The answer to the question “Whatever happened to this Coventry City fan?” is quite simple. I’m still here and still in love with the game I’ve always loved. I don’t attend Coventry City matches anymore but that’s not the first time I’ve had long spells away from watching the club that represents the City of my birth and I’m sure I’ll be back one day. I guess the question to answer is why I don’t attend matches at the moment and that is going to take some explaining!
The club moved to the Ricoh and the change began then. Highfield Road in all honesty was a dump by the time City left but it was a dump that I loved going to and standing in the West Terrace. Win, lose or draw and I’d come away feeling I’d enjoyed my afternoon at the football. Relegation from the Premier League didn’t knock the enthusiasm and the invasion of Stockport on the opening day of the following season kept the fire burning in me. The fans quickly turned on Gordon Strachan after some poor and uninspiring results but it was surely a temporary blip. At this point I had zero interest in the ownership or finances of the club and why should I? I was going for an enjoyable few hours at the match and while I was enjoying it I had no reason to look any deeper.
The steady decline continued in the Championship and Sisu came into the world of Coventry City. Everyone knows the story of Sisu so I won’t repeat it but I certainly wasn’t comfortable with what I knew of the new owners before they completed the takeover. As is often the case, the owners became irrelevant to me and I was still enjoying the match day experience at the Ricoh although nowhere near as much as the Highfield Road experience. In comparison to Highfield Road, it was a pain in the arse to get to and all sense of togetherness had faded away from my point of view. I moved to different seats around the stadium in a desperate attempt to rediscover the magic that had kept me coming back to Highfield Road again and again. I was still a season ticket holder but I started to give some games a miss. Any old excuse would do (too cold, hard week at work, takes too long to get home on a midweek match). The truth was that I wasn’t enjoying it like I used to and that was hard to take. The atmosphere went from flat, to negative to quite frankly depressing and I was close to calling it a day with a season ticket.
Frustration started to show itself and Sisu got the blame (quite right if you ask me). Giving the owners stick reinvigorated me and plenty of others but banging your head against a brick wall would have been more productive in hindsight. Then the big moment came and City were off to Northampton despite the protestations of the City itself. What that situation proved beyond doubt was that however low the club got, there would always be a support base there for when the good times returned. I tried desperately hard to stick with the club but the move to Northampton finished off the fight that was left in me and off I trotted to watch some Non-League football.
It was a huge surprise to me that I got hooked so quickly but coming away from that first Coventry Sphinx fixture I remember thinking that this is what it’s all about. Local lads and people giving everything for the club they represent. It was affordable and stress free and that’s where I stayed while my club had disappeared to Northampton. They dragged their heels getting back to their rightful home but it was too late for me by then and I’ve not been back since. It’s not a protest, or anything else other a pure selfishness for me to go where I enjoy it most.
I’ll be back in the Ricoh one day but not anytime soon I wouldn’t think. I’ll need convincing that I’ll enjoy the visit before that happens and my presence will be appreciated. I won’t be expecting the red carpet treatment but I’ll want to be reasonably confident I wouldn’t be manhandled by stewards or harassed by officers of the law just for being in or around a professional football stadium. Don’t forget to show your ticket every time you move or dare to wait for a friend outside the stadium or you’ll be up for some manhandling or a stop and search from a bored copper. Yes, I’m still bitter about that and it will take more time before I can ignore those unnecessary experiences.
However, I still take a very keen interest in the fortunes of the club and it’s hard not to with Coventry Sphinx Football Club being full of Coventry City fans itself. Coaches, players, volunteers and juniors all attend City games. Coventry Sphinx are Non-League and Coventry City are not and they will never be rivals. I’ve put my heart and soul into helping Coventry Sphinx progress from the 5th tier of Non-League football and I’m extremely comfortable with that decision.
It’s still my opinion that Coventry City will need new owners to have a chance of returning to the upper echelons of the English game but they couldn’t ask for a better manager than Mark Robins at this moment in time. I took in a Coventry City Under 23 game at the Higgs Centre late last season and that visit was enough for me to come to the conclusion that Mark Robins is the man to lead the club in the right direction. Robins arrived at the match smartly dressed in a suit and the few hundred spectators were aware of his presence. He had an aura about him that displays confidence and authority but he looked humble at the same time. He oozed class and if this man can’t resurrect Coventry City then I struggle to see who realistically can.
I’m full of admiration for the people who have stuck with the club and I’m one of many who have stepped away (for now at least). Coventry is a great City and one day it will have a great club again, I’m convinced of that.
In the meantime.. Up The Sphinx and Play Up Sky Blues