Thursday, 20 April 2017

League Two Preparation - CCFC Contracts - Who Stays/Goes

Much like every single year for us Coventry fans, we have to deal with a very large amount of expiring contracts at the end of the season. Last year, to put it lightly, Tony Mowbray made a hash of who to keep and who to let go. There were bizarre decisions like letting Aaron Martin and Reda Johnson go, neither of which to this day have been replaced.

We always knew it would have been tricky to keep hold of John Fleck but when Tudgay is on a reported £6,000 a week it makes you wonder, could we have done more? Then there were decisions like selling Romain Vincelot to Bradford which was just plain stupidity from Mowbray. I remember him telling me to trust him and that good signings were coming. Inevitably, 10 league games, Lewis Page and an Andre Wright thrown in for good measure later, he abandoned ship to leave Venus to pick up the pieces.

I don't want this turning into a season review, that's another depressing post for another time, I can't wait either. But the situation this time around is different because we have to prepare for another division, the fourth tier of English football. The lowest ebb for the club, but League Two is harder to get out of than most people give it credit for, leaving Robins with a tough task if promotion is the aim for the Sky Blues. Here is a player by player guide of the players who will potentially be leaving or signing on for the fight next season..

Lee Burge - It's started off very tricky, some might say that Burge has been one of our better players this season. He's certainly stood out in specific games such as Wembley where a fantastic save at the death of the game won us the trophy. However others argue he is too inconsistent to be relied on and that him and Charles-Cook are both number 2s. I don't imagine for one second our budget for next year is especially large (Depending on whether the rumoured takeover is real or not) so a new goalkeeper is a luxury we just can't afford. For that reason I would give Burge another year and pray he excels more, commanding his area certainly needs to improve.

He's been here for more than 3 seasons so that gives him legend status right?

Chris Stokes - Injury kept Stokes out for nearly a year but the ex-Forest Green left back has managed to work his way back into the squad. He was played as a centre back in the EFL Trophy final and played exceptionally, which really makes you wonder, should he stay there permanently? Especially with fierce competition for the left back spot with Ryan Haynes, this may be the best bet for him. Even if this is not the path he takes, Chris is used to the rough and tough of the lower leagues due to his time spent with Forest Green so will be a good player to have going into next season. Besides, I gave him player of the season for the 15/16 year so he must be at least alright.

I must confess I have Stokes on the back of my home shirt.

Dion Kelly-Evans - Arguably, Dion should have been played a lot more this season but has had Kevin Foley stealing his spot so hasn't managed many appearances. However the ones that the 20 year old right-back has played in he has looked very good. In fact I'd go as far as to say he's not had a bad game for us yet, so we should definitely look to give him perhaps another 2 years to see how his development continues. The one thing holding him back is he's only a little lad at 5 foot 5 so it's questionable whether he'll be able to cope with the physicality of League Two. Only time will tell, but he'll certainly have to bear that in mind.

He's so good sometimes it looks like there's two of him...

Devon Kelly-Evans - Dion's twin brother Devon has had next to no chances in the first team at all, but it's much harder to break into the side as an attacking player. The most I've seen of him is a bit in pre-season (including an astonishing 18 yard header against Nuneaton) and half an hour of competitive football at Norwich in the cup. That's not enough to make a real judgement on his future for me, but he captained the u23 side before being loaned out to Nuneaton themselves where he has scored his first ever senior goal. Judging by this we should give him another year or two to help him continue his development at the City, possibly sending him back out on loan. The situation should be reassessed in pre-season.

This is a different player, I promise.

Andy Rose - Poaching Rose from Seattle Sounders was a good acquisition at the beginning of 2016 and he became a regular in the City side after Fleck and Vincelot's departures. During our brief spell of good form around October time he was one of the best players in the team. There's a chance he would be in contention for player of the season if it wasn't an injury hampered season for Andy. A few niggles here, a knock there and finally medial ligament damage at Shrewsbury away in March when it looked like he'd fractured his skull. On his day he's a great centre midfielder but he's rarely around to have his day. On top of that he doesn't really look happy to be here in amongst all of the off-pitch problems. We need reliable players who want to be here and love playing for the badge, not to say Andy isn't passionate but as unpopular as this opinion may be, I would look at moving him on.

His thunderbolt against Bradford will always stay in my memories.
Jack Finch - This is going to sound a bit harsh, but why on earth is he still here? A still very much injured Chris Stokes made into the starting eleven ahead of Finch in January. To be fair to him, when he came on he looked alright, but it feels like he's been here for an age now doing not much at all. Which is the main reason it shocked me to my core he is only 20 years of age. Put it this way, last year when we announced our retained list, Finch was neither confirmed to be staying on or released. No one questioned it either, he just managed to stay in the u23s without anyone saying anything. If I haven't made it clear enough already, I would let Finch go at the end of the season.

This was the only photo I could find of him wearing this season's shirt, his portrait. Poor lad.
Gael Bigirimana - He came to Coventry as a refugee from Burundi at just 8 years old, knocked on the door at Ryton and asked for a trial. He went on to win Championship young player of the year 11/12, the year we went down at age just 17. Newcastle bought him for £1 million and effectively ruined his career for a good four years. He came back on loan last season and played fairly average, but returned permanently back in August and has been outstanding. A fall out with Russell Slade kept him out of the first team for a period of time but aside from that he's been in my opinion player of the season. He has the ability to get out of high pressure situation with ease, isn't afraid of anyone and would die for the badge. He even scored the first goal at Wembley for Christ's sake! I'm trying to be unequivocally clear here, Mark Robins must try everything to keep Bigi next season. I'd even go as far as to giving him the captaincy he's that passionate.

