The summer transfer window; the thing that keeps football fans ticking over whilst they wait to watch their team in action again. As withdrawal symptoms start to take hold and rumours of who your club may be signing/selling spread on social media like wildfire, emotions are all over the place. Usually for us Coventry City supporters, the period between May and August isn’t particularly enthralling.
Every season we seem to have a high turnover of players and the first few pre-season friendlies are used to familiarise ourselves with who’s who. With relegation to League Two confirmed before the end of last season, many expected us to sell our star assets almost immediately, but that hasn’t happened just yet. Gael Bigirimana turned down a fresh deal to make Motherwell his new home, but no noticeable departures have happened as of yet. Chris Stokes and the Kelly-Evans twins have agreed new deals, but Wembley hero George Thomas is one of a number who haven’t committed their futures yet. We can only hope.
Without getting too carried away (just look at last summer’s recruitment), it looks as if Mark Robins certainly isn’t messing around when it comes to building a competitive squad. We all know football matches aren’t won on paper, but the players drafted in to this point look strong. Our traditional method of starting off slowly in the market and then panic buying/loaning in the final moments seem to have worn off.
There’s no doubting that we probably will make a late capture or two, but already seeing six new recruits signing on the dotted line and posing for the customary picture with Robins and his favourite jumper conjures up some hope. At a time where the club really needs to change its fortunes, the upcoming season is absolutely critical in shaping the future. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on each signing so far.
This man needed no introduction to the City faithful. During an eight-year spell between 2003 and 2011, the tenacious midfielder made over 250 appearances in a sky blue shirt. Now at the age of 35 and with his 36th birthday in August, experience is definitely one thing he brings to the table. Last season we often lacked an authoritative figure at key moments, but you know exactly what you will get from ‘Doyler’ when he steps onto the grass.
During Portsmouth’s title-winning campaign last season, he was an ever present as captain. With former City man Carl Baker saying that Doyle is still in great shape, I hope he can have such an impact at the Ricoh this season. Tough tackling but with an eye for a pass, he should prove to be a fantastic piece of business. We were crying out for someone in that position who can handle the rigours of fourth tier football. That’s that box ticked.
The signing I am most excited about so far has to be this one due to the sheer fact that we might actually score some goals this season. Whilst George Thomas had a fantastic spell in the second half of 2016/17, finding the net proved difficult all year for City. However, with the improvements shown under Robins and the style of play, McNulty could be a major part of the jigsaw. The manager described him as a ‘natural goalscorer’ and his ratio is respectable.
After loan spells at Bradford City and Portsmouth during a time of mixed fortunes at Sheffield United, the striker is probably grateful to have been offered a fresh venture. Still only 24 years of age, he has plenty of room to grow as a footballer and fingers crossed he can flourish at the Ricoh. I would still like us to bring in another forward, but he has definitely strengthened that department.
The 25-year-old defender agreed a two-year contract with City after his release from Northampton Town and again, he looks to be a decent acquisition. Having won the League Two title with the Cobblers in 2016, it’s another player with a winning mentality that we now have on our books. The supporters at Sixfields Stadium seemed disappointed to see him leave and hopefully that is a good sign for us going forward.
Progressing through the academy system at both Manchester City and Stoke City highlights that he must be capable. In a season where the physical demands on the squad will increase, his aggressive style will be welcomed. Whether or not he cements a starting position immediately remains to be seen, but nevertheless, it’s an extra body in the back line and strength in depth is key if you want to be successful.
Bringing in a player from a Leyton Orient side that suffered relegation to the Conference last season may seem odd initially, but Liam Kelly was a shining light in a dreadful season according to the O’s support. Another leader, he wore the captain’s armband at Orient last season and he spent two years as Oldham Athletic’s skipper before that. It will be interesting to see who gets given the honour at City this season, but it’s pleasing that we have a few players we can choose from.
The prospect of him and Michael Doyle as a pairing in midfield seems to be a good one in this division. Kelly can act as a shield in front of the defensive line, but he chips in with a few goals too which will be important if we wish to make any kind of mark on League Two. With it being another deal that spans more than a year, hopefully it offers us a bit of security and he can be a success. Time will tell.
City supporters have debated about who should be the number one choice between the posts for a couple of years now. Some have called for a more experienced head, but I believe both Lee Burge and Reice Charles-Cook are decent enough goalkeepers at this level. Whilst I do prefer the aforementioned, the introduction of Liam O’Brien to the fray adds extra competition and that should benefit all three players.
I imagine O’Brien will initially provide back-up to the first team, but the 25-year-old will be desperate to impress Mark Robins after he failed to make a competitive appearance for Portsmouth. Loan spells at Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge would have aided his development, but he needs to be playing regular football. Will he get that here? We can’t answer that yet, but he will be targeting that.
Drafted in to play in the U23 side it seems, Dominic Hyam will be one for the future. However, if he impresses at that level he could be thrusted into the heart of our defence and once again his arrival gives us more depth. Similarly to Liam O’Brien, he leaves Reading having never made an appearance for the senior side. He has played senior football during a number of loan stints, but he will see joining the Sky Blues as a big opportunity.
Having been capped for Scotland at both U19 and U21 level there is potential there. I have spoken to a few Reading fans about his abilities and he received mixed reviews. Not knowing much about the centre-back myself, it will just be a case of waiting to see how he develops during the next couple of years.
Overall, the players the manager has brought in so far look to be shrewd signings and I can imagine that it has swayed some people into buying a season ticket. There is still a long way to go in the window and we can expect to see a number of further arrivals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost a few players too. However, even if the inevitable happens and the likes of George Thomas and Ben Stevenson earn a move to a club in a higher division, I trust Mark Robins to replace them.
Although he got sacked at Scunthorpe United, a lot of the players he acquired led them to the play-offs last season. It seems he has an eye for a good player and he knows the division well which was something Tony Mowbray didn’t have the luxury of. Tommy Widdrington is a name that doesn’t get mentioned a lot, but he deserves great credit. He has been drafted in as the Head of Recruitment and he has done his duty well thus far.
We all know how important this season will be and as a club we have to push for promotion. Blackpool will provide hope for us after they achieved that feat last season despite uncertainties off the field. It will be a long season I’m sure and we will be a scalp that every team in League Two will be itching to grab, but we are desperate for a bit of success. The Checkatrade Trophy triumph was amazing, but we need to climb back up the leagues as soon as possible.