David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Coventry City’

Young Core Accentuating the Positives for City

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

CCFC

It was a terrible summer as a Coventry City fan. There have been plenty similar bouts of turbulence, but this was spectacular in it’s desolation. The exit door was worn to the core, with both players and even the actual Football Club exiting stage left out of the Ricoh.

The man who was far too often dismissed at the back end of a up and down 2012/13 season as ‘not Mark Robins’ stood tall in his waistcoat and maintained that the players left standing were firstly enough to mount a bid to get out of a 10-point hole and secondly good enough to give the City faithful something to latch onto for this and future seasons.

Now, last season I wrote that this was the year to judge Pressley on. When he came in he had his top scorer on the operating table and a first ten point deduction kill all excitement and spirit that had built up before his arrival. He had square pegs in round holes to limp to the line.

Over the summer whilst a storm whipped up all around Steven Pressley maintained that he had a group that would produce. All the time whilst being able to instil a belief, a way of playing that some couldn’t see working.

Fifteen league games in to the season, it is and then some.

30 points from 15 games, just one defeat at ‘home’ and two of the three joint-top scorers in the division. It’s working just fine.

With the news on Tuesday that Conor Thomas had signed a new deal to stay at the club until at least 2016 following the similar signatures from Callum Wilson, Jordan Willis and Jordan Clarke then Pressley has the core of a squad together for building his ‘Coventry Way’.

Thomas is playing the best football of his young career. Wilson, finally fit, just oozes confidence and looks likely to score every time he touches the ball and has pace to scare not seen since Mr Darren Huckerby. Willis is England youth-capped and started the season at the heart of the defence before man-marking Bakary Sako out of the game at Molineux, no mean feat. Then there’s Jordan Clarke; part of the ‘Bomb Squad’ at the beginning of pre-season before being re-integrated straight into central defence for Crawley on opening day. Since then, fans would be hard pushed to not put Clarke as the most consistent performer so far this season.

Cyrus Christie stands in the way of a un-City like full house of securing the best young talent at the club for the years ahead. When Christie was ruled out for a few weeks in the middle of a particular purple patch in form, the panic button- never far away for most City fans- was being tickled at the prospect of a Cyrus-less City. Christie is now back to fitness and rampaging down the right wing this weekend at Bradford. But in the time he missed, we didn’t lose. An anomaly? No, just how things are with Steven Pressley

In no way am I belittling the impact Cyrus has on this side. From the first glimpse of him, he has been fantastic despite the results not matching his performances. It’s more a testament to the ‘way’ that Pressley is instilling incredibly quickly. Fresh blood is stepping up and not only ‘getting by’ but thriving. Not many who were there will easily forget when Aaron Phillips appeared in the Wolves’ penalty box at Molineux in the dying embers of that game. Or even earlier, when Billy Daniels, stepping in for a suspended Carl Baker and nabbing three goals in that spell.

On Friday night we saw a bench made completely up of Academy products, (11 of the 18-man squad in fact) some unknown to most City fans. There was a time where that would scare the living Villa out of a City fan. Now, there’s that part of us where we hear Pressley talk them up, we believe him and want them to be leading the line, or caressing the ball around the pitch with consummate ease. We now believe it will happen and look forward to being there when it does.

The job Pressley is doing can’t be under-stated nor can just how much of a bloody hoot watching it is becoming.

PUSB!!

Written by Stuart Court, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger & also writes here.

Stuart tweets at @Stu_Court

Stuck in the middle with you

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Being a Coventry City fan is abject torture.

I’ve just this minute finished watching a poor Bristol City completely outdo a much poorer Coventry City 3-1 in what can only be described as the archetypal relegation six pointer, and honestly I feel like I’ve had my face sliced up Reservoir Dogs style.

Cruel, isn’t it, when your team fights it’s way back from almost certain Yuletide oblivion to go on a seven game unbeaten streak, raising everybody’s hopes and expectations, only to go and lose in such a unspirited and meek minded way at the single most pivotal moment.

Yes, credit where it’s due, the players have played out of their skin in recent games to at least put us in charge of our own destiny, and there have been some gallant performances to boot (most of all from poor old Richard Keogh, who even got the warpaint out to assure us, if we didn’t know it already, that our boys were willing to go out of their way to look like a bunch of tits in our name), but after all’s said and done it was always going to be about today and they totally bottled it.

It’s blown a hole in the soul; tangibly can you feel the deflation amongst a support resigned to a fate seemingly sealed if not yet signed. Once again, we stare relegation in the face like we’d stare down the barrel of a .45 Beretta (Bewetta) clasped in the steely, anti-perspiring hand of an East End gangster with a speech impediment you once mocked.

The chink of light we’ve hung onto feels like it’s narrowing, stained red through bloodshot eyes, watching as the lock up door we fought to force open slowly shuts once more.

You fear the end is near; what fight do we have left?

PUSB. 

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn and @SchemeTweets

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON (no, really)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Listen, I don’t know about you, but I’m not too big on all this “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” stuff you see everywhere these days. You know what I mean, I know you do; the posters, the mugs, the printed underpants?

Put simply, much like the overuse of the word banter and it’s derivatives in recent times (Bantz, Big Bantz Theory, Banter Summer Fruits, the Archbishop of Banterbury…) the revival and regurgitation of this design classic has gone to boundless and often excruciating extremes and we should all just stop it. Not convinced? Still an advocate? Your man Charlie Brooker called it right (keep calm and read the article) and that’s validation enough for me.

