Fan’s View 2019/20 -no.10- Coventry (H)

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, September 1st, 2019  


Another week in the life of the financially unsustainable EFL and a quick look at our opponents

Bury FC have gone. They exist in name only. Whilst feeling the utmost sympathy for all true Shakers fans – their club will mean as much to them as ours does to us – what happened was almost inevitable. Football clubs are allowed to get into huge debt by owners with no genuine local sporting attachment who are allowed to undertake dodgy deals before moving on and all whilst the EFL seemingly does little to firm up the rotting structures of their members. There is supposed to be financial fair play rules and a fit and proper person test applied to directors and owners. These would appear to be about as effective as Warwick Davis in an aerial duel with Peter Crouch.

Steve Dale bought Bury for a pound in December from Stewart Day who bought the club in 2013. The official Bury FC site posted this, “Stewart Day is a 31 year old property entrepreneur who has built up a successful business specialising in the building of student accommodation and development sites based in Lancashire & Yorkshire. He is a lifelong football fan, who’s passion to rebuild Bury Football Club both on and off the pitch is second to none. He has asked for some patience from the fans to allow him to work within the club to deliver what is expected of the chairman”.

A few weeks after the sale several of Day’s property companies went into administration. Lenders and investors were millions out of pocket.

Dale never satisfied the league that he had the cash to keep the club going. This is an EFL requirement for new owners before or within 10 days of a takeover. What is the point of these bloody rules if they are not enforced?

Dale has subsequently been given a number of deadlines to come up with evidence that he had the money to finance Bury and its debt or alternatively that the club would be sold to a person or people who had.

That staff had not been paid for ages sent out the biggest of alarm bells and when I heard Dale speak on Talksport all I could think was “what a bullshitter”.

There had been quite high hopes that a sale of the club to C&N Sporting Risk would go through but the owners of this data and analytics company Rory Campbell (ex-technical scout and analyst at WHU) and Henry Newman (ex-joint manager at Barnet) said they couldn’t resolve problems concerning a mortgage on Gigg Lane and mentioned “systemic failings of a football club over a number of years”.

During Day’s time as owner a mortgage was taken out with Capital Bridging Finance Solutions. Dale raised concerns about this after he took over saying that the loan was up to £3.7m and when it was made 40% of the amount ended up with a third party as an introduction fee and not Bury.

Anyone with even half an understanding of professional football below the Premier League will have questioned where Bury have been getting their money from to fund players’ wages seemingly way out of their price range.

Bury were able to offer Chris Maguire a better deal than we could and he moved there for the 2017/18 season. They also had other players on big money such as Jermaine Beckford. Hilariously, but not for their supporters, they finished bottom.

Still they continued to splash cash they didn’t have and finished second in league two but with wages not being paid from February onwards it was bound to come crashing down.

Liquidation is the likely outcome and the loyal fans who bought season tickets are now just creditors.

I hope a phoenix club arises very soon and the people of this Lancashire town again have a football team, which is part of their community, to follow.

Bury have not kicked a ball this season. Fans of the surviving L1 clubs who hold a season ticket will now get one game fewer for the price paid. These clubs are mostly desperate for cash themselves so to demand anything in compensation would be petty and it must be remembered there will be no money taken on the day that Bury were scheduled to visit.

Bolton survived but what would we be saying if they had gone to the wall too? There’s a continuing story there and I wonder if they really are out of the woods and if so how competitive they will be and if they do suddenly become a proper force how fair is that given some teams have already beaten their gallant kids 5-0?

All that and I have not even mentioned the Sky Blues yet. What SISU Capital Limited has done to Coventry City and that the football club is currently having to play home games more than a 20 mile drive away at St Andrews in Birmingham has been much documented.

Coventry’s accounts are to be found in “Otium Entertainment Group Ltd” whose parent company is Sky Blue Sports & Leisure Ltd the major shareholding of which is held by SISU.

