If you told a Coventry City fan that the Sky Blues would be sniffing around the Championship play offs come Christmas time, they’d have snapped your hand off.
That’s exactly where Aidy Boothroyd’s men find themselves as they gear up for a tough Christmas period which sees them host Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers either side of a trip to Cardiff City – teams that are in the upper echelons of the league.
It is a period of tough fixtures that could be the long term difference in cementing a play off berth or sitting hopelessly in mid table for the season run in. The latter is something Sky Blues supporters have had to endure since their relegation from the Premier League in May 2001.
But it’s been a season of breaking records so far with victories at a series of bogey grounds. These include Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, Sheffield United’s Brammall Lane, Ipswich’s Portman Road and Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park.
As a result, City find themselves in the play-offs at this time of year for the first time since relegation from the Premier League.
As City prepare for an important festive schedule, CU Today Sport teamed up with well known fan figure and Cov City Mad reporter Kevin Monks, who has seen over 1900 Coventry City matches since 1969, and Coventry Telegraph’s sports reporter Andy Turner to talk all things Sky Blue. Writes Adam Manning …
How do you think the last year has panned out for City?
KM : It’s pretty much par for the course for the Coventry City years; a few moments of hope followed by a plummet towards the drop zone before we have to start all over again.
AT: It was a hugely disappointing end to last season after getting so close to making a push for the play-offs but, realistically, they were never good enough at that stage to mount a sustained attempt as their dismal end proved. But Aidy Boothroyd has provided some very encouraging signs. Hitting fourth place in early November was the first time they had been that high in this league since their first season down in 2001, and the fact that there was a record 28,000 plus at the Ricoh against Leeds shows that interest is out there and just needs to be harnessed with some consistency.
What’s the biggest difference in the squad this season under Aidy Boothroyd compared to last season under Chris Coleman?
KM: Playing with a target man. It is not surprising both Coleman and Boothroyd played ‘hoofball’ although Boothroyd has used the wings a bit, and he has encouraged other players in the team to get forward more and score goals.
AT: The biggest difference is that City have a lot more character now. They are bigger, stronger, tougher and harder to beat. Goals are being spread throughout the team and in Marlon King, the potential is there to finally have a prolific goal scorer.
The signing of Marlon King – where do you stand on the moral radar?
KM: I wouldn’t sign anyone who has not played for a year regardless of their past. However, this was a signing that was in the view of many as something that was down to personal agendas. It reflected badly on the club and those seen as being ‘in on the deal’, which took so long to compete due to the settling of wages if you wish to believe that.
We don’t have a reserve team playing in a competitive league so King can get match fit and by playing him in a first team game when he is clearly not up to the fitness levels of everyone else on the pitch, he has been at times a mere passenger. Football is a results business and Coventry City do not have the time to wait for someone to come good.
AT: It caused quite a stir when his name was first mentioned but I think most people have got used to it. King has certainly enjoyed a warm welcome by the majority of fans at the Ricoh. Most people seem more interested in what he can do on the pitch and if he gets goals he’ll be a hero again. However, if he fails the boo boys will soon be on his back. Why his signing took so long remains a mystery.
Out of the signings made in 2010, which do you think was the best signing and why?
KM: Clive Platt, a modern day Mick Ferguson who wins 99 per cent of his headers. Something we have not had for a while.
AT: Striker Clive Platt has probably been the pick of the bunch so far, while Lee Carsley has brought valuable experience and leadership, and toughened up the midfield.
The club has presented fans with false dawns over the years, most notably after their 1-0 win at Peterborough last March where they flirted with the play-offs. A run of three straight defeats in November reminded fans that the club is a work in progress – do you believe it’s different this time round?
KM: The Championship this year is very even with everyone capable of beating everyone. City is as good as everyone else in the division or as poor as everyone in the division and they have a team that is capable of getting at least a top ten place.
AT: I do believe it is different this time, particularly knowing the driving force that Boothroyd is. The squad, in my opinion, is good enough but it has to get better, in particular by scoring more goals. If the strikers can get firing then there is no reason why they can’t be in with a shout of a top six finish.
The Sky Blues have Norwich, Cardiff and QPR to make up a tough Christmas fixture list – how well do you think they’ll do in these games and what league position do you think they’ll be in come the New Year?
KM: Norwich don’t have a good record at the Ricoh Arena, so we should be them if form is anything to by whilst Cardiff away will be a tough game. Get a point against a fired up Bothroyd and Bellamy in South Wales and we will have done well, whilst QPR will not be a game for the footballing purists, so five points from those three games would be a reasonable haul.
AT: The Norwich and QPR games are home games so I see Cardiff away as the toughest fixture. Norwich are no great shakes and have Elliott Ward and Leon Barnett in their back four, both of whom will be keen to prove a point.
City are out for revenge against the Bluebirds and I am sure they will be fired up for that one, and players usually raise their game against the league leaders, so the QPR game should be a good one with a big crowd and atmosphere to match.
I reckon City will be in tenth come January, but poised to kick on
Photograph by Action Images