That said though, like Charles, I am prepared to make allowances, although they must adhere to the code and rule as defined in my strict T&C’s.

For a start, the sentiment of the poster’s original mantra has to ring loud, true and in crystalline clarity. It has to be a situation in which KEEPING CALM AND CARRYING ON would be largely beneficial; where a course of measure and rationale is more desirable in surplus than deficit to out and out panic and mania.

So, and it’s a gimme, but it would certainly still apply in wartime, under the heat and duress of battle, under a quick retreat or when attempting to fillet a sleepy sniper. In a fire evacuation too you’d want a cool head, as you would when being watched by a twitcher at a lonely rural train station. Under these such terms it’d be fine to whack a poster up.

You don’t want headless chickens in such environs, but what’s this got to do with football? What’s it got to do with Coventry City?

Well, like uncomfortable railway rendezvous’, another environment in which you don’t want headless chickens (Chris Hussey, I’m looking at you) is in the Coventry City dressing room this season. It’s really, really boring now but we all know that the club’s in a mess. City are often in a mess but this time it’s personal and it’s a more substantiated, dirtier mess than usual. There has been a good news embargo in place for quite some time and to the majority of trained and observant eyes the club appears to be in a state of total free-fall, heading for the bottom at break neck speed and without a dead man’s handle.

Without even thinking about the actual sporting operation, a.k.a – “the way things are playing out on the pitch”, the financial situation at Coventry City is bleaker than a kitchen sink drama, translating into a force of miserablism and doom that wafts about the club, consuming it’s oxygen and is beginning to defy gravity (anything that makes the hairs on the positively neolithic Richard Keys’ arms stand on end has to be scientifically just cause for just concern).

Under such volatile conditions, it’d be far, far, far too easy for mass panic to descend over football following Coventrians and for the flash fires of protest we saw from City fans earlier in the year turn into burning infernos. That may well still happen – and more than likely will if the slide continues unabated – but if it does I urge City fans to remember that inferno’s do not discriminate, that wildfire is anything but calm and that everything is combustible. Innocent victims may be made of charred scapegoats; people like Andy Thorn, the club’s manager and a man again the target of misdirected mirth and ire from fans lacking a Guy Fawkes in the boardroom.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON (Don’t throw the baby out with the fireman’s water.)

Because if we look closely at the way things are going on the pitch, well for my money - despite the odds and the statistics and the unrepentant honesty of the league table – it’s still in the club’s own hands. Look really closely and you’ll see that rarely do Coventry City lose by gargantuan margins, rarely do Coventry City get out played and rarely is there any reason to question the dedication to the cause of Coventry City’s players. The club are not the worst footballing side in the league, that’s for sure.

No, Coventry City’s sole problem on the field, is that they get out-scored. It’s a fairly fundamental failure but it’s not as entrenched or as riddled with permanance as a genuine lack of quality or a lack of desire. Why has it happened? Well it’s simple really: 1) A lack of quality up front and 2) A dearth of mistakes from a young team under pressure.

Now, City may well have solved the first of those two quandaries by selling it’s top-scorer to Middlesbrough. Twisted logic that may be, but the sale of the charming but in my view over-rated Lukas Jutkiewicz to Tony Mowbray’s men has allowed Andy Thorn to bring in the highly rated Alex Nimely on loan from big-buccaneers Manchester City. Clearly this is a short term measure not designed for long term Championship stability, but short term measures will do for now if Nimely continues to perform as he did on his goalscoring and goal creating debut, a 3-1 victory against, ironically, the Juke’s new table topping employers. Couple the fresh and inventive Nimely with a resurgent Gary McSheffrey, playing up front (and scoring) again after an extended and largely ineffectual exile on City’s wing, and we may well just have unlocked a winning combination.

The rest is up to the boys at the back, and in the middle, and how calm they can keep. If it requires Andy Thorn to plaster the walls at Ryton and the Ricoh with these horrible cliched wall posters, if the City changing room has to look like a 15 year old girl’s bedroom wall, then so be it, I will make that allowance. Hell, why not mix your cliched wartime propaganda, and throw in a bit of “YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU” rhetoric, but rather than the ever brazen and moustachioed face of the Lord Kitchener, why not superimpose the Elvis impersonating chin of  the Sky Blues’ new THIRTY-SEVEN year old stalwart and natural born leader Hermann Hriedarsson on there and really instill some gut to the City defenses.

Coventry City can avoid relegation this season, I know that and it’s players know that, but time is running out. The club can still do things that will make it’s fan proud to support them, and whilst the bleak realities at boardroom level may mean that we may not be able to avoid oblivion, we can avoid shame, we can avoid degradation.

So, once more, let’s all sing together, let’s grow in confidence, let’s grow in stature and let’s keep calm.

More than that though, let’s carry on.

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn and @SchemeTweets

 

An ode to 4-ti-2-ude

Monday, November 7th, 2011

If you’ve followed my writing here on We Are Going Up this season then you’ll know I’m normally a bit of a rabble rouser for the Coventry City cause, with an *ahem* incredibly clever turn of phrase to lift spirits here, and a shard of mindless optimism to divert the soul from the realities of a club in self-imposed freefall there.

But for this week at least it’s time to get serious, for City have just been cruelly beaten 4-2 by table toppers Southampton to find themselves (at the time of writing) four points adrift at the bottom of the table, with a mounting injury list and a broad undercurrent of simmering dissent just threatening to boil over.

