one of the best sides we’ve had since relegation from the Premiership. It seemed that we were even starting to keep clean sheets and control games with possession, as opposed to the mad goal rushes of August. However after finishing September with back-to-back defeats, sinking back into the bottom 4, questions about how brilliant we actually were are starting to be asked. Our wins this season came at Bristol City (currently without a win this season), Carlisle (who were had conceded around 10 goals at that moment in time), Colchester (who barely had 11 fit players to choose from) and Gillingham (who were also winless when we played them). Up against sides not undergoing serious confidence issues are record was much poorer, losing to Crawley, Port Vale and Brentford as well as drawing in that mad-cap Preston match. The truth probably lies somewhere in between us being awesome or terrible, at the moment though we’re yet to prove ourselves against a genuinely good side (except perhaps Preston) and any outside hopes of promotion are going to need the side to improve on what they already are.

Squad Depth Is Our Achilles Heel

It was apparant on the opening day of the season and after releasing every member of the ‘bomb squad’ we were told there was room to sign players and improve the squad depth. So far for the 12 first-team players who left in the summer only 3 players have been signed, that includes Stuart Urquhart clearly signed as a reserve not to be seen in first-team action any time soon. A deal for Blackburn winger Fabio Nunes fell through and the squad remains very light. Sunday’s problems against Brentford were perhaps caused by a lack of a genuine option on the right-flank, Baker and Daniels were both out injured and Barton, lacking confidence after one or two hefty early challenges, did not provide an adequate level of performance being asked for by Pressley. Looking deeper and the only option that Pressley really has on the bench to change a game is Manset, the rest are either untried youngsters or more defensive options. Manset is also someone who doesn’t appear to be able to play a full 90 minutes should Leon Clarke or Callum Wilson pick up an injury, by the way Leon has clearly being playing through some sort of injury anyway. In an ideal world Pressley would be able to add 2 or 3 players to the squad and it sounds like he’s trying to add at least one but our prospects this season depend heavily on not sustaining injuries or selling key players.

Our Best Form Of Attack Is Defence

Adding on to the opening point the best performances so far this season have came when we’ve been able to dominate the opposition. This may sound logical but whenever opponents have been able to sustain spells of pressure (even for 10 or 15 minutes) they have been able to score goals, usually from sloppy mistakes from our defenders. With a young side sometimes you have to accept they make mistakes and move on hoping they improve. When it’s been happening with such regularity you have to ask questions of the management and organisation of the team on the pitch. We’ve been trying to attack with both full-backs even when the opposition have been dominating us. At times this has worked in a ‘fortune favours the brave’ fashion and the approach is genuinely commendable over some of the more pragmatic approaches we’ve seen in the past. It does leave us exposed at the back with major gaps for opposing strikers to run into. It’s hard though to truly recommend that this approach be tailored as thus far when we’ve been bold we’ve usually been scoring and when we’ve tried to hold onto leads by being defensive we’ve conceded. Perhaps a change to a back 3 or slightly more cautious or possesion based approach to defending may be needed in future.

Joy Has A Corporeal Form

Last week saw a landmark in SISU’s tenure at the club, the previously invisible owner Joy Seppala showed her face, well at least to a select number of fans and journalists. What this shows to me is that SISU care about the club, at least making a success of it rather than casting it off like a pair of old jeans. However it’s become clear that other people don’t see it that way and for the most part will not change their mind. It’s hard to convince this people what I believe, partially because I still remain cautious and take what’s being said with a pinch of salt but also because people are now very entrenched in their views. The scenes that some saw around Sixfields on Sunday are endemic of what’s happening more broadly with our fanbase. There is a clear division in the fanbase and it’s going to be tough imagining that there’ll be many in either faction willing to forgive what some people have been saying any time soon. The longer the situation goes in its current murky grey phase where there appears to be absolutely no movement on either side this only seems to get worse. For Coventry fans on the whole we can’t let this become personal otherwise there won’t be a club to support whenever it comes to a solution, we need to grow up, understand other people’s views and decisions and get on with supporting Coventry in whatever way we see fit.

Franck Scores Another Wonder Goal

Finishing on a more positive note let’s see that wonderful Franck Moussa goal against Port Vale again. For the most part it’s been very difficult treading the minefield that supporting Coventry City has become. There is nothing complicated though about enjoying an absolutely brilliant goal from Franck Moussa which saw us retake a deserved lead in the first half against Port Vale. He sometimes frustrates but he definately has a wonderful goal in his tank whenever the moment takes him, and it usually appears to be in front of large numbers of City away fans (remember that goal against Franchise FC last December).

Enjoy.

