BY Kyle Hancox (@kyle_hancox)
First off writing a piece on Coventry City is not as simple as 1, 2, 3. As a Coventry fan I am used to my fair share of disappointment.
Off-the-field issues have played a massive part in shaping the 2013-14 season. A 10-point deduction left the Sky Blues playing catch-up from day one and a move to Northampton’s Sixfields stadium has left many fans furious at the way their club is being run.
However, with Saturday’s 1-1 draw to Champions Wolves, Steven Pressley and his young squad were able to secure their League One status for a third season, and I would like to focus mainly on some of the positives on the field this season.
After another wholly disappointing summer where the only signings of note were 32-year-old defender Andy Webster and former Carlisle striker Mathieu Manset, who was subsequently released in January, the Sky Blue faithful could be forgiven for thinking it was another season of doom and gloom.
But Pressley’s youngsters played with no fear and were able to wipe out the 10-point deduction after just six games, as a 2-1 win against Gillingham moved them off the foot of the table.
The average attendance of 2,000 at Sixfields did nothing to demoralise the squad, as Northampton became the place to be if you wanted to see attacking football with lots of goals. A 5-4 victory against Bristol City and a thrilling 4-4 draw with Preston were just two examples of this.
Much of the praise for this early season form falls at the feet of academy graduate Callum Wilson and Leon Clarke, who scored 33 goals between them up until January to make them the most potent strike force in League 1.
Since Clarke’s £750,000 move to Midlands rivals Wolves, Coventry’s season has taken a nose dive. Pressley brought in Nathan Delfouneso on loan from Villa in the hope that he could replace a player who hit 28 goals in 12 months.
“Elvis”, as he is called by fans, also signed 20-year-old Dutch-born striker Denzel Slager from RKC Waalwijk to add some more fire power, but the Curacoan youngster was released after just seven weeks.
Centre-back Danny Seaborne and winger Mark Marshall were brought in on permanent deals during the January window, and other loan signings were acquired in the form of Nathan Eccleston, Dylan McGeouch and Anton Robinson through the remainder of the season.
However without the injured Wilson, who missed three months of the season with a shoulder injury, and Clarke now plying his trade at Molineux, City were missing some much needed fire power. Franck Moussa chipped in with 12 goals to help the side, with his goal against Leyton Orient winning the Mitre Goal of the Season award. But City continued to slip down the table as poor defensive displays cost them important points.
Wilson’s return from injury saw him pick up the March Sky Bet Player of the Month award in what was a high point in a low second half of the season for everyone involved at the club.
Taking a step back and looking at this season, you could say it was an opportunity missed for the club to mountain a serious play-off charge. But for me, on the field this season has been a huge success for the 1987 FA Cup winners.
Pressley has brought a mentality to the club that has been missing for years. The style of play is good, with the players looking to get the ball down and pass it around. There is pace in the side which I feel has been seriously lacking for years.
Let’s not forget that without the 10-point deduction, the Sky Blues would be 9th in the table albeit 12 points adrift of the play-offs.
It will not be a summer without trouble for the club. They once again look to hold on to their most prized assets, with more high-profile clubs circling around Wilson like vultures.
It seems Pressley is already resigned to losing the out-of-contract duo of Moussa and Cyrus Christie, as they look destined for moves to clubs at a higher level.
Question marks also linger over the futures of Joe Murphy and Mark Marshall who are out of contract. But Pressley has expressed his desire to move quickly in the window in his pursuit to sign a dozen players.
For the fans, the ongoing battle between owners of the club, Otium and owners of the Ricoh Arena: Arena Coventry Limited, which has seen the club temporarily relocated to Northampton, continues to tear the soul away from the club.
With many fans continuing with the Not One Penny More protest, ‘home’ attendances have continued to peak at the 2,500 mark. Which means many fans are missing out on some of the best football Coventry have played in many a year.
One thing that has not decreased is fans’ support for their club. Fantastic away followings, such as the 7,000-strong Sky Blue army that travelled to Milton Keynes to watch a 3-1 victory.
An away FA Cup fixture at the Emirates was the perfect stage for the fans to get their message across. And this was done successfully, with fans holding up signs asking ‘Why?’ and ‘When?’ in protest of their move to Sixfields.
In response to the question when? Nobody knows is the correct answer and no side seems to be giving in the battle for control of the Ricoh Arena. Otium are even considering plans to construct another purpose-built football stadium away from the Ricoh to move the club into.
However, this would mean four more seasons of the club playing away from their home city and the majority of their fans.
For everything that happens off the pitch, you cannot fault the work that Pressley and his backroom staff have done since taking over from Mark Robins a year ago. If the Sky Blues are able to keep some their top players for next season, I see bright times ahead for the boys on the pitch. And boy does the whole club need it.