Wednesday, 30 August 2017

My Thirteenth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Shrewsbury Town

The Checkatrade Trophy is a little bit irrelevant now because as Jay Cartwright would say, we've "Completed it mate". Still though, we've got to at least try and defend our title. Even if our group suggests we don't have a cats hell in chance we can't exactly give up the trophy without as much of a whimper.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Pearson
Hyam
Di. Kelly-Evans

Vincenti
Doyle
Stevenson
Jones

Andreu
McNulty

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Thompson
Maycock
Shipley
Nazon
Beavon
Biamou

Considering Doyle has just turned 36, it's a wonder why Robins didn't give the skipper a rest, instead he lined up with the reportedly unhappy Ben Stevenson. The defence on the other hand was a lot more inexperienced with Jamie Pearson making his debut alongside Dominic Hyam who also has very few professional appearances to his name. Still, the whole point of the competition is to give youth a chance.

First Half

You know the situation is bad when only the West Stand is open and most of the people at the match literally couldn't care less what the result was. This is perhaps a good thing as the first half was extremely woeful, ten times worse than Yeovil on Saturday. The midfield however was just as poor, simple passes were messed up regularly.

The out of position Dion Kelly-Evans looked uncomfortable up until his injury 20 minutes in, after that he hobbled about until half time where he was replaced by Callum Maycock. Ben Stevenson went down at the same time and went off before the break with Jordan Shipley coming on in his place. Surprisingly these were both welcome additions to the absolute shambles that was taking place.

On half an hour Dom Hyam gave the ball away in a compromising position of which Lenell John-Lewis and eventually Stefan Payne took advantage of by sticking it past Lee Burge. Our misery was then compiled when Arthur Gnahoua got lucky with Burge's save coming straight back out for him to double the lead.



It could have easily been 2-2 before half time, first Andreu went through on goal after stealing the ball but a last ditch tackle from Nsiala prevented him from scoring what looked an almost certain goal. Then just 2 minutes later Vincenti rose high to nod a cross just wide of the mark. A chance which really should have been taken. Instead we went in at the break looking lost and in need of guidance.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-2 Shrewsbury Town

Second Half

I don't think anyone expected the guidance previously suggested to come from youth central midfielders Jordan Shipley and Callum Maycock. Shipley was even playing at left back, something which sounds crazy but he stepped up to the mark extremely well. We saw the benefits just 6 minutes after the restart when Jodi laid the ball off to Tony Andreu. One of the marquee signings of the summer struck beautifully into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Stuart Beavon came on after the goal to add some more attacking fire power to the comeback bid with Michael Doyle leaving the field. Just 10 minutes later McNulty was pulled down on the area with the opportunity to equalise. He netted his fourth penalty for the club (The fact the first 3 were in friendlies is irrelevant).

By this point Salop were beginning to lose the plot, Pearson nearly scored a debut goal just 4 minutes later but his effort was cleared off the line to the path of Shipley. His shot was stabbed into the side netting. Jamie Botlon was shown a straight red for going in two footed on Jodi Jones with 20 minutes left.

From this point it looked like a certainty that we would either steal a victory or take the game to penalties. This wasn't to be however, right at the death we gave away a free kick right outside the box. Joe Riley curled a beautiful effort into the top corner. I should've felt heartbroken that my team had conceded in the last minute, but to be honest I was just more happy it meant I got my score prediction correct.

Full Time - Coventry City 2-3 Shrewsbury Town

It was an admirable feat to come back from 2-0 down against a team in a higher division and look like winning. There is absolutely no shame in this defeat, whether we get out of the group or not it doesn't particularly matter. I think I speak for most people when I say I'd rather get promoted out of League Two.

Looking ahead to Saturday we have a crucial away tie at Chesterfield, we need to win to avoid slipping into obscurity. If we play how we did in the second half then we should be fine. But you can never see what's coming round the corner...

My Man of the Match - Jack Grimmer - The lad is just simply too good for us isn't he, in the first half he looked good in a bad side. In the second half he looked exceptional in a bad side. I'm not sure how a right back has managed to bag this award again. You kind of forget about that position but he's really making it his own, long may it continue.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

My Twelfth 17/18 Game - Yeovil Town vs Coventry City

Right, this is how today's report is going to work. I'm going to kick off with the usual civilised, blatantly awesome report for today's game, and then everyone's favourite section "My Thoughts" is making a long awaited return, so I can convey my wonderfully compiled opinion. By which I mean I'm going to do a really angry rant and make comments I don't really mean and will later go on to regret. You just have to stick with City through the bad times as well as the good, the same goes with these reports...

Coventry City Starting XI:

O'Brien

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Jones
Doyle
Kelly
Nazon

Andreu
McNulty

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Di. Kelly-Evans
Pearson
Stevenson
Vincenti
Beavon
Biamou

Positive changes were made by Mark Robins ahead of the fixture, fans called for Beavon and Vincenti to be dropped which was exactly what occurred. The ideal replacements were also put in. If it weren't for Dominic Hyam having to come in for Rod McDonald, who missed out through injury, this would be the ideal side for a very large portion of the fanbase.

First Half

Yeovil conceded 14 goals in their first three games, so my original thoughts of how to play were just run at them and scare the living day lights out of their fragile defence. Just 30 seconds in this is how we appeared to be doing it when Jodi Jones found himself through on goal, forcing a brillaint save from Krysiak.

Despite noticing the flaws in our opposition we didn't press down this avenue but continued to pass it about and send an endless number of balls into the box with no intentional destination. Michael Doyle had his 'Michael Doyle' moment of the match when we went to ground holding his face after barely being touched, it was indeed a foul but Doyler made a meal of it. The offender Olufela Olomola was booked. I'm honestly so glad we got him back in to the fold.

Marc McNulty had an opportunity and was onto the last defender, he decided to try a long range strike which hit the roof of the stand. He fell over when taking it to put into perspective how wayward the effort was. Soon after he had another, better opportunity but he shanked it agonisingly wide.

Less than a minute after we nearly took the lead Yeovil went one better. Against the run of play Rhys Browne went forward. I'm not too sure what the specifics were, but O'Brien messed up leaving him with an easy tap in. Whether it was massively his fault or just a slight mix up in the defence it was very costly as we went a goal down going into the break.

Half Time - Yeovil Town 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

It's a tricky situation when you're losing but all of your so called "Game Changers" are on the pitch. Obviously something had to change but it's very hard to know who to bring on. Andreu took a somewhat surprising bow out for the game on the hour mark just 5 minutes after he rattled the post with a free kick.

The man, the myth, the Stuart Beavon came on in the newest signings place. This very much looked like a "Yeah, why not" substitution from Robins. However it was strike partner McNulty who was having all the chances, one of which curled just past the post and another a couple of minutes later forced a brilliant save out of the eventual man of the match Krysiak.

With 15 minutes left any hope of a comeback was brutally crushed when Yeovil doubled their lead. Again it was ever so slightly against the rub of the grain. Poor defending let Olomola through on the right, he found the opposite corner of the goal with relative ease. Max Biamou was brought on but by this point it was too late. McNulty was also turned down a stone wall penalty to rub salt in the wounds.