To be completely frank, at the present time Coventry City look like a side coldly and clinically destined for the drop, and unsurprisingly the mood amongst City fans is of a similar manner: coldly and clinically bleak, a certain exasperation and helplessness ruminating strongly from shouts of “Thorn out” or “**** SISU”.

Whilst it is never time to give in and the fighting spirit of the majority of City’s players cannot be called into question; is it perhaps time to think on, come to terms with the club’s possible fate and start learning the right lessons now?

I think so, and the first place Coventry should be looking to for a bit of tutelage on all matters self implosion are those Saintly conquerors from Saturday just passed.

It’s easy to compare the Sky Blues and the Saints. Similarly sized clubs from similarly sized cities who, during a long co-existence in the top flight were bound by perpetual struggle, often to be found squabbling over the same precarious positions which year after year separated another season of the same from the trap door of unthinkable oblivion. Whilst the Middlesbrough’s and the Bolton’s yo-yo’d; Coventry and Southampton played Premier League football in compact little grounds nestled amongst the rooftops of Edwardian residential areas, with the knowledge of a wider cult appeal, proud FA Cup heritage and the occasional giant killing keeping the half-time teas warm.

But aside from these cosier, cuddlier common grounds, both clubs too shared harsher similarities.

Both clubs felt the full blight of financial mismanagement and wider boardroom incompetence, and each struggled to adapt to the changes taking place on the business side of English football, in the event simply milking the boom that followed the formative years of the Premier League but without ever really having the dexterity of thought to put any proper contingency in place to make that existence sustainable. Yes, both clubs built new stadiums, but on what kind of foundation?

Granted, the two clubs weren’t the only former top flight institutions to fall victim to this phenomenon, and it would be unfair to suggest that all of the blame rests solely on internal inadequacies. Indeed, you only have to look at Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Derby County or perhaps most explosively, Leeds United, to see other former big names that have spluttered their way half dead into the wayside. But the ultimate truth is that either a lack of foresight, a wealth of complacency or indeed both has had huge ramifications on the way in which the past ten years have gone for both Coventry City and Southampton.

What sets Southampton apart from all others is the way that they have bounced back from their demise, arresting the slide and orchestrating the resurgence that they now enjoy. In the South coast club’s success Coventry City – as perhaps the last of the former top flight clubs likely to fall in such a way – can find key lessons.

The key to Southampton’s revival is twofold. A bit of luck in acquiring a stable boardroom and a good financial backing under the estate of their late saviour and benefactor Markus Liebherr, but also – and particularly relevant to City fans now – a sensible, humble and pragmatic fanbase, perhaps prone to constructive activism but not to anarchic revolt.

I’m not going to suggest that City’s owners SISU have covered themselves in glory during their time in charge and I certainly have my grievances with them. There is absolutely no doubt that the draconian and overly zealous tactics they took to in order to suppress the freedom of speech amongst City’s support and a lack of communication from them in a wider sense, was, if not an insight into how out of their depth they are as owners of a football club, a misguided and unbecoming show of petulance from a set of people who should be doing everything they can to ensure they have the trust of their public and ultimate paybearers.

That said, we must also seek to remember that it was this group which saved City from administration at the eleventh hour when they took over the club in 2007, and in doing so were then obliged to take on the messes and debts incurred after years of outdated thinking at board level. Put simply, if the ship had been left in better shape, Coventry would have attracted better investment.

SISU, as a investment hedge fund, are in the business of risk taking. You can make up your own minds on the ethics of that but the reality is that this is business; they own the club and they have the legal right to do whatever they want with it. Clearly City were a risk in 2007 as they would be today for anyone taking them over, like they are currently for SISU, who at this time clearly still believe that they are the right people to own and run the club, as the rejection of the bid led by former director Gary Hoffmann proved.

There will have been an element of financially motivated self-preservation in that decision, obviously.  SISU and their investors have put a lot of money into the CCFC project, mostly up to this point plugging the gaping cash gaps left for them by the previous regimes and they won’t want to squander that investment. They will believe they can turn the situation around and rest assured, for whatever reason – and it’s probably not thanks to a love of the club – they won’t want to see their efforts fail.

From my point of view, it is in SISU’s interests not to allow the club to implode upon itself. Their reputation in the City of London and in the financial markets of the World will be heavily damaged if they allow such a public failure of a well loved sporting institution, especially in the current climate of distrust of financial types under such spotlight their shortcomings would be exposed under.

So on that basis, and perhaps I’m naive, I still trust SISU and their investors to either put things right in the long term, or to act in the best interests of the club should they find themselves out of ideas and take a hit in order to offload to new faces, and preserve.

The question really for every single City fan right now is can YOU trust them in that light, or not? It’s up to you individually – and I really wouldn’t want to influence that individual choice too much – but do heed the lessons of Southampton and their supporters through backing your club and the people you trust within it. Don’t light the tinder box, don’t be thoughtless in your protest and do put the right pressure on in the right places according to your personal feelings. Above all else, until all hope is gone, have eternal faith that one day things will turn around.

Have fortitude, have resolve and keep believing. You always have a stake in Coventry City.

PUSB.

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn and @SchemeTweets

Adding insult to injury-time

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The three D’s: a formula that should be as easy to remember for Coventry City players this season as E = mc2.

“To avoid the Drop, stop Dicking about at the Death.”

On four occasions this season Coventry City games have been decided in injury time and on only once – against Leeds United in midweek – has the injury time balance swung in City’s favour.

