It doesn’t feel like five minutes since the season got underway back in August, but here we are in May with everything done and dusted as far as Coventry City are concerned. Prior to a ball being kicked, I predicted that Tony Mowbray would lead us to a respectable 10th placed finish. Surely we would have taken that given the fact a slender win away at Crawley Town on the final day of the previous campaign saw us avoid the drop to the fourth tier of English football? So, with us actually securing 8th position in League One and finishing just two wins shy of a play-off spot, what do I make of the season? In this review I will look at each month in turn, recapping results and their impact on The Sky Blues’ progress, before airing my views on the highs and lows of another eventful footballing calendar. In addition to this, I will also select my players of the season and (attempt to) step into the manager’s shoes by revealing what players I’d be looking at in the transfer market.
August – Quick out of the blocks
Following a mass exodus of playing staff upon the conclusion of the 2014/15 season, City went into their pre-season schedule with a frighteningly low number of players contracted to the club and they failed to win a game as a result. However, following the signing of teenage striking sensation Adam Armstrong from Newcastle United, any pessimism was swiftly swept aside on the opening day. The then 18-year old lit up the Ricoh Arena on his debut as he notched both the goals in a 2-0 triumph over Gary Caldwell’s newly relegated Wigan Athletic. An evening trip to Rochdale in the Capital One Cup proved to be next in line and that didn’t quite go to plan, the home side progressing to the second round of the competition via a penalty shoot-out after the sides couldn’t be separated in 120 minutes.
That defeat didn’t prove to be a hindrance to confidence levels, however, as Millwall found out. They were the next outfit to falter against the scintillating City attack spearheaded by Armstrong. He added another brace alongside Ruben Lameiras and Jim O’Brien who both registered a goal each in a convincing 4-0 win. To the supporters’ delight, a third successive league win was then recorded versus Crewe Alexandra on home soil, albeit in less emphatic fashion with 3-2 being the scoreline. The opening month was then concluded by two less positive results, a 2-1 defeat away to Walsall and a 2-2 draw at home to Southend. In addition to that, City were handed a couple of major blows as young defender Jordan Willis and influential midfielder James Maddison picked up severe injuries in the aforementioned fixture and they were subsequently sidelined for a lengthy period.
Games played (League One): 5 Wins: 3 Draws: 1 Losses: 1 Goals scored: 12 Goals conceded: 6
Points earned: 10/15 League position: 5th
September – A month of mixed fortunes
The Sky Blues faced a tricky first encounter of the month as they travelled to the Pirelli Stadium to take on a high-flying Burton Albion. With Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men in fine form it was always going to be a test, but Marcus Tudgay and Romain Vincelot’s strikes were enough to send the away fans home with three points and a 2-1 win. Frustratingly, however, inconsistencies started to creep into Coventry’s game and a Paddy Madden goal was enough to seal the deal for Scunthorpe United as they inflicted defeat upon The Sky Blues in the next outing. There is no doubting that our performance wasn’t overly impressive as Mark Robins had done his homework to strategically nullify our potent attacking threat, but some felt that the result was perhaps a little harsh, with a draw being perceived as a fairer outcome.
A home clash with Chesterfield was next on the agenda for Mowbray’s men as they looked to return to winning ways, and they did just that as Adam Armstrong’s sixth goal of the season proved decisive in a 1-0 victory. Despite only breaching the opposition keeper on one occasion, we were dominant throughout and had we been more clinical in front of goal, it could’ve been a much wider margin. The same level of control wasn’t evident in the final clash of the month away to Bury as former City striker Leon Clarke had the final say on the outcome. His technical ability outwitted our back line and he was a nuisance throughout the entirety of the match, firing a double to sink The Sky Blues who could only muster up a consolation goal courtesy of Reda Johnson.
