Sunday, 31 December 2017

My Thirty-Ninth 17/18 Game - Carlisle United vs Coventry City

Statistically, at 187 miles away, Carlisle is the furthest away ground of the 92 as it sits on the Scottish border. Getting up at 6am for a December trip following the Port Vale shambles wasn't something I was looking forward to, putting it lightly. To avoid dropping out of the play offs we almost certainly had to pick up 3 points, I can't stress enough how incredibly tight it is. From here on in it's going to be a test of nerve at bottle for who's going to stick around and who's going to drop off. Only time will tell which of those categories we're going to be in.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Dev. Kelly-Evans
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Beavon

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Haynes
Stevenson
Ponticelli
Biamou
Nazon

When doing team selection, Mark Robins must have had in mind who needs to be rested and so on in terms of Monday's New Years Day fixture at home to Chesterfield. However with this being the more tough of the two on paper, only two changes were made. One of which was forced. Rod McDonald has been carrying a knock and is on antibiotics for a chest infection, along with that his wife gave birth in recent days. I think that's enough to excuse him for this one fixture. The other was the slightly more odd inclusion of Stuart Beavon, and it is a touch weird given how much the gaffer was hyping up the need for Jordan Ponticelli and Duckens Nazon during our packed schedule. Devon Kelly-Evans found his way back onto the right wing after the news that Peter Vincenti will be out for 2 months at the very least.



First Half

Playing into the wind was always going to make the first 45 minutes at least a bit tough. This meant we had to set up in a more defensive way to counteract this, it didn't take us too long to realise that long balls are just going to come straight back at you. Then again, our long ball merchant Rod McDonald was out for the game so that may have had something to do with it. After just 20 minutes we were forced to make our first substitution when Jordan Willis went off for Dominic Hyam, it's since been confirmed it's only a dead leg so he shouldn't be out for too long.

What's been letting us down in recent times is our distribution from the wide areas, whilst Jordan Shipley and Devon Kelly-Evans had good games overall, their crossing was still letting them down. That was partly due to the poor delivery in itself, the fact that both McNulty and Beavon are under 6 foot, but mainly due to the wind blowing them wayward. They saw this early on and decided the best cause of action would be to just start leathering them from the wings. Shippers had a couple go over and Devon troubled the keeper the most after cutting in with 10 minutes of the half left.

The early injury knocked us for 6 a bit, so we were playing quite poor, the couple of aforementioned half chances were all we could muster up in the first period. Quite a few of the players looked dead towards the end of the half, with Davies picking up a knock as well as Beavon needing to receive treatment. As we neared the end of the half we were just hanging on so we could regroup at the break with 11 fully fit players on the pitch.

Half Time - Carlisle United 0-0 Coventry City

Second Half

Due to the knock he picked up in the first half, Stuart Beavon had to come off at the break with Duckens Nazon taking his place on the field. It was the be short lived but at least whilst he was on the pitch we made the breakthrough we were in desperate need of. I'm not sure what was said or if it was literally down to The Duck's influence for that 11 minutes, but we switched right on for the second half.

Thanks to the hosts' shambolic defending it didn't take us long to get what we needed, Michael Doyle's hoof/cross was completely missed by all of their back four, leaving McNulty 8 yards out through on goal. He made no mistake and slotted straight past the keeper for his seventh goal in his last 8 games. Nazon was forced off just 5 minutes later when he took a big blow to the hip for the now 57 year old Clint Hill, Biamou came on in his place.

In a period of sheer dominance from the Sky Blues, we nearly made it 2-0 on the hour mark, Bayliss was played in and struck the post with his effort, the rebound fell to Kelly-Evans. His strike was poor, it looked to be going miles wide until a deflection carried it towards Biamou on the goal line. Had he not backheeled it in from a yard out, I'm confident it would have just been cleared away, despite what Devon may say. He was flagged offside and robbed of his long-awaited moment of glory. To be fair, he was literally in the goal when the ball was struck so I'm not surprised it didn't stand.

Bayliss went on another surprising yet blistering run into the area with 20 minutes left and forced a good save from Bonham. His parry was just out of reach of Biamou who looks to be getting closer to that first Coventry City goal every minute. I'm making it sound like we were dominating and playing very well, which to be fair, we were, but don't let that disguise the fact that Carlisle were extremely poor. The shame really should have been put to bed by this stage, but it was still only one goal separating.

With 15 minutes left we were given the biggest opportunity of them all to win it, McNulty did some great work on the wing, nutmegging the defender and playing the ball into Shipley 12 yards out. Jones stuck out a leg to try and block the midfielder from rounding him and having a shot, but he caught his right foot instead, giving away a penalty. You could argue Biamou should have taken it to give him a confidence boost but I think McNulty was right to step up. It was a poor, low penalty which Bonham comfortably saved. I think we can let him off though, he had a great game and is in great form, plus he said how much it angered him.

Really we should have been breezing the last 10 minute 3-0 up but instead it was squeaky bum time for the majority, but we held it well in the corner and didn't let them get anywhere near an equaliser. The six minutes of injury time were still quite nervy however, the cloesest they did come was a free kick from Reggie Lambe which sailed miles over the bar. It was a good, professional performance to pick up the 3 points and see out 2017 with a win.

Full Time - Carlisle United 0-1 Coventry City

Robins is a man who doesn't make substitutes for the sake of making them, many times this season have we only used one or two. So to have three forced upon the side due to injuries just after half time, we adapted extremely well to come away with all three points. Max Biamou actually did look good when he came on, the majority of his goals for Sutton last season came in the second half of the campaign so lets all hope and pray it's a similar case now. What would be an extremely Coventry City thing to do would be to drop points against 22nd place Chesterfield. A win could push on our bid for automatics, and a win is what we need to aim for.

My Man of the Match - Tom Bayliss - He's only 18 years of age and you can count his professional appearances on one hand. This is absolutely staggering given how natural he looks on the ball, playing his way out of a sticky situation and he even has the ability to catch defences out by going on an unexpected darting run. He was unlucky to not come away with a goal on this occasion as well, striking the post. He needs to be tied down on a long term deal before heads turn, from what I've seen so far, we have some player on our hands. Also, an honourable mention needs to go to Tom Davies, he had an exceptional defensive performance in trying circumstances.



Wednesday, 27 December 2017

My Thirty-Eighth 17/18 Game - Port Vale vs Coventry City

The annual Boxing Day fixture is one which a large majority of people look for on the football calendar, and I'm not sure if we got lucky or unlucky with the card we were dealt. Port Vale away is only up the road, and it's good we didn't have to travel too far during the festive period. Plus it gave us a chance to take a big following to try and get our third win in as many games. Equally however, we're sick of going there by this point. It's not the nicest ground and it's certainly not the nicest of areas, but I suppose we had to play the fixture at one point or another.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Willis
Davies
McDonald
Stokes

Grimmer
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Maycock
Haynes
Stevenson
Beavon
Nazon
Ponticelli

The injury to Peter Vincenti meant an odd switch up to the side, in came central defender Tom Davies who came into the back four with Willis being pushed to the right side. Jack Grimmer came into the midfield as Vincenti's replacement. It slightly annoys me that we're all for putting him in as a midfielder but when it comes to Ryan Haynes we won't give it a second thought, it's criminal he can't even get a game. With all due respect Jordan Shipley had hardly been setting the league alight in recent matches.

First Half

Crikey I'm going to struggle with this one. The Wycombe game was full of action, this on the other hand had 3 collective shots on target through the whole match, only one of which went to us, a weak 84th minute effort. If there's one thing you can say about our performance as a whole, it's that our distribution from the wide areas was simply awful, Grimmer did all the hard work and made it into the area but spooned the ball over the head of the advancing Jordan Shipley.

McNulty had our best chance of the half when he cut in from that side and had a shot from the edge of the box, it ballooned a couple of yards over the bar. It warranted a small low pitch "ooh" from the away fans, that's how poor the first half was, that was all we could muster up. Vale weren't much better saying that, but they were at least controlling the pace of the game, despite not creating any worthy chances.