Full Time - Yeovil Town 2-0 Coventry City

My Thoughts

Before today Yeovil had conceded 14 goals in 3 games. That's 1 every 19 minutes. We couldn't put one past them. Frank Nouble got 3 in 13 minutes for Newport. In no way is that relevant but Frank bloody Nouble. I'm not sure if they suddenly grew a defence or if we were exceptionally poor in front of goal. In fact I am sure, we were dreadful.

A one off mistake is fair enough, everyone is allowed that, but today there was no excuse for Liam O'Brien's performance. He was at fault for the first goal and continuously spooned goal kicks into the stands. When you've got such competition for one space he needs to be dropped. It's Lee Burge's turn to stake a claim and go in net. It'll be interesting to see who gets the nod on Tuesday night against Shrewsbury.

4 hours 20 minutes it took to get to Yeovil, and the return journey is likely going to be a considerable amount longer. It's things like this which make you think, "Why do I bother?" Because to be frank, today was not good enough. Things need to change before Chesterfield, whether that be a new tactic, an angry team talk or a new signing, perhaps a 34 year old from Portsmouth.

I should be back for three or four posts next week, including the beginning of the Checkatrade defence and the face off versus Chesterfield. Then maybe a couple of other pieces along the way. Fingers crossed those performances are a truck load better than whatever the shambles was that we saw today otherwise I may cry.

My Man of the Match - Jack Grimmer - If you're a defender who can shine in a side which loses 2-0 then you must be good. This is exactly what we have on our hands with Jack Grimmer. He's a real asset on the right flank and times 99% of his tackles to absolute perfection. Long may it all continue.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Shooting To Win Exclusive Q&A - Darren Huckerby

Any Coventry fan alive in the nineties will have fond memories of some brilliant football played, Premier League football at that. We had a very talented group of players across the decade such as Dion Dublin, Noel Whelan, Gary McAllister and Peter Ndlovu. I've had the privilege of being able to speak to a very worthy member of this elite group, Darren Huckerby.


After joining in 1996 he was a mainstay and fan favourite in the squad for three years before his move to Leeds United for a fee of £6 million. Some still refer to him as one of the main architects of some of the best football ever played at the club alongside his teammates across the 97/98 and 98/99 seasons.

It was also very kind of him to give up some of his time to answer a few questions which has enabled me to do this, this is something I can't thank him enough for. Especially as I perhaps put forward a few too many but he answered every one with great consideration. Some of which are about his time at City, others are more general.

1. What's your fondest memory in a City shirt?

"I think the whole of the 97/98 season stands out, beating Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester United and Liverpool. Dion [Dublin] getting Premiership top goal scorer. I played my part in a great team."

2. What's your favourite goal you've ever scored? I sure know mine...

"Cov fans will remember the one vs Man United in the last minute to win the game, I scored another good goal in a win at Anfield a few days later. For Norwich I ran the length of the pitch to score vs Birmingham. For magnitude of victory I'd say the Man United goal."

3. Who was the best player you played alongside for Coventry?

"Dion Dublin and Gary Mac [McAllister]"

4. Who's the best player you played against during your career?

"Jaap Stam - Man Mountain"

5. Who's the best manager you've worked under?

"I've played under a few but [Gordon] Strachan actually wanted to make me a better all round player."

6. During your time with Coventry who were your mates?

"Shawsey [Richard Shaw], Noel [Whelan], Telf [Paul Telfer] and Willo [Paul Williams]. I still spend a lot of time with big Dion [Dublin], we still regard each other as partners."

7. Did you have any favourite chants for yourself, the club or just in general?

"At Norwich the fans still sing '12 Days of Huckerby' due to me signing on Boxing Day"

8. Where did you enjoy the most of your career?

"I think I produced the goods at every club I played for apart from Leeds where I didn't show my true self for whatever reason."

9. Do you agree with the way Coventry fans protested against SISU last season?

"I think the fans had every right to protest, things don't seem to be getting any better"

10. How do you see the Sky Blues getting on this season?

"There's a good chance that Cov could get promoted this season, there's no way a club of Coventry City's size and history should be in the bottom level of the Football League."

11. What was the toughest moment of your career?

"Leeds was a frustrating time."

12. Did you have a footballer as inspiration whilst growing up?

"I looked up to Peter Beardsley, I was very lucky to get to train with him whilst I was at Newcastle United."

Light Hearted Questions:

13. Ronaldo, Messi or James Maddison?

"Messi"

14. Who do you want/think will win, Floyd Mayweather or Conor McGregor?

"It's a miss match, Floyd will toy with him. It'll last as long as Mayweather wants it to."

15. What's the best dressing room prank you've ever seen played?

"I've seen loads over the years, but none I can mention on here."

16. Who do you think will win the Premier League this season?

"The league is heading to Manchester, I'm not sure who will take it, United or City."

Huckers gave a good insight into his career there. From the highs of his time with the City and Norwich to the more frustrating section with Leeds. Once again I can't thank him enough for taking part. I look forward to potentially being able to speak to more former/current City player in the future.

In terms of the here and now, hopefully the remaining 'Last 100 Signings Ranked' posts will be up within the next week as well as the Yeovil Town match report on Saturday evening. Hopefully we can get back on track with a win after the blip of our home defeat to Newport County last time out at the Ricoh.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Complete Ranking of the Last 100 Coventry City Signings - 60-41

If you've made it this far down the list without tearing your own hair out then I salute you. The hard part is over (mostly), for today we pass the half way point, and start looking at players who are deemed "above average". That's not to say that there isn't still a truck load of below par footballers to come. Only from about 30 onwards can they be deemed 'good', and even that's a bit of a stretch.



60. Kevin Kilbane

Appearances: 12
Goals: 2

Coming in with close to a hundred trillion caps for Ireland to his name, Kevin Kilbane brought some much needed experience to a side riddled with youngsters. He scored a belter against Birmingham in the cup but before 2012 was finished he was forced to retire through injury. He's now a solid pundit on various BBC football programmes.

59. Callum Reilly

Appearances: 20
Goals: 0

Callum Reilly came in on loan as part of the deal which took Marvin Sordell the other way to Burton Albion. In terms of some of the other loans last season he wasn't horrendous, but had he been in the squad the season before we'd have crucified him. His passes were sloppy and he couldn't really do much, but his midfield partner was often Kevin Foley, which says it all.

58. Nathan Clarke

Appearances: 18
Goals: 0

I'll always have a soft spot for Nathan Clarke for two moments, the first being him gifting Marc McNulty the ball with a wayward "free kick" for us to go 1-0 up last week. The second was back in his spell for us in January, the players have just returned to the pitch having been taken off due to all the protests. He walks straight over to the fans and tells us to up the noise pretty much.

In terms of his actual footballing ability, the less said about that the better. He looked like exactly what we needed, a big, hard, no nonsense leader centre back. He was captain under Slade and did well for Bradford the season before, everything said he should be brilliant, but he just wasn't. Misiing headers everywhere, we ended up going down without a peep.