 

Thoughts On The Crawley Match

It’s hard to really envisage a worse start to a season than what we’re currently undergoing. At around 4pm on Saturday afternoon the difficulty and despair of the coming season had finally sunk in. Before a ball was kicked on Saturday we could reassure ourselves that despite off-field problems and the points deduction that the team itself was promising and that we could form a siege mentality. Then at around 3:15 the team conceded the first of two soft goals and the depth of our situation really sank home. It was similar to that sinking feeling we had on the first game of the season 2 years ago against Leicester when their goal went in. There’s something about the sight of seeing the ball roll into your team’s net that is almost indescribable and has no parallels elsewhere in life, perhaps it can be described as a softer version of that feeling you have when you realised you’ve been dumped by your now former partner. To put yourself through those kind of emotions 9 months every year says a lot about football fans, so much pain, so little reward.

But then those moments of desolation make triumph feel all the better. First Callum Wilson’s tap-in after Moussa’s run into the Crawley box and then Franck himself levelling it all up. I wasn’t at this game as I was at a friend’s party but even surrounded by half a dozen people who couldn’t care less about football I felt course to pump my fist in celebration and tell my disinterested friends of Coventry’s come-back.

And then once you come to terms with and accept the triumph, that feeling of coming back down to earth happens. That joy of a few moments ago is forgotten and the misery of defeat consumes you. It seems so Coventry to capitulate so often, so predictably but still so painfully, but from talking to and reading how other fans think of their clubs every football fan feels this kind of pain is particular to their own club.

Judging from the reaction of other fans though it seems that the regularity of disappointment, particularly over these past few seasons, never really seems to hit home, at least the regularity of it. You’d imagine that the feeling of defeat would just dullen over time, but it clearly hasn’t. I knew that any bad result for basically the rest of SISU’s ownership would be blamed on them somehow but the logic behind many of these fans’ reasoning was frankly baffling. What’s worse has been those who seem now to actively want the team to lose, firstly to prove themselves right vis-a-vis SISU and also apparantly to speed up the aforementioned hedge-fund’s departure. Lacking a understanding of their admittedly murky motives for owning the club.

Aside from that I think a lot of the footballing side of the last match was encouraging, from accounts that I’ve heard. After faced with a 15 point deduction and only getting 10, the chances of achieving something this season, including survival, seem emanantly more achievable. We’ll see what level this performance actually means in regards to the rest of the league but being so competitive with a team that nearly made the play-offs last year is very encouraging after all the doom-mongering from fans of the club as well as the outside media. Perhaps the sense that this is a team in crisis will encourage opposition sides to underestimate us, 5 Live definitely did in their pre-match summary of a team ‘containing mostly youth-team players’.

From the sounds of things if we had defended with greater solidity then we would have deserved to win the match. However given that 11/12 season still lurking in the background it’s difficult to fully compliment performances when they lack results. As a starting point it’s a good performance but there’s clearly grounds for improvement. Staying with the positives though I thought it was good to see Moussa involved with both goals, indicating that he’s adding the cutting edge that his game lacked at times last year. Callum Wilson scoring was also important, showing that we can depend on players aside from Leon Clarke and Baker to score goals. His finish, a tap-in, was well taken and he perhaps showed how he could have added to our team last season, we never really had an out-and-out goal-poacher. Also it’s good to see another academy player show that he’s building after an encouraging start to his career.

Next week it’s Leyton Orient away and then our first game at Sixfields against Bristol City. I’ll personally be attending the game in Northampton to show my support to the team in such a troubled time, those who aren’t I can understand why but wish it wasn’t the case. I’ve heard that apparantly liquidation over a CVA will speed up the process of leaving our transfer embargo and we might just see the first few of the 7 players that Pressley wants to sign.

Play Up Sky Blues.

Tales of Pre-Season

It seems strange to say this in July but we are now less than a week from the start of the new season. All this focus on the off-field shenanigans has meant that the actual team itself has received very little attention. For very genuine reasons it’s been nigh-on impossible to focus on the football itself, in fact the realisation that the season-opener was so soon only came to me these past few days. This post is an attempt to encapsulate what may have gone on under your sky blue radar over these past few months.

Trialists

I’ll start with the more obscure and less likely to sign players and then move on to the more well-known players as well as those who seem likely to join the the squad.

Israel – I know nothing about this player, have never heard of him or anything about his trial at the club. Apparantly he is a Spanish midfielder who used to play for Xerex. His advantage of being Spanish midfielder though hasn’t seemed to earned him a contract (or whatever might resemble a contract given our transfer embargo).

Daniel Orozco – Orozco is another Spaniard but not a midfielder, he’s a 6 foot 3 centre-back. After buying his own plane ticket to arrive in time for the last pre-season friendly he failed to impress and was taken off at half-time.

Fabio Martins – A Portuguese winger and ex-Porto youth player. Despite showing some flashes of quality against Fleetwood, he played against Mansfield and did enough to convince Pressley that he wasn’t worth a contract.

Craig Reid – Not the our former reserve striker who once played for Aldershot, Stevenage and Newport but a former Celtic youth-teamer with extensive experience in the lower Scottish leagues. At 5 foot 9 he may not be the most physically imposing player as a defender but he can play both at centre-back and right-back. Given some of the comments Pressley has made in the media it seems like he’s in with a good chance of getting a contract and bolstering our paper-thin defensive ranks.

