With the arrival of the two new loan signings, Gary Madine from Carlisle and Chris Hussey from AFC Wimbledon, the discussion in the pub before last week’s game was about the number of players City have used since they left the Premier League. It’s a perennial discussion and with eleven debutants in League and Cup already this season any thoughts that the revolving doors at the Ricoh would seize up with lack of use have been forgotten.
I was tasked with coming up with the number of players used, the number of loan players used and how many of the players used since 2001 are still in League football.
In the eight and a bit seasons since the drop to the second tier in 2001, City have used 173 different players, an average of almost 20 new faces a season. Of those 57 have been loan players but that excludes players who subsequently signed a contract. The numbers of loanees has dropped appreciably in the last five seasons from a peak of 11 in 2004-05 (the Peter Reid/Micky Adams season) to seven the following season, five in 2006-07, then two in each of the next two seasons and this season’s four. If as is expected Hussey and Madine are signed on permanent deals in January this season’s total could drop to two. As the quantity has dropped the quality, it could be argued, has risen with the last six loan players, before the new pair, being Jack Cork, Patrick Van Aanholt, Jordan Henderson, Lee Sawyer, Zavon Hines and Kasper Schmeichel. Of these six only Sawyer has been a bad loan, although he got little chance to show us what he could do.
On to the interesting part. Of the 173 players who have appeared in the nine seasons, 30 are still on the club’s books (or like Michael Doyle on loan). Of the remaining 143 who have left the club in that period, 89 (or 62%) are either retired or no longer playing league football. The full analysis is as follows:-
Premier League 9
Leagues 1 & 2 21
Scottish League 7
No longer playing 30
More detailed analysis reveals that a number of the players ‘still playing’ have appeared very infrequently and could never be classed as regulars. For example the Premier league nine are (Chris Kirkland, Stephen Warnock, Scott Dann, Henderson, Hines, Gary McSheffrey, Calum Davenport, Marton Fulop and Andy Marshall). Only the first two have been regulars although Henderson and Scott Dann look set to become regulars and four of the nine were loanees at City.
Amongst the 17 playing in the Championship there are some outstanding players who hold down a regular place in a good team, for example Jay Bothroyd, Louis Carey, Stephen Bywater and the perennial Dele Adebola. But conversely there are a number who rarely get a game for various reasons like David McNamee at Plymouth, Leon McKenzie at Charlton, Stern John at Crystal Palace and Ian Bennett at Sheffield United. The conclusions to be drawn from these statistics are that footballer’s careers generally go downhill after playing for the Sky Blues and that the club’s recruitment policy over the last nine seasons has been based on short term objectives, often it can be said, for valid reasons. The large turnover of players is not unique to Coventry City and many other clubs have seen swathes of new players every season. Short termism is so prevalent in the modern game and the huge turnover of managers, who want to ring the changes after arriving at a new club, does not help matters.
A new book out soon unearths new information about the early days of the football club we know today as Coventry City. One of my fellow Coventry City historians, Lionel Bird, had painstakingly researched the early days of organised football in the city and the formation of Singers FC, the works team that ultimately became CCFC. Following his revelation that Willie Stanley, a Wolverhampton man, was a driving force behind Singers football team, Lionel has documented the development of that team into Coventry’s premier football team between 1883 and 1898. I am looking forward to receiving my copy and I am sure it will fill a previously under-researched gap in the history of our great football club.
The book, entitled ‘The Vocalists after the club’s first nickname, is published shortly and all proceeds will go to the Sky Blues Youth Academy.