Against Reading, Blackpool and again this past weekend against Burnley, the Sky Blues have either blown the opportunity for victory, or succumbed to a late goal that loses the kind of point that could so easily split relegatory hairs come May next year.

City players have to learn their clichés, because it’s not over until the fat lady sings and whilst the musical results may not be quite as pleasing to the ear as a blast of Play Up Sky Blues from the Coventry Cathedral choir, it’s hard to know how else to get the message across to City’s youthful squad that the final whistle doesn’t automatically sound on ninety minutes, other than to assign big Andy Thorn, big Micky Quinn and a fat suit wearing Dion Dublin the task of donning wig and make up to give us a bit of Cliff Richard as soon as the actual whistle blows.

Has it really come to “Play on until you hear Devil Woman lads”?

To his credit, manager Thorn has come out today, shunning his usual niceties to address the issue of general sloppy play, and rightly so.

It’s almost as though the players can’t quite believe in their own ability. Take the Blackpool game for instance. Those who were there will remember a dire first half and a one goal deficit turn into an absolutely spellbinding spell in the second that took everybody by surprise, not least the Blackpool players who soon found themselves a goal down and completely under the cosh with clock winding down.

Ten minutes later though and Coventry flipped, flopped and flapped about in the box at a corner and Keith Southern equalised. Ninety three minutes and you could hear the sound of the two wasted points seep down the Ricoh Arena drains, even over the din of a rowdy Blackpool lot in the away end who thankfully began inform the home fans that “they weren’t singing anymore”.

Are the heights of potential victory too dizzying for the team? They don’t play in the Andes so we can’t blame it on the altitude, but it seems they only play well when under the pressure of likely defeat or when on the bounce-back from a mauling at Barnsley, Ipswich or Bury.

The Sky Blues look at total unease whenever they have the audacity to put their best foot forward and take the high ground in games. It is worrying, whatever the cause, be it the inexperience amongst younger players or a lack of leadership amongst older ones, because the net result is the same: points get dropped, mistakes get made, and one can visually see that Chris Hussey could probably do with half a litre of pepto bismol to stem his nervous bowel.

Andy Thorn is right to read the riot act this week because he knows that a battle nobly fought and lost is simply a battle lost. City need to stop adding insult to injury-time and start playing with a bit more belief in normal time, because if that doesn’t happen then not even Einsteinian levels of number crunching will save Coventry from the rasping clutch of failure.

P.U.S.B!

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn

Mutiny…

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

If Manchester City are this and Plymouth Argyle are this, then surely Coventry City in it’s present state looks something like this (my most sincere apologies to those with arthritic clicking fingers).

But, as humorous and as demonstrably witty a sailing-cum-footballing analogy that is, Coventry City’s precarious state both on and off the field at the moment certainly isn’t a matter for laughing.

And where do you start on the road to endless despair?

Why not try 22nd in the Championship table at the time of writing, or one win in ten including two squandered victories in injury time against Reading and Blackpool. No? How about away day misery at Birmingham, Ipswich and Barnsley, no money for loan signing wage bills, or why don’t you just cut out the gumph and go for the jugular, with the needless waste of countless bed sheets by Coventry’s metrosexual finest in the making of “ILLEGAL” SISU OUT banners?

Whatever your chosen tear inducing muse; it quickly becomes clear that cumulative woes seem to spell out the words DOOM and OBLIVION and HOLY SH… WE’RE GETTING RELEGATED.

But temperance, because some members of our diaspora are calling for manager Andy Thorn’s head.

I’m sorry, but are these people clinical? Thorny is about the only semblance of leadership that this sinking ship has at the present time; what with the alarming lack of transparency on the business side discrediting any effort from SISU’s name to face Onye Igwe to build bridges; and also, more to the point, Thorn’s brand of football and his utilisation and nurturing of our youth players hasn’t in anyway merited his dismissal.

To sack Thorn would be to sack our one ray of sunshine and one positive force. We mustn’t under any circumstances do that. What’s more, the skip hire costs in removing Thorny’s lopped off baked potato would surely tip us over the edge financially so let’s stick to what we know eh?

It’s a results business, sure, and it is true that on that score we’re not really having a good day’s trading right now, but truthfully I’d like to see under whom’s set of circumstances we would be. City fans, we have to live within our financial means, as ambiguous and as limited and as frustrating and as mirth inducing as they are, and we have to support those brave enough and willing enough to lead the club and to put themselves in the firing line, now more than ever.

We shouldn’t support, however, those who don’t stand up to their roles, and I’m sorry to be harsh (because I like the guy) but City’s new captain Sammy Clingan has to do much, much more if he wants things to remain that way.

With the influx of a continental approach to the national game throughout the post-Premier League years, where technical and tactical astuteness has slowly but surely won out over a bit of old fashioned English brutality, I think it’s fair conjecture to say that the role of the football captain has gotten a bit confused. This is not a complaint, or a criticism of the way that football has gone, we now pay witness week in-week out to a much, much sexier game, and whereas we used to sleep with Rod Hull, we now tend to find ourselves tucked in with the lovely Dame Judi Dench, or you do if you’re watching Manchester United or Chelsea or… Norwich… But the reality for us lot away from these bastions of the footballing elite is that Coventry City do still play in a league that has Hull in it (awful, sorry) and in a league like that, a bit of grit is the eye goes a long way.

