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Question of the Week

Should Russell Slade be sacked?

Yes immediately
Give him one more game


Coventry Preview

By: Richard Hubbert
Date: 05/09/2001

THERE is no doubting that Grimsby will be going to promotion favourites Coventry with their confidence soaring after reaching the dizzy heights of top place in the Division One table.

Home > 2001-2002 Season > Previews > Coventry (a)

Town may not be top now after Burnley's 3-2 victory over Bradford, but the Mariners will be heading to Highfield Road looking to come back with all three points and continue their fine run...

The Opposition

Coventry City, one of the favourites for an immediate return to the Premiership after 34 years in the top flight, have not had the best of starts to their promotion campaign. Just four points from a possible twelve and just one single win have raised doubts among their fans to whether they really have what it takes to get out of this very competitive division.

After the recent sale of star keeper Chris Kirkland to Liverpool many fans have critisised chairman Bryan Richardson for reportedly not making any of the cash available to manager Gordan Strachan, not to mention the apparent lack of ambition from the board.

All of this aside, there is no doubting that Coventry have the players to get promotion. The likes of Lee Hughes, Julian Joachim, Keith O'Neill and Lee Carsley are all proven players at this level and should deliver the goods to kick start the Sky Blues season. But hopefully that will wait until after this Saturday.

The Squad

Following the sudden sale of keeper Chris Kirkland to Liverpool for a reported £5million, Magnus Hedman (left) has suddenly found himself as being Coventry's No. 1 keeper again. Just a month ago it looked as if Hedman himself would be the one on the way out, after talks with Everton collapsed. But after the sale of Kirkland there is no doubting that Gordan Strachan will want to keep hold of the Swedish international whom has been Coventry's number one keeper since he signed to replace legend Steve Ogrizovic in the 1997/98 season. However there is a huge question mark over Hedmans willingness to stay at Highfield Road. This could mean that former Town loanee Morten Hyldgaard will get a chance between the sticks. The six foot six giant signed for Coventry in 1999 and that season had a loan spell with Town rivals Scunthorpe. Now, after covering for Town 'keeper Danny Coyne last season, Hyldgaard will be hoping to get a chance of first team football this term. But whether it will be with Coventry City or not remains to be seen.

One player whom Coventry have sorely missed in their division one fixtures so far this season has to be ball-playing centre half Gary Breen (left). After being virtually ever present last season for the sky blues, Breen has missed most of the pre-season warm ups and the whole of the league campaign. The good news for Coventry fans is that he has an outside chance of returning to the side after playing in a midweek reserve fixture. If Breen does make it, his partner for the day will more than likely be Paul Williams who was signed by former manager Ron Atkinson in 1995. In William's first full season he won the player of the year award and has gone on to be a regular in Coventry's line-up putting his strength and aggressive nature to good use.

Hot on William's heels is former Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw (left) who can also play at right back, but can easily fill the centre back position. Shaw, who joined Coventry four seasons ago, has become an integral part of Coventry's defensive line, impressing many people with his consistently reliable performances. He, like Williams has also won the player of the year award in his time at the club. Coventry's array of talented full backs includes ex-Crystal Palace player Mark Edworthy who joined The Sky Blues from Selhurst Park for £850,000. Since then he has occupied the right back position, also being able to fill in at left back on occasions. This has made his versatility extremely valuable to Coventry, especially when injuries and suspensions crop up. One person whom has had a fair share of injuries is young left back Marcus Hall. Despite winning England U21 and B Team caps, Hall has found first team opportunities hard to come by, but is looking to make the left back position his after the recent retirement of Steve Froggatt.

Swedish international Tomas Antonelius (left) will also be hoping that he can hold down a regular first team place after changing his name in the summer! The right back who missed practically the whole of last season through injury was formerly named "Tomas Gustafsson" and changed his surname to Antonelius which is his sister's surname! Strange but true! Other defensive cover comes from Roland Neilson who is back for a second spell at the club as a player/coach, Bosnian captain Mo Konjic who has started in defence every game this season. Also staking his claim to boss Gordan Strachan this season will be left back Ivan Guerrero.

In midfield, former Liverpool starlet David Thompson (left) pulls most of the strings with his pinpoint crossing and battling nature. Thompson was often used wide on the right last season but can also play in the centre of midfield. Ex Blackburn and Derby midfielder Lee Carsley plays the "holding role" in the middle of the park. Since signing from Blackburn last November, after becoming surplus to requirements under Graham Souness, Carsley has been ever present in the Sky Blues engine room impressing boss Gordan Strachan with his all action displays and ball-winning skills. He is one player that manager Gordan Strachan has publically singled out as being a huge part of his plans for promotion.

The ever versatile Barry Quinn (left) is certainly a player for the future and is likely to fill the boots of Carsley on day. After signing a four year contract in the summer, Quinn will be looking to hold down a first team place whether it be in midfield or defence. Quinn's flexibility means that he can play in a number of roles including the wing back position, which he was sometimes used for last season. Morrocan international midfielder Youssef Safri was signed in the summer from Raja Casablanca on a bosman style transfer. He was recommended to Gordan Strachan by ex Blues midfielder Moustapha Hadgi and Strachan has been tracking the player for over a year now. Described as a defensive midfielder who also has the ability to pop up with a fair few goals, Safri will provided some much needed strength in depth in the Coventry's midfield.