Half Time - Port Vale 0-0 Coventry City

Second Half

After some of the best half time scenes I've seen in a long time we came out for the second half, which was ever so slightly more eventful than the first. Our main talking point came when Marc McNulty latched onto a flicked through ball and had a clear shot on goal from 18 yards, a defender had his arms wrapped round him and pulled him to the ground. I'm not saying it was a dead cert spot kick as I've only seen it once, but he's in great scoring form and had a great chance to get his seventh in seven games, he had no reason to go down. It's for that reason I'd say it was a penalty kick. Instead however it was waved away. Michael Doyle was booked for arguing the case.

A ball was played out to Shipley on the left and his effort aimed at either Biamou or McNulty was overhit slightly, Grimmer came in at the back stick and could only hit the post with his strike. He can be forgiven as it was a very tight angle, he did well to even get to the ball and get a shot away. For some reason a corner was given when it was clear Boot got nowhere near to the ball, however we wasted the opportunity.



Max Biamou had a poor game and was substituted off with 20 minutes to go for Duckens Nazon, we needed that spark from somewhere but although he wasn't doing his usual basics of winning headers, the attack wasn't the problem. However as we've seen many times, The Duck has the ability to change games in an instant. Unfortunately nothing new was brought to the table, likely because it was too late in the day. The swap should have been made at half time, Robins should have seen how bad we were playing.

With 10 minutes left the deadlock was broken by the home side, Nathan Smith was allowed a free header after a cross from Harness, he flicked it on and it looped the keeper into the far corner of the net. Ponticelli and Beavon were brought on but by this point it was too late. Chris Stokes had a half chance where he really should have at least got the ball on target. That was as close as we got before the referee blew his whistle, it was a poor performance and we got what we deserved.

Full Time - Port Vale 1-0 Coventry City

It was a dull game where Vale had an ever so slight advantage, had we won we would be in the automatic spots. The league is so tight that whilst we are barely in the play offs in seventh, we are still only 2 points off third. So even though that result was tough to take, it's not the end of the world. Saying that, Carlisle on Saturday is must win, we now absolutely need 6 points from the next two games. Especially as other teams gain a game on us when we face Stoke City in the cup.

My Man of the Match - Tom Bayliss - We lacked creativity granted, but Bayliss turned well and could spread the play brilliantly, but Stokes and Shipley aren't attacking minded enough to run into the space so pass back. This is why Ryan Haynes is needed in the equation, he eats up those areas perfectly. Back to Bayliss, he is really turning into some player, even at the age of just 18.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 25 - George Thomas

Merry Christmas one and all, if you're reading this on Christmas Day, then thank you, but why? Try and spend as much time with your family as possible, come back on Boxing Day as you prepare for our 3-0 trouncing of Port Vale. Now Christmas is a time of gift giving, happiness and remembrance, so in the spirit of that I'd like to look back at easily the best moment for Coventry City in 2017, our Checkatrade Trophy Final win at Wembley. Now the moment that jumps out at most from that day was the peach of a winner from none other than George Thomas.


Another product of our ever impressive youth academy, he only really broke into the first team last season, and for the first half, was only really shining in the Checkatrade Trophy. His first senior goal came on the night of Wycstanbul in the group stages of that competition where we came back from 2-0 down to win 4-2, where he netted the third. This continued in the last 16 versus Brighton's u21 side where he placed a great header into the roof of the net. It wasn't until mid-February where he got his first league goal, in a 2-1 win against Gillingham.



It was weird how much of an involvement he had in that cup run, in the Quarters at Swansea he assisted the own goal equaliser and scored a penalty in the resulting shootout. As for the semi finals, he chested down an exquisite Kyel Reid cross and smashed into the roof of the net for City's second goal. This seemed to spark some great league form as he went on to become our top goalscorer in both the league and all competitions, which just emphasises how poor we were. Goals against Swindon, Walsall and others made heads turn, but none made clubs come knocking like one in particular.

If it weren't for this moment, I doubt he'd even be on here, and I know that kind of defeats the whole point of this list. Being honest, he gave me my happiest moment as a Coventry City supporter, and in fact, one of the happiest moments of my life. Picture the scene, it's the 55th minute of the Checkatrade Trophy Final between Coventry City and Oxford United. Stuart Beavon feeds Kyel Reid down the left wing, he sends over a peach to the edge of the area where George Thomas is lurking.

The ball is behind him slightly, it's a tough take down but he pulls it off well. The defenders are closing in, if he's going to have a chance on goal he's going to have to hit this first time, in a quick yet composed motion the ball canons off his right peg and like an arrow it heads straight for the far bottom corner. The 43, 269 City fans are left in raptures at the sight of the goal, limbs are flying everywhere, no one knows what to do with themselves. It's beginning to dawn on us all, we're actually going to do it. It was an amazing moment, and one which will stay with me for the rest of my life, with everyone there, it's going to take something big to top it.

Thank you to everyone who's read and supported this advent calendar, even that one bloke who said he couldn't wait until it was over. Any feedback is good feedback after all. I've enjoyed writing every single one of these posts, in particular the James Maddison one where I got home at 7am from being out that night,  realising I hadn't done it yet. Would I do it again with something similar next year? Who knows, there's definitely potential for a few more series' yet. Until then, I'll stick to match reports and a weekly opinion piece. Thank you, and most of all, Merry bloody Christmas.


Sunday, 24 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 24 - Scott Dann

Christmas Eve is a busy time if you're completely unorganised like myself, last minute shopping and writing posts which when it comes down to it, have nothing to do with Christmas in any way. However to celebrate the festive time I have gone with a player who would not only make my list, but he might even sneak on to some of the slightly older generation's list, and that is the underpriced centre back himself, Scott Dann.


Bought as one of two young defenders from Walsall with Danny Fox in January 2008 in the short but sweet Ray Ranson honeymoon period. The undisclosed fee was rumoured to be in the region of £1 million, and his spectacular form in the early months led to him receiving his first England u21 call up in march 2008, alongside Danny Fox, whom went on to play for Scotland. He was a real shining light in the second half of that campaign as we scrapped our way to survival on the final day.

As a reward for his fine work he was given the captain's armband for the 08/09 season at just age 21 by Chris Coleman, proving that we did have a real talent in our ranks and Ray Ranson's policy of buying youth players really did have legs. He played the majority of games in this year and was a huge part of the squad that made the FA Cup Quarter Finals, however favourable the run may have been facing 2 non-league sides.

I'll never forget the Newcastle match where he got on the end of an Aron Gunnarsson throw in to equalise in the 93rd minute. Of course we did go on to lose in extra time but I try to forget about that and focus on the moment itself, there's various captures of it on YouTube if you want to reminisce. He didn't have the best of games against Chelsea in the FA Cup Quarter Final, pretty much handing Didier Drogba the first goal. That was a once in a blue moon moment in a great but short city career. Another who I was gutted to say goodbye to when SISU pushed through his sale to Birmingham for £3.5 million.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

My Thirty-Sixth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Wycombe Wanderers

Last time we played Wycombe was a monumental occasion in our modern history, as our 2-1 victory marked our return to Wembley for the first time in 30 years. There was a pitch invasion, everything went perfectly, it's possibly the happiest moment we've had ad the Ricoh, rivalled only be when we returned from exile and beat Gillingham 1-0 with Frank Nouble getting the only goal. However this fixture against them was now a very key league fixture which could send us within one point of the automatic promotion spots.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Vincenti
Doyle
Bayliss
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Haynes
Stevenson
Dev. Kelly-Evans
Nazon
Ponticelli

An unchanged side from last Saturday's win over Cheltenham isn't too surprising, we saw with this that The Duck is a great impact player to bring on when you need a goal. One thing I can't understand is people are still slating Marc McNulty but are praising Maxime Biamou, I like them both, but when it comes down to it, they're both strikers, one scores, the other doesn't. It's as simple as that. Still, they seem to be working well together as of late.

First Half

With less than a minute played we already had a clear cut chance, Vincenti sliced the defence open with a pass, McNulty latched on but it was a touch too far so he could only stab at the keeper. The rebound came to Biamou who really should have buried it but it was shanked wide, an early chance was squandered. We need not worry however, as just 10 minutes later the most incredible thing this season happened. The ball was cleared to Michael Doyle about 45 yards out, and he leathered a cross in, well it must have been a cross.