We do not live in a world where Fernando Torres can captain Atlético Madrid at the age of 19 just because he’s their star player, if you get my meaning, and at this level of the football, no matter how stylized your playing style might be, the role of captain has to remain important.

For me, Clingan is not doing the role a service.

I watched him very closely against Reading and Blackpool and the truth is is that you don’t hear him bark on the pitch, you don’t see him rallying around a younger set of lads and you don’t see him as a calming influence when it comes to the crunch. I can’t say I’m privy to the way in which he carries himself in the role during the week on the training pitch at Ryton, or before the game in the dressing room, or on the team coach, but at times like this when the chip’s are down, a Captain should not only communicate with his fellow players but he should also communicate directly with his team’s public.

With that in mind, and I don’t want to be one of those armchair tits who starts bigging up the merits of a 4-5-1 formation or that we should put Oggy up front or something (although have a look at the nosy bugger when he’s warming up’s City’s current crop of keepers pre-game, pinpoint), but I really do think that if he gets fit and starts games, Gary Deegan, otherwise known as the Bulldog should be Coventry City captain. As soon as he came on against Blackpool he roused the crowd, he scored a goal, and it’s a role he could so easily grow into. It’s a more natural fit. Him or Joe Murphy, the goalkeeper who for a man of slim pickings will shout over and above the din of the crowd to get his point across.

With a lack of leadership off the field, and in troubling times, fans need their leaders to make themselves known.

PUSB!

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn

Toppo’s Top Tens – Big away wins

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

As the away side in a football match, you are expected to keep things tight and make life difficult for your hosts.  More often than not a well-fought draw will do and if you pick up a close victory, even better.

Thrashings in football aren’t a regular occurrence but they do happen. However it is rare when the visiting team hands out a pasting to their hosts. Last week Andy Hessenthaler’s Gillingham did just that with a 6-1 victory at League Two strugglers Hereford United, so today Toppo’s Top Ten looks at those occasions where the visiting team has a field-day in front of goal, leaving the home fans heading for the exits early.

10: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003

Sheffield Wednesday were already relegated by the time they travelled to Turf Moor for a Division One fixture in 2003 – you wouldn’t have known it though looking at the final score.

Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in Brian Barry-Murphy’s cross. Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming minutes after Burnley striker Ian Moore was sent off.

Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off the goalkeeper replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford and the Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but in truth it was a miserable first half for the hosts and things didn’t improve. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake made it 4-2 with a left-footed drive.

Chris Turner’s Wednesday quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they scored again. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before the travelling Owls capped off a memorable afternoon, Quinn hitting an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an 7-2 success.

9: Crewe Alexandra 1 Coventry City 6 2002

In February 2002, Coventry City visited Dario Gradi’s Crewe Alexandra in a Division One fixture where the hosts had a shocker. The Sky Blues were still harbouring hopes of a play-off spot while Crewe went into the match having won their last four games in a row. By the end of this 90 minutes though there was only one emphatic winner.

The first goal came on 37 minutes when a Lee Hughes cross was spooned into the air by Alex goalkeeper Ademole Bankole and Laurent Delorge knocked it into the net. Crewe equalised in injury time when Shaun Smith curled in a corner and Rob Hulse powered a near-post header into the back of the net, but seconds later Coventry were back in front when £5 million signing Hughes turned Steve Foster before driving in a curled shot from 15 yards.

Two minutes after the break striker Hughes made it 3-1 as he beat Bankole to the ball, nodding home Lee Mills’ flick-on from a long throw-in. After the Crewe defence failed to clear a cross ten minutes later, Hughes saw his shot blocked but it fell to Delorge who slammed it home to extend the visitors’ lead.

Midfielder David Thompson made it 5-1 after a mix-up in the Crewe backline and then with 20 minutes to go Hughes completed his hat-trick as he ran onto Thompson’s through ball,  outmuscled Efe Sodje and Bankole before finishing easily. Gradi hauled ‘keeper Bankole off, replacing him with Clayton Ince but by then the damage had well and truly been done.

8: Hereford United 1 Gillingham 6 2011

Hereford United have made a poor start to the League Two campaign this season and their misery was compounded last week as Gillingham inflicted a 6-1 home reversal on them.

West Ham loanee Frank Nouble opened the scoring after good interplay with Chris Whelpdale before Garry Richards made it two five minutes later, his looping header beating Bulls ‘keeper Dave Cornell from Danny Jackman’s cross. Luke Rooney scored the Gills’ third on 38 minutes as his driven cross-cum-shot deflected off a home defender and into the net.

3-0 down at the break and things didn’t get better for Hereford as Jackman netted a fourth for Gillingham three minutes after the restart as he curled an excellent effort into the top corner of the net from wide on the left. Hereford missed a penalty midway through the second period but it was Gillingham who scored again, Whelpdale’s low effort bobbling over the diving Cornell and in.

On 82 minutes the visitors added a sixth when Stefan Payne netted his first senior goal with a strike from 20 yards but Hereford did salvage some pride, as with three minutes to go as Sam Winnall powered home a free-kick from 25 yards. Despite that it was the Bulls’ worst home defeat since returning to the Football League.

7: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010

Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home, but the Hornets ended that run in style.

John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort two minutes into first-half stoppage time tricked over the line and saw Millwall 3-0 down at the break.

Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner led to a Watford goal as Adrian Mariappa headed the visitors into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced arrears two minutes later but soon after Danny Graham rifled a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They made it 6-1 added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.

