November 2008 Archives

STEPHEN Wright's return to fitness couldn't come at a better time for Coventry City.

Criticised for complacency in their recent 2-0 defeat by Crystal Palace at the Ricoh Arena just days after beating second placed Birmingham away from home, the Sky Blues youthful looking squad appears to be lacking experience in their ranks to help the team dig in when the going gets tough.

Manager Chris Coleman is actively scouring the loan market for suitable leaders, but defender Wright might just provide the influence that was sadly lacking in that dismal display against the Eagles.

"There are only five or six of us in the squad aged 28 or over so maybe we need a bit more experience," said the 28-year-old right-back who has been out for almost three months with a partial tear of his left Achilles.

But after coming through 65 minutes of his second reserve game - a 2-1 defeat at Wolves - and the 1-0 away win at Sheffield Wednesday, the former Liverpool player can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

"It's been a nightmare to be honest and the worst injury I have ever had," he said.

"I joined the club for a fresh start and it has been frustrating, especially when I have been unable to help the lads out.

''It came at the worst possible time for me but I am getting closer and hopefully I can make the squad in the next week or two."

Wright signed for City on a free transfer from Sunderland in the summer, bringing an end to five years in the North-east.

Although surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light, the full-back put himself in the shop window with an impressive three-month loan spell with Stoke last season where he helped pave the way for the Potters' promotion to the Premier League.

CLINTON Morrison headed home the only goal in brilliant fashion as Coventry secured their third away win of the season in the Coca-Cola Championship.

The former Crystal Palace striker's header flew into the top corner in the 58th minute to send Sheffield Wednesday crashing to only their second league defeat of the season at Hillsborough.

But at the end of a week when manager Brian Laws questioned which direction the South Yorkshire club were heading in, the Owls were left floundering by Morrison's instinctive finish.

Wednesday had the better of the first half, with big striker Leon Clarke twice going close to lifting a tepid encounter between two teams languishing in lower mid-table.

Laws' side huffed and puffed in a bid to rescue a point in the latter stages, but Marcus Tudgay blazed over.

The ever-decreasing crowds at Hillsborough - Saturday's was 16,119 - says much about the current ambition of a club which has yet to find a new chairman nearly 12 months after the departure of the unpopular Dave Allen.

Laws was forced to make four changes to the side that lost at Derby last week, with Francis Jeffers, Sean McAllister, on-loan Stoke defender Lewis Buxton and Jermaine Johnson all returning.

Coventry manager Chris Coleman responded to successive defeats by recalling Stephen Wright, Elliott Ward, Guillaume Beuzelin, Freddy Eastwood and Michael Mifsud.

Wednesday were denied a flying start only by the woodwork.

Leon Clarke swung a foot at a loose ball in the Coventry penalty area and Beuzelin's last-ditch block forced the ball to spin over goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and rebound off the crossbar in the first minute.

POISED to dip into the loan and transfer market, Coventry City are a million miles away from this time last year when the club were subject to a transfer embargo and staring administration in the face.

Twelve months on and the club is in seemingly good health in terms of the finances, with ambitious new owners and an impressive young manager in charge of the team, complete with a clear plan in place to take the club forward.

But when one looks at the form book, results and Championship table, there is a distinct feeling of deja vu about the Sky Blues that defies all logic.

After all, who'd have thought that the so-called dream team of Clinton Morrison and Freddy Eastwood would struggle to get going, and that despite big changes in personnel the team's infuriating inconsistency would continue?

One measly win in the last seven games doesn't make for good reading and, looking at the fixture list, it could well get worse before it gets better.

First up is Sheffield Wednesday, a club not dissimilar to City in many ways, but recent history tells us that the Sky Blues will get nothing from Hillsborough given their woeful record of having failed to win in all five visits in this division.

COVENTRY CITY Under 18s enjoyed a fine 5-2 win over M69 rivals Leicester City Under 18s.

A double from Sean Jeffers along with strikes from Ashley Cain, Robert Ogleby and Sean Fraser wrapped up the three points for the Sky Blues youngsters at the Alan Higgs Centre on Saturday.

The win ensures the City youngsters retain second place in Premier Academy League Group B - keeping up the pressure on leaders Tottenham.

Coventry City: Quirke, Clarke (Bottomer 90), Hollist, Cameron, Wynter (Jones 86), Cain, Walker, Jeffers, Ogleby, Blackwell (Leluu 63)

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THE RECENT dip in results, and more worryingly, performances, have once again shown that the Sky Blues are nowhere near where they want to be in terms of mounting a challenge in the Championship.

The rebuilding has started to take shape with some excellent new players in key positions, but all the ingredients for a consistent side are far from in place.

The January transfer window will hopefully see manager Chris Coleman take the next step by drafting in two or three new faces who will improve his current work in progress.

The priority has to be a decent winger - someone to feed Clinton Morrison who is currently being starved of any decent service into the box where he does what he does best.

The striker has been working tirelessly off the ball to get into positions but like most forwards in this division, they often need more than one chance to score, and all too often he is only getting one chance in games which is clearly not enough.

Coleman's chief scout Andy Thorn is scouring the UK and Europe for players and hopefully it won't be long before the club get a decent wide man to provide a steady supply of crosses, whether that be Gary McSheffrey when he is fit or whoever.

The injury to Leon McKenzie has probably had the biggest impact on the side this season, and we can only look forward to his return in a week or two.

It may take him a couple of games to get back in his stride, but if the Duke can get back to the impressive form he displayed prior to tearing his left thigh muscle, there should be an immediate improvement in results.

