Arsenal vs Coventry: More than a game for Sky Blues

Online Arsenal interview members of Keep Coventry in Coventry (KCIC) on what’s happening at their club ahead of this week’s cup tie

kcic coventry

Arsenal vs Coventry City, FA Cup 4th round
Friday 24th January, Emirates Stadium 7.45pm kick off

As Arsenal prepare for the next game, an FA Cup 4th Round tie against Coventry City, the visitors have more than just football on their mind. This week sees the first ever Friday night game at the Emirates and the visit of the Sky Blues sees a repeat of last season’s Capital One Cup 3rd Round tie which in Arsenal came out 6-1 victors. With The Gunners focussing solely on victory and a passage into the next round, Coventry fans will have off-pitch matters on their mind.

Some readers may have seen the plight of our next opponents in the media over recent times, most notably this season as the club have been forced to play their home games at Northampton’s Sixfields stadium, 35 miles away from the Ricoh Arena. Many parties are involved in this and it’s fair to say, they don’t all get along. The main ‘baddie’ in the story being Coventry City’s current owners – Sisu, a hedge fund using money from anonymous investors and who seem determined to get their own way.

As such, the Coventry fans are planning to make their voices heard on Friday night, before and during the game with a series of protests against their current situation. With the game being shown LIVE on BTSport, they should have a good platform to shout from.

To get a better understanding of the current state of the club and what we can expect to see on and off the pitch on Friday night, we invited members of the Keep Cov in Cov campaign to share their thoughts.

Welcome to OnlineArsenal and thank you for joining us for this pre-match interview. What’s the general feeling ahead of this game? Hoping for a cup upset?

For those of us who were at the (in)famous Sutton Utd game when the non-leaguers knocked us out of the FA Cup just two years after we’d won it, we certainly know that cup upsets happen. We’ve got an exciting young team and manager Steven Pressley has shown he can perform miracles, so why not?

Of course this coming Friday night is holds not just the prospect of another cup game against Arsenal but a potential platform for your ‘Keep Cov in Cov’ campaign. You’re here to give us a heads up on your plans for the night. For those who haven’t seen the recent plight of Coventry City FC, tell us a bit about the situation behind this?

How long have you got? Most people blame our owners, the Sisu hedge fund, and many people suspect their actions over the last two years are all about trying to get ownership of the Ricoh Arena on the cheap.

The Coventry City saga makes Lord of the Rings look short, but here goes –
• Until the mid 1990s we were well run and solvent
• 1996 a new chairman decided to ‘have a punt’ on success
• 2001 relegated from the Premiership with something like £60 million debt
• 2005 after more crises moved from our Highfield Road ground to the Ricoh Arena as tenants with the Arena owned by ACL (Arena Coventry Limited), a joint venture between Coventry City Council and a local Charity
• 2007 CCFC was taken over by Sisu, a hedge fund
• 2010 with the global financial crisis hitting Sisu hard, Sisu’s owner Joy Seppala took direct control
• 2012 Sisu declared the rent being paid to ACL was too high and stopped paying it
• 2012 Relegated to League 1
• 2013 Sisu declared they are going to build a new stadium in ‘the Coventry area’, but not in the City itself
• 2013 club went into Administration
• 2013 Sisu relocated the club to Northampton, approved by the Football League for a period of 3 to 5 years

• Today – CCFC has been described as a basket-case. Currently:

– The crisis continues to be played out in the courts and media, with the next phase being a Judicial Review Sisu has sought against the Council but that won’t happen for months
– Sisu continue to say they will build a new stadium but have not purchased land, engaged in discussions with planning authorities nor submitted a planning application
– Our owner is so secretive there is no publicly available photo of her so we don’t even know what she looks like
– The vast majority of City fans are boycotting games at Northampton and attendances there are hitting record lows with an average of around 2,000 including visiting fans, but there’s been a massive increase in numbers going to away games
– A generation of new football fans is being lost and the heart is being ripped out of our club
– There is no indication of when, if ever, we will return to Coventry

It seems that the council have done everything they can to support their local club but Sisu are intent on having it all their own way. Can the council do anything else?

