After the high of promotion via the Wembley Final last May, our first season back in L1 has been both a success & a disappointment but certainly left me with a hugely optimistic sense for the future.
This blog is a canter through the season from my perspective with a few opinions thrown in…hope it sparks a little interest.
As is usually the case, my First World problem of a summer holiday clashing with the commencement of the football season meant that after the transfer window closed my first opportunity to watch the team was away at Oxford in the league cup…I was underwhelmed with what I saw. My first chance to watch Ogogo, Sterling, Hiwula and Bakayoko and I sat there wishing we’d signed Marcus Browne who stood out for Oxford. Having lost all 4 pre-season friendlies (against senior sides), thrown away the lead against Scunthorpe and got a point in a no-score bore draw at Wimbledon you can imagine that a playoff chase down to the penultimate game of the season was NOT on my mind. Just survival. And those first two opponents got relegated so we certainly improved!
As the season progressed it became clear just what the team could achieve IF each player could consistently play at his most capable level; playoffs were a real possibility. Consistency though is harder to achieve with lack of experience & this young team just had moments where too many in the side failed occasionally to reach that high standard. Barnsley, a younger side overall, did manage it though and perhaps the difference was where the two teams had come from…with The Tykes bouncing straight back up.
The inconsistencies that cost us points along the way (only a few points would have made the difference after all) that stick in the mind are: *Don’t read the following and feel I’m a half glass empty fan & writer…the better bits are yet to come*
- Sterling – that Bristol Rovers away day. Guilty of conceding 3 goals, absolutely soaking wet watching and fans around me fighting each other. He bounced back wonderfully in subsequent weeks although a quiet last few games…
- Doyle – just felt guilty (legend & hero) even thinking about replacing him mid season but he just wasn’t cutting it: enter Kelly.
- Burge – 1-0 up away at Walsall with 90mins on the clock and somehow we lose the game (to a subsequently relegated team) – again feel disloyal BUT we need a more consistent performer to challenge him.
- Thomas – so many chances to score, such little composure in the moment and his right leg is presumably just for standing on.
- Bakayoko – I count the away trip to Blackpool as one of my worst ever, the offside count AND the Hotel choice – shocker!
- Chaplin – the ’10’ shirt has been a millstone for him, dropped mid season as the finishing wasn’t ‘as advertised’…
- Shipley – some games his passing radar had been left on the touch line…but here he is with his first ever MOTM…
- Enobakhare – (ok thrilling to watch) but just goes missing for extended periods…especially after 60 mins.
- Robins – 🎶 Walking in a Robins Wonderland 🎶 took a while to get going (team selection mostly) presumably after a truncated pre-season owing to the achievements at Meadow Lane & Wembley.
Ok, inconsistencies aside, the rest of the season was great as actual versus expected favoured the ‘actual’ and the team bettered my expectations. The early season “five on the spin” winning sequence never felt convincing but nevertheless the league position kept moving upwards. Just a fraction under 50% of the season spent in league positions 8&9! Early season I’d have take a top half finish as a successful campaign…but success leads to expectation and expectation to hope and in Coventry’s history hope generally gives way to despair. But last season’s success meant this season’s hope, made further success palpable…and I bought into that. Hence the juxtaposition between disappointment and accomplishment I feel and mentioned in my preface.
The players really shone in patches and these are those who stood out for me & offer a genuine prospect for next season:
- Kelly – his captaincy and mature performances mean he’s a shoe-in for next season, it’s a matter of who will play alongside him.
- Bayliss – sublime skills to unlock defences and with this season’s blooding I expect a maturer season next year IF we can keep him to ourselves.
- Thomas – finishing aside, he runs with the ball like Jodi Jones and beats his man regularly. He’ll have learnt a lot in his first full season and would hope he stays on loan or signs up.
- Enobakhare – easily the most skilful player I’ve seen at Coventry for sometime and IF the noises are correct and he may be signing for us next season he’ll boost our chances of a promotion season nicely. Knowing when to pass and when to take on the fourth opponent ie decision making is his improvement target.
- Hyam, Davies & Willis – great partnerships in all three combinations and although Davies is clearly third choice they’ve all defended well but set pieces have cost us. Portsmouth away an example of how set piece defending cost us games. Hope to retain all three BUT Michael Rose looks like a great acquisition… Hyam player of the season:
- Shipley – 🎶He’s one of our own🎶 really got his teeth into the centre midfield role after Bayliss was injured. His passing can be great and his forays forward are exciting & I really think there’s more to come from him.