Games played (League One): 4 Wins: 2 Draws: 0 Losses: 2 Goals scored: 4 Goals conceded: 4
Points earned: 6/12 League position: 4th
October – Momentum continues to build
With a loss from the previous outing, the players would’ve looked at the home tie with a struggling Shrewsbury Town as a winnable fixture as they searched for a response. In a very entertaining game, The Sky Blues ran out 3-0 victors with Marc-Antoine Fortune’s penalty adding to yet another Adam Armstrong brace. Fans were delighted following the full-time whistle as they witnessed their team completely dominate proceedings from start to finish. They were also euphoric a week later as a tightly contested affair away at Fleetwood Town was settled rather fortuitously. As time ticked by, it looked like former Coventry boss Steven Pressley was going to earn a point in his first game in charge at Highbury, but he was left bemused as a Richard Wood own goal gifted the visitors a 1-0 win in the dying embers.
As other teams began to respect City’s talents more and more, it was expected that their next opponents Blackpool would travel to the Midlands and set up very defensively. That was exactly what The Tangerines did and they held out to claim a share of the spoils with 0-0 being the result. Dropping points didn’t happen to be the main concern, however, as the colossal Reda Johnson sustained a muscle injury that turned out to be extremely serious and it was revealed that his season was over. Without the Benin international in the heart of defence, City failed to win either of their games away to Rochdale or Swindon Town. The debut of Joe Cole wasn’t enough to unlock an organised Dale back four as a goalless draw played out whilst inexcusable defending saw The Robins score twice in the final five minutes at the County Ground to salvage a point. A remarkable comeback to beat Peterborough United 3-2 on home soil did end the month on a high, however, and Adam Armstrong also reached the 10-goal milestone. The only game where Coventry fell short happened to be versus Yeovil Town in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, losing again via penalties.
Games played (League One): 6 Wins: 3 Draws: 3 Losses: 0 Goals scored: 9 Goals conceded: 4
Points earned: 12/18 League position: 4th
November – City go top of the pile
This month happened to be a very fruitful one in terms of results for The Sky Blues, bar the FA Cup defeat to Northampton Town, as they looked to make their mark in the division. Just three days after ousting Posh, a lively battle against Barnsley was won 4-3 under the floodlights at the Ricoh. Defensively, the display was very questionable, but going forward we wreaked havoc and Ryan Kent and Joe Cole scored either side of Adam Armstrong’s two strikes. With the striker away on international duty, fellow loanee Jacob Murphy started in a central position at Colchester United and it proved to be a masterstroke by the manager as he scored two of City’s three goals in a 3-1 success. Marc-Antoine Fortune notched the other in front of the travelling contingent of supporters to sign off his man of the match performance.
With City’s unbeaten home record still intact, league leaders Gillingham made the journey to the Ricoh determined to put pay to that. However, that proved an impossible task as they met a relentless Coventry attack who put them to the sword by scoring four goals in ten first half minutes to go top of League One. Ben Turner scored on his return to the club, but it was Jacob Murphy who stole the limelight as he achieved his first career hat-trick in the 4-1 demolition. That was the fourth consecutive win for The Sky Blues but they couldn’t extend that run, drawing the next two games versus Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers respectively.
Games played (League One): 5 Wins: 3 Draws: 2 Losses: 0 Goals scored: 13 Goals conceded: 7
Points earned: 11/15 League position: 1st
December – Form thaws as we lose ground
With City now out of all the cup competitions, the league was their only focus as they looked to sustain the early season form. However, a televised game at Bramall Lane versus Nigel Adkins’ Sheffield United saw the month get off to the worst possible start as the hosts ran out 1-0 victors. An incredible amount of controversy did surround the result and fans and players alike were particularly aggrieved when Jay McEveley somehow only received a yellow card after a thuggish challenge on Ruben Lameiras. On the 19th of December, The Sky Blues had an opportunity to make amends versus Oldham Athletic and Aaron Martin’s goal looked to be the winner. To the despair of Coventry, Daniel Philliskirk equalised for The Latics in stoppage time with players protesting again as Reice Charles-Cook looked to be fouled.
