This weekend Brentford play in Coventry for the first time since February 16th 1964, when the sides drew 2-2 at Highfield Road in a Division Three game. Almost half a century on, the Bees really need to get back to winning ways after Monday’s defeat to MK Dons.
Coventry have had a bumpy ride over the years and face an potential 10-point deduction if it can be proven that the company running the football club was the one that went into administration. BillytheBee speaks to Kev from the Covsupport News Service crew about £60million debts, Wembley and where to drink in Coventry.
So troubles aside, how are you finding the division? After a term of adjustment many fans of ‘bigger’ teams like Charlton and Leeds claimed to have their best laughs in League One. You must’ve had some good days out?
On the road, Coventry City have never won so many away league games in a season, so if you take out August, September and Monday’s game at Walsall, it has been an enjoyable time on the road. The 5-0 victory at Hartlepool was a good day out as was the 5,000 of us taking over MK Dons for an afternoon. Coming from behind to win at places like Stevenage has also been great to see.
Days out have been made by things like social clubs at grounds and the friendliness of opposing supporters (Bury and AFC Bournemouth are just two), something which is certainly missing higher up the leagues.
After a poor start, you came into a bit of form which saw you rocket up the table. Was it just a case of adjusting to the division? Anything else?
It was a case of getting in a decent manager. Andy Thorn had taken the club as far as he could but finances meant that the club had to wait until they got the money from drawing Birmingham at home in the League Cup before they could afford to get rid of him. Richard Shaw became caretaker manager. He is a top bloke and a City legend but he could not get the best out of the players and it was a case of the sooner City got in a new manager the better. Mark Robins came on board in the summer and did great getting us from relegation candidates to promotion contenders in a matter of months. Unfortunately, he left in February to join Huddersfield.
How’s Steven Pressley settling in? Falkirk fans, who have a weird link with Brentford (don’t ask) were mighty pleased to see ‘Elvis’ (as they called him) leave the building. Unfair?
If it was down to the supporters, then Steven Pressley would not have been at Coventry City. His time as a player did not end well with him having a go in the press at the City fans, many of whom still go to games. Some supporters have given him a blank page whilst others have had his card marked. It was noticeable during the 4-0 defeat at Walsall how many of the 2,459 we took were quick to have a go at him when something went wrong for the first time.
To be honest, motivating a team for a few games is not difficult. We’ll see how good or bad Steven Pressley really is as a manager when it comes to wheeling and dealing to get players in when our latest transfer embargo is lifted.
There was a rumour that Pressley had a bit of a run-in when Hartlepool came down with his old Falkirk manager John ‘Yogi’ Hughes.
Hughes had been sent off at half-time for having a go at the referee and came down to the pitch at the end of the game. It looked liked Pressley was trying to calm down an infuriated Hughes who felt that the only goal of the game should not have stood, rather than anything sinister.
Ironically it seems, like Brentford, your form seemed to have dipped after the cup run. Do you think it affected you or we’re you naturally at the end of your spell?
Certainly, having key players like Leon Clarke, Richard Wood, Blair Adams and Stephen Elliot injured and going into game without our three top goalscorers has not helped matters, plus the goings on off the pitch including the departure of Mark Robins who was turning things around, have all affected the form on the pitch.
Everyone thought you were dead certs for Wembley. Did you take Crewe for granted?
Not really as Crewe have a good record against City. It was one of those nights where what ever the Sky Blues tried it did not come off. Steve Phillips had a blinder in goal for Crewe. Losing 3-0 was always going to be an uphill struggle and so it proved.
Who are the best teams you have seen this season? Who has been the worst team at The Ricoh?
Crewe were decent for grinding a team down and sneaking something on the counter attack but Yeovil Town were probably the best team City have played at home. They came to do a job and did it very well.
Tranmere Rovers were one of the worse sides to have visited the Ricoh. They struggled to keep the ball in play and considering they were top and clear, it was surprising how easily beaten they were.
Away from home, I thought Brentford were a very decent side and one of the best we have played. Forrester was excellent and if The Bees had a forward that night who knew where the net was then you would have won by a lot more than the 2-1 scoreline.
How much have you missed McGoldrick?
Quite simply a lot. Ok Leon Clarke and Carl Baker have chipped in with goals but not having someone who has a presence on the pitch like McGoldrick, a player who can get in to scoring positions, has left a hole in the side.
There has been a lot of talk about Coventry’s problems. Fans not so familiar with the goings ones are asking how can a club in this division with the ability to pull in 30k fans can find itself £60m in debt? Give us the lowdown.
City were taken over by Hedge Fund SISU about five years ago and last season in the Championship, they stopped funding the team which meant that only a couple of keepers were signed and basically we relied on loan players until the transfer embargo stopped that.
There had been calls from supporters for them to get out of the club as a takeover was in the pipeline but when that Joy Seppala said that she would not sell to one person involved, that crashed.
SISU put up a promotion-or-bust budget for this season and players were brought in and through CEO Tim Fisher, fans were told that the club was now debt free with all debts written off.