As it stands, the Council has offered a short-term and greatly reduced rental offer for CCFC to return to the Ricoh so Sisu could pick up the phone and say ‘yes’. While most people blame Sisu for the current mess, Sisu and a small minority blame ACL and the Council. But none of the parties involved, including the spineless Football League, have covered themselves in glory. KCIC will be launching a campaign for an Independent Inquiry to use Coventry as an example of problems facing football in this country, when owners can do pretty much what they want with no regard for the heritage and identity of a club or the interests of its supporters. For us it would also call to account all those responsible for the mess we are in and reveal the true facts of what has gone on.

So what can we expect to see on the night? Chants? Banners? A peaceful protest I hope!

We always say the only people who will benefit from any trouble is Sisu because they can then brand us as hooligans. Everything we have done so far has been 100% peaceful and that’ll be the same at the Emirates.

The plan is:

  • On 35 minutes – hold up signs saying ‘WHY?’ – The link is Northampton is 35 miles from Coventry and the question is ‘Why has the mess we’re in been allowed to happen, and why aren’t we playing in Coventry where we belong’. Aim is also to sing: ‘I wanna go home, I wanna go home, Back to the Ricoh, the Ricoh’s our home’
  • On 61 minutes – hold up signs saying ‘WHEN?’ – The link is the legendary Jimmy Hill became manager in 1961 and started the Sky Blue Revolution taking us from the old third division to the top flight. The question is ‘when will this madness end and we return to our home’. Aim is to also sing our unique anthem, the Sky Blue song, which Jimmy Hill wrote and contains the lines ‘Let’s all sing together’ and ‘We’ll fight till the game is won’ which is what us fans need do to get us back to Coventry.

In terms of matchday itself, what can we expect from the players on the pitch? CCFC certainly seem to have a respectable position in League One right now, all things considered.

Given all the off field problems, a paper thin squad and inability to buy players, manager Steven Pressley is performing miracles. He has a clear view of how football should be played – pressing and passing – and is getting that into what he calls the players’ DNA. He has put faith in young players who have come through the club’s academy and it’s working. We’ve scored 55 goals in 26 League games and if it wasn’t for a 10 point penalty imposed pre-season, related to Administration, we would be in the play off places. Hopefully the players will enjoy the experience because they certainly deserve a reward for the way they’re performing in really difficult circumstances.

The last time the 2 teams met, it was the Capital One Cup 3rd round and it’s fair to say that Arsenal cruised into the next round with a 6-1 win. What will be different this time?

We have a much more settled team, an excellent manager, we can score goals, are unbeaten in the last five game games and away form is really good. There’s also a real resilience and never say die attitude with the team – in Saturday’s game at Preston our equaliser came on 90+7 minutes. So what could possibly go wrong!

Which Coventry players should we look out for? Who is going to cause us the most trouble?

Of most interest are probably our young home-grown players. Sadly, the most exciting of these – striker Callum Wilson with 14 League goals already this season – is out injured. Right back Cyrus Christie has attracted attention and is likely to move on in the summer. Jordan Clarke, Connor Thomas, Jordan Willis, Billy Daniels and Aaron Phillips (son of Coventry FA Cup winner David Phillips) may not all play but are all young and with bags of potential. Also, look out for Belgian Franck Moussa who has scored some stunning goals this season.

And which Arsenal players could cause the most panic amongst your Coventry team?

All of them. As we’ve slipped down the divisions what you realise when you play teams at the top is that the biggest difference is speed and movement. Last time at the Emirates as the game went on you could see our players looking increasingly lost as Arsenal attacks came at them from all over the pitch.

Prediction for the final score?

As long as I have a couple of pints before kick off I’ll be confident of a 2-1 victory – but if I was a betting man I’m not sure I’d put money on it.

From everyone at OnlineArsenal, we wish you the best in your fight to keep Coventry in Coventry. It’s terrible to see such an established club get dragged through such troubles and yet again caused by oversees owners who know nothing about football. Hopefully any Arsenal fans reading this will show their support on the night aswell. As for the game though…#COYG

I’m sure everyone reading this will agree that the Coventry cause is one that we can all appreciate and sympathise with. Most Gooners would agree that a power hungry, money laden investor is not always welcome. We have been lucky so far, others haven’t.


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