Another home game soon followed and 17,779 were in attendance as we welcomed Port Vale to the Ricoh Arena on Boxing day. Supporters were hoping for a belated Christmas present and their wishes came true as James Maddison’s late strike sealed a vital victory. In the final game of December, Tony Mowbray’s men made the journey to Chesterfield hoping to build on their previous triumph. It wasn’t to be, however, but a perfectly executed free kick from Maddison did rescue a point in front of the impressive bank of away fans who erupted into celebration. Despite fighting back to earn a 1-1 draw, it was another cased of missed opportunities in front of goal intertwined with poor defending for The Spireites’ goal.
Games played (League One): 4 Wins: 1 Draws: 2 Losses: 1 Goals scored: 3 Goals conceded: 3
Points earned: 5/12 League position: 4th
January – A rocky start to 2016
A typically hectic month of football saw The Sky Blues take to the field on five occasions, and they made the perfect start to 2016 with a thumping 5-0 away victory at Crewe. In front of a vociferous visiting support, the players put in one of their most accomplished performances of the campaign, Adam Armstrong gaining the most plaudits by securing his first career hat-trick. The next two encounters were then pivotal to any promotion ambitions as Walsall and Burton Albion both looked to bring City back down to earth. Disappointingly for The Sky Blues’ fans, only a single point was won as a 1-1 draw with The Saddlers was followed by a 2-0 defeat to The Brewers that brought an end to our undefeated home record.
As a result of the failure to take advantage of playing teams also fighting for promotion, City went to Southend in their next fixture with confidence evidently at a low. The long trip certainly wasn’t worth it as an insipid, lifeless display saw The Sky Blues fall to a humbling 3-0 away defeat. Back on home soil a week later, fans grew increasingly dissatisfied as a third defeat in succession meant their team continued to tumble away from the top two. Key midfielder Romain Vincelot was also dismissed during the fixture after picking up two bookings, meaning he would receive a suspension as a consequence.
Games played (League One): 5 Wins: 1 Draws: 1 Losses: 3 Goals scored: 7 Goals conceded: 8
Points earned: 4/15 League position: 5th
February – The inconsistencies continue
Coventry only played three games during the month of February and a mixed bag of results left fans sceptical in regards to the chances of rekindling consistent form. In the first outing, a physical battle ensued with Port Vale on a poor pitch, but it seemed as if Jacob Murphy’s strike would be the winner. However, to increase our woes, Vale substitute Sam Kelly popped up with a brilliant leveller to break City’s hearts. Luckily for fans, the pain of that result was soon relieved as a Bury side who were enduring an awful sequence of results came to the Midlands. Chris Stokes, Baily Cargill, James Maddison and John Fleck all contributed with a goal and Adam Armstrong scored another couple as a resounding scoreline of 6-0 was displayed on the scoreboard. With fans praying for that moment to be a turning point in the season, hopes were up in time for the next match versus Fleetwood but things didn’t go as planned as City slumped to a 2-1 loss.
Games Played (League One): 3 Wins: 1 Draws: 1 Losses: 1 Goals scored: 8 Goals conceded: 3
Points earned: 4/9 League position: 6th
March – A month that killed any hope we once had
Another busy month lay ahead as City played seven times in March, but could they forge a way back into the promotion picture? On the basis of the result and performance away to Barnsley on the 1st of the month, the answer would be a firm no. The home side outclassed The Sky Blues and they ran out 2-0 victors, although the damage could’ve been much worse for Tony Mowbray and his players. That defeat was then followed up by a further two poor results as both Rochdale and Shrewsbury Town claimed three points at City’s expense. During this period, fans were losing patience and attendances began to drop for home fixtures as a result. Catastrophically, we had now fallen out of the top six and it looked unlikely that we would we bridge the gap between us and that final play-off spot.