In August 2005, City moved into the Ricoh Arena, a ground they did not own and did not even get the food and drink or car parking concessions from, after selling their share to the Higgs Trust. Those in charge of the club agreed with stadium management company Arena Coventry Limited (ACL – which is 50% owned by Coventry City Council and 50% by the Higgs Trust) a rent of over £1m a year.
The rent went down for a while under Paul Fletcher and then back up again but with City heading for relegation and a £5m drop in income, SISU decided to stop paying the rent. Most City supporters feel that some money should have been offered but no, there was nothing. So like every other company owed money, ACL took action to try and get what they were owed back.
To cut a very long story short, ACL had the club under a third party debt order but with City’s CEO threatening to put the club into liquidation, ACL responded with High Court action to put the club into administration. However, they were gazumped by SISU who put one part of the club CCFC Ltd into administration and it was agreed in the High Court, where debts of £60m were announced, that SISU’s administrator Paul Appleton would be used.
There are rumours of a rescue helicopter hovering over the Ricoh – American Preston Haskell IV. Is he seen as a saviour with the best intentions of the club at heart – like our Matthew Benham .. Or a vulture – hitting the club when they are low for self benefit .. Like our Ron Noades?
Most City supporters will take anyone who can offer the club some stability at the moment. What the City supporters want is someone who puts their money on the table and then does the talking. We have had too much over the years of people promising and not delivering.
There have been a number of fan-owned clubs. Brentford were one. Pompey fans are currently trying to buy the club. We take it that’s completely out of the question for you guys due to the figures involved?
At the moment with SISU still looking to get back their alleged investment, buying Coventry City is going to cost around £100m. That is well out of the range of finance that the Sky Blue Trust, which is doing a decent job, can currently muster.
In the 1st division, with a clever manager you can get promoted with with a team of players earning no more than £3k a week. We’re seen by some as johnny big bollocks because some of our top earners allegedly may slightly exceed that limit. Surely your top earners must far exceed that? If so what are the rumours of who and how much? How can you pay them and also sign new players on loan if you haven’t got any money?
That is the question we would all like answers to. None of us are certain how we are going to be affected by this and we are waiting to see what will happen.
Your days at the Ricoh Stadium may be numbered. The administrator managed to negotiate a deal for the last three games of the season, including the Brentford game, but it looks like you may be off next season. Do you regret moving from Highfield Road?
Moving into a ground that you don’t own is a massive mistake in anyone’s book. At the moment, things are uncertain but Coventry City Council have said they don’t want City to leave the Ricoh, the police have objected to City playing home games elsewhere and many fans have said they will not go out of Coventry to see a City home game, so there is hope that a deal can be struck for next season.
Some fans have a tendency to become romantic about their old decrepit football grounds and fail to fully accept clubs reasonings for moving on. We are in a similar situation with an impending move down the road to Lionel Road. Can you give us the positives and negatives of your move to The Ricoh strictly from the fans perspective.
Coventry City’s leaving Highfield Road came down to pure greed at the end of the day. By the time, the Ricoh was opened, the need for City to have a new stadium had long passed. The final stadium built was very downscale from the 70,000 sliding roof stadium Chairman had promised.
Brentford fans should be highly concerned about their move to a new stadium. Firstly, in common with new ground, and Cardiff City being a prime example, you will lose your atmosphere. The first season might be great in terms of attendances but once the ground hoppers etc start dropping off and the novelty wears off, it is can be really hard to maintain decent crowds. That in turn affects the standard of players you can bring in and from then on in you are on the slippery slope that many a club with a new ground has trodden.
It’s a new division for you. Most of the teams you meet you wouldn’t have played for years if not at all (we last met in the 60s). What has been the maddest away day for you guys?
MK Dons away just after Christmas, 5,000 City fans completely took the place over and the win made it a great day.
What away trip gets the “blimey wasn’t expecting that” trophy?
What a decent little place Hartlepool actually is. Streets full of shops actually open and some very good and friendly social clubs.
Which have been the maddest supported teams to come to the Ricoh this season?
Tough one really. Most aways fans tend to rattle around in the end we give them which can hold 6,000. Yeovil were pretty noisy and although they lacked numbers, Colchester gave their side some good support for the few they had.
We hear the SwineDon game was a tad lively.
Yes repercussions from our 2-2 draw away to Swindon, where the home fans had been wound up by Mr Di Canio and there was trouble after the game. Trouble was expected and it occured before and after the game at the Ricoh Arena.
The ground is miles from Coventry station. Brentford fans are looking for decent recommendations for away fan drinking joints both in town and relatively near the ground.
The Rocket by the Train station is ok for a few pints pre-game. WhiteFriars in Gosford Street is good for those into real ale whilst there are a few pubs in Longford which is a short walk to the stadium. Many away fans go to The Longford Engine, Coach and Horses and Black Horse pubs (15 mins walk). The Greyhound at Longford is a nice pub by the canal (won Coventry pub of the year) and is around 25 mins walking distance away from the ground.
For more info on Coventry check out the excellent Covsupport News Service website or follow them on twitter @CovsupportNews