You're thinking he's spooned it well over the bar out of frustration, then it keeps dipping and you think, "Hang on, this might be close". In similar fashion to Fleck vs Gillingham in 2015, it hit the bar, but this time, it bounced over the line. It caused chaos as I didn't know what I'd just witnessed, whether he meant it or not, it's definitely going to be voted as goal of the season when it comes to it next May. That was nearly matched a few minutes later when Jordan Shipley almost curled a corner in at the far post but instead it crashed out off the bar.

With five minutes left in the half Vincenti floated a beautiful ball over the defence aimed at McNulty, despite a small flick on, he got a hold of it and wrong footed his man, slotting into the far corner. This was Vincenti's last action of the game as in what looked quite nasty, he went down and was forced to go off through a knee injury. Devon Kelly-Evans came on as a replacement, right as the half time whistle was about to be blown. As a right kick in the teeth, in the fifth minute of injury time Dan Scarr scored a wonderful volley for the visitors.

Half time - Coventry City 2-1 Wycombe Wanderers

Second Half

After conceding at the worst possible time, we desperately needed to take control of the game at the start of the second half to avoid the momentum going against us. Adebayo Akinfenwa was booked for diving in the area early on in a heart in mouth first minute. Just three minutes later they were handed an opportunity to equalise when Devon Kelly-Evans was penalised for a push in the back, I mean, it looked soft, but it really didn't matter. Joe Jacobsen stepped up and sent Burge the wrong way, meaning that we had bottled the game in under 4 match minutes, a pretty special achievement if you ask me.

We were in turmoil and looked nowhere near taking the lead, Wycombe had all of the ball, it was only when we got lucky that things changed again. Stokes played well on the wing, and fed the ball to McNulty just inside the box by the byline. Then he was brought down and we got a penalty of our own, and perhaps neither of which should have been. With a huge run up and using his laces, I really thought he'd sky it into the empty old Telegraph Stand. Instead it rifled straight into the roof of the net and we were ahead again.

Mark Robins plays a fairly risky style of football, if we have a one goal lead with half an hour left we try and see it out rather than try to put the game to bed. To his and the teams credit, we do it exceptionally well, as not much really happened for the remainder of the fixture. Nazon came on with 5 minutes left and brought a bit of flair into the game, almost immediately he fed in McNulty to complete his hat trick. He rounded the keeper, and went down, but instead of a third penalty being given, he was booked for diving. It was most likely the right decision if I'm being honest. Thankfully though this didn't make a difference, as we still rode out 3-2 winners.

Full Time - Coventry City 3-2 Wycombe Wanderers

A huge win if I ever saw one, we put the pressure on all the other teams to win and went up to fourth. They all seemed to buckle under the pressure as literally all the results went our way. We're going into Christmas in fourth, one point off automatics, and this also signals the halfway point in the season. If you'd have said that this would be the case a month ago I would have bitten your hand off, we've got a massive few games coming up as it's still incredibly tight. The first step is Port Vale away on Boxing Day, which really we should be winning if we want to go up.

My Man of the Match - Marc McNulty - A fantastic brace means he's on 10 for the season and has 6 in his last 6, he is well and truly on fire. Long may it continue, as we need his goals hugely at this stage. He may even get more support with Josh Barrett coming in in January and potentially more waiting, one of whom could be Carl Baker if he does enough on trial to earn a contract.



Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 23 - James Maddison

Happy Christmas Eve Eve, as Phoebe from 'Friends' once poetically uttered, and this means two things, not only is it nearly Christmas Day, but the advent calendar is coming to a close. To some this is a great relief given the comment which was received on the forum yesterday, but it was heartwarming to hear so many people have been enjoying it. I shall forever leave clog up the internet as long as people don't crucify me. Today's instalment is a slight controversial one, his ability is undoubted, but the circumstances he left in anger most City fans to this day.


Sporadic appearances in the 13/14 season were his only snippets of first team football early on in his career, he only started to really make a name for himself right at the end of the following season. This was all capped off when he sealed our League One status on the final day with a late goal at Crawley putting the nail in the coffin. The Red Devils were relegated whilst we returned to our usual spot in 17th.

Tony Mowbray was so confident by his performances that he gave him the number 10 shirt ahead of some other stiff competition. It was a brave gamble, but by god did it pay off. Even with a 3 month injury starting off he still captured our hearts just before the transfer window. On Boxing Day 2015 he bagged his first goal at the Ricoh Arena in a 1-0 win over Port Vale, strengthening our promotion bid. Just 2 days later he managed to single handedly salvage us a point in the last minute away at Chesterfield with a great free kick.

Naturally, he was always going to be in high demand, all of the big clubs were rumoured to want his signature. Thankfully for us, Tony Mowbray was strongly opposed to him leaving, he'd just turned 19 after all so there was no need for him to move at this stage. Unfortunately we forgot about our horrendous owners, who had other ideas. 15 minutes after the deadline had shut we were dealt with the blow he'd been sold to Norwich for an undisclosed fee rumoured to be tuppence.

At the time I was absolutely fuming we'd let this happen, because in ways it did have a big factor to us not gaining promotion. I was angry for him for ditching us and it took me about a year to realise that it was almost definitely a good career move for him, so that's why he's made it onto the list, I've reached acceptance. Via a loan spell with Aberdeen, his career has massively blown up, he's been nothing short of sensational this season and he just turned 21 in November. Norwich are in for a struggle to keep him in January, and I believe we get 20% of any transfer fee he moves for. So fingers crossed.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 22 - John Fleck

The Scottish Rooney, the highly under appreciated John Fleck, for a large group of fans it was about not noticing and realising how good of a player we had until he'd already got his bags packed and was on his way. He was the glue that held our squad together in the 15/16 season, and it nearly guided us to promotion from League One, but as I've moaned about on many occasions, there are a large number of contributing factors to that bottle job. All of which were out of Fleck's control.


He was in and out of the first team in his first season here, due to the managerial change of Andy Thorn to Mark Robins, and he found it particularly hard to get in under Robins in his first spell. However when he left for Huddersfield and Steven Pressley came in, he was back in as one of the first names on the team sheet. Probably some sort of Scottish bond between them both, Either way this was pretty much the whole case for Pressley's 2 year reign as manager.

He was a big part in the side that got dragged out of a 10 point deduction to safety, playing a key role in the midfield, but understandably the plaudits were mainly given to Callum Wilson and Leon Clarke. Once again though, not many people, including myself, were there to see the majority of this form given it was played at Sixfields. On our return to the Ricoh he almost scored the best goal I've ever seen with the 45 yard 'hit and hope' versus Gillingham, Bywater was wrong footed and barely managed to flick it onto the bar.

Just before Pressley was sacked, he gave Flecky a new 18 month contract, which led to him striking up a great partnership with Romain Vincelot under Tony Mowbray. What a partnership it was. Fleck was the brains, Vince was the beauty. In this campaign he bagged four goals but it felt like so many more as they were all screamers, the pick of the bunch was probably against Millwall at home. This was easily his best spell with the Sky Blues, and he was rewarded with both the Fans' Player of the Season as well as the Players' Player of the Season. Unfortunately for us he saw more of an opportunity of Championship football with Sheffield United, where he now is, and is a fan favourite. It's painful as I hate that club with a passion, but I'm glad he's doing well.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 21 - Callum Wilson

In the latter stages of our time in the Championship, Callum Wilson was just one of those names you saw right at the bottom of the programme and kind of forgot existed, it took him a while to bloom as a footballer. Aged 21, going into the 13/14 season, it didn't really look like he was going to make it in our squad, but after one good pre-season game it all changed. Had it gone any differently in that crucial period he might not be where he is now. Who says that pre-season doesn't matter?


I can't remember us having someone with the same first name even getting a consistent run in the first team for us, so it was all the more sweet when Wilson did it, and the cherry on top was him coming through the academy product. I'll admit I didn't see as much of him as I would have liked, the whole Sixfields thing put a whole downer on a season which with a little better circumstances, we definitely had the squad to go up.

Striking up a partnership with Leon Clarke certainly helped him along the way, and they both made each other look like better players. After just 11 league games he'd already accumulated 10 goals, and the pair of them were dragging us kicking and screaming out of the relegation zones having started the season with a 10 point deduction. Around January things started to malfunction slightly, partly down to his 2 month injury, and Leon Clarke forcing a move through to Wolves in January.