Despite the gloomy outlook overpowering many fans, the Coventry faithful turned out en masse for the seaside trip to Blackpool and they had an undoubted influence on proceedings. An uneven surface led to the game showcasing little quality, but The Sky Blues’ endeavour and determination was enough to haul them over the line with Marc-Antoine Fortune’s goal enough to wrap up a 1-0 win. A goalless stalemate was then played out versus Swindon Town, but the brief undefeated run soon came to a halt as Peterborough United and Colchester United both came out on top in the proceeding fixtures.
Games played (League One): 7 Wins: 1 Draws: 1 Losses: 5 Goals scored: 4 Goals conceded: 9
Points earned: 4/21 League position: 9th
April/May – Too little too late, but pride is restored
As the awful points haul from the previous few months had made the chance of a top six finish incredibly unlikely, Tony Mowbray demanded that his side finished as strongly as possible to restore any lost pride. April looked to be a difficult month on paper with the fixture list dominated by games against top sides, but a respectable 0-0 draw was achieved away to Gillingham in the first of the tough tests. The performance probably deserved more on that occasion and a number of positives were taken into the trip to Wigan, but The Latics got revenge for the opening day defeat to City with a 1-0 win in front of their home fans. Successive home games versus Millwall and Bradford City then saw an unexpected upturn in form, The Sky Blues getting the better of both teams by winning by a margin of one goal in the two respective outings.
With other results in League One going in Coventry’s favour, a play-off place could be still be attained, but only if they prevailed in all three of their remaining games. Any brief dreams of that happening were soon quashed, however, as Doncaster Rovers scored twice with no reply at the Keepmoat Stadium. With just self-image now being the sole motivation for the club, The Sky Blues earned maximum points against both Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic to sign off in style, Adam Armstrong hitting the 20-goal landmark in the latter tie. Those victories ensured supporters remained upbeat going into the summer months after securing 8th place, but Tony Mowbray immediately apologised for his team’s failure to secure at least a play-off berth after such a blistering start.
Games played (League One): 7 Wins: 4 Draws: 1 Losses: 2 Goals scored: 8 Goals conceded: 5
Points earned: 13/21 League position: 8th
The final League One standings
We’ve had an improved season, but how disappointed should we be?
Let’s be honest, after reaching the dizzy height of first place at the end of November, perhaps we got a bit ahead of ourselves. As expectation grew and pressure increased on the squad to finally lift us out of League One, the wheels fell off the promotion bus and we veered off track. Why is that? A host of reasons could be given for the dip in form that transformed from a ‘minor blip’ into a vicious cycle of below par performances and results. Goals dried up, injuries hampered our defensive stability and Tony Mowbray tinkered with starting elevens. We went from a side capable of outplaying any opposition to one that looked devoid of ideas, and as a result, the feeling among supporters became pessimistic as we feared the ‘old City’ and our characteristic self-implosion techniques had returned. Of course, letting such an amazing start to the season go to waste frustrates me and it leaves me thinking ‘what could’ve been?’, but we can’t dwell on that and I’m confident we can sustain a push next time around.
If we are to go the full distance, we need to eradicate our susceptibility to allowing teams at the lower echelons of the division to take points off of us. I’m not saying we should be winning every game of football, and I know playing teams scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table can prove rather difficult, but the silly losses to the likes of Colchester on home soil must stop. We had an outstanding record of defeating fellow promotion hopefuls, but our failure to win the perceived ‘simpler’ games proved to be our downfall. Avoidable mistakes also cost us a handful of points, and whilst I accept that players are likely to make errors from time to time, I just hope we have learnt some valuable lessons. With the manager having a full season in the third tier behind him now, I trust him to stretch the budget to recruit the correct personnel to move the club forward. The signing of Jodi Jones on a four-year deal shows a real intent and Mark Venus deserves enormous credit for ensuring the young winger’s head wasn’t turned by the interest of various Championship clubs. If we can find the right blend between youth and experience, we should be able to look forward to a positive 2016/17.
