"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Inside Line: Coventry City v Bristol City (18/10/2014)

As nearly 4,000 Robins' fans get set to descend on the Midlands this weekend, City approach this game still clear at the top of the table and scoring goals for fun. It's a good job too, as the defence, which looked stronger in the first few games than last season, is suddenly looking porous again and the loss of Korey Smith for this match up probably won't help matters.

Ahead of the tale of two cities, Stu Radnedge caught up with Joey from the excellent Nii Lamptey Show to give us this fabulous insight into the weird & wonderful recent tales of the Sky Blues.

"It seems there’s never a dull moment in the life of a Coventry City Wasps RFC fan!

The last time I wrote would have been on the eve of our 5-4 slugfest victory when we were exiled in Sixfields. This was a period of the season notable for both it’s swashbuckling and cavalier (football parlance for conceding loads of goals but somehow still winning) approach on the field and the uneasy feeling of going to watch a club playing outside of it’s home city.

The former, albeit glorious for the brief couple of months it lasted was still tainted by the latter. Thousands of Cov fans were boycotting games in protest at the move, thousands were unable to go because of the extra distance and the fact that many games were moved to Sunday and some lost interest altogether; feeling that the club they grew up with was no longer the one playing in a town 35 miles away.

As the season went on and performances dropped off we were left with a feeling flatter even than that which we’re used to around March time. Fans spent the season squaring up to each other, armed with keyboards, heaping opprobrium on their fellow fan for either going to watch the team they both support play football or not going to watch the team they both support play football.

The entire thing would have been very undignified had the word not been reclaimed and amplified beyond recognition by the club’s owners and Coventry City Council.  These two warring factions chose to spend the season pursuing a remarkably transparent game of tit-for-tat.  Both trying to financially distress the other with nothing but self interest in mind.

Ultimately it was the fans who lost out. When the two sides finally came to an agreement that allowed the club to play in a stadium that was built for the club to play in there was an outpouring of joy amongst Cov fans but also a disappointment that something that in the end seemed so simple to resolve couldn’t have been done a year earlier.

That’s where this messy tale should end.  We made it home, 27,000 saw us win our first game back; job done.

No. As usual there was more to come. We learned a few weeks later that half of the ground had been sold to Wasps Rugby Club. Quite why this admittedly peripatetic team should want to move permanently to a city whose residents are still smarting at the recent removal of their own major sports team is beyond me. Noises have been made along the lines that it was either move to Coventry or cease to exist but I’ve spoken to plenty of Wasps fans who consider the move to be tantamount to them not existing anyway. Initial talks seem to have been positive but there’s an uneasy air of uncertainty hanging over the club again.

Most of us thought that moving back into the Ricoh on a rental deal might pave the way to talks about buying the place but the owners of the football club are again talking about building ‘Fantasia Park’ (as some wags have dubbed it), a roughly 15,000 seat stadium ‘In the Coventry Area’.

This isn’t a popular idea amongst Cov fans.  If there’s one thing that unites us it’s the desire to make the Ricoh our home.  It’s a soulless bowl that’s too big for us but it’s also a symbol of hope, a roadside monolith that might one day house a football team playing at a level, in front of the number of fans that it deserves.  It’s an empty cabinet waiting for it’s first trophy.  It might seem unnecessary now but it’s indicative of ambition and if you can’t dare to dream as a football fan then what’s the point?  Our unified desire to play at the Ricoh is testament to something that all football fans will identify with. The feeling that there’s ‘always next season’. That you’re only a decent manager or a 20-goal-a-season striker away from that title challenge or cup run. Even at a time when supporter apathy is at an all time high there’s still that impotent hope that something good is just around the corner but as they say, ‘it’s the hope that kills you...'

With all of this it’s sometimes difficult to remember that you do this because you like to watch football matches.  It’s been a mixed season on the field so far.  Any early season optimism has been dashed by a run of five league games without a win.  We threw away a 2-0 lead before half time at home to draw against an awful Crawley side and our recent 2-1 defeat at bottom club Crewe was desperately poor.  We had won three in a row when our captain and summer signing Reda Johnson lost his head into the head of an opponent and got sent off against Scunthorpe in a game we were leading 1-0.  We lost that game in the end and have looked worse since his suspension.  Hopefully he will be available again for our game on Saturday as he looks like one of the few players we have that is capable of playing at a higher level.

Our manager is Steven Pressley, a loveable Scot who flips from sartorial sophistication to tracksuit clad bawler in the blink of an eye. He’s recently been given a four year contract but his popularity is on the wane amongst some Cov fans who are desperate for their new manager fix after nearly 18 months with the same one in charge.

He has favoured a 3-5-2 system so far this season which has prompted much debate.  Many will point to this as the reason for our recent ill fortune on the pitch but it’s probably fairer to say that our total lack of physical presence, cutting edge or clinical finishing would be detrimental to any system.

