March 2009 Archives
WHILE most of Coventry City's squad are enjoying a late-season break over the next fortnight, Aron Gunnarsson will be logging a new milestone in his exciting young career.
The midfielder is due to step out in front of a passionate Hampden Park crowd on April 1 as Iceland take on Scotland in a World Cup qualifier - another prime opportunity to demonstrate the development that has stunned the Sky Blues management team this season.
Boss Chris Coleman admits that he expected the 19-year-old to be a squad player this season while he found his feet in English football.
But having turned in some impressively muscular midfield displays, proven his versatility by filling in at right-back and unveiled the attacking potential of his prodigious long throw, Gunnarsson is now regarded as one of the Ricoh Arena's crown jewels.
He has also become a cult hero with the fans - that status reaching stratospheric heights during the midweek trip to Bristol City when he and mum Jona joined the Sky Blue Army in the Ashton Gate stands.
And his importance to the club's future was underlined when - along with Kieren Westwood, Scott Dann and Danny Fox - he was offered a long-term contract extension designed to fend off interest from Premier League predators after the usual speculation about possible suitors emerging.
But Gunnarsson insists he won't be trying to exploit that situation with some hard-ball negotiating.
DAVID Bell capitalised on a howler from Doncaster's Neil Sullivan to score his first goal for Coventry and give them victory in their Coca-Cola Championship match at the Ricoh Arena.
Coventry had looked the better side in the opening stages. With 20 minutes gone, Sullivan came rushing out of his goal to clear Keiren Westwood's goal-kick - only for it to go straight to Bell, who finished superbly from 45 yards.
It was no more than Coventry deserved.
Stephen Wright saw a shot hit the post minutes later, and at the other end Westwood made a good save from John Spicer as Doncaster pressed forward before the break.
Westwood had to be alert to deny Dean Shiels early in the second half, but Coventry held on to record their first victory in five matches and move nine points clear of the bottom three.
The defeat was Doncaster's third in a row without scoring and left them with work to do to secure their Championship status for next season.
The home side almost went in front with two minutes gone when Aron Gunnarsson headed into the path of Jordan Henderson, who cut the ball across for Freddy Eastwood. But his shot skimmed the top of the bar.
Doncaster quickly found their rhythm, and Wilson was allowed to stride forward unchallenged before unleashing a long-range effort which Westwood did well to turn around the post.
Only Coventry fans could go from emphatic chants of We're all going to Wem-ber-ley and unabashed prognostications of reaching the play-offs to mumurs and grumblings of the lurid realms of relegation.
In just seven days.
Have we really changed that much in just three games? Have our Wembley-bound heroes been cosmically spellbound by some sorcerous means, doomed to a fate of (even) lower league football?
Of course not. We were, as we should have been, beaten by a world-class Premiership team, and have lost a couple of tricky league games that have left us... well, pretty much where we've been all season.
So, no need to panic then. Talk of the play-offs was inevitable, but premature. Not because of the points needed to reach one of those fabled berths, but just the sheer number of teams between us and the hallowed top six. So now that we can put a lid on all that play-off nonsense for this year, the talk switches to our other favourite topic: relegation.
Ben Turner has reassured us this week that "we don't need to worry about relegation and all that". Well that's a relief. Although one can't help think that his reassurance was not borne out of objective assessment, but more to gain impunity in the eyes of his fans after his little weekend faux pas.
I know Ben was being fouled, but if he'd only ducked instead of... oh, never mind.
Even Keiren "Who-says-you-can't-save-in-a-recession?" Westwood has shown his flappable side. Well, his feet have. Maybe he should pretend he's hurt his leg and let a defender do all the kicking. A role as pinch-kicker at set-pieces might have been ear-marked for Marcus when a contract extension was put before him. It's keeping David Beckham in the job.
As much as I'd like to dramaticise the last few weeks of the season with talk of potential voyages to the extremities of our division, I'm afraid there will be no such adventures. It's the steady waters of mid-table from here on in, a fate that I will share in welcoming after the traumas of last year.
There's always the sideshow attraction of seeing just how many friends Aron Gunnarsson can get on Facebook. Currently about 4,200 more than me.
Our top team are down at the Ricoh Arena for today's sell-out clash between Coventry and Chelsea. Join in the live match debate on their live blog now:
The perfect gift,
or so it seemed
a home 3rd round draw
against a lower ranked team
The Vultures had gathered
Kidderminster would be a stern test
but they where dispatched
with goals from McKenzie & Best
Then a trip to the seaside
a tricky tie was assured
but we saw Torquay of too
with a late strike from Ward
It was going quiet well
seemed a bit like a dream
as we sat and watched the draw
for the last sixteen
A trip up to Blackburn
wasn't anyone's first choice
but the travelling fan's
where all in fine voice
A draw and some credit
against premiership class
bring them back to the Ricoh
then we'll kick some *ss!
The Stadium was rocking
it finally came alive
Leon Best's glancing header
the "Ricoh Roar" had arrived
to see the stadium full
should fill the players with glee
and may just give us an edge
over the fancied Chelsea
If we cheer every tackle,
and somehow manage to score
just one goal more than them
we'll be in the last four!
I'm telling you it didn't cross the line. Spare yourself the bother and heartache of watching the TV replay, there's no debate or analysis needed. As frustrated as I was from the stands, I can only imagine how cross Keiren Westwood was.
Think about it: this guy spends his whole life trying to stop goals. His livelihood depends on it. It feeds his family, and keeps him warm and safe at night. So when he saves another good'un against Sheffield United, only to be told that he had, in actual fact, failed to do so, his incandescence must have only been the first movement of his symphony of emotions.
That he only got booked for being told he wasn't doing his job, when he bloomin' well was is a miracle in itself. Where was the fourth official this time? Don't they have monitors in those hideouts of theirs?
I think you know where this is going, but I'll stop you there, because I am not in favour of using 'technology'. It's such an ugly word in the context of the beautiful game. If 'technology' starts creeping into the game, who knows where it will end? Judging by the amount of money washing around the game at the minute, one dabble in this forbidden pool could end up with us watching some kind of footy-themed Robot Wars, between Daleks Athletic and Cybermen City.
Let's say for instance that after Wednesday's 'incident' the game was stopped and referred to an off-the-pitch official to study the replay, or maybe just see if a sensor had beeped on the goal line. The goal wouldn't have counted, but City may well have gone on to lose anyway, as they far from being on top of their game.
Then I would have trudged meekly home not cursing the officials but bleakly trying to fathom just why the City looked so tame against a rather average (but successful) Sheffield team. I'd much rather just go home with ref-rage thanks, and I'd get home a few minutes earlier without all the faffing around with 'technology'.
The point is, to take that subjective element out of the game would lessen its effect and, eventually, its appeal. I like that referees can have a bad game. It makes the game that bit less predictable, and just gives us so much more to talk about. If every decision was made by a computer (albeit correctly) the game would become clinical and sterile.
This is where cricket is headed you may have noticed. And are they still getting all the decisions right? Not if Nasser Hussain's carefully but hotly worded rant after England's third test against the West Indies is anything to go by. Nasser was such a cool bloke at the crease. One or two more dodgy third umpire decisions and he might start to have an inkling of what Keiren Westwood must be going through.