We endured a few rough patches along the way this season, but plenty of brilliant memories were created. I will never forget the trio of Ryan Kent, Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong terrorising opposition defences at will. The 5-0 win versus Crewe and the 6-0 drubbing of Bury will certainly live long in the memory also, but for me, the main highlight was the buzz that was restored around the club. For years, Coventry City Football Club has been starved of success, or any sniff of it for that matter. However, despite falling short as I’ve explained already, we were given a reason to believe and I can honestly say I enjoyed the season drastically more than recent years. With Tony Mowbray at the helm, I am optimistic in regards to our fortunes in the coming years. Some of the football we were served up was tantalising, and I think that we will see a similar style of play come August, albeit with a more streetwise group of players. The work that has gone on behind the scenes has also improved our structure as a club, with a scouting network now being implemented to help the coaching staff inherit players that fit the mould. Of course, we will still have to rely on loan players to make up the numbers, but Mowbray has already expressed that he wants to be less reliant on them. However, if he can attract a similar calibre of player to what we saw in Adam Armstrong, having them around will do us no harm whatsoever.
The raw talent of these youth players attached to Premier League clubs makes them exciting to watch, and one player we certainly missed after Jurgen Klopp decided to recall him was Ryan Kent. His departure clearly put doubts in the manager’s mind as to whether or not we could continue with a front three, and that is where the experimenting with our forward line began. It almost stopped our rhythm, forcing us to find another way to carve open teams, but that never really happened. Jacob Murphy went through a difficult spell personally and Armstrong couldn’t buy a goal for a period, but how much was fatigue to blame for that? Playing week in week out for a club and then representing your country can take its toll, and with all young players likely to endure a dip in form anyhow, it probably had an effect. With that in mind, I would like us to sign a few more attackers over the summer to increase depth because let’s face it, the likes of Marc-Antoine Fortune were never going to get us the goals we needed. I’m probably in dreamland a little here, but I would love us go out and spend some money on a proven League One striker, the Paddy Madden or Nicky Ajose type of player who we know would bag goals. If we can be more fortunate with injuries at the back and find the net at a constant rate throughout the campaign, we should be challenging at the top end of the table once more.
My players of the season:
When we signed the left-back from Conference side Forest Green Rovers, there was a bit of scepticism surrounding him joining the club. Fans instantaneously berated his arrival by saying that it showed no ambition, but he has certainly proved why he was acquired. To be totally honest, he was probably the best signing Steven Pressley made during his time at the club, and he had a magnificent season. Being ever present in City’s defence until suffering an injury in March that would see him ruled out for the remainder of our games, he consistently impressed with his performances. His genuine delight to be in the starting picture was also clear to see and he soon became adored by the majority of fans who appreciated his willingness to run himself into the ground for the cause.
This man needs no introduction to supporters of Coventry City and he is an obvious inclusion on this list. When he signed on loan from Newcastle United, he came dubbed as having the potential to be ‘the next Alan Shearer’ by some Geordies, but the big doubt was whether or not the teenager could be our main goal-getter. Scoring two consecutive braces versus Wigan and Millwall in his first starts certainly had us waxing lyrical, and he continued to find the net regularly throughout the campaign. His electric pace frightened the most accomplished of defenders and he was a constant menace for us, even during his barren spell in front of goal where he contributed in other ways. ‘Arma’, as he is affectionately known, has a massive future in the game and I am backing him to represent England at first team level should his development continue. He is probably the most natural forward I have witnessed play for a long time, and to register 20 goals in his first full season of professional football illustrates that.
The Scottish midfielder won the official award this season, as well as scooping the players’ player of the season also, and I can’t see much room to argue that. He was a mainstay in the centre of midfield and his ability to control football matches in a metronomic fashion brought so much to the team. Mowbray described him as the ‘oil in the machine’ and alongside Romain Vincelot, he formed an incredible partnership and it will be a real shame to see that break up should he reject the contract to sign for another outfit. In all honesty, however, he deserves to progress his career and if he feels a move would be the best thing to facilitate that then I wish him all the best. He has been a loyal servant to The Sky Blues, dominating the centre of the park with his phenomenal passing ability.
