Coventry Fans Defiant
Coventry City fans were in vocal and defiant mood during the 2-0 defeat at Reading yesterday. Several rousing choruses of their signature Eton Boating Song rang out and the raw commitment that perhaps only comes with adversity and temperatures hovering around zero degrees was on full display.
Among the targets for opprobrium were the club’s owners since 2007 – Sisu Capital – a cabal whose very mention led the comments section to combust after Ian Palmer so expertly picked apart Coventry’s parlous financial state during our recent Turmoil Week. A sizeable amount of money has been ploughed in during that period, but not enough to satisfy supporters raised on three decades of top flight football and as The Sky Blues Blog’s Neil Allison remarked in our conversation with him earlier this season, the commitment from Sisu falls some way short of a genuine one.
Having suffered a transfer embargo in the Summer and lost key men such as Ben Turner, Keiren Westwood, Aron Gunnarsson and Marlon King, it was a decidedly threadbare City that showed up at the Mad Stad and the options available to manager Andy Thorn are scant – it is always a sign of an under resourced club when the bench and stands are packed with mediocre talents who are unlikely to bring about game changing moments. David Bell and Carl Baker have been at the club for some time now and their impact has gone unnoticed nationally.
The recruitment of Joe Murphy to replace Westwood was a sensible one but yesterday wasn’t his best day. Jimmy Kébé’s burst into the area was capped by a tapering cross that the ex-Scunthorpe custodian appeared to think was going wide, only to react with horror when the ball nestled inside the post. It was the kind of incident that relegation bound clubs tend to suffer – until then, Coventry’s approach play has been smart and they had possibly edged the contest in possession terms.
Nor was the loss of Richard Wood from the left back position a fortuitous event; the man I would usually associate as a centre back being withdrawn due to injury in the early minutes. His replacement, Jordan Clarke struggled against Kébé’s pace for most of the afternoon.
On the right hand side of defence, the Sky Blues do at least appear to have made a find commensurate with the conurbation’s significant population. 19 year old Cyrus Christie was up against a makeshift left midfielder in Joseph Mills but looked quick and solid in the tackle. Local born Christie served loan spells at Nuneaton Town and Hinckley United a year ago but has cemented a regular starting place in the XI since August – he looks a prospect.
Also committed on the day was right sided centre back Richard Keogh, a capture from Carlisle back in 2010. Keogh is popular with the fans, having secured their player of the season award for 2010-11 and he was encouragingly mobile here, coping well with the muscular front play of Jason Roberts. Beside him, Martin Cranie did little wrong although his position and that of the aforementioned Wood would suggest that it’s a case of square pegs for round holes for Thorn at the moment – Cranie has played much of his career as a right back.
Arguably Sammy Clingan’s best season of his career came when Nottingham Forest were promoted back into the Championship in 2007-8 and if he remains influential, it’s harder for him to shine a division up. He still sits in front of the back four and uses the ball adroitly but perhaps needs better players round him. Youngster Oliver Norwood, on loan from Manchester United, fulfilled attacking midfield duties but was anonymous. Norwood is actually a Burnley born Northern Irishman and not the graduate of Harrow or Eton he sounds like.
Gary Deegan’s tendency to tuck in from his position on the right was noticeable on the day and he’s the kind of lieutenant that epitomises a campaign of struggle. When several points adrift of safety, there is a tendency for managers to pick this kind of conservatively-minded wide man rather than the ethereal talents of an out and out winger – not that Coventry are over blessed in this regard of course.
Opposite was the Sky Blues’ best known perforner Gary McSheffrey and this match didn’t see him at his best. Particularly worrying was an extended bawling out of Alex Nimely when the deep lying striker failed to find him with a pass – I doubt that the Liberian born player will have appreciated being chastised repeatedly, even if McSheffrey was correct. One rasper apart, the contribution of the prodigal son was negligible.
As for Nimely, along with Christie and Keogh, he was the main bright spot of a day where the club perhaps deserved more. Having shown up well in the recent 3-1 win over Middlesbrough, he looked deft in possession and was constantly able to take the ball past Reading’s out of sorts centre backs. His finishing was less good, although a miraculous save from Adam Federici (one of a few) denied him in a one on one. A shame that City don’t own him as he is employed by another set of light blues in Manchester City.
Alongside, Clive Platt was a handful but no more than that and it’s hard not to feel he is operating a level above where he should be – memories of his early days in the lower leagues remain crystal clear as they do for the man he was confining to the bench, Freddie Eastwood. That Coventry miss Lukas Jutkiewicz, himself hardly prolific, is telling.
So with little doubt, the West Midlanders are heading for the third level. Whether they can repeat the exploits of neighbours Leicester City in coming straight back is doubtful given the financial fug of despair surrounding the club and if a city and fan base of their size should ensure a return within a few seasons (see Leeds, see Southampton), it’s far from enjoyable being a Coventry City supporter at the moment. Yesterday was far from their worst performance of the season but the gallows humour on display from the admirable away support was telling.