To year end 31 May 2018 they lost £2.5m covering a season they spent in L2, gaining promotion via the play-offs.

The balance sheet shows a cumulative P&L loss of £85.3m but taking account of £65.2m worth of called up share capital and a £249k equity component of a convertible loan their net liability was at that time £19.8m.

Staff costs were £4.9m.

Coventry are one of five teams at the top with 11 points after five games. They have won all three games at “home” without conceding but their two proper away games have yielded two very strange outcomes. They only managed a goalless draw at Bolton yet came back from 3-1 down at Pompey, scoring their second with only ten men on the pitch and third with just nine.

So we don’t know what to expect and last season’s form won’t be much to go by as they’ve had a big clear out with lots of new players coming in. I find that a bit curious because I thought they were starting to put a good side together.

Oxford United 3 Coventry City 3

Dabo’s first. Photo, Steve Daniels

Once more the drama served up during the closing stages gave great value for money for anyone present at the Kassam stadium. Yet some people never learn even with the evidence from Tuesday fresh in the mind. They will have missed the very best bit of this encounter.

With five minutes to go its 1-2, then Fankaty Dabo did us a favour to make it 2-2. One minute into the five added we’re behind again. Then with just one left Dabo does it again. Breathless stuff, remain in your seats folks, or at least stood in front of them until that final whistle goes.

Whilst taking in the glow of pulling back a two goal deficit and then salvaging a point at the very end I’m not going to get carried away. We are almost a good team but there are many issues that, if not addressed soon, will mean we remain stuck near the foot of the table that a team this season will have to be really crap to get relegated from.

Only three go down courtesy of the Bury fiasco and we’re already 16 points above bottom placed Bolton who were back in action and back to losing 5-0. Southend have set about claiming the second drop spot in fine style having lost all six games to date. Of the other three teams below Oxford two have played a game less than we have.

The defensive side of our play is really lacking at the moment. Before this match we’d conceded exactly two goals a game on average and with this three let in that’s obviously made that poor record worse not better. Only Bolton and Southend are more dreadful when it comes to stopping the opposition finding the back of the net.

The game was without goals until ten minutes before the interval. Alex Gorrin, who managed on this occasion not to get booked, chopped an advancing Sky Blue shirt thus giving away a free-kick from far enough out to require something special for a goal to result. Zain Westbrooke’s effort was well placed but not a worldie. We should have done better to prevent it going in. The wall may have been marginally in the wrong place but my view from on high at the back of the SSU told me Simon Eastwood should have done better. He must have had a reasonable sight of it but didn’t really spring into action. I am a bigger fan of Easty than some of my mates but have to concede they may have a point.

There were quite a few times when Coventry broke at pace with a spare forward being available within clear sight of goal. Even if we did get men back we weren’t organised in doing so and didn’t mark effectively.

Those fine margins didn’t favour us in the lead up to the visitors second. A Cameron Brannagan corner that was headed away to the edge of the D was met with a perfect volley from Ben Woodburn. It smacked against a post and was forced away and the ensuing battles for the ball were not won by us as we had too many players wrong side. When one of our midfielders slid in he just helped the momentum of the Coventry break, such was his position. They had men in space which made the passing necessary to undo us quite easy. The outcome was a ball chipped in by Dabo which was headed home by Matt Godden, a man with a better goal scoring record than anyone playing for us. Rob Dickie was too far away from the scorer for his jump to have any meaning.

Their third once more saw us taken apart on the break. We had two players on one of theirs, players again wrong side and the scorer was left to run unmarked into the area. Absolutely unacceptable. I wasn’t sure who the ball had come off although Karl Robinson was 100% adamant that the throw should have been ours. Once it is awarded against you the golden rule is keep switched on. That’s a basic given.

Eastwood wasn’t to blame for this or the second and deserves the plaudits for preventing substitute Callum O’Hare from getting on the scoresheet before he did by producing an outstanding block.