Coventry City had been without a commanding, tough-tackling midfielder for a number of seasons and it had an adverse affect on our capabilities. When we brought the Frenchman to the club from Leyton Orient in the summer of 2015, I was absolutely delighted. It wasn’t only his remarkable beard that had fans drooling, his domineering displays soon assured he would become one of the first names on the team sheet. Throughout the season, he shielded an ever changing back four with real competency and his versatility also meant he actually played in defence himself when called upon. His natural ability to mop up any loose balls in the centre also proved vital in feeding John Fleck, with the pair working in tandem. The former Rangers man was given more scope to probe forward and influence the game as Mowbray was assured in knowing that Vincelot was there to thwart any potential counter-attacks through the middle. With him staying next season, I can envision him having another solid year, potentially as captain.
The young winger is a player that again divides opinion, but for me, he was one of the bright sparks of the season. After joining on loan from Norwich City until the end of the season, he was immediately playing on the flanks for City and I remember his rocket of a strike away at Walsall. He injected further threat into our attacking line and unerring pace meant he could lead the charge as we implemented counter-attacks. His attributes also made him suited to a more central striking role, and when Adam Armstrong was away on international duty, he slotted into that role comfortably. The 21-year old managed to reach double figures on the scoring charts and he also had a hand in a substantial amount of goals also, so perhaps some of the criticism he received was unwarranted. Unfortunately for him, his form did curtail somewhat towards the end of the campaign, but he had already showcased an incredible amount of ability that stands him in good stead for the future. If we could somehow bring him back on loan next season, I would certainly be a happy supporter.
Mowbray axed ten members of the squad, but do I agree with his decisions?
In all fairness, I wasn’t too perplexed when the retain list was released via the club website and I think we were all awaiting Mowbray shipping out a fair number of players. To see that centre-back Aaron Martin would be departing Coventry certainly proved to be the biggest shock and supporters have aired their surprise on various social media platforms. During the 2014/15 season he looked rather suspect in a dreadful back line, but he had improved drastically during this term and some would even argue that he was one of our standout performers. With that in mind, I am a bit gutted to see him leave but Mowbray had admitted that he perhaps lacked a bit of the natural fire and aggression that he wants to see in his defenders. At the end of the day, the manager prefers the physical, domineering central defenders who can eat opposition strikers for breakfast in any aerial duels. We had a player who could do exactly that in Reda Johnson, but his injury record meant that Mowbray understandably doesn’t want to risk keeping the French speaking man-mountain on the books. Despite him being one of the best defensive players in the division when he did grace the pitch, I believe the right decision has been made as far as his future is concerned as the former captain would undoubtedly be one of the highest earners.
Another one of the outgoing players who has divided opinion is 22-year old right-back Aaron Phillips. The academy product made 23 league appearances over the course of the season, but with Jordan Willis now returning from injury and Sam Ricketts negotiating terms, I would have parted company with him also. I can’t deny that during the last month of the season his form was very impressive, but I personally believe he’s not quite good enough to be a starting player in a team chasing promotion. He would be a squad player at best for me, and at his age now, I think it’s the best for him that he seeks pastures new and looks to cement a regular berth somewhere else. Martin Lorentzson, another right-back, was also released after only spending a few months at the club following his move from Sweden. We never really saw enough of him to judge him fully, but considering the coaching staff would’ve seen him on the training ground every day, we can’t argue with the decision. The same goes for Peter Ramage who was sent on loan to Leyton Orient, and also Darius Henderson who will only be remembered for that theatrical slip when through on goal versus Peterborough.