Zavon Hines – Hines’s name will be familiar to you given that he once had a short loan spell at the club, scoring a great goal against Sheffield Wednesday the highlight of his spell (Richard Wood levelled that game for Wednesday). However he arrives back at the club on the verge of becoming another cautionary tale for young footballers. He showed promise at West Ham but failed to impress after signing for Burnley and had to drop down to League 2 in order to find first-team football. His spell at Bradford seemed to have gone well enough but at the end of the past season they decided he wasn’t worth a place in their now League 1 side. He played in the Oxford match but was far from spectacular and I imagine that he won’t be playing for us next season.

Mathieu Manset – A tall, powerful mountain of a Frenchman. The former Hereford and Reading striker’s career has been a mixed bag. From League Two to China and now on trial at Coventry via a spell in Switzerland playing under Gennaro Gattuso and still only 23. From Pressley’s comments in the media it sounds like he’s ours to keep unless another club comes in before we exit administration. Probably likely to feature as a back-up to Leon Clarke but he would seem to offer us another dimension in attack but is unlikely to be troubling any of the top scorers charts.

Players Still At The Club

Jordan Clarke – After seemingly being on the verge of leaving the club Jordan Clarke has managed to fight his way back into the first-team. Perhaps Pressley was impressed by his attitude or had the sudden realisation that we couldn’t afford to have so few defenders going into the season, Clarke has been reprieved and now seemingly re-invented. In the friendly matches he has been tried out as a centre-back and by all accounts has held his own. Despite the reports I remain far from comfortable at the thought of having Jordan Clarke in central defence for an extended period of time next season, however it’s good to know that the option exists.

Adam Barton – All the talk is that this season is Adam Barton’s crunch season. He’s had a spell as a bright prospect at Preston, he’s had a bad injury, he’s had time to recover, he’s been tried out in various positions from defence to behind the striker, now it’s time for Adam Barton to prove the quality that once interested Liverpool still exists. Although the friendlies have been experiments Barton has hardly been the stand-out performer but perhaps the intensity of competitive league football will raise Barton’s game and improve his consistency.

Franck Moussa – Towards the end of last season he was criticised for being out-of-form particularly with his end product. From where I was sitting he was, along with David Bell and Cyrus Christie, one of the few players in the team making the opposition think. His ability to run at defenders, particularly on the counter-attack, clearly causes the opposition problems on a fairly consistent basis however his decision making clearly lets him down. The pre-season friendlies showed much of this Franck Moussa but I still believe that even this offers an interesting threat for the opposition that will be useful even if it’s only threatening in 1 in 3-5 games.

Jordan Willis – Despite being so young Jordan Willis is under a lot of pressure for the early part of this season simply because he’s the only non-expendable central defender at the club with any professional experience. However given the reports from the friendlies it appears as if he’s taking it all in his stride. Perhaps our doubts over him are more at his age than his ability, given that his few appearances so far have been fairly impressive.

The Friendlies

The pre-season friendlies came in two parts, Holland and England. In Holland we seemed to be playing largely for fitness and in the two games against Eredivisie (Dutch top-flight) opposition we seemed to hold our own with a narrow defeat to Willem II and a draw against Heracles, however given that those two sides were also probably playing for fitness perhaps makes the results irrelevant even for pre-season friendlies.

In England we played 4 games in 4 days against 4th tier sides. The approach in these games seemed to be to test out the various options we had available both in our first-team and from the 6 trialists. The results were 2-0 against Cheltenham, 0-2 against Fleetwood. 3-2 against Mansfield and 0-1 against Oxford. Some fans have been panicking at some of the defeats but given that we lost 4-0 to Wrexham in pre-season last year you can never take the results too seriously. Aside from the players talked about above it appears that midfielder Ivor Lawton and centre-back Jack Finch will be closer to the first-team this year.

Summary

The performances in pre-season have shown Pressley’s commitment to a passing style of football. Perhaps the switch to Northampton might end up benefiting Pressley’s aims given that expectations of promotion are quite close to non-existent and fans (those who turn up) are likely to be more patient with a passing style of play. That being said the scar of Thorn’s tenure at the club may conversely decrease patience if the team struggles to find form in the early stages of the season whilst trying to knock the ball around. Also given the likely emptiness of Sixfields for much of next season and general mood of disarray at the club I still feel that no-one associated with the club will benefit from this ground move.

More importantly right now is the club exiting administration as soon as possible. As much as it would be great for these CVA talks to result in the club returning to the Ricoh it appears unlikely, the longer we take to sign new players it increases the risk of form and confidence deserting the team for as long as possible. That being said given that we’ll mainly be after free transfers and loan signings then perhaps the deadline of 31st August is a bit of red herring but the longer it drags on the smaller the pool of players Pressley will have to pick from.