To break away slightly from Wilson and onto his partner, we reignited his career, but when it didn't work out for him he had to drop back to League One with Bury. There he picked up a slight bit of form and earned a move to Sheffield United, for most of the season they despised him, and it was only in April of last season where he got one goal which sparked a whole run, which has carried on in the Championship this season. All Blades fans now love him. Who was the goal against which made all of this happen i hear you cry, well of course it would be Coventry City Football Club.

Impressively considering losing his partner and the 2 months injury, he finished the season on 22 goals, the third highest in the league. At this stage we had no idea we'd soon be heading back to the Ricoh, so you can't blame him for leaving in any way. He'd definitely earned it, but waited the appropriate amount of time, unlike Clarke. Bournemouth came in with a bid around £2.5 million and the rest is history. I still maintain that he'd have gone to Euro 2016 had he not ruptured his ACL, his form prior was astonishing, and it's looking like getting back to those levels.


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 20 - Adam Armstrong

Into the twenties of December we have now entered, and I don't think I've ever felt less Chrismassy, in fact I keep referring to it as "Monday", rather than Christmas Day. Anyway, to mark the day, I've gone with someone who was destined to get at least 20 goals as soon as the 15/16 season started, Adam Armstrong. Especially in the first half of the season, he was a machine, which is rare to find in a youngster with little to no first team experience.


Football Manager are no strangers to predicting wonderkids before they're even heard of by anyone, and Arma received this treatment in his early youth days. This meant that when he was signed on loan I at least had some basic understanding of his capabilities, albeit on a game. However I don't think anyone could have anticipated how good he was going into that 15/16 season. The debut against Wigan Athletic was a sign of things to come when he bagged an impressive brace and followed it up by doing the same a week later at Millwall.

His first strike at Millwall ended up winning goal of the season, to slaughter one from 40 odd yards and lob the keeper was astonishing. He was a big part in taking us to top of the league in November and was for the most part, top scorer in League One. It got to a stage where we were begging Newcastle daily to have his loan extended until the end of the season, after his hat trick vs Crewe, the screams were louder than ever.

I really thought Newcastle would turn to one of their own who'd been scoring goals for fun to try and get them out of deep trouble that season but luckily for us, Steve McLaren decided to let him keep on growing with the Sky Blues. For whatever reason, when the loan was extended he just wasn't the same player, having accumulated 16 goals in the first half of the season, he only managed to stumble to 20 with his late goal at Oldham on the final day.

Given how it ended up after the turn of the year, some people struggle to remember how good he actually was before that. Other than David McGoldrick and maybe the Leon Clarke/Callum Wilson days, he is one of a rare breed of seriously clinical strikers we've had in recent years. It's a shame he hasn't been able to carry it on at the same levels in the Championship with Barnsley and now Bolton, but hopefully he can still have a long and successful career as a footballer.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 19 - Martin Cranie

In hindsight Chris Coleman's spell as manager was a massive underachievement to say the least, he was the last manager to have funds and a squad good enough to challenge for promotion to the Premier League. The golden generation of youth between 2008 and 2010 makes me fuel with anger how we could only muster up 17th in the league. Towards the back end of it and one of the final fairly big money signings we made was Martin Cranie for what was rumoured to be around £500,000.


Being able to deploy him as either a centre back or a right back really helped us out, although the latter of these positions was slightly unfamiliar at first, he grew into it very quickly in his first season. Throughout all 3 seasons he was a mainstay, the odd small injury or suspension may have kept him out here and there but he was a very reliably player to have in our back four. Aidy Boothroyd was reported to have rejected a bid from Norwich City after an impressive first campaign.

There were a coupe of individuals responsible for keeping our heads above water in the 2010/11 season, the main one that sticks in the mind of most people is Marlon King. But Cranie was an unsung hero in us accumulating enough points to have just one more season in the Championship. In fact early on we were looking like potential play off candidates until the horrendous mid-season from killed us off, winning just 1 in 18 league games.

The poor business in summer of 2011 the let go the likes of Keiren Westwood and Aron Gunnarsson on free transfers is what put the final nail in the coffin in terms of our second tier status. Cranie was unfortunate to be a part of the relegation side but was certainly one of the shining lights compared to some of the rest. He displayed signs of wanting to stay but we likely offered pittance given the trouble we were just months from entering, I don't blame him in the slightest for choosing to move to Barnsley instead.

Barnsley gave him another 3 successful years but they also ended up getting relegated to League One, after which he moved to Huddersfield. As we've seen in more recent times, this was a very good decision, as The Terriers gained promotion to the Premier League back in May. I was very happy for him, I met him once and he seemed like a really nice guy so I'm glad his career has worked out well. Hopefully he can get a few more top flight appearances under his belt this season as they look to stay in the league.


Monday, 18 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 18 - Joe Cole

One week to go until the big day, just 7 whole days, and with only a few players to go on the list, today's is a questionable addition to say the least. Some may argue he's gone in for completely the wrong reasons, but Joe Cole has found his way in as one of my 25 favourite players and is today's instalment to the advent calendar. Still, once more I have to reiterate that it is indeed personal preference, so try not to crucify me for it, I've only just got over the Sordell backlash.


As a child one of my favourite England players was Joe Cole, and I've got a 2007 home shirt to prove it, prior to Sturridge vs Wales, he held my favourite England goal with his effort against Sweden in the 2006 World Cup. So in October 2015 when we announced the signing of 'The Actual Joe Cole' I hyperventilated endless amounts, struggling to believe that my League One football team had acquired one of my childhood heroes who brought 56 caps with him. 

It was always going to be good from there, even if he two footed a kid in the family stand, I'd still probably hold him in a high regard. Off the back of a 35 day loan I bought a 'Cole 14' shirt for that season, it is and forever will be one of my favourite city shirts. Not only because of the player on the back, but it was a beautiful strip to say the least. Swaggering off to Swindon away with that on display in the pouring rain kind of put a metaphorical, as well as literal, cloud over the whole scenario.

 The free kick on his home debut really topped it all off, I even caught it on video, but that's also being added to the pile of things that will never get onto the internet. It's a voice crack filled 30 seconds of me shouting his name over and over in disbelief he's just pinged one from 30 yards. It's a really horrible thing to look back on, but it's a great memory to have and one which I will cherish for many years to come.

It took him a fair while to get his fitness back, but once he did you could really begin to see the player which won Premier League titles amongst all else, albeit not to the same level. Taking the Bury 6-0 as an example, he got 3 assists, and ripped their whole side to shreds with his killer passes and flair on the ball. He really did still have it. It's just a shame for him that as he started to get back to his full potential, our season was already falling to pieces. This meant he took a small bit of unnecessary blame, there are many contributing factors to that bottle job, which I will culminate in a separate post soon. Until then, enjoy sunning yourself at Tampa Bay Rowdies Joe, I hope to see you back at the age of 40 to score an overhead kick against Ebbsfleet United.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

My Thirty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Cheltenham Town

We were in desperate need of a win to put our season back on track after whatever the hell was on show last week at Morecambe. Colchester's win the previous night meant that we had dropped out of the play off places, only a win would take us back in. A loss could see us go down as far as 12th, a scary thought given we were meant to be one of the favourite for promotion back when the season started in August. Something new was needed, and by god did Robins put out a brave side.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou
Vincenti

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Haynes
Stevenson
Dev. Kelly-Evans
Beavon
Nazon

Now that team may have looked like Robins had gone completely mental, but in a strange way, I quite liked it. I can't give a personal opinion but apparently Tom Bayliss has looked brilliant in the u23 side, and from the small snippets I have seen in substitute cup appearances, he's not been hugely out of place in the first team squad. Despite all of this, it was still a very brave call to give him his first professional start rather than play Ben Stevenson, someone who has gone out of favour as of late. I also agreed with the decision to drop Duckens Nazon to the bench, so far we've seen he's better as an impact player rather than a starting striker.