Jim O’Brien’s expected release also came to fruition after a loan move to Scunthorpe and him openly admitting that he’d like to move closer to his home in Barnsley saw his days at City come to an end. It’s a real shame to lose the Scottish midfielder really as his passion and desire were second to none, and that accompanied with great technical ability made him a top player at this level. However, it was evident that Mowbray wasn’t fond of his lack of positional sense and with him unhappy, it is the right move to let him leave. Two of the older heads in Stephen Hunt and Marc-Antoine Fortune have also faced the chop unsurprisingly after unconvincing stints with us, and Conor Thomas’ six-year spell was brought to an end. I feel sorry for the midfielder really after injuries have restricted his progress, but he never did enough to stamp his authority when he did feature. Upon his return from a loan at Liverpool, fans were expecting him to be the next big thing among City’s ranks but I think his leg break has forced him into a shell. It’s obvious that the boy has footballing potential and I wish him all the best with his future, but with him rumoured to be on a decent wage, it is a wise decision to part ways.
Where we need strengthen in preparation for 2016-17
As it stands, The Sky Blues have the following players contracted to the club: Lee Burge, Reice Charles-Cook, Jordan Willis, Bilal Sayoud, Cian Harries, Ryan Haynes, Jack Finch, Ben Stevenson, Andy Rose, Romain Vincelot, Vladimir Gadzhev, Ruben Lameiras, Jodi Jones and George Thomas. The Kelly-Evans twins and Kyle Spence have all been offered fresh terms which they are likely to accept, and midfielder Ivor Lawton is set to be handed a short-term deal to prove his fitness after a long time out through injury. In addition to this, the one-year extension option on Chris Stokes’ contract is to be taken up Mowbray whilst the manager also looks to keep hold of John Fleck. Talks are ongoing with the Scot and supporters are unanimous in wanting him to stay, but it looks more likely that he will leave the club to join a higher division side. Experienced players Sam Ricketts and Marcus Tudgay are also being spoken to regarding their futures, with Mowbray keen to implement both parties into the coaching staff as their playing days are limited.
Looking across our squad as it is at the moment, it’s evident that we need a number of centre-backs. Cian Harries is the only natural central defender on the books, and despite his huge potential, we couldn’t rely on him to start every week at the tender age of 19. Although Reda Johnson has technically been released, he will continue his rehabilitation at Ryton and it has been revealed that Mowbray could offer him a reduced wage package if no other clubs come in for his services. With the likelihood of that happening very slim, he will certainly be looking for at least two players who can play in that position. Former City defender Ben Turner, who also spent a short time on loan with us earlier in the season, is set to be available and Mowbray could be tempted to snap up the 28-year old. Across the rest of the back line, we seem to be covered at left-back with Chris Stokes, Ryan Haynes and Bilal Sayoud all competent in that role, but we seem a little bare on the opposite side. As already stated, Sam Ricketts will probably be used sparingly should he sign and he struggled at full-back during the second half of the season. The fit again Jordan Willis will certainly be the first choice to occupy the right side of defence, but only Dion Kelly-Evans is available as a natural cover. Of course, we have seen that Andy Rose and Romain Vincelot can slot in there if needed, but I would like us to increase the depth.
In the midfield, the imminent loss of John Fleck leaves a massive hole. He is the conductor in the centre of the pitch really, pulling the strings by picking passes at will and feeding the more advanced players. The one player I would be targeting, and I think it is pretty realistic, would he George Moncur from newly relegated Colchester. I have watched him a few times against us over the past few years and he is a great talent at League One level, he could be an option. You then have Vladimir Gadzhev and Andy Rose vying for a place in the team also, and from what I have seen of them so far, they both look very capable. Ben Stevenson will also supplement that area of the pitch and he seems to be held in high regard, but I suspect he will predominantly feature for the under-21’s. The capture of Jodi Jones is remarkably exciting and I am tipping him to play a massive part in any success we may have next season. Within the games he featured in during his loan spell, he showcased that he has a natural winger’s ability to beat defenders and we have a real talent in him. I’d still be searching for a player of similar ilk to take up the other wing, and I would personally play Ruben Lameiras in a more central, attacking midfield role as he isn’t blessed with the natural speed that Jones has. Finally, it is obvious that we need to replace Adam Armstrong’s goals with a couple of quality forwards. Mowbray, you know what to do.