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Sky blue over Cov once more - Interview
Thursday, 20th Jan 2022 20:41 by Clive Whittingham

A triumphant return to their home city for Coventry so far this season, with Mark Robins' men massively outperforming expectations on the pitch and taking plenty of scalps along the way. Dominic from the Sideways Sammy blog and Neil from the Access All Areas Podcast gleefully took us through it.

How would you assess Coventry's season so far?

Neil: Massively overachieving. I think the majority of our fans would have snapped your hand off for safety again let alone a prolonged spell in the playoffs. The return back to playing in Coventry was huge and after a spell of not being able to attend games crowds have returned in the number and the home support has been exceptional. We went on an unbeaten run at home which helped propel us up the league and also make up for the fact we were struggling away from home. We are playing some great football and its great to watch after so many years in the lower divisions.

DJ: It has been much better than we had any right to expect heading into the season. What started off simply as enjoying watch the team in the flesh again – and, in Coventry – gave way to some genuinely exciting and enterprising football where the Sky Blues were more than a match for anyone at this level. The past couple of months have been a reality check, but it is hard seeing things spiral too far out of control with Mark Robins in charge, as the past two results have shown.

Coventry league results so far…
Coventry 2-1 Forest Gyokeres 81, McFadzean 90 – Taylor 36
Barnsley 1-0 Coventry Frieser 39
Blackpool 0-1 Coventry Gyokeres 45
Coventry 2-1 Reading Allen 62, Godden 90 – Swift pen 90
QPR 2-0 Coventry Dykes 68, Barbet 76
Coventry 2-0 Middlesbrough Gyokeres 71, Waghorn 90
Coventry 1-0 Cardiff Gyokeres 15
Millwall 1-1 Coventry Saville 21 – Gyokeres 9
Coventry 3-0 Peterborough Hamer 57, Gyokeres 61, 64
Luton 5-0 Coventry Adebayo pen 3, 45, Cornick 18, 58, Berry 30
Coventry 4-1 Fulham Gyokeres 47, 70, Godden pen 51, Maatsen 61 – McFadzean og 18
Blackburn 2-2 Coventry Rothwell 39, Gallagher 45 – Walker 62, Kaminski og 68
Preston 2-1 Coventry Bauer 61, Jakobsen 69 – Walker 45
Coventry 1-1 Derby Godden pen 20 – Shinnie 78
Hull 0-1 Coventry Godden 9
Coventry 1-2 Swansea McFadzean 27 – Paterson 5, Piroe 12
Coventry 3-2 Bristol City Godden pen 51, 90, O’Hare 74 – Martin pen 45, Weimann 68
Sheff Utd 0-0 Coventry
Coventry 0-0 Birmingham
Bournemouth 2-2 Coventry Anthony 45, Billing 66 – Godden 85, Kane 90
Coventry 1-2 West Brom McFadzean 83 – Grant 20, McFadzean og 43
Huddersfield 1-1 Coventry Ward 18 – Godden 90
Coventry 0-1 Millwall Bradshaw 79
Peterborough 1-4 Coventry Grant 37 – Hamer 15, Godden 25, 90, Thompson og 81

Bit of a blip over Nov/Dec (though not many defeats), any reasons in particular or was that start always going to be tough to maintain?

Neil: I think it’s a combination of a few things really. I think we got found out a little bit as we didn’t really have a plan B. We also had some suspensions and injuries to key players which didn’t really help but the manner of a couple of the draws were concerning. Great comeback at Bournemouth but we had a spell of three games on Sky which we seem to struggle with. Huddersfield was a game we dominated but just couldn’t score and then we had three of the next four called off due to Covid. The Millwall performance was the worst this season by far. The lack of real quality depth in the squad was really highlighted in that run of games too.

DJ: A few key players have seen their form tail-off – notably, Viktor Gyokeres – without there being replacements of a requisite standard to make up for it. The performances over the past couple of months haven’t necessarily been much lower than earlier in the season, but there has been an absence of an x-factor with players starting to look a little fatigued, both physically and mentally. With a squad short on top standard Championship players, it is always going to hurt when the best performers have a dip in form. The recent, Omicron-enforced, break could well prove to be a blessing in disguise for this Coventry City team in allowing them a much-needed breather.

I would think this is still being seen as a good season for Cov, but we all know what fans can be like when expectations get raised - how's the response been to the slight downturn?