57. Simeon Jackson

Appearances: 30
Goals: 3

How we've even made it this far without Simeon Jackson appearing is a bit of a shock. He scored just 3 times in 30 games, that sort of goals to games ratio is dangerously close to the Kevin Kyle scale of bad. Saying that this was a free transfer and not a £600,000 signing of someone touted as the replacement for the prodigal son Gary McSheffrey.

56. Callum Ball

Appearances: 21
Goals: 3

4-0 down in the League Cup to Arsenal, Joe Murphy has just saved a penalty, the scene is set. The Derby loanee steps up and taps one in from 2 yards. Everything is pointing towards a comeback. Well actually, it wasn't. They scored twice more and we lost 6-1, the mere consolation was Callum Ball's only achievement but will never be forgotten.

55. Farrend Rawson

Appearances: 14
Goals: 0

Even though he comfortably made it into double figures of appearances last season you kind of forget that Farrend Rawson was even there. He came in under Slade, which is never a good start, from Derby County on loan. There were a couple of others that came in at the same time as him which is likely why he finds himself lost in the middle ground of players considered average.

54. Danny Swanson

Appearances: 21
Goals: 0

Danny Swanson is often referred to as "the guy who went out on loan and never came back". Coming into the squad to help keep us up and was pretty much surplus to requirements once that job was done. He didn't fit into a squad with so many attacking midfield options so went out on loan to St. Johnstone, a month later he had his contract terminated and moved to Hearts.

53. Vladimir Gadzhev

Appearances: 24
Goals: 2

Touted as the next John Fleck, Gadzhev somehow found himself below Callum Maycock in the pecking order. In over a year but he still couldn't adapt to the English game. Mark Robins took a look at him in the final two games of the season and he did looked alright, but certainly not good enough to earn a new contract.

52. Chris Dagnall

Appearances: 6
Goals: 1

An emergency loan signing who only came for a month but nearly makes it into the top half due to the fact he was involves in the 3-1 comeback away at MK Dons in front of 7k away fans. It's somewhat overshadowed by a certain someone's free kicks but he's still to come on this list. But Chris number one still deserves a mention.

51. Seb Hines

Appearances: 9
Goals: 0

If you had the opportunity to switch Coventry/Middlesbrough for Orlando then you'd probably bite the hand of whoever it was offering off. That's exactly what Seb Hines did after his loan spell here and ten years at Riverside. For someone who played 9 games he looked relatively solid and didn't do anything horrendous.

50. Grant Ward

Appearances: 11
Goals: 0

Tony Mowbray's first signing as manager played a good role in keeping us up towards the end of the 14/15 season. Due to his positioning on this list, he is the first player who is considered "better". He did OK in the midfield, but at this stage most of the players are just bang average and often forgotten about when you think of the squads.

49. Daniel Agyei

Appearances: 17
Goals: 5

Last season at Bradford away when Agyei scored 20 odd minutes into his debut we all, and I include myself in this, had high hopes for him. I think it took a whole fourteen seconds for him to be described as the "Next Armstrong". That wasn't to be however as he left the side in January with just 5 goals to his name. Still, he'll hold the record for the quickest Ricoh Arena goal for a long while with his run against Northampton in the Checkatrade last season.

48. Andy Webster

Appearances: 82
Goals: 3

Andy Webster made 82 appearances for Coventry City, 82. Considering how many people slated him that's very high. Steven Pressley always saw something in him, most likely a Scottish bond, so kept him around for a long while. However as soon as Mowbray came in he was released and replaced with his own banter centre back, who is still to come.

47. Adam Barton

Appearances: 73
Goals: 3

Speaking of banter players, no one quite describes out time in League One quite like Adam Barton. He became the face of many memes in the Sky Blues community and earned a nickname; Lord Barton. Personally I didn't mind him, but to most others he is like marmite, a large portion of which absolutely despise him. Nowadays he lines up in defence alongside Jordan Turnbull for Partick Thistle, a partnership made in hell.

46. Nathan Delfouneso

Appearances: 14
Goals: 3

Yet another loanee striker, brought in from Aston Villa on loan. He didn't really do much but his goal scoring record isn't as horrendous as others. Saying that I am counting a goal which technically was a Danny Batth own goal but is there any harm in trying to make people seem a little bit better when 90% were shocking?

45. Josh McQuoid

Appearances: 19
Goals: 5

The third and final loan signing we got out of the Callum Wilson transfer to Bournemouth, unlike Allsop and Coulibaly, he actually showed slight promise during his spell here. A 1 in 4 goals to games ratio is nothing to turn your nose up at, albeit 2 were in the cup. Nowadays he turns out for Stevenage, on loan from League Two rivals Luton.

44. Michael Petrasso

Appearances: 7
Goals: 1

Being completely honest, I couldn't remember Michael Petrasso for the absolute life of me, but upon googling and asking people I've gathered he was somewhat alright. Joining on loan as a 19 year old he showed some promise before heading back to parent club QPR, this is where he remains, still waiting for his big break in the first team.

43. Kyel Reid

Appearances: 37
Goals: 2

On his day he's Championship level, but his day arrives 1 in every 10 or so games, Reidy is such a frustrating player. Perhaps he deserves higher on the list, but when we got relegated he threw his toys out of the pram demanding he be sold, eventually he got loaned to a worse team in the same league. Still, I'll be grateful to him for his respective passes to George Thomas in the Checkatrade Trophy Semi-Final, and of course final.

42. Gary Madine

Appearances: 11
Goals: 3

It's the eighth wonder of the world how Gary Madine has ended up doing well for Championship side Bolton. Some may be more harsh than I am, but he never set the world alight during his second spell a couple of years back. In fact, his first spell in 2009 wasn't that good either, but the 14/15 season is the only one we're looking at.

41. Sanmi Odelusi

Appearances: 14
Goals: 3

You've kind of got to be a good signing if you get the same chant as John Aloisi, and considering he was reduced to mainly substitute appearances, Sanmi Odelusi wasn't too bad. The goal I'll always remember of his will be the equaliser against Port Vale towards the end of the 14/15 season, we lost 3-2 but that's not the intended point...

Apologies this took a while to come out, hopefully the remaining 2 pieces of this series will be out before the Yeovil match report on Saturday evening. From here on out we actually begin to see some good signings, so it will get more enjoyable from a writing perspective as well as a reading one. Well, hopefully that is!






Sunday, 20 August 2017

My Tenth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Newport County

Two wins from two, Aston Villa bottom of the table, all I could feel was deja vu from the 15/16 season. The difference being both sides are in a lower division and that we're playing Newport County. Which is just painful in itself to hear, no disrespect to Newport. Only a win would do if we were to continue our perfect start.

Coventry City Starting XI:

O'Brien

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Jones
Kelly
Doyle
Vincenti

Beavon
McNulty

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Hyam
Pearson
Stevenson
Andreu
Nazon
Biamou

First Half

However you try and spin it, today was painful to endure. To go from the highs of a brilliant away victory at Grimsby to whatever was on display today is mental. The first half was very dull in terms of action but you could see where the problem lied. Every single pass seemed to be incredibly sloppy. If the two people who are supposedly supposed to be running the midfield can't square the ball two yards then it's always going to be tough.

