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

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