First Half

Now I think it's fair to say we got off to the perfect start, just 90 seconds had been played when McNulty's shot was blocked to Tom Bayliss, from 20 yards he had a shot on goal, with the help of a massive deflection, he got us the lead within 2 minutes of his professional debut. I don't think even he could have hoped for something as good as that to kick off his Coventry City career. That early goal was something we badly needed as a team given our poor form, to kick off well could give us that kick up the backside to knock into shape, however lucky it may have been.



However in what added to one of the liveliest starts to a match I've seen this season, the visitors got themselves a free kick on the edge of the area, Mohammed Eisa cannoned it off the bar and we got away with it. Max Biamou is a very frustrating player, he does everything well, is great in the air, holds it up well, there's just one thing he can't do, and unfortunately that's the biggest part of being a striker, score. We were displayed with yet another example of this 10 minutes in, McNulty weighted a beautiful ball through to him, he was one on one with the keeper, in the centre of the box, yet he still managed to shank it wide.

Jordan Shipley also had a go from the edge of the box in a very dominant spell for us, but on this occasion it went just wide of the mark. It was a stupidly end to end first 45 minutes, Jack Grimmer made a howler of an error letting the ball through his feet and through to Eisa. He should be thankful that Lee Burge came to his rescue. We weren't playing the best football I've ever seen, despite the score line saying otherwise, so it was no shock when The Robins equalised. A wayward shot found Eisa in the area, he cleverly shook off Jordan Willis, and poked into the back of the net with Burge helpless on the ground. All of the defence were at fault for the goal, Stokes and McDonald had gone for the same ball, leaving us vulnerable.

Then came a moment where it really should have been 2-1, in more ways than one. Biamou was through on goal again, with a defender on his back. Really, he should have buried it before the controversial decision, but instead, he took so long that he was unable to shoot with the defender ready to pull him down. At my first and only glance it looked like a stone wall penalty, but to add to the League Two penalty conspiracy theory, it wasn't given.

Half Time - Coventry City 1-1 Cheltenham Town

Second Half

Having gone down just before the break, Rod McDonald was taken off ahead of the second half with Tom Davies coming on to replace him. Early on we had a couple of half chances to take the lead, McNulty fired the first over whilst Biamou headed another wide of the mark. On the hour mark we got the closest of the half to taking the lead. The ball came out to the edge of the area where Michael Doyle was waiting, his half volley into the ground bounced into the path of McNulty's head, he really should have scored but Flinders recovered well to keep it out with one hand.

With 20 minutes remaining we made the substitution that really had to be done, Peter Vincenti was replaced by Nazon, having not had the best of games by a long stretch. It was name time for him to put his money where his mouth was, could the impact super sub get us the 3 points? Well yes, yes he could. Out of absolutely nowhere he sprayed a 40 yard ball through to McNulty, his first touch was perfection to bring it down and the second sent him on his way to the goal. It looked as if it got away from him but he managed to beat Flinders to the ball, chip him, and give us a 2-1 lead with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.

There was one nervy moment in the dying minutes where a ball flashed across our six yard box, crying out for a touch. Fortunately for us, it came out the other side having wormed its way through everyone. In a slightly odd substitution when you're trying to see out a game, Devon Kelly-Evans came on for the winning goal scorer Marc McNulty. He's incredibly lightweight, not your first choice for holding up play or trying to keep it in the corner. Personally I would have brought on Stuart Beavon, if there's one thing he can do, it's see out a win. Either way it didn't really matter as the visitors never really looked like grabbing a second equaliser, giving us a huge win to add to our promotion bid.

Full Time - Coventry City 2-1 Cheltenham Town

We really needed that, it's taken us back into the play offs, albeit on goal difference. Ahead of a busy Christmas period, we've pulled away from a few teams in the chasing pack, but it's still incredibly close. Friday nights clash with Wycombe is a six pointer, and could see us move as high as fourth given we play before everyone else. It's a huge game and will be pivotal to our season, am I overhyping it a bit? Maybe.

My Man of the Match - Tom Bayliss - The youth starlet showed why he made it into the first team on his debut and managed to cap it off with a goal. He was great on the ball and wasn't afraid to put a foot in, he's got a long way to go don't get me wrong, but he could be another player from the academy to come through and impress massively.

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 17 - Danny Fox

Not long remains of the advent calendar now, and there's only a couple of "old school" players left in the mix, one of which is today's instalment, Danny Fox. Believe it or not, when SISU took over all the way back in 2007, the leader and our chairman at that stage, Ray Ranson had some good philosophies for taking the club forward. One of which was buying youth stars and blooding them through the club. This short spell of good planning was how we acquired a 21-year old Fox from Walsall alongside his defensive partner Scott Dann.


He was one of the pivotal players who dragged us to survival in the 2007/08 season, and was quickly given the set piece role due to his wand of a left foot being able to whip in free kicks and corners. In fact out of five free kicks he took in the 2008/09 season, four of them went in. On the deep depths of YouTube I managed to find his goal against Norwich City where he chopped past the same player about four times before curling into the top far left corner. He referred to this then as his best ever goal.

Despite getting his fair share of injuries and suspensions over that 08/09 season, he still managed to find his way into the PFA Championship Team of the Year as one of two City players in there. The other being Keiren Westwood. Even though we got various individual accolades for our brilliant youngsters that season, we only managed to finish in our trademark position of 17th place. Chris Coleman had all the tools to do it but couldn't get us anywhere near promotion.

However much we tried, we couldn't keep hold of Danny, even with him wanting to stay, he left to move to Celtic in the summer of 2009 for £1.5 million. Ray Ranson had all but resigned over this sale being done by SISU without him being consulted, along with the deal to move Scott Dann to Birmingham City, but he was talked into staying for a bit longer. In fact, these deals were the catalyst for all of the ownership troubles we have since faced. So really, he shouldn't be on this list and we should be throwing rocks at his house. (That's a joke, please don't do it...)

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 16 - Carl Baker

With rumours surfacing for what feels like the 1000th time that Baker is going to return, what better way to celebrate the most recent than to put him as today's instalment to the advent calendar. Along with maybe Michael Doyle, he's the closest thing we've had to a club legend, however that statement may make some slightly older group of fans vomit on the spot when reading it. Emphasis on the phrase "closest thing".


Believe it or not it was actually Chris Coleman whom brought in Bakes all the way back in January 2010 for a fee in and around the sum of £300,000, and he went on to become a fan favourite at the club. This was mainly down to his performances after we got relegated to League One. He was made club captain upon the drop and some might argue he was more suited to this level of football, either way, fans grew to love him.

He was the definition of a goal scoring midfielder and displayed this in our early stages in the third tier, popping up with great finishes here and there. When you want to get promoted you need a player in the midfield who'll get you 10 a season as well as the strikers getting as close to 20 as possible. If it weren't for the various 10 point deductions and off field troubles then we may have potentially achieved it. 

I'm not sure what occurred with him and Steven Pressley but his contract was mutually terminated at the start of the 14/15 season and he ended up signing for Milton Keynes Dons not long later. In the same division he displayed the same qualities and guided MK to promotion, picking up their Player of the Season Award on the way. Now aged 34, he did it all again for Portsmouth last season, and we could really do with his presence, so hopefully, this time the rumours are true.





Friday, 15 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 15 - Romain Vincelot

It still pains me that our side in the 15/16 season never got promoted from League One, and one strong part of it was the midfield. The partnership of John Fleck and Romain Vincelot was a powerhouse in that division, possibly the best. It was such a shame how it ended up, with both in better clubs who had a serious shout of promotion. It's the more elegant bearded member of the pairing whom is the focus of today's advent calendar post.


Even though his spell was short, he still showcase his quality right from the off when he signed from Leyton Orient in 2015, looking like the perfect man to partner Fleck in midfield. Being our first cash buy in almost 2 years, there was pressure as to whether he would live up to the fee paid. He was also a regular in that 1 and only season, starting as a deep lying playmaker who could thread the ball through well and pop up with a goal every now and again.

Arguably he was the catalyst of our 3-2 comeback win against Peterborough on Halloween in 2015, scoring an acrobatic effort from John Fleck's rebounded strike. He may still feel quite aggrieved that the cameras didn't quite catch it as it was an astonishing goal, plus it sparked the side into action, two pieces of Adam Armstrong magic later and we gained 3 vital points. It's hard to forget how good we were given how we matched it in the second half of the campaign.