Neil: Genuinely there wasn’t much panic. A lot of the fanbase was expecting a relegation battle so the dip was inevitable. The main backlash was after the Millwall defeat as it was a lacklustre performance. January will be key as it shows the boards intent on whether the playoffs is achievable in their view.

DJ: The early part of the season has still felt fresh in the memory, when combined with knowing just how far this club has come in a short space of time – even when compared to last season – there are few Coventry City fans truly losing their rag about a poor couple of months, in a run which has only seen two defeats. It is frustrating that the club hasn’t been able to kick-on from one of its best league positions over the past two decades, but mid-table in the Championship is more than good enough for most of a Sky Blue persuasion.

How's Todd Kane been for you?

Neil: “There’s a star man, running down the right, his name is Toddy Kane and we think he’s dynamite!” – He has a chant already so think that speaks volumes. We were a bit sceptical at first due to some comments from QPR fans and Dabo being a fans favourite but he has come in and been a revelation at RWB. His delivery is brilliant, love a tackle and has been involved in some memorable moments – least of all his last minute equaliser away at Bournemouth. Think he has nailed the position down now and long may it continue.

DJ: He has actually been pretty good. Brought in as cover at wing-back, Kane didn’t look anything better than that in his early appearances for the club but he has been one of the team’s better players over the past couple of months. A big reason for that is his crossing and set-piece delivery, it may be more a case of quantity than quality, but there is no-one else in the team who really looks to cross, which has given Kane a niche. He is joint for assists with Callum O’Hare and has proven to be quite an astute addition to the squad.

Any January transfer activity? Any rumours? What's needed?

Neil: Incomings – Jake Bidwell is the only one so far, very excited to see what he could do as he has been a big part of Swansea’s side and LWB is a position we have struggled with in terms of depth.
Outgoings – Declan Drysdale on loan to Ross County and Josh Pask to Newport. Neither in the managers plans so for the best really.
Potentials – Tyler Walker, Jordan Shipley and a couple other been linked with the exit door. We still have some of the L1 squad so need to strengthen the squad depth more than anything. The first 11 is up there with any side in the division for me but when we make changes it has hampered the side a fair bit so another CAM/#10 type player to ease the burden on Callum O’Hare would be welcome, Tom Lawrence name has been mentioned but think realistically he is out of our reach.
Gustavo Hamer, Simon Moore and Callum O’Hare all linked with moved to PL sides but doubt they will materialise into anything. The biggest signings of this window would be to get Hamer and Moore tied down to longer term deals.

DJ: By the time that this piece goes out, it looks like another ex-QPR full-back, Jake Bidwell, will have signed for Coventry City. We did really need another left-back in the squad and he adds further Championship experience to the side, which makes him look a pretty solid addition.

Ideally, another creative attacking player in the mould of Callum O’Hare, maybe even one capable of scoring goals, would be just what this Coventry City team needs to tip it over the edge. However, it doesn’t seem like that is going to happen due to the club’s financial limitations.

Summer Ins: >>> Viktor Gyokeres, 23, CF, Brighton, Undisclosed >>> Ben Sheaf, 23, CM, Arsenal, Undisclosed >>> Martyn Waghorn, 31, CF, Derby, Free >>> Simon Moore, 31, Sheff Utd, GK, Free >>> Bright Enobakhare, 23, CF, East Bengal, Free >>> Danny Cashman, 20, CF, Brighton, Free >>> Ian Maatsen, 19, LB, Chelsea, Loan >>> Jake Clarke Salter, 23, CB, Chelsea, Loan

Summer Outs: >>> Marko Marosi, 27, GK, Shrewsbury, Undisclosed >>> Amadou Bakayoko, 25, CF, Bolton, Free >>> Gervane Kastaneer, 25, LW, Zwolle (Netherlands), Free >>> Morgan Williams, 21, CB, Yeovil, Free >>> Maxime Biamou, 30, CF, Released >>> Jordan Thompson, 22, CB, Released >>> Will Bapaga, 18, RW, Grimsby, Loan >>> Danny Cashman, 20, CF, Rochdale, Loan

Winter Ins: >>> Jake Bidwell, 28, LB, Swansea, Free

Winter Outs: >>> Tyler Walker, 25, CF, Pompey, Loan >>> Josh Pask, 24, CB, Newport, Loan >>> Bright Enobakhare, 23, CF, Released >>> Wes Jobello, 27, LW, Released

Player of the season candidates, and weak links?

