Coventry City did the almost unthinkable last weekend and won a league game. A very dubiously awarded Lukas Jutkiewicz penalty (who’s complaining?) and a genuinely majestic Carl Baker volley making the difference in front of some nearly 14,000 Covistas braving the Ricoh rain, as well as countless others watching through Sky’s all-seeing television cameras.
An open game for the most part, like the hosts opponents Derby County had their fair share of opportunities and could probably count themselves unlucky not to have scored at least once after threatening a number of times in the first half.
They will surely also feel aggrieved at the penalty decision which, it has to be said , was softer than a well furnaced marshmallow after City defender Richard Keogh clumsily challenged… well, City defender Richard Keogh in the penalty area.
Regardless of this gross and largely hilarious injustice served the Rams however, overall it has to be said that even the impartial observer would probably have seen the win as one thoroughly well deserved for a City side peppered with young and inexperienced players who just seem to be finding their feet now after a difficult start to the season.
They’ll have to keep finding their feet as well.
At a time when all the talk amongst City fans seems to have done with the inaction and/or supposed incompetence of those concerned on the business side of the operation (and rest assured I’ll have more to come on that in my next blog), it’s not escaped my attention that on the pitch it’ll probably be these young players who’ll end up making key contributions in the club’s efforts to stay in the division come the end of the year.
I’m talking primarily about players like Cyrus Christie and Gael Bigirimana, talented local teenagers who’ve been thrown in at the deep end somewhat by manager Andy Thorn after the departure of key squad players in the summer. To their credit, neither Cyrus nor Gael have shown any real outward signs of being overawed by their rapid promotion to competitive football and instead they’ve shown composure, energy and endeavor in their football to earn not just the praise of their nurturing manager, but also guarantees that their first team slots are merited and not just a symptom of Thorn having to manage a small squad.
In short, both players have served as rare bright sparks in what are otherwise dimly lit environs at the moment; Christie’s pace and power on the right hand side presents both defensive and attacking options, a pinpoint crossing ability impressing in particular. Bigirimana meanwhile, already known as ‘Bigi’ to many fans has supposedly grabbed the attention of a host of Premier League suitors with his brand of combative and energetic midfield play.
Of course, as you’d expect there are minor criticisms to be levelled to, particularly at the 17 year old Bigirimana, who you feel could take his game to teams a little more at times. He’s clearly comfortable on the ball, is an adept passer and has obvious pace and skill, but you sometimes want him to take the initiative and be just that bit more influential in and around the final third. I see him as a Gary McAllister kind of player ultimately, someone who can impose himself and be totally comfortable in every facet of play through the middle of the pitch. He’s just lacking that killer instinct right now.
Really though these criticisms are a little on the harsh side and as hinted are more likely than not to be more a symptom of nerves, or a case of a player acclimatising to a higher standard of football as opposed to anything endemic to his natural game. I’m confident that he’ll develop and improve his attacking game as the season wears on.
Nevertheless it remains to be seen to what extent these two players in particular will grow during the season, and because City fans are now well worn to the concept of big promise falling away into stagnation (Robert Jarni) they probably do have more to do than is truly reasonable to totally convince their new public.
For now though, you can’t deny that the future of things on the pitch looks really bright for Coventry City and what’s more, as anybody who has taken the three seconds it requires to completely comprehend Andy Thorn’s depleted squad list will know, this influx of good young players doesn’t just end with Cyrus and Bigi.
In fact, in the wings there’s a whole host of talented young players, the likes of Conor Thomas, a gifted midfielder with a real eye for a pass who flirted with Premier League giants Liverpool last season. Nathan Cameron, the centre half who despite faltering after a promising early run under Aidy Boothroyd last season has undeniable potential. Jordan Clarke, a pacy full back and Josh Ruffels, a technically gifted midfielder who is yet to make a first team appearance but is on the fringes at the moment. He’s a player who has bags and bags of potential.
Under the constrictions of measured means, it seems to me that we’ve been compensated somewhat by the emergence of a true meritocratic approach to team selection under Andy Thorn; and whilst in our case it’s highly unlikely that the Alan Hansen effect will work for Coventry as spectacularly as it did for Manchester United all those years ago, it might just turn out that our bunch of Junior Sky Blues end up having a critical say in how things go for the club at the other end of the table instead.
As always: P.U.S.B!
Written by Paul Martin, We Are Going Up’s Coventry City Blogger
Paul tweets at @AgeSechsLokashn