Wednesday 15 May 2024

Statistical Review 2023-24

Coventry City gave their supporters another memorable season in 2023-24 with their best FA Cup run for 37 years, ending with a heartbreaking VAR decision at the end of extra time in the semi final at Wembley. The Championship season saw the Sky Blues go close to reaching the play-offs again after a roller coaster campaign. They were well in contention until the last few games but missed out on a second successive play-off place and finished ninth.

After reaching the play-offs in 2022-23 expectations were obviously higher amongst the fans but the more realistic felt that the loss of the two star players and the high turnover in the squad would take some time to overcome. The standards in the Championship were as high as they have ever been and were boosted by three relegated clubs with seriously strong squads and several others still in receipt of £45m plus parachute payments.

The busiest transfer summer in the club's recent history saw the departure of Viktor Gyokeres and Gus Hamer in record breaking transfers. There was also the exit of loan players Doyle, Panzo, McNally, Wilson-Esbrand and Norton-Cuffy with other out of contract departees Maguire, Dabo, Rose, Walker and Waghorn. In came just one loanee, Luis Binks from Bologna plus Brad Collins and Liam Kitching, from Barnsley, Bobby Thomas from Burnley, Jay Dasilva, from Bristol City, Joel Latibeaudiere, from Swansea, Milan van Ewijk from Dutch club Heerenveen, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto from Belgian club Oostende, Ellis Simms from Everton and Haji Wright from Turkish side Antalyaspor. In summary ten out and ten in, better quality, lesser dependence on loans and an overall younger squad.

Early season form was good but not reflected in results with only one win in the first eight games but only two defeats. Two good wins over Blackburn and QPR lifted the team to mid-table before a run of four defeats left them just above the relegation zone. The first of those defeats, at Bristol City, was an excellent away performance and only lacked better finishing.The fourth defeat, at Preston, was a poor defensive performance and prompted changes. Collins came in for Wilson and McFadzean was given compassionate leave following the death of his mother. Robins switched to a back four and the results were transformed and the legendary but ageing McFadzean's Coventry career was over. There were other factors in the improvement, Sheaf was back up to speed after an early season injury, O'Hare came back after a long absence and Kitching was finally given his opportunity.

From early November the side lost only two league games in eighteen, at Ipswich and Norwich, and lifted themselves to sixth in the table by mid January. After indifferent beginnings Simms and Wright started to score goals and the new formation allowed Sakamoto to play in his favourite right-wing position, in front of the speedy Van Ewijk with Wright playing on the left side. O'Hare had a golden period, adding goals to his already impressive repetoire. The away form was especially good with strong wins at Sunderland and Middlesbrough and a fine draw at Leeds. The comeback home win over Leicester in January ending the Foxes 11 game unbeaten run was the CBS highlight.

The consistent and exciting form carried over into the FA Cup but as the games came thick and fast there were signs of weariness and with Sheaf again injured Preston gave City a lesson in finishing at the CBS. March saw Sheaf return and four successive wins, including the Molineux Cup victory, made City many pundit's favourites for a play-off place. The quarter final tie will go down in the club's history as one of the greatest games with two goals in added time sealing a rare and thoroughly victory over a Premiership side.

There's no question that the Cup run then affected league form and although Leeds United were put to the sword that turned out to be City's last victory and five defeats in six games meant the play-off hopes slipped away.

The semi final was a special occasion and with few expectations many Sky Blues fans were just happy to be back for the fourth time in seven years. City's timid performance saw United look virtually home and dry at the hour mark but a battling display after some inspired substitutions saw three goals in the last 20 minutes to force extra-time. 36,000 City fans in the stadium plus thousands at home thought Victor Torp, a transfer window addition, had scored a fourth goal before VAR ruled out what would have been the winner. Then, again, hearts were broken in a penalty shoot-out and it is now five successive defeats by this cruel method.

Throughout the season the team continued to play attacking football and winning plaudits from opposition managers for their style. The biggest ever crowds at the CBS Arena generated an amazing atmosphere which I'm sure inspired the team and the travelling Sky Blue Army regularly outsang home supporters.

Off the field there were two significant departures. After seven years as Chief Executive Dave Boddy left the club and first team coach Dennis Lawrence left in March after three years to become assistant manager to US MLS team Minnesota United. Both have played major roles in the club's resurgence. 