- Hiwula – 🎶Jordy Hiwula plays for City Sky Blue Army🎶 there were days this season I couldn’t stop singing that tune. If he gets to play down the middle next season he’ll get close to 20 goals. I like versatile players and he improved hugely through the season.
The release list that is awaited from Robins is likely to include the following:
- Burge – now has loads of experience and is one of Coventry’s highest appearing keepers in its history – still makes elementary mistakes that cost goals. Misjudging his cross taking and kicking inaccurately are too frequent and the cameo by Stockdale highlighted that clearly for Robins & fans alike.
- Grimmer – such fondness for him from the L2 campaign – found it odd that a premier league starlet was sourced for his position when it was our star striker that left. Not complaining but gutted to see him a spare this season and out next.
- Davies – seems he has put his ego ahead of being a team player for next season. Hope I’m wrong. He’d be an integral part of the team next season if he stays – we’d need 4 good centre-halves and he’s easily good enough but maybe he’d prefer to drop a division to be a first pick.
- Bayliss – looks at the time of writing that every lower half premiership side wants him – but they’ll only pay slim pickings…
- Addai – I’m impressed with his keepy-uppy skills but in pre-match warm ups he barely stops a shot & I’m quite sure that if Robins rated him he’d have dropped Burge and installed him, but he didn’t…
- Willis – would love him to sign up again and stay for our promotion campaign next season but no-one can question his loyalty and so if he can get a Championship pay day, he deserves it.
- Brown – although not making the first XI often he has done well in patches and I feel that he has needed time to get over his ACL last season in the same way Jones, Biamou and Andreu will too…
- Andreu, Beavon, Meyler – cheerio and thanks for coming 👋
During the course of the season I went to 17 away games and as a ST holder made most home games (forgive me for putting summer holidays & skiing ahead of the Ricoh)…and had so many great moments. But I think these are my top 5 and for balance first the worst three moments.
- Blackpool Away – OMG Bakayoko offside 10 times spawned has song – which has now morphed into ‘the onside way’ thank fully.
- Bristol Rovers Away – soaked, fans fighting each other about Robins (and me thinking about the previous defeat there under Russell Slade). Sterling playing like he’s never been on a pitch before. 3-0 after 25 mins, he’s subbed at half time and what a show of faith in him by Robins & paid back in full for the rest of the season.
- Gillingham Away – their temporary stand (that’s been there 20 years) with no cover – got ABSOLUTELY drowned. Literally had to wring out my top before getting into the car. And threw away a lead.
- Portsmouth Away – great day our just the disappointment of being in a winning position and then losing – win that game = making the playoffs for sure. Beating Charlton for the third time then playing either Sunderland or Portsmouth who both are shitting themselves. I can dream can’t I?! (By the way that’s an interrobang – google it).
- Fleetwood Away – didn’t go & pleased not to have – but listened to the match in my hot tub and it ruined what should have been a lovely evening with beer and the missus.
- Sunderland Away – nine goal thrillers don’t come round that frequently and when Chaplin gets the ball in the box, kinks and shoots…well I couldn’t breath.
- Peterborough Away – felt for the first time like we might ACTUALLY make the playoffs. Singing 🎶We’re on our way🎶 and wondering how we could ever lose a game again…
- Southend Away – Fairytale for Jodi Jones – an injury time winner. Showing the likes of Thomas, Chaplin & Shipley – you get a chance you take it. Want him back and on fire – remember her destroyed Notts County in L2 opening day (and where are they now..?).
- Accrington Away – great pie & pint, bit of live music beforehand, under cover (after Gillingham away – always pay for cover) & the win just underlined our progress as last year we were roasted by the L2 champions twice.
- Barnsley Home – for personal reasons our “Bedfordshire Sky Blues” love getting one over on Barnsley (right Lewis?!) and we knew they’d be right up there by the conclusion. So an impressive victory.
Many fans will have Charlton and Oxford away games in their top 5 but sadly they were ones I missed as well as (thankfully) Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Plymouth which amounts to about 1000 miles less misery from Bedfordshire.
Oh AND my ‘schadenfreude’ moment of the year – just laughing at Sunderland and how they’ve blown their Prem budget, go unbeaten at home all season ‘til we turn up, lose the Checkatrade, miss out on the autos & hopefully f**k up the playoffs too. Jimmy’s laughing too I hope.
Play up Sky Blues!
Jeff Conquest – Block 36