On the plus side, fans of running about a lot have been impressed with industriously inefficient workhorse Jim O’Brien; a player who is widely regarded as having played well for us despite no one being able to remember what he’s actually done.

The team is full of young, local lads and Ryan Haynes and Aaron Philips have looked good out wide albeit in patches and in the JPT game against Exeter we finished the game with nine academy products on the pitch.  The team revolves around John Fleck in midfield.  He’s a gifted footballer capable of unlocking defences with ease but has gone missing too often this season.  A lot of how well we do depends on whether he turns up or not.

On the way out of the Crewe game I heard many Cov fans remark that it would be ‘typical’ for us to beat Bristol City having just lost to Crewe.

It wouldn’t. We don’t really beat anybody. I’m predicting a 2-0 defeat for us on Saturday but there’s always hope eh?"

A negative and somewhat despondent view which we all hope transforms into reality!

I will add that I am not in the minority in being delighted that Coventry are back playing in their own city - albeit still seemingly with problems - something all fans need as the most basic requirement for their support.

My thanks to all involved in this piece, a truly fascinating story!


The Exiled Robin

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Inside Line: Bristol City v Chesterfield

After clinching the Sky Bet League Two title on the final day of last season, many felt optimistic that the team could step up to the demands of performing in a higher division. So far, every single member of the Chesterfield squad has acquitted themselves well enough to reassure supporters that they can handle this particular task. 

However, in any walk of life you’ll undoubtedly encounter the odd pessimist and it’s no different at the Proact Stadium. During the Summer, there were huge calls for a new striker and more importantly, a proven goalscorer whose goals would fire the Spireites to a new level. 

Now, that’s all changed as Eoin Doyle has come alive in the knowledge of being the first-choice forward at the club following the departure of Marc Richards to Northampton Town. 

Nobody can complain with the more than impressive return of 12 league goals from just ten appearances. To be perfectly honest, without the Irishman’s ability in front of goal Chesterfield would without doubt be languishing in the bottom half of the table. Instead, occupying sixth place is extremely pleasing for any Spireite. 

During the last campaign, a reliance on goals from midfield was evident whereas now it’s the complete opposite, with Gary Roberts on just two goals for the season so far. 

The results in the recent past have dipped slightly, with a 3-2 loss at Doncaster Rovers and a 1-1 draw at home to Notts County acting as a blemish on this year's record. But, the levels of performance have been consistent with many pointing the blame simply at lady luck.

Also, a defensive rearrangement has took place due to the knee injury sustained by Sam Hird which ultimately led to the loan acquisition of Georg Margreitter from Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

Following a nervy start to his three-month loan spell, the Austrian finally looks comfortable in a blue shirt and the partnership with club captain Ian Evatt is blossoming. Even though the squad is small in numbers, it certainly doesn’t lack quality. 

Tommy Lee is an absolute rock between the sticks, although potentially suspended for Saturday’s game at Ashton Gate pending an appeal.

According to reports, Aaron Chapman has impressed greatly on loan at Accrington Stanley so we're still unsure whether or not a recall will take place. 

Daniel Jones is an added threat from the left-back position, producing quality deliveries into the danger area on a regular basis. Consistently brilliant, Sam Morsy is undoubtedly the most able midfield player I've ever seen in a Chesterfield shirt. 

Strong in the tackle, comfortable on the ball and can contribute with the odd goal or two when given the freedom to advance further into the opposition half. 

Spireites boss Paul Cook has already stated that he'll be taking his side to Ashton Gate in search of three points, especially with the large amount of travelling fans from Derbyshire. 

Depending on your own viewpoint, this could be seen as both a positive or a negative. Some might say that it's totally unreasonable to go all out for the win against arguably the best team in the division, but this particular approach has served us well in the past.

Both Tendayi Darikwa and Jones offer pace and precision down each flank, whilst Gary Roberts has the freedom to cause havoc as an influential member of the midfield trio behind the striker. Armand Gnanduillet serves as an unknown quantity for any opponent, with doubt present in a defender's mind once the tall striker enters the field of play. 

In certain situations, altering your style of play can seriously backfire. Areas of vulnerability revolve around the attacking approach, with the two central defenders occasionally left exposed due to a lack of cover on either side.

Despite this, I'm genuinely pleased that we have a forward-thinking manager who wants his team to play football in the correct manner. 

There genuinely hasn’t been one occasion where I’ve left a stadium this season and felt that Chesterfield haven’t matched or even bettered their opponents, with credit going to Cook for the brave decision of continuing his attractive and attacking style of play in a higher division. 

Obviously, the main aim for any promoted team has to be avoiding relegation although a positive start has understandably raised expectations amongst supporters. If the Spireites can continue in this way, then the sky really is the limit.

In terms of the final result on Saturday, I fully understand that it's going to be an extremely tough task taking on a Bristol City side who are currently unbeaten in the league. My view is that any point away from home is acceptable, even more so against the league leaders.

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