As the season came to an end two club stalwarts left. Liam Kelly ended a seven year spell at the club and deserves all the accolades he has received. Simon Moore also left after three seasons. Another busy summer in the transfer market looks likely and the squad was strengthened in January with the signings of Torp and Mason-Clark (who remained on loan at Peterborough). Let's hope Mark Robins, Adi Viveash and the team can hit the ground running far better than in the past two campaigns and have a successful 2024-25.




2023-24 Appearances & goalscorers

PLAYER 
LEAGUE

FA CUP
LEAGUE CUP

SEASONS TOTAL


gamessubsgoalsgamessubsgoalsgames subsgoalsgamessubsgoals
THOMAS, Bobby422232



4542
ECCLES, Josh 386151

1
4381
VAN EWIJK, Milan348242
1

39102
WRIGHT, Haji3113164131

361419
SIMMS, Ellis301613516
1
351819
LATIBEAUDIERE, Josh281326
11

35133
SHEAF, Ben30134
1
1
3424
COLLINS, Brad28

2

1

3100
KITCHING, Liam25314




2931
BIDWELL, Jake24914

1

2991
DASILVA, Jay2512
23



27150
PALMER, Kasey211125
2
1
26124
GODDEN, Matt231261421
125169
SAKAMOTO, Takashiro20972

1

2397
WILSON, Ben18

4




2200
O'HARE, Callum18136324


211510
BINKS, Luis153
31
1

1940
McFADZEAN, Kyle15
1





1501
ALLEN, Jamie1481
3



14111
KELLY, Liam115
11
1

1360
TORP, Victor87
321


1191
AYARI, Yasin671





671
TAVARES, Fabio141142


283
HAMER, Gustavo1




1

200
HOWLEY, Ryan





1

100
ANDREWS, Kai
2






020
DAUSCH, Aidan
2






020
own goals

4





004


Games: Coventry City played 53 competitive games, 46 league, 6 FA Cup and 1 League Cup. This is two more than last season.

Points: From 46 league games the Sky Blues gathered 64 points, six less than the previous season and the same number as 2021-22. 

Home Form: 9 wins, 8 draws, 6 defeats. The team gathered 35 home points, only the tenth best in the division and surprisingly one less than relegated Birmingham.There were not enough victories and promoted Ipswich won 54 home points. The team scored 36 home goals, the fourth highest since we left the Premiership in 2001.

Away Form: 8 wins, 5 draws, 10 losses. 29 away points, the seventh best in the division. Eight wins equalled the best ever at Championship level, set in 2003-04 and the best since we returned to the division in 2020. The team scored 34 away goals, the third most in the last 60 years.

Biggest win: The biggest league win of the season was the 5-0 home win over Rotherham. City also beat Maidstone 5-0 and Oxford United 6-2 in the FA Cup. The latter being the first time the team had scored six at the CBS Arena since a 6-0 win over Bury in 2017.

Biggest defeat: The biggest defeats were 0-3, at home to Preston and away to Birmingham. The defeat at St Andrews was the biggest away loss since the same scoreline at Norwich in September 2022.

Goals for: The total of 70 league goals twelve more than 2022-23 the seventh best in the division. This total has only been bettered twice in 57 years, in 1977-78 (75) and 2013-14 (74). In total they failed to score nine times in 46 games.

Goals against: City conceded 59 goals, thirteen more than 2022-23 and the eighth best in the division and better than both Southampton and Norwich.

Clean sheets: The team kept 12 clean sheets, eight less than 2022-23. Ben Wilson kept four and Brad Collins eight including six in his first nine games. 

Final position: The final position of 9th was pretty good considering they were 20th in mid-November after 17 games. Then, a run of 11 games with only one defeat took them to sixth place in January. The team never got higher than sixth place.

Leading scorers: In his first season in England Haji Wright topped the league scores list with 16 goals. In fifteen seasons of tier 2 football only Viktor Gyokeres has scored more in a season than Wright. Runner up was Ellis Simms whose 13 would have made him top scorer in 10 of those seasons! Seventeen different City players were on the score-sheet in league games. Simms' six FA Cup goals equalled the post-war record set by Jimmy Whitehouse in 1962-63 and as it stands is joint top scorer in this season's competition with Blackburn's Szmodics however Haaland is on five and may overhaul the two Championship players. Wright's 19 goals is the best by a US player in the English game since Clint Dempsey in 2011-12.