It's fair to say I'm a fan of Bigi at this club.
Kyle Spence - Spence is another player I've only seen glimpses of, mostly in pre-season but from the small amount I have observed, he's a very tricky winger. Much like Devon Kelly-Evans, we should give him another year or two to grow as a footballer. Maybe give him a loan move to a conference side or Nuneaton, you never know, he could burst onto the scene in League Two with us.

He ripped Rugby Town to pieces in pre-season, albeit eight tier Rugby Town.

Vladimir Gadzhev - When he arrived on a free from Levski Sofia near the end of last season Gadzhev was touted as the next Fleck. That now seems a distant memory as he has been reduced to the bench for most matches, rarely making it onto the field. In fact 18 year old Callum Maycock was higher in the pecking order than Vlad for most of the season. I'd put serious money on him leaving as you just don't see him around, he rarely appears anywhere. Perhaps a return to Bulgaria with his shiny Checkatrade Trophy medal is the best thing for him. 

His highlight for the Sky Blues was probably bleaching his hair blonde around January.
Ruben Lameiras - We have won the biggest percentage of games this season when Lameiras has started the match, but he is another one who may fall in the category of not strong enough for League Two. Despite this I'd still keep him on, and I would expect Robins gives him a new deal considering how much he has played since the manager's arrival. He's made it clear to fans his dislike of Slade and I don't blame him really. 

Why is there even a debate he scored the winning penalty at Swansea in the Quarters of the cup.
George Thomas - Around August time people were slating Georgey because he wasn't bagging goals left, right and centre at the age of just 19. Since the turn of the year however he has been nothing short of remarkable and finds himself as top goalscorer, although that's not exactly hard. He's become a fans favourite after one moment in particular under a certain arch which every City fan will take to their grave. Apparently he is gaining interest from Leeds and Burnley but Robins needs to do all he can to keep hold of him because he would tear League Two apart.

He is immune from any criticism ever due to THAT goal at Wembley. Fact.
Ryan Haynes - The farce of Haynes being kept out of the squad for so long prompted me to start "#FreeRyanHaynes" on Twitter. Unfortunately it never got trending but everyone's favourite ginger left back/left wing back/left winger managed to get back into the first team in 2017 and hasn't disappointed. He's been an asset to the side ever since and once again like a couple of others would do extremely well in League Two if we're able to hold onto him. 

I love this photo so much that it was my Twitter header for a bit (@Handsey)
Nathan Clarke - He's one of the most passionate players I've seen put on the shirt, he would break his leg for the club. Everything you want in a leader of a centre back, which is why it's a terrible shame he's not very good at football. An old fashioned centre back, he doesn't care where the ball goes as long as it's not in his net. When he told the fans to up the atmosphere more at Sixfields despite all the flares disturbing the game depicts everything he is. In fact it's tempting to keep him on that alone. Maybe he'd be alright in League Two, he's got the build for it, I maybe wouldn't keep him but I won't be down-hearted if he stays.

It's rare I want a player to do well as much as I wanted Nathan Clarke to.
Kevin Foley - The fact Slade even signed him winds me up, not only is he not a very good right back, but he's also an abysmal centre midfielder. It's astonishing that he managed to make it into the side ahead of Bigirimana. This might be a slight exaggeration but signing Foley is a large contributing factor to our relegation, but that all goes back to Slade's incompetence.

He may be the nicest person in the world, but this image fills me with anger.
Marcus Tudgay - To finish on the contracted players, I can say for certain I know the outcome of what will happen to Tudgay in the summer. A few of us bumped into him at Rochdale and he said he's pretty sure he's leaving which tells you all you need to know. Some fans have found him to be a scapegoat which is quite harsh, it's not his fault he's 34 and his legs have gone. That's a bit rich coming from me however after my comments about Foley.

This photo may be from last season but it brings back good memories of last season.

Callum Reilly - I was never a fan of him really, he's just been here since the New Year and not really done anything. I hope he makes something of his career at Burton but here he has done absolutely nothing at all.

Charles Vernam - He's made a whole 3 starts for us this season, one of two players Slade panicked and signed from Derby. He looked midly average from what I remember of him.

Farrend Rawson - The other Derby loanee, he's played a bit more but has had the same effect. I've seen him win about 2 headers since arriving in January.

Michael Folivi - If you thought Vernam was bad, Folivi has not played a single first team minute for Coventry City since joining from Watford on Deadline Day. The best part is, he first appeared in a match day squad at Wembley, meaning he picked up a medal. He celebrated like he'd done most of the work as well, incredible. I hope he actually plays before the end of the season so that isn't all he's remembered for. 

If there's one thing we do have going for us, it's that most of our younger and better players have fairly lenghty contracts. Players like Jodi Jones, Cian Harries and Ben Stevenson are all tied down until 2020 whilst Willis and Turnbull will also remain unless Robins says otherwise. Assuming we're able to keep everyone I hope we will, this is the base of the team for League Two. More additions are needed.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):




G Thomas



K Thomas

As a baseline that isn't bad, more additions are definitely needed but if we're able to start off with something along the lines of that then I will be happy. More depth is an absolute must and hopefully new head of recruitment Tommy Widdrington can be a big part of the build for next season. Fingers crossed we try and play something which will come out of the tunnel in August on Saturday against Walsall in our last home game of the season.

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