Neil: Matty Godden – top scorer and a great finisher, in a decent bit of form at the minute
Kyle McFadzean – experienced head at the back who has marshalled the defence well
Simon Moore – commanding goalkeeper who has been a breath of fresh air and gives so much confidence to the backline.
Ben Sheaf – tidy midfielder, loves a tackle and a 60 yard pass. Makes us tick in the middle of the park and has arguably been MOTM last 3 games

Weaknesses - aside the squad depth it’s the lack of goals from midfield. McFadzean is our third top goalscorer and he is a CB. We really lack that goalscoring midfielder to take the pressure of Godden and Gyokeres up front. O’Hare creates a lot but only has one goal this season, Hamer is on two now and Allen one which isn’t good enough if we want to be pushing the likes of QPR for playoff places.

DJ: Gustavo Hamer, Callum O’Hare and Viktor Gyokeres are the team’s headline players, but it has been the less noticeable and more consistent performers that may end up proving to be the players of the season.
In defence, Kyle McFadzean is enjoying an Indian summer of a season, somehow cutting out the errors and adding mobility to his game, at the age of 34. Goalkeeper, Simon Moore, has proven a smart piece of business as a thoroughly competent, if a little unremarkable, presence between the sticks. Although, it doesn’t seem like either will play in this game.
Another big candidate for player of the season is Ben Sheaf in midfield. Having looked something of a liability last year, Sheaf has added a quiet determination to his game to make him one of those players that can knit a midfield together really nicely both with and without the ball. Alongside the somewhat chaotic Gustavo Hamer, Sheaf has looked a useful calming and consistent presence for the team.
As for weak-links, the defence isn’t the fastest and we’re currently playing our back-up goalkeeper, Ben Wilson, seemingly until he makes a big enough error to be dropped. Additionally, we do have a bit of a habit at the other end of either not being clinical with chances or being hesitant when looking to create them despite often doing a lot right to get into dangerous positions – this is known as the Callum O’Hare Effect.

Revised expectations for the season?

Neil: I think we can now say half way through the season we are a top half team. I would have taken survival on goal difference before a goal was kicked but we have had some great results and still have a run of games against teams in the bottom half and all of the bottom 3 but fixture congestion is a serious concern with such a small squad and such little depth so Feb is a key month. I predicted 15th start of the season and I would take that now given that clubs below us have strengthened this window and we still have some tough games coming up. The playoffs are realistically out of reach and we are nowhere near ready to go up but a good finish could be the perfect thing to help us springboard next season and have a summer recruitment and see what happens next year.

DJ: These next three games – with Stoke City and Middlesbrough coming up in the week following this match – look like defining where Coventry City’s expectations may lay for the rest of the season. A few positive results in these games and the play-offs will, again, look like a realistic prospect. Personally, I think these games have come a little too soon after a two month run of poor form and little footballs. Unless something remarkable happens over this next week, I would be happy with a mid-table finish.

Links >>> Coventry City – Official Website >>> Coventry Telegraph – Local Press >>> Sky Blues Talk – Forum >>> Sky Blues Blog – Blog >>> Sideways Sammy – Blog >>> The Lonely Season – Blog >>> Sky Blues TV - Classic Match Highlights >>> Access All Areas – Podcast

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Myke added 21:59 - Jan 20
I will refrain from commenting on Todd Kane as my views on that 'cut- off- your- nose- to- spite- your- face, saga have been well documented. But Bidwell? Would he not have been a useful addition, both on left side of a 3 if we can't hold onto Barbet, or LWB, where our hopes remain on spit and chewing gum holding all Wallace's working bits together? Surely Coventry can't be paying him such astronomical wages that puts him beyond our structure?
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dangould added 14:28 - Jan 21
Hearing Matt Godden is out tomorrow.
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TacticalR added 13:57 - Jan 22
Thanks to Dominic and Neil.

Coventry have done well this season, especially given the circumstances.

That comment on Kane's crosses: 'more a case of quantity than quality' is very true. At least that means that some of his crosses get through.

It's a bit strange that Bidwell has wandered from club to club as a wing-back. At QPR he never looked that happy advancing beyond the half-way line.
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