McKenzie was clearly enjoying his football and relished taking on his full-back and, more often than not, beating him in every game, so a fit McKenzie should be a real asset.

COVENTRY City stepped up their pursuit of £100,000-rated Shrewsbury centre-back
Kelvin Langmead on Friday and are confident of signing him in January.

Sky Blues boss Chris Coleman registered a fresh enquiry before the weekend about Langmead, 23, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Langmead is unhappy at being in and out of the League Two team despite being rated as one of the division's best defenders, with Scunthorpe and Bradford also keen on him.

CRAIG Noone came off the bench to score his first goal in professional football and give Plymouth a narrow victory over Coventry City in their Coca-Cola Championship clash at the Ricoh Arena.

The 20-year-old midfielder was making only his fourth appearance in the Football League and lit up a dull encounter with the decisive goal in the 87th minute.

Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood had earlier been forced to make a string of saves as Chris Coleman's men slipped to their fourth home league defeat of the season.

Emile Mpenza had the first real chance for Argyle in the 11th minute when he struck a long-range attempt at goal which was tipped around the post by the alert Westwood.

Coventry came to life five minutes later and striker Clinton Morrison created a shooting opportunity but failed to connect cleanly and saw his tame effort blocked by Plymouth defender Craig Cathcart.

Aron Gunnarsson pounced on the loose ball but the Iceland international could only screw his shot from the edge of the penalty area wide of goal.

Cathcart almost gave the visitors the lead in the 28th minute when he directed a superb header towards goal but Westwood was equal to it and made a smart save.

STEPHEN WRIGHT took another step towards returning to full fitness as Coventry City reserves lost out to a late goal in a friendly match at Wolves.

The Sky Blues defender played 65 minutes of the game at Wanderers' training ground, coming off at 1-1 after a Robbie Simpson penalty had pulled City level shortly after half time, before a strong Wolves side, that included a number of first teamers including forward Andy Keogh, secured victory towards the end.

Wright, who joined City on a free transfer from Sunderland in the summer, is desperate to get back to first team action following almost three months out with an Achilles injury, but admits there is never a day goes by when it doesn't feel sore.

"It's just one of those things that I am going to have to live with," said the 28-year-old who played 90 minutes in the reserves last week as well.

"I have spoken to a lot of people who have had Achilles injuries and they all seem to say it is never the same again.

"But you just have to keep doing the exercises, getting massages and it is just a case of managing it from now on.

"It is the worst injury I have ever had and it is particularly disappointing because I have just joined a new club and it is a fresh start for me.

"I had a good pre-season and I want to be playing and showing the fans that I am a good player who wants to help the club progress and do well in this league.

"But hopefully I am getting there now.

"My general fitness is good and that's never been a problem for me, and now it is just a case of getting games in and getting my sharpness back.

"Hopefully, I can force my way into the squad in the next couple of weeks and see where we go from there."

Manager Chris Coleman, who revealed that Leon McKenzie is 10 days away from his first reserve game, said: "Wrighty has got a good chance of making the squad but I will see how he reacts after the reserve game because he is still a bit sore."

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THE TROUBLE with young sides is that they often lack leadership and the sort of experienced heads to pull players around them up by their boot laces.

Apart from Clinton Morrison, who does lead from the front, Coventry City do lack an experienced figure, particularly in the heart of the midfield who can assert himself on a game and lift those around him on a consistent basis.

Aron Gunnarsson has led by example on the odd occasion - his performance at Sheffield United being a prime example - but, understandably, at just 19 he has not done it week in, week out.

Southampton have shown with their current enforced youth policy that nice passing football and athleticism is not enough to get you through in the Championship, and they continue to struggle, their latest defeat coming at home to Bristol City on Saturday.

Birmingham, on the other hand, have got 34-year-old Lee Carsley driving his team-mates on from the middle of the park.

Although Blues are having a bit of a wobble, they remain second top and the former Everton and Sky Blues player has been a revelation at St Andrews since joining the club in the summer.

While not suggesting City go down the route of bringing in old heads in the last throes of their careers, they could perhaps benefit from a bit more experience.

And by that I mean players in their late 20s or very early 30s rather than the 37-year-old Arjan de Zeeuws who turned out to be a huge disappointment.

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ELDERLY shoppers chase him down supermarket aisles brandishing frozen peas and football fans heckle him from the terraces of Coventry City FC.

This is life now for Coronation Street star Graeme Hawley, who's at the centre of a dramatic soap storyline.

He plays teacher-turned-cabbie John Stape who in a moment of madness kidnapped 17-year-old Rosie Webster and kept her locked in the attic for weeks.

He blamed her for destroying his life, after the schoolgirl seduced him and led to the loss of his job and his relationship with girlfriend Fiz Brown.

When the mouthy teen started taunting him, he lost his temper, bundled her into his cab and drove her to his late grandmother's house where he's kept her captive in the attic flat.

Last week Fiz discovered his secret and John was arrested but it's not the last we'll see of him.

Graeme, who grew up in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and is a Coventry City FC season ticket-holder, insists he's not a villain.

"He hasn't harmed Rosie," says the friendly 34-year-old.

"Most viewers are friendly when they see me, though I've had drunken blokes shouting 'Leave Rosie alone!' and old ladies chasing me down the aisles in Tesco. Fortunately they've never caught me, so I've avoided a battering with frozen peas!

"The funniest moment was at the football the other week. I tend to get irate and was shouting at the ref, who'd made a few bad decisions, when someone called out 'Go on John, kidnap him!'.

"I think John is essentially a good man. When we were filming the scenes in the attic, the director kept saying he felt sorry for him.

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