Doubles: City achieved three doubles - over Middlesbrough, Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday. It was the first double over Middlesbrough since the first season in the Premier League, 1992-93. It was the first over Wednesday since 2008-09. FFour teams did the double over City – Cardiff, Preston, Ipswich and West Brom.

Appearances: No player started all 46 league games but Ellis Simms with 30 starts and 16 sub appearances was involved in every league game. Bobby Thomas made the most starts (42 plus 2 subs) and Josh Eccles also appeared in 44 games (38 starts plus 6 subs). Simms is only the fourth outfield player to appear in all 46 league games since City left the Premiership – Richard Keogh (46) in 2011-12, Callum O'Hare (40+6) in 2020-21 and Gyokeres (44+2) in 2022-23 are the others. 

Players used: 26 players were used in league games (two less than 2022-23) - and one, Ryan Howley, appeared in one League Cup game. Of the 27 players, fourteen made their debuts during the season – two of them loanees. On the opening day, at Leicester, seven players made their debut. In addition to the 27 players used, six more: Evan Eghosa, Luke Bell, Callum Perry, Dermi Lusala, Marco Rus and Bradley Stretton sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used. 

Substitutes: Ellis Simms made the most substitute appearances (16 league, 2 Cup) with Matty Godden second with 16. Kasey Palmer was the most substituted player (17 times in league, 5 Cup). Eight goals were scored by substitutes: Wright (Blackburn h), Palmer (Sunderland a), Simms (Swansea h), Wright (WBA a), Tavares (Rotherham (h), Allen (QPR h) and Godden 2 (Oxford FAC). Wright became only the seventh substitute to score a penalty for the club. Godden is the first City sub to score two goals in an FA Cup match. Ben Wilson was the most unused substitute, staying on the bench 27 times and Luis Binks was unused in 26 games. In the home game with Birmingham Mark Robins didn't use any substitutes, only the fourth time in seven seasons that he has kept all his subs on the bench.

Won from behind: (5) After failing to come from behind to win during 2022-23 the Sky Blues managed the feat five times. Middlesbrough (a), Leicester (h), Millwall (h), Watford (a) and of course Wolves in the FA Cup. They did achieve draws after falling behind six times, at home to Watford, Norwich, Swansea and Bristol City and in away games at Leeds and Plymouth. Against Watford they came from behind three times to share the points.They also came from 3-0 to draw with Manchester United at Wembley. One surprising stat is that eighteen points were won from losing positions compared to seven points in 2022-23. 

Lost from in front: (4) City lost four league games from being ahead (at Leicester, Preston and Norwich and at home to Cardiff). The Cardiff loss was only the second time that the team had lost a game at the CBS Arena after taking the lead since August 2018 when Scunthorpe won 2-1. On seven occasions City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws – Huddersfield, Southampton,Swansea and Bristol City at home, Swansea, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday (FAC) away. 23 points were lost from leading positions.

Best run: The Sky Blues best unbeaten run was ten, from the Ipswich loss in early December until the defeat at Norwich at the start of February. If Cup games are included the run was 12 unbeaten. 

Worst run: There were three runs of six league games without a win, the last being the last six games when only one point was picked up. The run in October was arguably worse, with five goal-less games after which Wilson and McFadzean were left out and the manager reverted to a back four. 

Hat-tricks: (2) Ellis Simms scored two hat-tricks (Rotherham and Maidstone FAC) in successive home games – the first City player to achieve this feat since Darren Huckerby in 1999. His FA Cup hat-trick was only the fourth by a City player since World War Two. His league hat-trick was the first by a City player since Matty Godden at Tranmere in 2020. Both hat-tricks were scored in the first half – the first since Jacob Murphy v Gillingham in 2015. Seven players scored braces with Wright, Simms and O'Hare each managing the feat three times. 

Opposing hat-tricks: (0) No opposing player managed to score a hat-trick against the Sky Blues. Three, Leicester's Dewsbury-Hall, Watford's Rajovic and Southampton's Che Adams, scored braces, as Liam Kitching in his own net. 