Frank Nouble was touted as the danger man not only because of the former club syndrome but also as he's scored 2 in 2 to kick off the season in County's two draws. We decided on an unchanged squad which appeared to be a mistake. Last time out at Grimsby despite winning the first 45 minutes was poor.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Newport County

Second Half

Not long in to the second period and we saw the first howler of the season going against us. Reece Cole struck a weak effort from 20 yards which shouldn't have troubled O'Brien at all. Instead however it somehow merged it's way through his upper body and squirmed into the net. Everyone was fuming to say the least.

The fightback substitutes were then made, Andreu and Stevenson came on for Beavon and Kelly. From here we went on a 20 minute spell of pure domination, on the turn Andreu made an almost instant impact by forcing an unbelievable save out of Day. He got a strong hand to the effort which appeared destined for the top bins.

League Two is going to be tough this season as we're going to see teams park the bus on us an awful lot. Newport are a big example of this, which is why we need to learn to break sides down more. It's painful to watch us go forward not knowing what we're doing and cheaply give the ball away. By lumping it in because we can't create anything else.

Full Time - Coventry City 0-1 Newport County

Today was poor, and I feel dejected writing about it but what's done is done and all we can do is pick ourselves back up and go again. Next stop being Yeovil away next week, a four hour coach journey I honestly can't wait for. If we slip out of the top 7 I may cry and have a Twitter rant, and those are two things no one ever wants to see.

My Man of the Match - Jordan Willis - In attack we were poor, in defence we were bang average and only conceded due to a howler from O'Brien. One player who did look confident on the ball unlike last week was former captain Jordan Willis. Still young but one of the longest standing members in the side, today wasn't the best day overall but at least there were players doing something right.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

My Ninth 17/18 Game - Grimsby Town vs Coventry City

After a lovely break on holiday which was mainly spent trying to get iFollow to work and trying to think of funny jokes relating to Duckens Nazon, I returned just in time to go to Grimsby Town away. Jodi Jones the team apparently played very well for the 3-0 win against Notts County last week but away days are a whole new ball game. Well, technically it's the same ball game but you know what I'm on about.

What a game to come back to above all else, visiting our old foe Russell Slade in his new home. Fans were still a tad annoyed by what Slade did (understatement of the century) and took it out on the cap wearing baldy in no uncertain terms throughout the match. But with 1350 City fans travelling, everything said it would be a cracker.

Coventry City Starting XI:

O'Brien

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Jones
Doyle
Kelly
Vincenti

McNulty

Beavon

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Hyam
Pearson
Stevenson
Andreu
Nazon
Biamou

First Half

The low roof of the away end made the travelling City faithful sound even louder, this helped even more to the big atmosphere which we were creating. Once again it was a very stop start bitty contest, which was portrayed with the 7 minutes added on at the end of the match. Beavon was appearing to be a nuisance and had early chances, none of which seriously troubled McKeown.

Jodi Jones was another who kept frustrating the hosts' defence with his weaving runs and all sorts. He kept getting brought down, some of which were given, others were not. One in particular was waved away even though he had no reason to go down as he was through on goal. He stabbed a free kick into the wall after 20 minutes, with McNulty blasting the rebound just over.

Jodi had a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring close to half time when he cut into his left past his marker but his effort wasn't struck well enough to be out of the reach of McKeown. However only a couple of minutes later he was booked for a "coming together" with Paul Dixon. By this I mean there was a small scrap which captain, leader, legend Michael Doyle couldn't help but get involved with.

Half Time - Grimsby Town 0-0 Coventry City

We weren't bad in the first half, we just struggled to create anything too notable. The defence however looked ever so slightly shaky, mainly down to Willis, likely as he was just coming back from injury. But the former captain missed a couple of headers and just didn't look as sharp as his usual self.

Second Half

If anything we came out even shakier for the second half, we were being forced to play Grimsby's game. This meant we were hoofing it for the first hour or so, which doesn't work when Nathan Clarke is the opposing centre back. He may not have been the most gifted in his time at the club (2nd biggest understatement of the century) but one thing he could do was easily deal with smaller striker.

There was then incredible anger from the away end around the hour mark as Beavon's shot was rebounded into the path of Vincenti, but he was hacked to the ground before he had the chance to have a strike. An absolute stone wall penalty, instead to referee waved midfielder to get up and play on. The outrage was immense. No one could believe it hadn't been given, it was starting to look like one of those games.

A few minutes later we saw the other side of Clarke which we all know and hate, but this time we loved more than anything. In incredibly controversial fashion, we took the lead. Clarke tapped a free kick back to the keeper but McNulty darted straight onto the loose ball, rounded the keeper and scored.

There was uproar from the Grimsby players and fans, they were adamant Clarke was giving the keeper the ball to take the free kick in question. After a discussion with his linesman, the referee gave the goal. I can only thank him for this because we may have all had to have gone into hiding had it been disallowed due to the enthusiastic celebrations. As we've seen recently from Millwall fans, it's hard to recover from invading the pitch for a goal which is then chalked off.

Whether it should have counted or not, this goal opened the floodgates as from this point onwards there was only going to be one winner. Willis took a knock so Hyam replaced him to help see out the win. But we didn't try and "see it out" for the final 20 minutes like we would have done under Slade or Mowbray. Instead we pushed for the second goal.

The Mariners were looking fragile, so we had to pounce, and that we did. Jack Grimmer was given all the time in the world in the air to double the lead. In fact the header was so powerful even the defender on the line couldn't keep it out so just helped it on its way into the roof of the net.  A couple more fans went on the pitch, but mainly out of happiness that we'd just made sure of our second win of two for the season.


After this went in we could begin to relax on the attacking front, Tony Andreu came on for his debut in place of Stuart Beavon. Everyone's favourite Haitian Duckens Nazon also made a brief appearance when he replaced Jodi Jone with 3 minutes left on the clock. Liam Kelly drew a foul from James Berrett in injury time which signalled the end of a brilliant away win.

Full Time - Grimsby Town 0-2 Coventry City

Don't tell anyone I said this, and make sure you're quiet about it, but WE'RE TOP OF THE BLOODY LEAGUE. But we really need to take this one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. I'm already seeing flashbacks of when I was planning Villa and Newcastle away in the December of 2015. We can't have another Darius Henderson-esque bottling. Let's keep our feet on the ground and just look ahead to Newport at home next week.

My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - He celebrated his 36th birthday on Tuesday, that didn't stop him from controlling the midfield. Pulling all the strings, and partly masterminding a brilliant performance. Rumour has it he offered out a Grimsby fan as well, is there nothing the Irishman can't do?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Complete Ranking of the Last 100 Coventry City Signings - 80-61

We've already put ourselves through the worst 20 signings of the last 5 years, the hardest part is over, but that's not to say we're going to reach the competent footballers just yet. In fact they'll probably only start getting 'alright' when we get to the 20-1 category. My god we've signed some dreadful players, not one of the players has even scored a goal yet, so let's start as we mean to go on.