6: Reading 0 Bristol Rovers 6 1999

Having moved to the new £50 million Madejski Stadium in August 1998, four months later Reading put in one of the worst performances seen at the ground as they slumped to a 6-0 home defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers.

The Division Two fixture in January 1999 saw Rovers’ pick up one of their best-ever away victories while The Royals were left embarrassed, particularly when the half-time score was 0-0. In the second half Jamie Cureton ran onto a through ball and slotted a composed finish beyond the advancing Reading goalkeeper for 1-0.  The striker then made it two from the penalty spot and soon completed his hat-trick, knocking in after a defensive mix-up between Elroy Kromkeer and Chris Casper. Jason Roberts then set up strike parter Cureton for his fourth goal – all of them coming within the space of 20 minutes.

More poor home defending allowed Roberts, a £250,000 summer signing from Wolverhampton Wanderers, to score twice and make it 6-0 to Ian Holloway’s men.

5: Bradford City 0 Portsmouth 5 2003

On their way to the Division One title and promotion to the Premier League in 2003, Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth travelled to Valley Parade in their final league match, where they hammered Bradford City 5-0.

Italian defender Gianluca Festa marked his final appearance for Pompey with a goal, his left-footed shot beating City goalkeeper Aidan Davidson to open the scoring. Svetoslav Todorov hit a quick-fire double after the break to make it 3-0 and was then felled by Bantams defender David Wetherall in the box for a penalty.

The Bulgarian striker stepped up and converted the spot-kick to complete a ten-minute hat-trick. Former England winger Steve Stone finished off the rout on 67 minutes with a well-struck right foot shot to give Pompey only their second victory at Valley Parade in 14 attempts and the best possible preparation for life in the top flight.

4: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994

Plymouth Argyle made the long trip north to Hartlepool United for a Third Division clash in May 1994 and left Victoria Park with all three points and a hatful of goals scored. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number five. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.

3: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002

Division Two promotion rivals Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where it was the visitors who prevailed by some scoreline.

Veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram played for Oldham the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis for this match, but he found himself conceding seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.

Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to gloss over a very poor performance from the Lancashire outfit.

2: Torquay United 1 Scunthorpe United 8 1995

In October 1995 Scunthorpe United equalled their club-record victory as they thrashed a lacklustre Torquay United 8-1 at Plainmoor. Torquay had made the Division Three playoffs the season before but lost in the semi-finals to Preston North End, however they suffered a play-off hangover at the start of the 1995/96 campaign which culminated with the 8-1 reversal at the hands of the Iron.

Future Torquay striker Andy MacFarlane caught the eye as he netted four goals but the manner of the defeat hit Torquay chairman Mike Bateson hard, admitting he could have sacked the vast majority of the players who took to the field for the game. Instead he relieved manager Don O’Riordan of his duties in a bid to turn around the club’s fortunes. See the goals from the game in the clip below.


1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009

Colchester United manager Paul Lambert inspired his side to a remarkable 7-1 win at newly-relegated Norwich City on the first day of the 2009/10 League One season, putting himself in the frame for the manager’s job at Carrow Road in the process.

As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one saw this result coming. Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.

Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who helped deliver it, Lambert being appointed Norwich boss soon after. He galvanised the Norfolk outfit and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.

 

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger

Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens

 

You’ll never win anything with kids….

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Coventry City did the almost unthinkable last weekend and won a league game. A very dubiously awarded Lukas Jutkiewicz penalty (who’s complaining?) and a genuinely majestic Carl Baker volley making the difference in front of some nearly 14,000 Covistas braving the Ricoh rain, as well as countless others watching through Sky’s all-seeing television cameras.

An open game for the most part, like the hosts opponents Derby County had their fair share of opportunities and could probably count themselves unlucky not to have scored at least once after threatening a number of times in the first half.

They will surely also feel aggrieved at the penalty decision which, it has to be said , was softer than a well furnaced marshmallow after City defender Richard Keogh clumsily challenged….well, City defender Richard Keogh in the penalty area.

Regardless of this gross and largely hilarious injustice served the Rams however, overall it has to be said that even the impartial observer would probably have seen the win as one thoroughly well deserved for a City side peppered with young and inexperienced players who just seem to be finding their feet now after a difficult start to the season.

They’ll have to keep finding their feet as well.

At a time when all the talk amongst City fans seems to have done with the inaction and/or supposed incompetence of those concerned on the business side of the operation (and rest assured I’ll have more to come on that in my next blog), it’s not escaped my attention that on the pitch it’ll probably be these young players who’ll end up making key contributions in the club’s efforts to stay in the division come the end of the year.

I’m talking primarily about players like Cyrus Christie and Gael Bigirimana, talented local teenagers who’ve been thrown in at the deep end somewhat by manager Andy Thorn after the departure of key squad players in the summer. To their credit, neither Cyrus nor Gael have shown any real outward signs of being overawed by their rapid promotion to competitive football and instead they’ve shown composure, energy and endeavor in their football to earn not just the praise of their nurturing manager, but also guarantees that their first team slots are merited and not just a symptom of Thorn having to manage a small squad.

Impressive.

In short, both players have served as rare bright sparks in what are otherwise dimly lit environs at the moment; Christie’s pace and power on the right hand side presents both defensive and attacking options, a pinpoint crossing ability impressing in particular. Bigirimana meanwhile, already known as ‘Bigi’ to many fans has supposedly grabbed the attention of a host of Premier League suitors with his brand of combative and energetic midfield play.