It still angers me to this today that Tony Mowbray sold him to Bradford a year later when he didn't really want to go or force the move in any way. At that point he was all we had in terms of composure and experience, and then he was sold, replaced by Gael Bigirimana and the money was used for Jordan Turnbull. Now as we saw yesterday, I really liked Bigi, but he wasn't what was going to keep us up. Leadership material was, and he offered just that, ask Bradford fans what they think of their captain and they'll tell you the whole story.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 14 - Gael Bigirimana

In recent times there seems to have been a bit of discussion regarding the list and how all players on here are bad, that's the opinion of some but I really couldn't disagree more. Once again, it's all personal preference, and it's literally all I've ever known. Plus today's instalment, whether you were alive in 87' or the Premier League era or not, you can't help but love him. He's a humble lad but a great character, plus the story which comes with Gael Bigirimana is heartwarming nonetheless.


As an 8 year old refugee from Burundi he turned up to Ryton looking for a trial and was given one, presumably out of pity. He took the chance given to him and didn't look back, signing his first professional deal in the summer of 2011 at age just 17. I'm not sure whether it displays his quality as a youngster that he was a fairly regular member of the side the following season or that we were grossly low on depth in midfield. Either way, it worked for him on a personal level as he won Championship Young Apprentice of the Year Award and earned himself a transfer to Newcastle United upon the Sky Blues relegation to League One.

In hindsight it was probably a mistake for him to move, but you couldn't blame the lad for doing it, he's already proved he could perform in the Championship at such a young age so why would he mess about in League One when Newcastle cam knocking? To be fair to The Magpies, they did give him a relative chance in the Premier League, looking to get something back from the £1 million spent and the five year deal dished out by Alan Pardew. 

Unfortunately it didn't work out in the north east and he pretty much wasted 4 years of his career there, spending his time mostly playing youth football. The next sniff he got, not including a pointless loan move to Rangers where he failed to play a game, was a move back to us in November 2015 where he joined back on an emergency loan deal. Whether it was a combination of trying to get his match sharpness back and John Fleck and Romain Vincelot being brilliant, he struggled to assert himself into the first team.

However when that partnership got carted off to various other League One clubs, Bigi was brought back in on a permanent basis being surplus to requirements at Newcastle. He went onto score his first goal for us at Wycombe in the Checkatrade Trophy group stage, 6 years after his debut. Then after going out of favour under Russell Slade, the bald idiot, Mark Robins rated him highly and started him ever game. I ended up giving him the Player of the Season Award last season. It may have had something to do with Wembley...

Jordan Willis found himself on the right wing under the arch, put in a cross into the box which Stuart Beavon got a good connection with but his volley was blocked. Still 10 minutes in it had been a nervy start, but the ball in this position dropped to Bigi, in a heart in mouth moment he cooly slotted into the bottom corner, scoring the first goal of the 2-1 win against Oxford United. Not to mention his first child was born the day before. Then at the death he cleared off the line to keep us ahead and ultimately was a huge factor in us winning the trophy. 

He'll always have a place in my heart given his demeanour as well as the football he played. It's a shame he went to Motherwell but with us once again being relegated it's no surprise that he did given he had a shot of getting into Europe north of the border, but knowing him, it's fairly likely we'll see him back for a fourth spell at some stage soon. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 13 - Ryan Haynes

We've crossed the halfway point of the advent calendar, meaning that only 12 days remain until Christmas Day. After yesterday's slightly older instalment I thought I'd come back with another modern addition to the collection, and another grossly underrated player, this time by various managers instead of fans, Ryan Haynes. His left back rival Chris Stokes has already made an appearance, just showing the quality and depth we have in that position.


After coming through our academy, he made his debut in 2013 against Brentford due to a full back crisis and was so nervous he was sick on the pitch, that's passion right there. Over the course of the 13/14 season he made sporadic appearances which I can't say I remember too fondly. It was only at the start of the 14/15 season he really started to kick on, I remember being at one of only two Sixfields fixtures I attended, a League Cup tie against Cardiff and thinking "Wow, we have some player here". It's rare you can say that about someone when they score an own goal in the same match.

At the return to the Ricoh he went on one of his trademark blistering runs down the left to feed the ball into Frank Nouble, who slotted the only goal of the match into the bottom corner and collected man of the match on the night. What a night that was by the way. Some people have criticised his defending since his berth into the first team which obviously you need as a left back, but it's come on leaps and bounds ever since. People forget his age because he's been on the scene since he was 17.

It was unlucky for Ryan that Chris Stokes was brought in and played so well as an out and out full back throughout the remainder of the 14/15 season as well as the following campaign. His appearances weren't coming as often as he would have liked so it wasn't a surprise to many when he was loaned out to Cambrudge United in February 2016. Their fans loved his determination and all round quality, and with Stokes' injury, it was a no brainer who should have played in that spot of defence at the start of last season.

However he was the only fully fit, relatively experienced left back we had, so a back up needed to be acquired, and was in the form of Lewis Page on loan from West Ham. Now I'm sure Page is a really nice guy and all, but never have I had so much hatred towards a player wearing a Coventry City shirt. It wasn't just the fact he was bad at football, or that he sarcastically clapped fans and laughed in their faces, or even that he took away valuable games from Ryan Haynes. It was that neither Tony Mowbray, nor Mark Venus could see this.

It was only under Russell Slade that he got his spot in the first team back, and even with the change to Mark Robins he stayed as an important member. I couldn't see him wanting to stick around after relegation to League Two as he could have walked into most League One clubs. Somehow though, he agreed to a new two year deal, for which I am shocked by and give him the utmost respect. In what continued his bad luck, he got injured for three months in our very first pre-season friendly, but since return has shown the wing prowess we all know and love. For Christ sake though, why can't we play him on the wing?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 12 - David McGoldrick

I tell you what, it's bloomin' cold, in case you hadn't noticed by the entire population of the United Kingdom screaming about it on ever platform of social media, and some even in the street. This is what Christmas is all about, mind you it's a bit early but we're still far enough in to the advent calendar to class it as close. Today's instalment is an odd one looking as a supporter from another club, but he was heroic in his short spell here.


Nottingham Forest fans were laughing when we signed who they called "David McGoaldrought" on a short term loan deal back in our first season in League One. It didn't look as if his spell here was going to be as successful as we hoped it would be, but any doubts were smashed away by his magical feet almost instantly. I'm going to make a bold statement, he's my favourite striker to ever put on the shirt, McGoldrick was simply amazing.

18 goals in 24 games, how ridiculous is that? This has just triggered me to look back at all of his goals from that half of the 12/13 season and some of them were insanely good. For every poacher style tap in there was a wonder goal from outside the area. He just always managed to have a perfect instinct for what type of finish would be best for the situation he found himself in, and nearly every time he was bang on.

My personal favourite, and I'm sure the favourite of others, was the 35 yard chip away at Stevenage, to have the awareness to see the keeper off his line and execute the finish is magnificent. Plus he was doing a lot of this in my favourite away kit of all time (Yes, I'm young), and it really was just like watching Brazil. By the time he reached 18 it was the end of 2012 and we were desperate to keep hold of him for the rest of the season.

I remember him saying that if he wanted to stay and he wanted to get 30 goals. I hyperventilated a tad seeing this, and I'm sure we tried everything we could, but really, couldn't we have just broken the bank? Ipswich were willing to let him go on a permanent or even just on loan for the rest of the season. We should have forked out all the money we had to make it happen as we would have gone up. (Or at least made the play offs considering the 10 point deduction.)

Monday, 11 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 11 - Lee Burge

11 is my lucky number, if there is such a thing. I'm not sure how that's relevant in any way but for today's Advent Calendar post I was drawn to choose Lee Burge. It may have something to do with his performance on Saturday, or indeed overall this season, but Burgey has been in tremendous form whichever way you look at it. He's finally made his mark on the side and it's been a long journey for him to get here.