First 20 on the list, click this link - www.shootingtowin.co.uk/2017/08/complete-ranking-of-last-100-coventry.html




80. Carl Dickinson

Appearances: 7
Goals: 0

A loanee left back whom a large number have people will have forgotten about. Joined from Watford back in the later stages of our debut season in League One but couldn't have the deal extended beyond the first month due to us being placed under a transfer embargo. He also backed us to make the play offs that year, which we couldn't do due to having a 10 point deduction. Ah, SISU.

79. Danny Pugh

Appearances: 7
Goals: 0

The second left back to make seven appearances in just two players, I didn't think he looked too horrendous when I first saw him at Bradford away a few years back. But he was soon ousted by Ryan Haynes and eventually never seen again. Well, I say never seen again, he turns out for Port Vale in League Two.

78. Bryn Morris

Appearances: 7
Goals: 0

A pattern is beginning to be emerging here, we tend to forget about Bryn Morris due to the loans that he was playing with. It's very hard to shine in a side containing Adam Armstrong, Jacob Murphy, Ryan Kent and Joe Cole. Not to mention he was being kept out of the central midfield spots by John Fleck and Romain Vincelot. Poor Bryn never stood a chance.

77. Dylan McGeouch

Appearances: 8
Goals: 0

I'm pretty sure there may be more loans than permanent signings on this list. On this occasion we look at McGeough, he joined from Celtic in February 2014 and made 8 appearances off the bench, didn't even start once. But due to the nature of this list that warrants him a spot in 77th without it
seeming ridiculous.

76. Kevin Foley

Appearances: 13
Goals: 0

The nitty gritty recent players of the League One relegation season are really beginning to seep through now. Much like Lewis Page, we didn't really need to sign him, he took games away from someone younger and better (Dion Kelly-Evans) and somehow made us worse. Page is a lot lower frankly because I hate him more.

75. Stephen Hunt

Appearances: 5
Goals: 0

How we came about signing Stephen Hunt is just as funny as his 5 months at the club. He thought we looked alright on TV against Sheffield United (A match we lost 1-0) so asked to come and train with us. You know how much we love signing unfit 34 year olds though so he jumped straight on the promotion bottling bus. He retired after making a wonderful 5 appearances. His last game finished with him being subbed off to the tune of "Oh Stephen Hunt, we'll never forget."

74. Mohamed Coulibaly

Appearances: 6
Goals: 0

One of three loan signings from Bournemouth we got not because we scouted him well and thought he looked good but because they gave him to us as part of the Callum Wilson deal. That's never a good thing to start off with, as we saw with Coulibaly as well as the other two. The season long loan had to be cancelled eventually as he just wasn't played enough.

73. Nick Proschwitz

Appearances: 9
Goals: 1

Some people would regard him as the worst striker of the League One era, but the sole reason he makes it into 73rd is the fact he scored an actual goal. A consolation in a 3-1 defeat to Crewe. They all count. However it was a week later that he became the ultimate villain by missing a penalty at Crawley when he really needed him to score. Had Tudgay and Madders not saved us then he would have had death threats, that's barely even an exaggeration.

72. Jordan Stewart

Appearances: 6
Goals: 0

After the brief excitement of someone who's scored an actual goal we have to be brought back down to earth by another poor left back who only played a total of six games. They're starting to get very common... Stewart is one of one or two players I have to confess not remembering in the slightest, so extensive google research had to be done.

71. Andre Wright

Appearances: 12
Goals: 2

Andre Wright joining The Sky Blues on Deadline Day is the absolute epitome of a panic signing. Tony Mowbray missed out on Rushian Hepburn-Murphy so decided that the best course of action
would be to throw someone completely unknown into an already poor side. He netted twice, one of which literally just came off him and another tap in. He also shushed the fans at Oxford, it's fair to
say he's not the most popular player in the world.

70. Jamie Jones

Appearances: 4
Goals: 0

Another one month loanee, Ryan Allsop who wasn't as good as Burge went back to Bournemouth so we replaced him with Jamie Jones, someone who also wasn't as good as Burge. Eventually after four whole games we realised he wasn't good enough so settled with someone who'd been here the entire time, Lee Burge.

69. Martin Lorentzson

Appearances: 7
Goals: 0

When we signed the final piece of our experienced solid back line puzzle in Martin Lorentzson we looked even more likely to be getting promoted. His Champions League experienced appeared as if it would be vital in our race. Instead he only mustered up 7 appearances which is odd as he didn't look too bad. Aaron Phillips got the nod ahead of him on most occasions.

68. David Prutton

Appearances: 8
Goals: 0

Another ghost of the Sixfields season, joined on loan from Sheffield Wednesday in March 2014, failed to make an impact in his 8 appearances and went back. He was released by Wednesday that summer and retired. How depressing must it have been to finish your career playing for a team who's fans boycotted "home" games.

67. Jamie Reckord

Appearances: 12
Goals: 0

Could've ended up a lot higher on this list if it weren't for injury cutting short his loan spell from Wolves back in 2012. It's a case of what could have been, but hey, he made double figures, that tops a large number of others. we really did abuse the 'emergency loan' window before it was abloished this list has made me realise

66. Shaun Miller

Appearances: 13
Goals: 2

A striker with 12 substitute appearances, 1 start and 2 goals. A record better than Andre Wright's purely on a goals to minutes played basis. Plus he has never shushed the supporting fans so he deserves to be streets ahead. In fact one of his goals during the 14/15 season was in the League Cup, a game which we lost.

65. Mathieu Manset

Appearances: 9
Goals: 1

Didn't even start a game for us, all of his appearances were off the bench. He played alright in the time he was given to be fair to him. Since being release by us he's turned out for Royal Antwerp, Cheltenham and Walsall. Now though he plays in the land of Michael Mifsud, the Maltease Premier League, for a side by the name of Hamrun Spartans.

64. Blair Turgott

Appearances: 3
Goals: 1

One of the best goals to games ratios in our clubs history is how the failed West Ham youth product sneaks his way into the middle third of this list. He impressed for Bromley last season so has made his way back into the football league with Stevenage, I'm sure it'll be a very emotional occasion when he's reunited with us in November.

63. Reece Brown

Appearances: 9
Goals: 0

Yet another loan signing from the Premier League with good references who failed to make an impact, I'm starting to think the players might not be the problem. Didn't go on to to have as much effect at Manchester United as his brother Wes, instead he was released, has gone from club to club and now finds himself at Rochdale.

62. Ryan Allsop

Appearances: 27
Goals: 0

The fact we stuck with Allsop for so long instead of Lee Burge annoyed me a lot if you haven't already gathered. Not only was Burge a lot better at the time, he was also ours. However he ended up missing out on half a season of development while a loan took his spot. I'm being slightly harsh on Allsop because he wasn't horrendous.

61. Mark Marshall

Appearances: 14
Goals: 0

We played Marshall wrongly, we didn't allow him the freedom to roam, which his stint at Bradford taught us is something he needed to be able to do. He very much earned his move to Charlton but unfortunately he got injured until about Christmas in one of his very first matches. One of very very few players on the list who have gone on to better things after leaving City.

Whilst the first 20 of this list were the comically bad players, this section was the forgotten men. Players who weren't shudderingly bad, but just didn't really do anything of note. This meant that this part took considerably more effort to do. They get better in the remainder of episodes however, well, maybe not as much in the next...