Former Players: No former City players scored against the Sky Blues.

Own goals: For City: (4) Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough), Wesley Hoedt (Watford), Ben Gibson (Norwich) and Brandon Williams (Ipswich) all scored in their own net.

Own goals: By City: (4) Bobby Thomas and Liam Kitching both scored two own goals during the season. Kitching managed two in the cardiff home game – only the third City player to score two in a game (Fankaty Dabo and Roy Kirk are the others). Thomas was the culprit v Preston (h) and Birmingham (a).

Penalties: For City: (6) Nine awarded, six scored. Four scored by Wright, one by Godden and one by O'Hare. Godden missed two Watford (h) and Ipswich (a), Wright missed at Southampton.

Penalties: Against City: (3) Leicester's Dewsbury-Hall, Preston's Alan Browne and Hull's Fabio Carvalho scored penalties against the Sky Blues.No penalties were missed.

Penalty Shoot-outs: The Sky Blues lost a penalty shoot-out at Wembley for the second season running and have now lost their last five shoot-outs in all competitions. Since 1988 when they lost their first at Reading in the FMC (Simod) Cup the Sky Blues have won seven and lost 10.

Fastest Goal scored: Kasey Palmer scored in the second minute in the FA Cup replay with Sheffield Wednesday. Simms' fifth minute goal v Rotherham was the fastest league goal. 

Fastest Goal conceded: Preston's Emil Riis Jacobsen scored in the first minute in the game at the CBS.

Late goals: Once again the team excelled in late goalscoring with 23 goals after the 80th minute and nine after 90 minutes with Haji Wright's 100th minute winner at Molineux the latest. The Sky Blues conceded 14 after the 80th minute.

Red cards: Coventry: (3): Liam Kitching set a new club record by receiving three red cards in a season. He saw red v Sheffield Wednesday (h), Norwich (a) and Blackburn (a).

Red cards: Opponents: (1) The only red card for an opposition player was Leicester's Abdul Fatawu in the game at the CBS.

FA Cup: A memorable FA Cup run saw the Sky Blues reach the semi final for the first time since 1987 and the quarter finals for the first time since 2009. The goals flowed from the third round tie with Oxford with a 6-2 win, the biggest in the competition since the 7-0 v Macclesfield in 1999. In total the team scored 22 goals in six matches – the most in a season since the club were in non-league. The Wembley comeback from 0-3 to 3-3 was only the second time the Sky Blues have come from three down(the other was in 1932!).

League Cup: The Sky Blues again fell at the first hurdle suffering defeat to League Two side AFC Wimbledon at the new Plough Lane, the third successive season they have 

Bookings: Josh Eccles topped the yellow cards chart with 12 including six in the last eight games. Kasey Palmer picked up 11 but both him and Eccles managed to avoid suspension. Kasey wasn't so lucky in the FA Cup and received a yellow card for running on the pitch after being subbed at Molineux. That was hius second in the competition and resulted in a suspension that ruled him out of Wembley.

Home Attendances: The average home attendance increased again. Boosted by a record 19,500 season tickets the average was 25,468, up 25% from 2022-23. That is the highest since 1970-71 when the Sky Blues finished tenth in the old First Division and were in Europe. It was the ninth highest in the Championship. An average of 1,993 away fans attended City's games at the CBS.

Away Attendances: An average of 23,591 watched City's away games, an increase of 20% – the fourth highest in the Championship. 

Highest home attendance: The Leeds game attracted 30,232, the highest league attendance at a home game at the Arena. You have to go back to January 1980 for the club's previous highest when 31,644 watched a 1-0 win over Liverpool. The Maidstone FA Cup tie attracted 26,857, the second highest FA Cup attendance at the Arena.

Lowest home attendance: 22,092 v Rotherham on a Tuesday night in March. For the first time since 1970 the club had no league gates under 20,000. The FA Cup tie with Oxford attracted 18,211.

Highest away attendance: The Wembley semi final obviously was the highest attendance of the season with 83,672 watching the game – the fourth highest crowd ever to watch City after the 1987 Cup final and Charity Shield and last season's play-off final. The highest league crowd was 41,216 v Sunderland which was the highest league crowd to watch a City game since they left the Premiership in 2001. 