I'm going to put it out there early on, he's one of the most under appreciated players to ever put on the shirt in modern times. He came through our youth academy in 2011 but didn't make his professional debut until 2014, where he forced Ryan Allsop out of the side. Then came the moment that some people still hold against him to this day, when he kicked out against Worcester and got sent off on that dark day of the FA Cup loss. That was his third ever league appearance, so he was inexperienced. Plus, some people are forgetting that it was literally 3 years ago and he's come so far since.

After tussling with Allsop for the starting shirt for the majority of the 14/15 season it looked as if he's finally made it his own ahead of the following campaign. He started off well with a penalty save at Millwall, sparking us to kick into action and go on to win 4-0. Around 10 games in he got an illness which kept him out of one game and Reice Charles-Cook took over, he impressed and then that was it, spot lost. This time through no real fault of his own.

Charles-Cook stayed in the side throughout 15/16 and into the October of 16/17, where Mark Venus chose to reintroduce Burgey. Hungry for first team opportunities, he jumped straight on the chance to shine, producing some great displays in a frankly terrible side. Still though, a clueless group thought because we were conceding a lot, it had to be the keeper and it way absolutely nothing to do with Lewis Page and Jordan Turnbull.

Our defence started to ease up toward the end of the season and by the time Mark Robins came in he actually got us playing some competent football. Perhaps his stand out performance the club came at Wembley back in April. Right at the death Oxford had a corner which was flicked on in the direction of the goal, Burgey pulled off an incredible save to keep us ahead, which about a minute later lead to us winning the Checkatrade Trophy. Had that not happened and had the ball gone in then we may not have been talking about that day in the same way.

Despite having starting offers from League One clubs and back up offers from Championship clubs, he chose to stick with us as we went down to League Two. At the start of the season his poor luck continued, as a virus gave Liam O'Brien an opportunity in the side. However a couple of mistakes later and he won the number one spot back, since then he's not looked back and played magnificently. To hold the goal at home to Forest Green against him is extremely harsh, and it angers me when people do given how great he's been.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

My Thirty-Fourth 17/18 Game - Morecambe vs Coventry City

Last week we did well by battering a team significantly inferior to ourselves, but now we had more important things to focus on with a crucial away game at struggling Morecambe. North west Lancashire in December for a League Two match, it's what you dream about as a child. Foolishly, I went out of the house wearing just a t-shirt, a thin coat and jeans, by the time I had realised it was way too late. A bad start to a horrendous day all round.

Coventry City Starting XI: 

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Stevenson
Doyle
Shipley

Nazon

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Stokes
Bayliss
Vincenti
Dev. Kelly-Evans
Beavon

One change from the side that got through in the FA Cup, and that was the reintroduction of Rod McDonald to the side in place of Tom Davies. With Liam Kelly still injured, that was the exact side a lot of us expected, I'm still yet to decipher whether or not Nazon is playing as a striker or just behind and got no closer in the disappointing half on this occasion. Michael Doyle started in the heart of midfield for his 700th career appearance.

First Half

The early stages set the tone for the entire match, and it wasn't us who came out the stronger by a long stretch. Morecambe were organised, and from the word go, played us off the park, to even say that sentence depresses me in ways you couldn't imagine. Just five minutes in Burge was left having to come to the ball but was beaten to it by Oliver whom struck straight at him. It fell right back to him however and with Burge on the ground it was a significantly easier chance, fortunately for us Rod McDonald was on the line and headed the ball to safety.



Just a minute later Burge was called into action with a point blank save, Gary Thompson rose highest but was denied. Not long had passed before we got our first chance of the game, from a set piece the ball fell beautifully to Ben Stevenson about 12 yards out. There were bodies in the box which he managed to snake the ball past but Loach pulled out a tremendous save to keep the scores level.

This chance turned out to be really rare as just about 5 minutes later Adam McGurk nearly scored a beauty of a goal but it cannoned off the woodwork and we got yet another let off. This continued as The Shrimps practically walked through our defence to put Oliver through on goal, but Burge saved our skins once more by making himself big to push the ball aside. How we'd made it to this point in the game without conceding was pretty much all down to the man between the sticks.

The back four weren't doing their job and really needed to step up if we were to get into half time still at 0-0. It wasn't to be though, and we only had ourselves to blame. The hosts won a free kick on the right side which was played in to Valdaine Oliver, he beat the poor offside trap set by the static defence and got a flick on, taking it past Burge and into the back of the net. It was nothing more than we deserved and to concede like that on the stroke of half time hurt us dearly.

Half Time - Morecambe 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half 

Mark Robins came in for some heavy criticism with his half time double change, taking off Duckens Nazon and Jordan Shipley for Peter Vincenti and Devon Kelly-Evans. I still can't quite make out why he chose to take off our top goalscorer for someone who fans have referred to as our worst summer signing as well as Bambi on Ice. I certainly get too emotionally invested in players, I see the personality rather than the footballing ability, which is someone Pete looks as if he has bags of from the outside.

It was a brave call which if it paid off people would be putting all 3 on a plinth but the more realistic opinion was the one that came true. McNulty came out fiery and did well to beat a couple of men but the shot was less impressive, flying over the bar. We picked up performances slightly but still nothing major was going on in our attacking department despite us committing men forward, which we were eventually punished for.

Devon Kelly-Evans quite poorly gave the ball away in a compromising position so we were left open, Callum Lang received the ball and breezed past both McDonald and Stevenson, sticking it in the bottom corner. It angers me how easy they made it look, we didn't turn up. With 10 minutes left Marc McNulty brought us as close to a goal as we could get, hitting the inside of the post with a strike from the edge of the box. Had that gone in we may have found a slither of quality to snatch a point. This wasn't the case though, as the match finished as a comfortable Morecambe win

Full Time - Morecambe 2-0 Coventry City

I'm not going to sugarcoat it, that was possibly the worst away day I've ever been on, a freezing cold 2-0 defeat to a side supposedly far worse than us in a game we really needed to win. Not to mention that it was an hour north of Blackpool, in December. To top it all off, all trains home were cancelled so I had to go all the way to Milton Keynes to then go back on myself. A horrendous day, a horrendous performance, things need to change. Fast.

My Man of the Match - Lee Burge - If it wasn't for Lee Burge then it would have been embarrassing, two or three fantastic saves early on gave us a chance to get a grip of the game but the rest of the team literally weren't playing ball. He's stood out as one of the best performers this season, and now Jodi Jones is injured he could be a contender for player of the season.



Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 10 - Elliott Ward

Yesterday was horrendous, Morecambe away is up there as one of the worst away days I've ever been on, (Report out this evening) and to pretend it didn't happen I've occupied myself by writing another advent calendar piece. It's another old school one, and one I've been looking forward to for a while now. A goal scoring centre back from my golden era of supporting the club. It's 'Me Lord' himself, Elliott Ward.


Micky Adams signed him for 1 million pounds, we'd kill to be able to buy a player for that sort of money nowadays, as we haven't done for a number of years. It looked to be a good buy as we got a good young talent who would be a brilliant presence in our defence. He'd impressed in West Ham's youth side as well as on loan at Plymouth Argyle in the same division as us so it looked like a no brainer to bring him in.

For his first three years he was one of the first names on the team sheet, and was part of the golden generation of great young talent which Chris Coleman somehow failed to get anywhere near to promotion. He was the designated penalty taker and there are various clips on YouTube of him rifling spot kicks in against whoever is in front of him. My personal favourite was the on against Leicester in February 2008 when we beat them 2-0. You can understand why.

He went on to make 129 appearances in all competitions and scored 16 goals, 10 of which came from the penalty spot. I may be making this fact up but I don't remember him missing one, but I'll almost certainly be corrected by someone who reads this. Unfortunately, he started to fall down the pecking order so at the end of the 09/10 season he was released. Norwich picked him up and he was a main figure in the side that got promoted in the 2010/11 season.

In what is quite a shame, he never got a taste of consistent Premier League football due to picking up an injury, when he came back he was loaned out to Nottingham Forest. Since then he's turned out Huddersfield, Bournemouth, and now plies his trade for Blackburn. We could do with an experienced head in the defence, especially if the rumours are true and one of our pairing does leave. He's not first choice in Lancashire you never know...