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Complete Ranking of the Last 100 Coventry City Signings - 100-81

Since our relegation to League One, we have acquired the signature of 111 players, discarding the eleven that have joined this summer that leaves us with a nice convenient round 100 to sink our teeth into. How do we do that I hear you cry, well, I trawled back through five years of single digit appearances and loanees. Then spent an entire evening ranking them in order of how good a signing they were. It's a wonderful, yet painful read. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the first 20, or indeed, 20 worst Sky Blues signings since 2012.


100. Al Bangura

Appearances: 0
Goals: 0

Starting with a *ahem* 'bang' we have the man himself Al Bangura. I should use his full name; "Ex Premier League Al Bangura, was brought in in March 2015 as an option to try and help keep us up. Instead failed to make a first team appearance and was subsequently released at the end of the season when we realised we weren't going down.

Since his glorious 3 month spell in Coventry he went on to turn out for St Albans City but now plies his trade for the one and only Nuneaton Town in the Vanarama North. I assume he comes to see us on regular occasions with his "Stokes 3" shirt on, for which he has just renewed for the third season running.

99. Rory Donnelly

Appearances: 0
Goals: 0

In at 99 you've got Rory 'The four day loan' Donnelly, as my incredibly witty nickname for him suggests, he was in the Midlands on loan from Swansea for all of four days. Due to 'personal reasons' his January Deadline Day move in 2014 was cut short. The real reasons were never established as to why he had to go back to Wales, I guess we'll never know.

98. Michael Folivi

Appearances: 1
Goals: 0

Right now we're talking, on January Deadline Day this year we needed a saviour, a miracle. Out came Michael Folivi on loan from Watford. He was injured for 2 months from the off, his first appearance in a match day squad was at Wembley. He will forever hold a Checkatrade Trophy winners medal despite not having a single involvement.

He wasn't finished there, he remained an unused substitute for the rest of the season, right up until the 87th minute of the last game. Mark Robins brought him on in the dying seconds of Scunthorpe away for what I can only assume was absolute pure banter. There was absolutely no reason to do it, but that's what made it special. One of Russell Slade's any master strokes during his tenure here.

97. Jamar Loza

Appearances: 1
Goals: 0

When you hear 'pointless loan signing' in relation to Coventry City you usually get Jamar Loza popping into your mind. Much like Folivi, Loza only made one substitute appearance in November 2013 at Sixfields against Notts County. Unlike the 18 year old from Watford, he can boast 6 whole more minutes as a City player, where he replaced Callum Wilson of all people.

96. Denzel Slager

Appearances: 4
Goals: 0

Remember that FA Cup match where we came from behind to beat Barnsley away with Leon Clarke scoring a last minute winner? Yeah, Slager actually started that match, but was subbed off after about an hour in favour of Adam Barton, which says it all really. He actually managed to make four appearances but the reason he's as low as 96 is due to the fact we gave him and 18 month contract only to cancel it a month later.

95. Adam Jackson

Appearances: 0
Goals: 0

It says a lot about some of the quality of player we've signed that someone with literally no minutes on a football pitch in a Coventry shirt is above five other players. Mowbray pretty much signed him for the sake of it because he had ties at Middlesbrough. He comes in so high because there's not too much funny about it, he just came in, sat quietly for a month and then left.

94. Kevin Malaga

Appearances: 2
Goals: 0

Andy Thorn actually gave this man a three year contract, what on earth possessed him? He played more games out on loan for Nuneaton than for us. Just 3 months in Mark Robins told him to sling his hook. He's now appeared to find his feet in the French fourth division for Sporting Club Le Las, now Sporting Club Toulon. One of the more special movements of ours whilst trying to get straight back up to the Championship.

93. Danny Philliskirk 

Appearances: 1
Goals: 0

If you thought you'd seen the end of the one cap wonders then you'd be absolutely wrong, Philliskirk's glistening moment came in April 2013 at home to Leyton Orient. He was later released and picked up by Oldham, where he played over a hundred times. Last season he helped Blackpool to promotion from League Two.

92. Lateef Elford-Alliyu

Appearances: 2
Goals: 0

A walking meme in the City community, I do recall that the guys at 'NiiLampteyShow' were joking about getting him to drive them down to Wembley in a limo. Now I'm fairly certain that didn't occur which is a shame. Since his release in January 2016 he's yet to find a club, and I'm not sure what's happened to him despite trawling Google for the best part of an hour. Being completely honest he probably could've dine with the limo driving money.

91. Stuart Urquhart

Appearances: 0
Goals: 0

"Stuart is a player I've had my eye on for some time, I believe he has a great future ahead of him." This is a quote from Steven Pressley upon signing Urquhart on a 3 year deal back in September 2013. I won't have too much of a laugh and a joke about Stuart has had to stop playing professional football due to a heart problem, which is quite sad considering he was so highly rated at one stage in his career.

90. Lewis Page

Appearances: 26
Goals: 0

Whenever I hear the name Lewis Page I grit my teeth and my blood begins to boil, never have I felt such hatred towards a Sky Blues player than the left back loan from West Ham. His 26 game spell lasted from August 2016 to the following January. It was the fact he kept Ryan Haynes out of the side for so long whilst playing horrendously himself. He just didn't care, which is something I'll never be able to forgive him for. I hope his career goes down the pan.

89. Peter Ramage

Appearances: 4
Goals: 0

Peter Ramage, or as he's more commonly known, "Brain Damage" came in in the January of 2016 to try and sure up the injury struck defence. Somehow however Mowbray didn't take it as a big massive red flag that he'd most recently been playing in the Indian Premier League. We almost instantly loaned him out to Leyton Orient but upon release he went to Phoenix Rising in the USL.

88. Luke Williams

Appearances: 4
Goals: 0

Another loan signing, brought in by Steven Pressley just before his sacking. Tony Mowbray came in and chose not to extend his deal beyond the initial month. He was released by Middlesbrough that summer and was picked up by Scunthorpe United where he seems to have now found his level, a loan spell to Northampton earlier this year also gave him some good experience.

87. Yakubu

Appearances: 3
Goals: 0

Picture the scene, it's February, we're bottom of the league and in deep trouble. Michael Folivi hasn't had the impact no one expected off him so Russell Slade turns his attention to a proven goal scorer. The one slight problem with that was he was 34, had scored once in 3 years and hasn't played football for about 9 months.

Everyone knew it was a massive waste of time when he signed. After 3 sub appearances, 6 whole weeks, a hamstring injury and video of him doing literally nothing for 2 and a half minutes getting 6,000 retweets, his contract was terminated. If there's one thing I can say its that I was 5 yards away from The Yak when he made his debut at Wimbledon away.

86. Charles Vernam

Appearances: 4
Goals: 0

In a protest filled game, flares everywhere, pitch invasions and all, he didn't seem too bad. We're fifteen players into this ranking and still not one of them scored a goal in their entire time here. He fell out of favour when Robins came in and realised, much like many of our players last season, wasn't very good at football.

