At Gigg Lane, Bury on Tuesday night the now annual League Cup disaster took place. Despite Andy Thorn putting out a strong side (on paper, if not on the pitch), the Sky Blues once again succumbed to an embarrassing Cup defeat in Lancashire. Lower league sides must rub their hands with glee when being drawn out of the hat with Coventry City and Bury emulated Morecambe and Hartlepool as the third successive team to send City out of the competition at the first hurdle. Just when the club and the fans could do with a lift, financially and spiritually, that a little Cup run would give, the team failed to perform. We won't have the annual depressing trip to Preston this season (where City have never won a league game) but the Lancashire hoodoo continues and the trips to Blackpool and Burnley are looking like ones to avoid.
A small crowd of 2,997 watched Tuesday night’s game, probably less than were rioting and looting in nearby Salford, but it wasn’t the lowest crowd to watch City in the the competition. In 1992 there was a crowd of 2,633 at Scarborough to see the Sky Blues throw away a two goal first leg lead and lose 3-0, and the previous year there was 2,288 at Spotland, Rochdale, as City lost 0-1 but went through by virtue of a 4-0 win in the first leg.
I thought I tempted providence by mentioning the Sky Blues' excellent opening day record last week. Not only did the team lose their first league game of the season for the first time since 2000 but as Paul O'Connor pointed out, they lost at home and had a midfield player sent off. In 2000 City lost 1-3 to Middlesbrough and had David Thompson sent off on his debut. It was the start of a depressing campaign that ended in relegation.
City fielded three debutants against Leicester on Saturday, less than normal on the opening day, and two of them were homegrown players. It has to be hoped that many of the latest flood of talent from the Academy will ‘make the grade’ and end a long period during which few home grown players have come through to be first team regulars. The next few years are going to be tough financially for Coventry City and the development of their own youngsters who, it is hoped will have more affinity with the club than high priced transfer signings, will save the club substantial sums of money. In the all-time numbering system Joe Murphy became player number 851, Cyrus Christie 852 and Gael Bigirimana 853.
The poor start to the season has not surprised many supporters and the fans seem to be turning again on the owners, SISU. With no replacement for Marlon King signed, the squad looks lightweight up front and as I said last week a lack of goals could be a problem. Communication from the Ricoh boardroom has again become patchy and there is a lack of clarity about SISU’s intentions and no updates on the cashflow which we were told in April would only last ‘through the summer’. Despite cost-cutting the losses must be continuing to rack up and it is hard to visualise SISU continuing the fund the club with the current business model. I see very little difference in their approach to the one taken by the previous regime which ended with Geoffrey Robinson taking a bath for £20 million when SISU took over. The club seem to be almost back where they were then in the autumn of 2007. There is no simple or quick answer to the situation and for things to change SISU would have to walk away and take a loss of £30 million or more. Gary Hoffman and his investors would presumably ride in with their alleged £30 million but would that change anything other than the faces at the top? Unless the stadium is purchased or the club won promotion the cycle would continue and 3-4 years down the road those new investors would be retreating nursing substantial losses. The board have made some interesting noises about the new Financial Fair Play regulations coming in next year and indicating that they are taking a more prudent approach to the club’s finances. nwith these new rules in mind. fortunately fans don’t want to hear this sort of talk and look at the lack of new players and poor results. However if this is the strategy then the board must get their story across with more vigour.
It was great to see that former manager Gordon Milne was at the Leicester game last week and trying to stay impartial having managed both clubs. His former assistant Ron Wylie was also a guest of the Former Players Association but unfortunately had a fall at Gordon’s home later in the day. He has been in hospital in Birmingham this week and I am sure all City fans wish him well in his recovery. Ron had a reputation as a tough talking, no-nonsense disciplinarian but when you speak to his former players they have nothing but respect and admiration for the strict Scot.
If Sky Blue fans want to be cheered up they should go along to Hawksmill Club in Hawksmill Lane, Allesley tomorrow afternoon to wallow in some 1987 nostalgia. Almost 25 years after winning the FA Cup a team comprising many of the ‘87 heroes take on a Lloyd McGrath XI to raise money for charity. Oggy, Trevor Peake, Micky Gynn and Brian Borrows are definites and more are expected. Kick-off is at 2pm and entrance is £3 with children and OAPs allowed in for £1.