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 9 - Michael Doyle

Morecambe away today marks a huge personal milestone for our very own Michael Doyle, assuming he doesn't pull up in the warm up, he is set to make his 700th career appearance. Close to half of those are for the Sky Blues over two spells, and to mark the occasion I decided to dedicate this spot in  the advent calendar to the man himself. He's been a fantastic servant, and is from a rare breed of players that only give 110%. Nothing less.


Signed from Celtic in 2003, he made his debut in the League Cup against Huddersfield, and went on to stay here for 8 years, wearing his heart on his sleeve in every game. He had various different midfield partners, and worked under numerous managers, but always managed to keep his spot in the team. That was until the shambolic days of Aidy Boothroyd and Andy Thorn, whom set us up for failure, he was released and eventually joined Sheffield United.

Spending four years in Yorkshire helped him out massively, he played nearly every game for the Blades in that spell. He even scored against us when we bottled a 2-0 lead at Bramall Lane in early 2015, which felt like my 6 year old self who got his name on my shirt had been crushed with every fibre of my being. It was mainly because I thought that we might go down off the back of it. Fortunately we didn't, that took another 2 years.

After a couple of years at Portsmouth, in May of this year, on my birthday no less, we announced he signing of none other than Doyler himself. Myself and many other City fans of a younger generation went into absolute meltdown. Our nutcase, hard Brexit, yet still incredible midfielder was back, and he was taking the captaincy off Willis with no questions asked. In his first game he gauged out someone's birth mark by going in studs up, on their stomach.

Since then he's shown why we love him so much by just being himself, flying in with 2 footed tackled everywhere. He's the only player to play every league minute so far this season, which is quite astonishing considering his age. He's shown no signs of slowing down, and hopefully he can finish his career with the club who really kicked it off with him. Then maybe pick up a coaching duty along the way. Closest thing we've got to a club legend.


Friday, 8 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 8 - Michael Mifsud

After a slightly more personal instalment yesterday with Marvin Sordell, I thought that today I'd come back with a more relatable player that most people remember. Well, in fact if you remember him, and you likely do unless you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you'll have one night in particular that springs to mind when you hear the words "Michael Mifsud". In fact, the match in question puts a shadow over the rest of his City career he was that good.



Without even exaggerating, he's the best player to come out of Malta and is both their record appearance maker as well as goal scorer. On the morning of the 27th of September 2007, the papers held his name on both the front and back pages. One Italian newspaper referred to him as "il Messi di Malta" for his efforts the night before, as he orchestrated a 2-0 away victory at Manchester United the night before, netting both goals.

The first came when Michael Doyle spread it across the box, it looked to be trickling out but the 5 foot 4 magician didn't stop running, and managed to scoop it in from pretty much the byline with Kuszczak left sprawled on the floor. Over 11,000 City fans were in raptures in the away end, and still to this day hold the record for the highest ever away attendance at Old Trafford, but the carnage didn't end there.

His second came from a one two with Jay Tabb, in fact I'm fairly sure it was just a poor touch from Tabby, either way Mifsud smacked it first time from 20 yards into the roof of the net. With 20 minutes left, he'd given us an incredible feeling, we were actually going to be Manchester United away. It's one of the main cup ties you look for when the draw is done, and he'd ripped them to pieces all on his own. B Team or not, it was an incredible evening.

He was hot property from that point on, the 07/08 season was the high point of his career, but I think it all got too much for him. In the words of Stormzy himself, he got a bit too big for his boots towards the end of his Coventry career. We accepted a bid from Bristol City but right at the last moment he demanded more money and negotiations fell apart. In the end we had to release him as he never got close to his cup performances that year.

He was a free agent for 6 months yet still played every game for Malta, and ever since he's been hopping between clubs and has had 3 stints at Valetta, where he plays currently. He also still plays for his country despite being 36, and even managed to play both fixtures versus England in the World Cup Qualifying Groups. Even if deep down he only had one game which sticks out in the memory, he'll forever be remembered as the hero of "That night in Manchester".

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 7 - Marvin Sordell

Right, I know what you're thinking, and I'm being quite brave throwing him in so early on, but I promise there are justifiable reasons for me putting Marvin Sordell in as one of my favourite 25 City players. His stint itself was short yet still fairly successful, but it's everything surrounding him that was the reason he's made it on. In fact I'm slightly surprised he's not taken out a restraining order as from the outside my admiration looks incredibly odd. Also, this will likely be the silliest instalment and I doubt a lot of it will be football based. 


Ok, so, looking back to 2015, I watched and enjoyed YouTube videos created by Proudie. These were based around Football Manager but I found them funny and his interpretation of the game was quite clever. Anyway, on his series 'Attempting Not To Get Sacked' based around Burnley, and "Sordellinho" became a cult hero within the series, and basically, I completely stole the joke. Nabbed it and milked the whole thing dry beyond belief. On Deadline Day on September 1st 2015 I tweeted this:

"Come on @Coventry_City I'm waiting to order my @MarvinSordell shirt. #Sordellinho #SignHimUp"

Other than being incredibly cringy looking back it is very Mystic Meg, as 9 months later, we did indeed get him in. I was called out on my tweet, and to be fair I really wanted to get one, so I bought a 'Sordellinho 17' away shirt ahead of the 16/17 season. Now this is one of my best but eqaully one of my worst decisions as a City fan. There was no real way of explaining it to others who saw me, it just looked properly mental.

After his first month with the club and our winless run, he'd failed to get a goal, and the fans began to turn. He wasn't even bad, he hit the post against Swindon and was injured for a few weeks. When the goal came, it was an amazing moment. Millwall away, he was being booed by the home fans, and out of nowhere he pinged one from 25 yards and celebrated in front of them. Wearing the shirt and having everyone's opinions instantly change was brilliant. 

Then a few months later Russell Slade made the horrific decision to swap him for Stuart Beavon at Burton Albion, the goals dried up and we ended up getting relegated. Since then he's done quite well with the Championship move, and has also signed the shirt, which I have retired from games and I plan to get it framed. As a symbol of the oddest affiliation I've ever had with a player, and I can't thank him enough for offering to sign it.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Coventry City Advent Calendar - My 25 Favourite Players - Day 6 - Aron Gunnarsson

Yesterday's instalment Reda Johnson quoted his feature post on Twitter and said he can't wait for day 6, so to give the man his wish I'm continuing with another of this daily post series as we get closer and closer to Christmas Day. We may still have 19 days until the big day itself, but if there was someone who'd have the ability to make up that distance with a long throw, it's Aron Gunnarsson, when he's not hurling it as far as Willenhall that is.


That's right, between the years of 2008 and 2011 we had our very own Rory Delap with the Icelandic international in the ranks. He had contributions to a couple of my favourite goals in his spell here, the first of which was the last minute equaliser against Newcastle in the League Cup a few years ago when he launched it to the head of Scott Dann. The other was his incredible take down and half-volley against Blackburn Rovers in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup in 2009. It was an absolutely incredible strike and helped us along in the best run we've had in that competition in my lifetime.

That strike was his first career goal as well, I can't think of many players who have kicked off with a goal that good, bar maybe Wayne Rooney. In that debut 2008/09 season he made his debut for Iceland, scored his first career and league goal, as well as becoming the city supporters' Player of the Season. Not bad in the slightest, he was a mainstay this year as well as the 09/10 and 10/11 seasons, but the third of which turned out to be his last.

Even though he ideally wanted to stay, he couldn't reach an agreement for a new contract despite months of talks going on. Looking back, we should have dealt with the contract situation a lot better in 2011, losing Gunnarsson, as well as Keiren Westwood and Marlon King really did consign us to relegation. Cardiff City was the destination he ended up deciding on, and it paid off in the end as after two more years of consistent Championship football, he managed to get his shot in the Premier League, albeit his appearances weren't as frequent in the top flight.

It was just the one season that Cardiff were in the Premier League for and he stuck with the Bluebirds as they dropped back down to the second tier. In the 15/16 season however he was starting to fall out of favour in the Welsh capital, making less a lot less appearances than in the last and it looking as if that was the only way it was going to go from then on. Then of course Euro 2016 happened, you'd have though Jordan Henderson, having played with him, would be able to help out with tactics and say "Watch his throw ins". We all know what happened next and basically, it saved his Cardiff career and they were batting away high end Championship and Premier League offers, as he is now back as one of the first names on the team sheet.