Eight minutes after going two behind KR made a double substitution with Anthony Forde and Woodburn being replaced by Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptiste. That was on 64 minutes and I thought from then on we looked a different team.

These two additions are very exciting players to watch. They can go past opponents with trickery and take the game forward in a fashion that gets the pulse rate going.

Before their arrival it was more of a chess game on our part as we waited at times what seemed an eternity to create anything although we did get some decent crosses in and did have opportunities to register.

In the first half Marko Marosi tipped over a Forde header from a Henry centre, Woodburn having first produced some good work down the right wing.

Jamie Mackie really should have scored at the fence end.

I thought our most likely scorer was Woodburn as he has that extra bit of craft but less than a minute after he had sat down on the bench it was Mackie who did something I’d more expect from our Liverpool loanee.

Dickie slipped a ball through to Baptiste in a congested area and our tightly marked youngster let the ball run and as he turned was brought down. Letting the ball run was an ideal choice. It ran through to Mackie who took a couple of strides before unleashing a truly struck left footer which the flying Marosi couldn’t get to.

Game on with plenty of time to go.

By now Marosi was having to work much harder and had to fling himself to his right to prevent Gorrin heading in a corner.

Other than Mackie’s shot the keeper was able to keep out all other attempts from Oxford players to beat him but he couldn’t do the same when his team mate Dabo got into his stride. Bet the ex-Chelsea youngster had a seat to himself on the coach home and quite likely on some lips a W replaced the F in his Christian name or an n and y were added.

His first was a comedy moment, banged home with meaning on the half volley when under no noticeable pressure. A head in hands moment indeed.

Dabo’s second. Photo, Steve Daniels

The second was much harder to deal with but again there was no messing. A corner was not fully repelled and as the ball headed toward the flag on the opposite side Fosu set off in chase, kept it in with his studs, touched it around a sliding City player and staying on his feet, ran along the bye-line before passing low and with purpose into the danger zone. If Dabo had not done the business then Elliott Moore would have. Including Fosu we had eight players in the penalty area, proof indeed that we were really going for it.

I don’t know what needs to be done to solve our defensive frailty. A mate is of the opinion that we go too gung ho. I’m often all for a conservative approach but only felt roused into real belief with Fosu and Baptiste present. I thought Gorrin was supposed to be the protector but we were exposed way too often for that to have worked but it is a team game and every player should click into defensive mode when their side is out of possession. There is a need to get back, and if that involves sprinting so be it, to cover, to close down space and to tightly mark depending on the circumstances. It’s not physical fitness that is the issue here. The same mate also thinks that Chris Cadden is a big part of the problem as he gets forward too much. That’s possibly so but I’ve not got enough evidence to analyse in depth and come up with a sound assessment. I would say though that he very much is part of our attacking play.

In conclusion I thought we deserved a draw and no more. That’s based on our defensive weakness and lack of goal-scoring (by our own players). Yes, I know they all count but future opponents won’t be as helpful to the OUFC cause as Mr Dabo.

Perhaps I have not cut our boys enough slack because the stats, which as ever must be taken with a pinch of salt, show us in a fairly good light in comparison to Coventry. Possession 59%, aerial duels won also 59%, corners 14 to 2, passes 443 to 321, passing accuracy 78% to 69%, crosses 47 to 13 although less than a quarter of ours were considered accurate, and shots 19 to 9 with both sides getting five on target.

My interpretation of City Manager Mark Robins post-match comments is that he thought we were the better side and it is clear that KR considered that to be so. In which case, what do I know? I’m a mere football fan who possibly has an inbuilt pessimistic streak that I can’t shake off but looking at the league table I’m not so sure. Realism?

Finally I have to say a more loyal fan could not have been found to lead the teams out. Well done to our football club and of course Andy “Womble” James. I salute you.

Dabo contemplates taking up a different career whilst keeper Marosi stares disbelievingly into space. Photo, Simon Jaggs

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 1st, 2019 at 4:52 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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