Summer signing Keith O'Neil (left) is a player whose versatility shone out as a major factor for Gordan Strachan when he signed the Irish international. Able to play up front, in midfield, on either wing or at wing back, O'Neil certainly does not lack utility. The 25 year old joined the Sky Blues from Middlesbrough after starting his career with Anglian club Norwich City, where he made 83 appearances before his move to Teeside in 1999. Now, after becoming out of favour with new boss Steve McLaren he is keen to get his career back on track.

28 year old Morrocan midfielder Youssef Chippo (left) is a player whose defence-splitting passes and skill on the ball provides Gordan Strachan with plenty of options in the centre of the park. Signed in 1999 after being part of the Morrocan team that impressed so much in France 1998, Chippo at first found it hard to adjust to the English game but is now an established first team member. The surprise of the season for anyone outside Coventry must be the appointment of Jon Eustace as club captain. But not for Coventry fans. His spirited performances in the centre of the park have made the 22 year old a key player in the team and prompted Strachan to make him captain, this can only enhance a young mans game which has improved so much since he joined Coventry from neighbours Birmingham in 1996.

Without a doubt, Coventry will rely on record signing Lee Hughes (left) to produce the goals needed this season. His goal scoring record is second to none and he has all the attributes needed to excel himself beyond the standards set by the now departed John Hartson. Boss Gordan Strachan certainly has confidence in his striker after ploughing out £5 million for the ex-WBA hitman, but he will be suspended for the clash on Saturday. His strike partner for the first few game of this campaign has been England Under-21 forward Jay Bothroyd. Standing at 6 foot 3 tall, Bothroyd caught the eye of manager Gordan Strachan when he played in Arsenal's youth team. When he was released last summer, Strachan snapped him up and he made his debut at home to Manchester United last November and has since shone with some sparking performances.

One of the major coups of the summer must be the capture of Julian Joachim (left) who joined the Sky Blues as part of the deal that saw Moustapha Hadgi cross over to local neighbours Aston Villa. Joachim's eye for goal and sharpness on and off the ball means that Lee Hughes has one of the best striking partner around. Unfortunately for Town fans, the former Leicester City forward could be fit to face Town on Saturday after resuming full training this week. Another forward on City's books is Peruvian Ysrael Zuniga who after scoring two in his first reserve game for Coventry and on his full team debut, has struggled to hold down a first team spot, but has proved an effective "super sub" for the Midlands side.

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Town Team News

  • Menno Willem's one match ban after his sending off against Portmouth comes in to play for Tuesdays cup game against Sheffield United and therefore will be available for Saturday's encounter.

  • Coventry Team News

  • Gary Breen, Jon Eustace and Julian Joachim all resumed full training this week and could be fit enough to be in contention for the visit of Town.
  • If fit, Joachim will replace Lee Hughes up front, who serves a one match suspension for his dismissal against Bradford. Joachim's strike partner will be Jay Bothroyd.

  • Expected Line Ups


    Danny Coyne
    John McDermott
    Tony Gallimore
    David Beharall
    Paul Groves
    Alan Pouton
    Stuart Campbell
    Danny Butterfield
    Menno Willems
    Phil Jevons
    Johnny Rowan
    Magnus Hedman
    Roland Nilson
    Marcus Hall
    Gary Breen
    Paul Williams
    David Thompson
    Keith O'Neil
    Lee Carsley
    Youssef Chippo
    Julian Joachim
    Jay Bothroyd
    Bradley Allen
    Mike Jeffrey
    Ben Chapman
    Wayne Burnett
    Ronald Ermes (GK)
    Mo Konjic
    Ysrael Zuniga
    Barry Quinn
    Marc Edworthy
    Morten Hyldgaard (GK)

    Recent Meetings

    The last time the two sides met was back in the 1989/90 season (when Town came 2nd in division four). The encounter came in the third round of the league cup. In the first leg at Blundell Park, Town stormed to a 3-1 win with goals from Dave Gilbert, Gary Birtles and Tommy Watson. But in the second leg a large Town following saw the Mariners being crushed in a 3-0 defeat.

    The game was practically over after four minutes when Welsh striker Tony Rees was sent of for retaliating, and the win was sealed for Coventry by no other than Kevin Drinkell, whom has just signed for Coventry the week before. What made the goal even more bitter for Town was that it was not only it in front of Drinkell's former fans, but it was a spectacular over head kick.

    Coventry Head-to-Head (72nd on The Opposition Ladder).

    Prediction For Game

    Coventry will certainly be no pushovers for Town, but after going top for 24 hours, confidence is soaring in the Town ranks and even a win could be on the cards. The only omen going against Town is that Lennie Lawrence has just won the manager of the month award which usually means Town loose the next game. But I remain ever confident and I will go for a 1-1 draw

    Fishy prediction: 1-1 Draw. Reader's POMs


    Click on the link for directions to Highfield Road (left).

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