85. Darius Henderson

Appearances: 5
Goals: 0


Had a couple of things gone ever so slightly different for Darius 'Big D' Henderson, we could have got promoted in the 15/16 season. He nearly scored in the last minute three times, and fell over when through on goal away at Peterborough. Had he netted on those occasions we would be putting him on a plinth, instead however he's one of the comedic figures of our downfall that year.

84. Nathan Eccleston

Appearances: 8
Goals: 0

A loan signing from Blackpool who played a massive total of eight games before heading back up to the north west. He joined the ever growing list of strikers we brought in who didn't even manage to score during their entire time at the club. When released by Blackpool he tried his luck in Scotland, but now however he is in the Hungarian leagues, an odd career move.

83. Jack McBean

Appearances: 6
Goals: 0

Due to his form for the u23s when joining on loan from LA Galaxy I was desperate for us to give Jack McBean a go in the first team. I even adapted "A team of Gary Breens" to "A team of Jack McBeans", it didn't catch on for obvious reasons. He comes in relatively high compared to others around him most likely because I still have a soft spot. 

82. Chuba Akpom

Appearances: 6
Goals: 0

Chuba Akpom's spell with the Sky Blues is a classic case of someone who doesn't really care about the shirt. As his career after the move has told us, he's a very talented footballer, so there's no excuse for his disengaged performances in early 2014. Eventually he was recalled by Arsenal to play for their youth side, which was as equally depressing as his spell.

81. Conor Henderson

Appearances: 2
Goals: 0

Finally, we have another failed Arsenal loan signing, but it may seem peculiar that Conor Henderson is ahead of a large number of other players when he only has two appearances to his name. This is because a number of people saw glimpses of a decent player, we'll never know what could have been though because injury cut short his time.

That's it for the first 20 signings on the list, the remaining posts will be up in due course. I didn't attend the Notts County game as I'm on holiday and won't be going to the Blackburn tie for the same reason. To make up for the lack of match reports I'll be doing more light hearted, interesting posts such as this one.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Pinch, Punch - Coventry City 17/18 Season Preview


Introduction


Here we go again. As of August 5th, the boys are back in town. It feels like it's been an age since we got trounced 3-1 by Scunthorpe in April, which marked the end of the worst, yet somehow one of the best seasons of my life. To mark the occasion of it all getting going once more, I have completely revamped this website, yes WEBSITE. No longer is this "Just another blog", but it has it's own identity.

'Shooting To Win' will from now on be the home of all things Coventry City. I'll be sticking with match reports for every game throughout the next season and beyond. But to add to this opinions on other Sky Blues news will be shared, along with intriguing, quirky other posts. It's going to be purely opinion based, hopefully interesting. Above all else, the main aim is for it to be more appealing and entertaining to the City faithful.

Last Time Out

Words are something I'm usually OK with, yet I'm struggling to find an adjective to describe last season. The only one which gets close is simply 'mental'. It's insane how a season so abysmal, which almost tore this huge fan base apart with the protests and dreadful football, also included the best day of so many lives. Rarely do you see such juxtaposition in just one season of football.

Going through four managers is never a good sign as to the state of your form and league position, and I could go on all day about the reasons for us going down, Mowbray's recruitment, waiting so long to appoint Russell Slade, actually appointing Russell Slade, pretty much anything to do with Russell Slade.

Somehow however there was light at the end of the tunnel, with Mark Robins coming in and getting whatever the hell it was Slade left over to play some decent football. Oh, and he also managed to give us a Wembley win, something we've been waiting 30 years for. Saying that he's not quite a miracle worker, so we still slipped down to the fourth tier of English football.

I'll never stop using this picture, mainly because it's not copyright infringement.


The Squad

Even though we got relegated, there were still players we were desperate to keep hold of, as well as those who we were quick to see the back of. This huge turnover saw Andy Rose, Jack Finch, Kyle Spence, Vladimir Gadzhev, Ruben Lameiras, Nathan Clarke, Kevin Foley and Marcus Tudgay all released. Gael Bigirimana was offered a new deal but chose to move north of the border to Motherwell.

One contract situation is still ongoing which frustrates me the most, George Thomas. I wouldn't have minded him leaving, he probably is too good for this division. Obviously it would have been great to keep him but these things happen in football. What's annoying me is that he's still neither left nor signed a new deal, leaving Mark Robins clueless as to whether he will have the Wembley hero playing next season.

If he'd have gone earlier we could have used his compensation money and wages to replace him and prepare the squad further in our aim of promotion. Instead though he's not had a pre-season and will still probably be ditching us to go and sit in Leicester's u23s. Which is a shame but I'm sure we'll cope without him.

Goalkeepers

1 - Lee Burge - A youth academy product who's still failed to establish himself as the first choice goalkeeper across a whole season. The last 2 campaigns have seen him tussling for a starting place with Reice Charles-Cook but just as he won that metaphorical game of tug of war Robins throws some more competition into the equation with Liam O'Brien. If I were Burge at this point I'd be close to tears, knowing that one mistake and the back up will pounce. Still, there's nothing like a bit of healthy competition is there?

13 - Liam O'Brien - From O'Brien's perspective he has nothing to lose, his Twitter bio states "To be number one you must have to train like your number 2" Now once you put that horrific grammar out of mind you can see he does have a point and is happy to patiently wait for his opportunity. He'll be sure to impress in the cup games and other than a bit of a shocker against Barnsley he's looked sharp throughout pre-season. Who knows whether he'll get a shot as first choice or if it's another season on the bench, just a different and potentially comfier one.

23 - Reice Charles-Cook - It's hard to believe how much 'RCC' has gone backwards since being a mainstay in the aide which should have got promoted in the 15/16. He still holds the all time clean sheet record for any Coventry City keeper, just edging out Steve Ogrizovic. But somehow he's managed to slip down to third choice. I assume he'll either be going out on loan or even leaving permanently. His heroics at Swansea away in the Checkatrade quarter finals won't be forgotten wherever he goes.

Defenders

2 - Jack Grimmer - One of a few pieces of very good business for us, spent the last three seasons on loan at Shrewsbury, where he gained promotion from League Two. The fact that their fans were very annoyed they didn't pick him up on a free from Fulham and we did says a lot about his ability being above this decision. So far in friendlies he has shown excellent defensive abilities as well beiing able to bomb up that right wing with effect. This is one of the signings I can rely on coming good, he just has that feel about him.

20 - Dion Kelly-Evans - The first twin to make the breakthrough to the first team, in a season where we were poor and in desperate need of experience, he seemed a better option than Kevin Foley at right back. Saying that, there are many many people who would be a better right back than Kevin Foley. We did need more depth though so he could be in for a hefty spell as back up and a cup right back which will be a big test for him but one time has told us he won't back down to.

4 - Jordan Willis - You forget Willis is still only 22 as he's been on the scene since our final season in the Championship and in over six injury hit years has managed to notch up over 100 appearances. These days that's unheard of for a Coventry player to hit those heights. Robins has made it clear he wants him to be a centre back but as we've seen can comfortably play on the right of the back four. It's likely he won't have the burden of captaincy either, leaving him free to give his all to the promotion cause.