Of course, as you’d expect there are minor criticisms to be levelled to, particularly at the 17 year old Bigirimana, who you feel could take his game to teams a little more at times. He’s clearly comfortable on the ball, is an adept passer and has obvious pace and skill, but you sometimes want him to take the initiative and be just that bit more influential in and around the final third. I see him as a Gary McAllister kind of player ultimately, someone who can impose himself and be totally comfortable in every facet of play through the middle of the pitch. He’s just lacking that killer instinct right now.

Really though these criticisms are a little on the harsh side and as hinted are more likely than not to be more a symptom of nerves, or a case of a player acclimatizing to a higher standard of football as opposed to anything endemic to his natural game. I’m confident that he’ll develop and improve his attacking game as the season wears on.

Nevertheless it remains to be seen to what extent these two players in particular will grow during the season, and because City fans are now well worn to the concept of big promise falling away into stagnation (Robert Jarni) they probably do have more to do than is truly reasonable to totally convince their new public.

For now though, you can’t deny that the future of things on the pitch looks really bright for Coventry City and what’s more, as anybody who has taken the three seconds it requires to completely comprehend Andy Thorn’s depleted squad list will know, this influx of good young players doesn’t just end with Cyrus and Bigi.

In fact, in the wings there’s a whole host of talented young players, the likes of Conor Thomas, a gifted midfielder with a real eye for a pass who flirted with Premier League giants Liverpool last season. Nathan Cameron, the centre half who despite faltering after a promising early run under Aidy Boothroyd last season has undeniable potential. Jordan Clarke, a pacy full back and Josh Ruffels, a technically gifted midfielder who is yet to make a first team appearance but is on the fringes at the moment. He’s a player who has bags and bags of potential.

Under the constrictions of measured means, it seems to me that we’ve been compensated somewhat by the emergence of a true meritocratic approach to team selection under Andy Thorn; and whilst in our case it’s highly unlikely that the Alan Hansen effect will work for Coventry as spectacularly as it did for Manchester United all those years ago, it might just turn out that our bunch of Junior Sky Blues end up having a critical say in how things go for the club at the other end of the table instead.

As always: P.U.S.B!

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn

 

 

 

Andy Thorn’s Crazy Sky Blue Army Gang

Monday, August 8th, 2011

As Coventry City fans, we are now well used to the drudgery of a flaccid pre-season. Throughout the aimless reigns of Reid, Adams, Dowie and Coleman, we’d be promised this, only to end up with, well, that, and frankly it’s probably true to say that not since the giant killing days of Gordon Strachan’s managerial midterm have we truly felt any sense of genuine unfiltered enthusiasm.

That was, we said tentatively, until the beginning of last season. Chris Coleman and his buddy boy act was now out on its ear, and ex-Watford promotion hero Aidy Boothroyd was in on his (no mean task considering the size of them). Under ‘Boothy’, as nobody ever took to calling him, discipline was instilled, cash was splashed and talk was talked. Better still, this talk was actually believed, because in the form of new signing Marlon King, we were also promised goals. Goals?! This truly was dreamland.

And guess what? After an early run of combative victories and decent draws, come November/December time we actually found ourselves within a realistic tramp’s sniff of the playoff places. Things really were looking up! Granted, those dazed and confused veterans of the terraces wondered to exactly where up was, but optimistic idiots like myself were soon to point them in the right direction, we were aiming towards the sky… blue… and soon enough both branches of fans, the dazed and the wildly optimistic alike, found themselves united in what had now become a beautiful world; a world where week in, week out we would yell PLAY UP SKY BLUES! As loud as our hitherto repressed and downtrodden voices allowed us and where we started to really, finally, and without any sense of impending doom or dread, stop merely dreaming of a return to Premier League stardom and believe that it could, truly, if we were lucky, happen.

But things are never quite that simple, are they?

You see, as it turned out, we didn’t have the depth, or the longevity… or, indeed, the goals, to mount anything like a serious challenge for anything you’d seriously consider to be of any worth, and the pivot point for this rapid turnaround in ambitions was almost definitely the home game against Leeds United. Standard pre-match spirits had grown so high by the time the fixture came around, that nobody it seemed needed their traditional swift half-a-thousand pints before kick off anymore, and rumours began to emerge that even the sleepers amongst the local populace, those who’d lost faith long ago, that even they’d gotten wind of all this fanciful talk of a footballing resurrection that was supposedly taking place from within the rounded metallic confines of the fortress Ricoh. Most enticingly, they’d heard of goals, and from the feet of our very own King, and so it proved, when a record league crowd of 28,184 swaggered into the Rioch Arena, not just dismissing any notion of any threat of any kind to our footballing superiority, but actively believing that there couldn’t feasibly be one anyway. Leeds United? Pfft! Simon Grayson and his tactical nouse? Pfft! Max Gradel and his ability to mesmerize from the flanks? Pfft! We were Coventry City, all nigh on 30,000 of us, and we were going places at last.

Where we were actually going, though, was to a little place known as ahead of ourselves, the reality being that after half a season of well and truly flattering to deceive, the boys then well and truly capitulated in front of a newly believing public to lose 3-2. Not too bad a result perhaps in itself, but what followed was a painful run of about three million 1-0 defeats, which saw combative turn to crapdecent turn to dissenting and ultimately, Boothroyd’s brand of route one football turn to nothing but his overdue dismissal and 18th position in the league. Talk about cold hard facts.

