The new football season opens today, far too early for my liking. Many football fans are still on holiday (myself included) and will be unable to make the opening game at the Ricoh against Portsmouth. Starting the season on the first Saturday in August is a relatively new phenomenon; a hundred years ago the League had an agreement with the Cricket authorities not to start the season until the first of September and for many decades the football campaign did not commence until the third Saturday in August. To start the season this early in the 1950s and 60s would have been crazy when the majority of Coventry’s factories closed down during the first two weeks of August and the city resembled a ghost town with the majority of families leaving town for the seaside or sunnier climes.
It has been another summer of change at Coventry City with new manager Aidy Boothroyd making adjustments to his squad. Gone are Marcus Hall (without a fan’s farewell), Clinton Morrison (not surprising but his going leaves a gap to be filled) and Stephen Wright (no tears spilled). A slew of new players have arrived including two players who return for a second spell with the club. Both Lee Carsley and Gary McSheffrey appeared for City in both the Premiership and the Championship before leaving to improve their career elsewhere. Carsley has had a long career in the Premiership and now aged 36 is presumably seen as the experienced defensive midfielder that helps get you out of this desperate division. In my opinion City have not had an effective ‘tackling’ defensive midfield player since Youssef Safri and in the interim period have had to see numerous ineffective players in this role. Sammy Clingan showed glimpses last season of filling the role but before him Stephen Hughes, Michael Doyle, Guillaume Beuzelin, Tim Sherwood and numerous others failed to understand the role that is crucial in English league football and , as we saw to England’s cost in South Africa, the World game. All of the best teams in the World Cup had at least one of these players, some , like Brazil, had two. The archetypal player in this role was Nobby Stiles, who could win the ball in the tackle (as well as man-marking the opposition’s top player) and feed it to the players who could make things happen. Similarly Coventry City’s Lloyd McGrath did the job to a tee, going about his job in a quiet and efficient way, rarely getting into the opposition’s penalty area, let alone scoring.
I’m hoping Carsley can play an important role in City’s team but note that he played only nine games for Birmingham City last term. His age however means that we will be relying more on his experienced football brain than his aging legs.
Several readers have asked me about other players like Carsley and McSheffrey, who returned to the club for second spells and there are several including Marcus Hall, Gary Bannister, Gary McAllister, Roland Nilsson and 20-odd years ago Mick Ferguson and Les Sealey returned for brief loan spells. Roy O’Donovan, of course, also rejoins for a second spell, having played for the youth team ten years ago without ever appearing for the first team and Colin Hawkins trod the same path a few years ago. In 1952 manager Harry Storer, seeking goals desperately to keep City in the Second Division, turned to former City legend George Lowrie for salvation. Lowrie had scored 50-odd goals in three seasons for City in the late 1940s before a big money move to Newcastle but his return to Coventry was not a success, he was over the hill and failed to save City from relegation.