5 - Rod McDonald - Whilst he may sound like someone who owns a farm in a nursery rhyme or indeed the terrifying clown McDonald's used to advertise, Rod McDonald has experience of promotion from this level. He's had to go through spells of non-league football yet still earned his move to Northampton in 2015. Hopefully he's a better footballer than his slightly comedic name suggests.

15 - Dominic Hyam - Currently, Hyam is the third of only three senior centre backs at the club with the departure of Jordan Turnbull on loan to Partick Thistle. (I'm as baffled as you are). He's almost certainly going to be a back up player but has been playing fairly well over the course of pre-season, something which won't have gone unnoticed. One thing which is for definite is that we need another coming in in case of injury. Many trialists have been tried out, none have been awarded a contract just yet.

3 - Chris Stokes - Ah Stokesy, my hero, my mate. Possibly my favourite player at the club, not just for his footballing ability but everything about him. He wouldn't look out of place down the pub bettering all of your mates at pool and darts. I shrieked with joy like a little girl when he signed a new 2 year contract. With the injury to Ryan Haynes he's looking definite to be starting against Notts County at his favoured left back position but is also a capable centre back when called upon. I honestly think there is nothing he can't do.

24 - Ryan Haynes - I don't know what it is about my fondness of the left backs at this club but Haynes is also up there as a potential favourite. Saying that, not a chance should he be left back. Ideally, Stokes would start there with Haynes further up field on the left flank. Here he could make use of his gift of being able to breeze past players with ease. Finally he may get a full season of football without being slated or horrific West Ham loanees trying to stop him.

Midfielders

8 - Michael Doyle - The re-signing of Doyle was announced on my birthday, and made me spend a whole half an hour trying to dig out my away kit from the 07/08 season with "Doyle 8" on the back. That's just a small glimpse of my happiness. Getting him back was more than sentimental however, he captained Portsmouth to the League Two title just last season. He's also not portraying the fact he's 36 next week as Robins described him as "The fittest player in the squad."

6 - Liam Kelly - Another captain of a League Two side last season, however Leyton Orient were at the other end of the spectrum in terms of their finishing position. Don't let that cloud your opinion on him though, he's a hard nut goalscoring midfielder who will do well in this side, saying that, our midfield is very competitive at the moment. Time will tell whether he comes good or not.

31 - Ben Stevenson - One of the players of the season last time out, somehow he might not be in the starting eleven on Saturday, which says a lot about the squad we're building. He's a brilliant deep lying playmaker with an eye for the spectacular. Just look at the only two goals he's scored for reference, against Oxford and MK Dons. He's also one of very few players we have on a long term deal, made even fewer with the departure of Cian Harries.

26 - Jordan Shipley - For someone who has just 1 senior sub appearance to his name, he has looked exceptional over pre-season. He's captained the u23 team but above all else, he regularly views my snapchat stories which is exactly what you want in a centre midfielder. In all seriousness, he's going to need to grasp every chance he gets because they are looking scarce currently with so much competition.

7 - Peter Vincenti - Vincenti joins Stokes in the "Down the pub with the lads club" down to his demeanour. However he's not looked very fit going into the new season but has shown glimpses of someone who will be a great goalscoring midfielder. He can be played anywhere across the midfield but it's likely he'll start on the left of a midfield four. He's not exactly a winger, more a 'Wide Midfielder'. He's more likely to pass it about than go on darting runs down the wing basically.

11 - Jodi Jones - '#JJ10' is no more, Robins put an end to that brand which Jodi was trying to build up by giving him the number 11 shirt. I can't wait for '#JJ11' to be appearing on mugs, t-shirts and phone cases. But the winger has looked a different player to last season. He's now adding some serious end product to his game, with reward, just look at his goal from Nuneaton away, a peach which gave the keeper no chance. If he gets 10 goals this season I'll get a '#JJ11' coffee mug in celebration.

22 - Devon Kelly-Evans - With Haynes' injury accompanied by the fact we don't have an out and out left winger, the more attacking DKE twin has been thrown into the first team for friendlies against better opposition like Barnsley. He's not looked out of place, in fact he ran their defence ragged. I wouldn't mind seeing more of him in competitive matches.

32 - Kyel Reid - He doesn't want to be here and is on a hefty wage, he's really inconsistent but has is brilliant one every five games. But he's not playing ball by playing ball. The sooner he's gone and his wages are freed up to use on someone who wants to play for the club the better. No one is bigger than the club.

Strikers

10 - Marc McNulty - He's netted on three occasions so far this pre-season, albeit all from the penalty spot but they all count. McNulty is most likely who we're relying on most to get goals next season mainly because he's the only one who's done it at this level before. He's comfortable as a striker on indeed just behind, but the question remains. Can he put himself in the same category as Armstrong, Wilson, Clarke, McGoldrick etc?

9 - Maxime Biamou - One of the heroes of Sutton United's long cup run last season, Biamou has been hit and miss in the friendlies so far. He's got a good first touch but has yet to spark up a partnership with Marc. That was irresistible but I'm not sure whether or not he should start against Notts County.

16 - Stuart Beavon - If there's one person who's massively staking a claim to be in the side this season it's Stuart Beavon. He was perhaps unfairly slated last season as we needed a goalscorer and he doesn't fit that bill, he likes to partner someone and assist them. To be fair to him, he does that well and runs himself about everywhere.

14 - Kwame Thomas - Kwame suffered many an injury last year but in the very brief spells he did manage to play in he showed signs of being a good poacher. He'd most likely be fourth or fifth choice but he's a good player to throw on when you need a goal, but can't be expected to do it over the course of a season.

38 - Jordan Ponticelli - Last, but certainly by no means least, Jordan Ponticelli. He ripped apart the u18s last season and is starting to do the same with the u23s, he needs to master that before he can get a serious go in the first team. That's not to say he shouldn't get a look in at all however, just perhaps not as big as one some people are making out he should have.

The Best Eleven

(4-4-2)

GK: Burge

RB: Grimmer
CB: Willis
CB: McDonald
LB: Stokes

RM: Jones
CM: Doyle
CM: Stevenson
LM: Vincenti

ST: McNulty
ST: Beavon

SUB: O'Brien
SUB: Hyam
SUB: Di. Kelly-Evans
SUB: Kelly
SUB: Dev. Kelly-Evans
SUB: Biamou
SUB: K Thomas

That's my best guess as to what Robins will play on Saturday. I'd drop Liam Kelly not because he's done something wrong, but because he lacks creativity. This is something which Stevenson offers in truck loads. Shipley and Ponticelli miss out due to stiff competition, whilst Haynes is injured. Charles-Cook doesn't make it in because you just don't need three keepers in a match day squad. Finally Kyel Reid doesn't get in because he's Kyel Reid.

How will we fare?

It's tough coming down a division into the relatively unknown, you're not sure what to expect. Saying that I still expect us to be challenging for automatic promotion, if not top 7 at the absolute bare minimum. Our squad is capable of it, there's no doubt about it, but as we've seen, it's not as simple as that. It's very likely at some point we'll begin the inevitable bottle but let's not think about that, let's focus on being confident and look to enjoy some positive football over the next 10 months.

Final Placing Prediction: 3rd