We get the lowdown on tomorrow’s opponents Coventry from Anthony Hornsby and Martin Lynch, with the latter praying for a Sky Blues’ win to avoid a load of stick from the in laws! They talk Tony Mowbray, Mark Venus, SISU and that big donkey Darius Henderson.
Tony Mowbray resigned at the end of September after a poor start to the campaign. How did you think he performed overall as the manager and were you sad to see him go?
ML: Personally I was sad and despite being bottom there were not massive calls for him to go as most of the anger was directed at the owners and the lack of investment. I met him when my lad was mascot and he was a top bloke. In those first 10 games, certainly the home games, I didn’t think we played that badly but we were just lacking in the final third. Why he let Romain Vincelot and Aaron Martin leave, though, was a mystery to me as I thought both were excellent last year.
AH: Tony Mowbray left Coventry City because of his inability to get results this season. However his contributions to the club overall far outweighed the poor run of form he had hit, and whilst it was probably the right thing to do in leaving, I thank him immensely for his time at our club and the exciting football we played under him.
There has been a big upturn in fortunes since Mark Venus took over. Although you are still languishing in 18th position, your form has been much improved and Venus was nominated for manager of the month. What has changed?
ML: I think the main thing is the consistency of the starting 11. Mowbray had a tendency to change it even if we had won the previous game and Venus has changed it a lot less from the previous match. Also the formation has changed so we are now a 4-3-3 which makes us a bit more solid. The players seem to understand it a bit more and Ben Stevenson and Bigi (Gaël Bigirimana) are playing well at the moment in midfield.
AH: The mentality of the squad has certainly changed and we have our panache back. We have a lot of flair players at coventry, who attack on the front foot, but they are also young and its difficult sometimes for them to pick themselves up if they aren’t getting the better of a full-back in 2 or 3 games and heads start to drop. Venus has gone back to the basics and its certainly worked, the young team is playing with a lot of confidence.
There are still big problems off the field, with the last league match attracting the lowest gate of the season. The local newspaper started a petition calling for the owners SISU to sell the club and it has been backed by over 18,000 people. Are SISU likely to sell up any time soon and how important is it that if they do, that somebody with the club at heart takes over?
ML: Who knows what the owners will do. I hope they do sell but they are a mystery to most fans. Personally I cant see them selling unless they get a good offer. I think most fans would like an owner that is honest and transparent more than anything, with a few quid to put in the team. Coventry City has been screwed by the current owner, the previous owners and the Council and we just want them all to leave the club.
AH: Are SISU likely to leave? No, I don’t think so, mainly because thats not how a hedge fund works. They are here to get every penny they can for their investors. Their business model is cut cloth until there no cloth to be cut I’m afraid and once the better players have been sold, its on to whatever other assets they can get their hands on to sell, i.e our Ryton training ground!
If by some miracle we were to get a takeover, its vital that the new owners repair the fractured relationship between the football club and its fans. I’d say that’s far more important than any significant on the field investment. Coventry City Football Club should not be attracting gates of 8-9,000, even in league one. I know that sounds rather big headed, but when you’ve seen where we have fallen from, you know what this club really is capable of, and you long for that business module to return.
The club made some cash off the back of the sale of James Maddison in the summer. Has any of that been invested and who are the players to watch this time around?
ML: I am sure they will say money has been invested but nowhere near enough. Some was invested in Jodi Jones who looks a good prospect and we seem to be trying to get players on longer contracts, but as far as I am aware we have not paid a fee for anyone and we still need a goal scorer.
AH: There has been no noticeable investment from the club into the squad. With top earners like John Fleck and even Conor Thomas (on Championship wages) leaving, then the sales of Maddison and Romain Vincelot also generating extra revenue, there wasn’t any investment into the team. All of the money – apparently – went to the everyday running of the club.
Are you annoyed that the cash hasn’t been invested and the club seem adamant on utilising the loan system as they did last season to build the squad?
ML: The lack of cash investment in the team always annoys me and whenever we sell a player you never hear for how much we sold them for. I think we will always use loans due to the league we are in as young English talent don’t always get the chance in the Premier League. You don’t mind if they are successful like Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy, but it wont work in the long term. We do seem less reliant this year and I believe one is due to the injury of Chris Stokes who was excellent for us last year. If he comes back that will be one less loan player in the new year.
AH: I don’t mind us utilising the loan system. In the past it’s brought players like Jordan Henderson to the club and last season arguably one of the best Football League loans in recent years in Adam Armstrong, who is a sensational talent. But, there needs to be a balance, Coventry City needs Coventry City players. A good 15-20 players with a handful of young talent to call on in situations, not to rely on over the course of a season.
Ryan Haynes impressed in the Checkatrade trophy game in midweek with two goals and an assist against Wycombe. Is he likely to play a part against the Iron?
ML: I don’t think he will be in the starting 11 but maybe on the bench. He is good going forward but does not defend as well as Lewis Page or Chris Stokes. I think most Coventry fans would like him to succeed. He is a threat, but just a bit inconsistent. He has scored 3 in 5 appearances which is not a bad stat.
AH: He won’t play. He’s on the fringes of the first team and may even make the bench, but he followed up his excellent midweek performance with a game for the development squad Friday afternoon. Three games in 4 days or so is too much to ask of anyone!
Coventry’s home record is really strong and you are currently 14 unbeaten in all competitions at the Ricoh Arena. Have you got any weaknesses the Iron may be able to exploit?
ML: Prefer not to say. At the start of the season I would have said set pieces and that we were a bit light weight however we look a bit more solid now. I am concerned about your attacking threat as you have been scoring for fun this year.
AH: Defensively we tend to be quite liable to error and mistakes. Lee Burge, has come back into the side and done quite well, but the back four in front of him do tend to misplace the odd pass or dwell a little too long on the ball which can cause problems (ask Ryan Haynes, who midweek could have been put down for two assists as he played the Wycombe forward through for a goal!)
If you could sign one Iron player who would it be?
ML: Josh Morris, He is on fire this season so will be tough for you to keep in January. He has scored nearly as many as our team although the last player we got from you was Darius Henderson and he was shocking, so thanks for that.
AH: Jordan Clarke, because he’s awful and I never got a chance to tell him last time… aha. I mean in all seriousness it’s hard to look past Josh Morris with his goal-scoring record from midfield this season.
How are you likely to line up?
ML: 4-3-3 Burge -Sterry Willis Turnbull Page – Bigirimana Stevenson Rose – Sordell Agyei Lameiras
AH: Probably a 4-3-3 formation, although we’ve been starting some games in an adapted 4-4-2 formation that actually could be mistaken for 4-2-4, but it just doesn’t work, so 4-3-3 is the safe bet. With the front three most likely being a combination of any three from five, Sordell – Agyei – Jones – Lameiras and Reid.
Where do you see the game being won and lost and have you got a score prediction?
ML: 2-1 to Coventry although a draw against the leaders would not be a bad result. I think if we can move the ball around like we have in patches this season then we will win however this is without doubt our toughest challenge for a while and we need to keep your attacking players quiet. Also my wife and father in law are from Scunthorpe so I wont hear the end of it if you win.
AH: It’s got to be the midfield I suppose, with Morris scoring the majority of the goals for Scunny and Bigirimana running the show for the Sky Blues.