Lowest away attendance: The lowest league attendance was 10,553 at Rotherham. There were 4,781 at Wimbledon for the League Cup tie.

Away followings: An average of 2,375 City fans followed the team away up 15% from 2,054, and but for many restricted capacities would have been considerably higher. This figure is the highest since accurate figures were recorded from 2006 and probably since the Jimmy Hill era in the 1960s for which there are no accurate records. There were 36,000 at the semi final and largest away following, apart from Wembley, was to Wolves when 4,812 City fans were there with the smallest 950 for the game at Middlesbrough. There were some very large away followings at the CBS with the highest being Maidstone who brought 4,800 and Leicester with 4,500. The club reduced the maximum away followings towards the end of the season to enable more home fans to attend, a trend likely to continue next season. The smallest following at the CBS was 247 for Rotherham's midweek visit.

Television: There were nine live televised league games for the club, all on Sky. Seven were home games (Middlesbrough, Huddersfield, WBA, Birmingham, Leicester, Millwall and Ipswich) plus the Leicester and WBA away games. In addition the FA Cup games with Maidstone, Wolves and Manchester United were all featured on ITV. 

Captains: City had six different starting captains during the season, probably a record. Liam Kelly, who was club captain, Kyle McFadzean, Matty Godden, Ben Sheaf, Joel Latibeaudiere and Jamie Allen all wore the armband during the season. Jake Bidwell, Callum O'Hare and Josh Eccles also took the armband following substitutions.

Kits: City wore three different kits during the season. The Sky Blue kit was worn in 26 home games and 14 away games (5 wins, 3 draws, 6 defeats) . The red and blue kit was used in four away games (1 win, 2 draws, 1 defeat). The green and black third kit was worn in nine away games (3 wins, 2 draws, 4 defeats).

Bogeys: City failed to end their dreadful record at Preston's Deepdale. They have never won a league game in 22 visits to the ground. City drew both games with Swansea but have now gone 16 league games since their last victory back in the old First Division in 1981. Norwich are becoming a bogey side for City – in eleven meetings since 2009 City have failed to beat the Canaries. 

Player of the Season: Ben Sheaf picked up most of the Player of the Season awards. I record my personal 1-2-3 man of the match for every game and although it is very subjective my overall 1-2-3 were: 1 Sheaf 2 Sakamoto 3 Van Ewijk 

Game of the season: Another remarkable season saw so many highlights. For me the best game was the victory at Molineux in the FA Cup with two goals in added time.

Goal of the season: Haji Wright's goal at Molineux won the club's Goal of the Season but for me it was Kasey Palmer's thunderous shot against Oxford United.

With many thanks to Paul O'Connor.

Monday 6 May 2024

Jim's column 4.5.24

Liam Kitching suffered the fate of a third red card at Blackburn last Saturday and became the first Coventry player to 'see Red' three times in a season. The Ewood red followed dismissals at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day and at Norwich in February. Against the Owls he was unfortunate to be severely intimidated by Wednesday's Bambo Diaby but there is little excuse for the latter two although his offence at Blackburn did save a certain goal and the 10 men managed to hang on for a draw. 

Several readers asked which Coventry City player has had the most red cards and the roll of honour is as follows:

Four: Paul Williams

Three: Kitching, Gustavo Hamer, Kyle McFadzean, Carl Baker, Michael Doyle, Youssef Safri, David Thompson, Dion Dublin, Noel Simpson.

Simpson, a midfield player who made 269 appearances for the club between 1948-57 and was captain for a good period, played in an era when you had to do something pretty serious to get sent off, usually fighting. Between 1946-1960 City only had six players sent off and three were for Simpson. Noel was renowned for his short fuse and all three early baths were for fighting.


                                          Noel Simpson

It's exciting times for former Sky Blues Andy Whing and Craig Pead. They are the management team at Solihull Moors who tomorrow will be playing in the National league play-off final at Wembley for a place in the Football League. They face Bromley and whatever the result we will have a brand new club in the League. Then, next Saturday, the team is back at Wembley to face Gateshead in the FA Trophy final. There are a few other Sky Blue connections including former first-teamer Callum Maycock who made eight appearances in 2016-17 and has made over 180 appearances for the Moors and ex-academy full back Joe Newton. Also likely to be in the squad is Tyler Bruck, grandson of City legend Dietmar Bruck. Good luck to the Moors tomorrow and next week.

On the subject of former players it's Legends Day today at the final home match of the season against QPR and as usual there will be a good number of former Sky Blues players in attendance. There are several ex-players making their first appearance at the event, now in its seventeenth year, including Richard Shaw, David Thompson and Frank Nouble, the man who scored the winning goal against Gillingham on that memorable evening in 2014 when the team returned to Coventry after the year playing in Northampton. Frank may only have played one season for the club but he will be remembered for that famous goal in front of 27,000 Coventry fans. If you're at the game today please give our former heroes a good round of applause.

If you enjoy this column and would like to hear more about Coventry City's history you can listen to the Sky Blue History Podcast which is available on Spotify. Claudio Cardellino and I talk about all things Sky Blue.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Jim's column 20.4.24

Tomorrow the Sky Blues are at Wembley for what is only the club's second FA Cup semi final in 141 years when they face Premier League Manchester United. I thought it appropriate to remember City's previous semi final, against Leeds United at Hillsborough in 1987.

City were returning to Hillsborough only four weeks after their epic quarter-final win over Sheffield Wednesday, and more than 27,000 City supporters made the journey to see the Sunday lunchtime confrontation with Leeds.

Ground conditions were good on a bright, cool spring day, the pitch having been heavily watered. City were favourites to win the tie against Billy Bremner’s Second Division side, but in contrast to their cool confidence against Wednesday, they appeared nervous against Leeds who enjoyed most of the opening exchanges. Steve Ogrizovic had already made one excellent save from John Pearson before United took the lead in the fourteenth minute with a great header from David Rennie. 

The Sky Blues at last started to rouse themselves and Regis missed three good chances. Indeed, it was one of those games where he did everything right until he got near goal.

First of all he took the ball out to the right, overpowering Jackie Ashurst on the way before firing wide of the near post; then he shot over from a Dave Bennett cross- and finally he failed to make contact with a Phillips cross. The half ended with City on top but still a goal down.

City continued to press in the second half, leaving themselves vulnerable to a Leeds counter-punch. On the hour, Coventry brought on Michael Gynn for the limping Nick Pickering, and this seemed to give them an extra dimension. City pressed hard and just as Leeds seemed to have quelled the storm, the equaliser came.

Bennett pressurised Brendan Ormsby into an error on his own by-line and crossed. Lloyd McGrath missed his kick, but Gynn, lurking on the left-hand edge of the penalty area, shot home just inside the near post.

City were now well on top and Leeds were gradually worn down. It was no surprise, then, when City took the lead ten minutes later. Houchen, already the cup hero, gathered a ricochet off Ormsby, calmly side-stepped Mervyn Day in the Leeds goal and slotted home.

Leeds brought on Keith Edwards and Peter Haddock and the substitutions paid off. Seven minutes from time the Coventry defence got into a tangle. Andy Ritchie was allowed to cross the ball and Edwards was on hand to plant it into the far corner of the net.

Leeds looked to have the wind in their sails at the start of extra-time but it was City who scored the vital third goal after eight minutes. Bennett was fouled on the right, Gynn floated the ball across, Regis won it in the air at the far post, Houchen shot against Day and Bennett was there to tap in.

With only three minutes left City’s hearts were in their mouths when Neil Aspin hoofed the ball down the middle and Edwards raced clear, but Oggy positioned himself well and deflected the ball to safety.

There were no more scares for City. The final whistle brought an end to a truly extraordinary match and Coventry had reached Wembley for the first time in 104 years.

David Miller in The Times rated the game as one of the best the competition had seen for the last 20 years, a match of rare drama and excitement. It was all those things and more.

Teams:

City: Ogrizovic: Borrows, Downs, McGrath, Kilcline, Peake, Bennett, Phillips, Regis, Houchen, Pickering (Gynn 61). unused sub: Sedgley.

Leeds: Day: Aspin, Adams, Stiles (Haddock 82), Ashurst, Ormsby, Ritchie, Sheridan, Pearson (Edwards 82), Baird, Rennie.

Att: 51,372

Referee: R Milford.