But in reality, those facts weren’t actually anywhere near cold and hard enough, because despite the brief flicker of optimism that the first few games of Andy Thorn’s reign as manager provided, the subsequent summer lull has done very little indeed to temper the flames that now engulf our dying empire. The dominant talk has been about the state of play off the field, in the boardroom, where a series of convoluted financial maladies have contrived to mean, quite plainly, that we’re broke, and the long overdue admission from that current board, a hedge fund named SISU, that yes, actually, you’re right, we have absolutely no money, does nothing to dull the pain of the bottom line it creates, one that makes for the grimmest of readings, that any viable attempt to restructure a depleted squad is likely to involve a bit of barrel scraping… if we’re lucky.

And, really, avoiding all talk of takeovers until money is put where mouths are, if 18th position in the Championship last season can be rightly considered as not good enough for a side with players as capable as Ireland goalkeeper Kieron Westwood (now of Sunderland, free transfer), the aforementioned Jamaica striker Marlon King (now of Birmingham City, free transfer) and Iceland’s Aron Gunarsson (now of CCFC… the other one… free transfer, tribunal, we probably got a fiver), then it makes you wonder really what the future holds for a side that is now not just peppered with youth, but salted with it too, and which has added just two new experienced faces in the form of goalkeepers Joe Murphy and Chris Dunn.

But as I mentioned earlier, I am an optimistic idiot, and in Andy Thorn, I truly think we have a manager of some standard of excellence. In the few games under his guidance at the end of last season, there were some excellent footballing displays, the kind of which that whilst although you’re never happy to, you don’t mind so much losing with. More important though, to me at least, is the fact that Thorn has a genuinely refreshing attitude for a football manager; one of pure pragmatism, there are no nauseating clichés and he is in my view almost the sole good thing we’ve got going for us at the moment. A veteran of the great Wimbledon era, he played in the bruising FA Cup final that became that clubs finest hour in 1988, a year after our own. Thorn is also a man with a public profile amusingly in contrast in size with his girthy waistline, and that is no sleight on him, because whilst he may be a big lad with a huge head, it is from within that head that comes this seemingly endless stream of common sense, a brand of straight talking with which he is quickly becoming a cult hero for a Coventry crowd seeking sanity.

The question really is whether that will be enough? Whilst it’s certainly true that he has absolutely no track record in football management, he was the chief scout for us for a number of years, and as such was the man largely responsible for seeking out the majority of the talent that we’ve managed to attract in recent seasons, so you do get the feeling he knows a good player when he sees one. Whether that will translate or not over the course of a season, or indeed, however long it takes him to get sacked, I cannot say with any certainty, other than in the fact that I feel with almost all of my body and soul that if anybody can take this depleted and fractured squad to the dizzying heights of not getting relegated, it’s going to be Thorny. And unlike ‘Boothy’ he really is getting called that.

I’ll finish off this rousingly miserable preview with a bit of pomp and circumstance to perk things up a bit. Before the season started, the club honoured it’s all time hero and the man it is indebted probably more than any other: Chinny Jimmy/Jimmy Hill. He needs no introduction to City fans; or to Fulham fans, or to the association of football linesmen, or Des Lynam (or indeed, to Sunderland fans, answers on a postcard), but for everybody else it’s worth mentioning that Jimmy is the man who made us; the man who adorned us in Sky Blue and then dragged us up with some considerable style, right from the lower reaches of league football all the way to the peaks and glories of Europe. He truly is Mr. Coventry City, and a week or so before the new season kicked off, the man himself was present at the Ricoh Arena to unveil an excellent statue, his doppelganger in bronze, after which, with not a dry eye in the place, he lead the gathered fans in a rousing rendition of our club song, the one he penned all those years ago.

I was there, and as always when anything to do with Jimmy crops up, our minds go back once again to those halcyon days where we were winning divisions and not just making up their numbers, and where our players played snooker and supped friendly pints with its fans. We are now in these times of struggle, well used to pontificating about the majesty of that era, and rightly so, but my point here is a lot more present than that. I don’t know whether it was just me, but standing there watching Jimmy unveil the statue and whatever else, I sensed a different mood than you usually find surrounding this kind of trip back in time. There was a darker quality in the air, no doubt in my mind due to the much starker contrast than even we as City fans have been used to between the endless optimism of then and the seemingly endless pessimism of now. At first, it was quite a sobering thought, and for a little while after the event I felt a little bit depressed that an event honouring Jimmy had ended up making me feel that way. Could things really be as bad as they seem? You know what, it might well be that they are, it is going to be perhaps our longest and hardest season in living memory, and there has been plenty of talk amongst fans of season ticket mutinies, of relegation and even of the dreaded administration.

But then it struck me.

We should never, ever, give up on our club; Jimmy didn’t, not until the TV companies came a-knocking, and I don’t think Thorny will either. We need now, more than ever, to just get right behind our Coventry City and sing louder than we’ve ever sung before; we need to return to the simple pleasure of just enjoying our football, and we need to make Coventry City once more the bastion of sporting dignity and endeavour the like of which Chinny would recognise. We need to forget the boardroom rubbish and the hideousness that was the false Kingdom of Marlon and Aidy, and instead, we should endeavour, along with the current crop of players, a lot of whom are Cov kids in themselves, along with the manager, to build up a new a Republic; the Republic of Andy Thorn and his Crazy Sky Blue Gang. So in my best Dave Bennett voice, I say to you come on you Sky Blues, stop playing up and PLAY UP!

P.U.S.B!

Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger

Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn