The Expendable Eight Part One

pressley's expendables

With the summer movie season in full flow right now, I bring you Coventry’s Expendable Eight. I picture this film as a Western with Sheriff Pressley casting the Expendable Eight away from his town to never be seen again. There’s a slight hitch as the Expendable Eight cannot simply been cast out though, some other place is going to have to come asking for them so for now they remain in the local jail. Let’s cast our eyes over those Expendable Eight as we await the narrative to come to full fruition. (N.B. The Expendable Eight has nothing to do with the film the Expendables or its sequel Expendables 2, although they both share a grizzled cast of unwanted castaways)

Cody McDonald

It’s fair to say that Cody’s had a tough time in this town that we call Sky Blues. He arrived off the back of an impressive season with Gillingham but largely as back-up to Platt and Jutkiewicz and not the Marlon King replacement that we’d been hoping for. That final season in the Championship was tough for everyone involved and Cody was injured for a large spell right in the middle of it. By the end it felt like we were yet to see the best of him, with a few tantalising tastes, such as in that away match against Hull which put us in a good position before blowing it away against Bristol City.

Last season was supposed to be Cody’s masterpiece. In a league lower and having a proven goalscoring record in the lower leagues it all seemed to add up for Mr McDonald. It started well enough, scoring against Yeovil in the first match, but it seemed he always needed at least 3 or 4 chances to find his range. As soon as Robins arrived it was plain to see that Cody didn’t match the new manager’s archetypal striker role. Rumours also persisted that he lacked the required fitness levels for the new regime.

Eventually he was sent back to Gillingham after being surpassed by McGoldrick and then Leon Clarke as the number one choice as striker and then beaten by Stephen Elliott for the number two position. His time there was short but promising, 4 goals in 7 matches, so he was recalled by the time Steven Pressley was appointed as new manager. However this didn’t lend itself to a new lease of life. He scored one further goal and seemed to play a more marginal role as the season withered away.

So where does Cody head to next? The last rumour was that Rotherham were after him, however little has been heard of that since. He appears to be on high wages which could be a turn off to other League One clubs, many of whom are cutting their budgets yet again. His record isn’t good enough to attract a Championship club who may be able to afford him. He’s stuck really, he’s either getting paid off or completely frozen out Winston Bogarde style. Perhaps an ambitious League Two club with money (i.e. Fleetwood) might take a punt but it seems right now that his wages are preventing his exit.

Gary McSheffrey

McSheffrey is, according to Football Manager at least (take that with a pinch of salt if you haven’t already), our highest earning player. He is also, according to his reception during his final games, the most hated player currently on our books. Yes he’s been transformed from being the local lad who everyone loved to, well, the new Sammy Clingan, just without a catchy nickname like ‘Sideways Sammy’ was.

For many his return to the club has been a failure, lacking that explosive burst of pace that characterised those wild goal-scoring seasons on the left under Mickey Adams. Remember that front three of Adebola, Stern John and our own Gary McSheffrey? However from those sunlit halcyon days and via a decent spell at Birmingham and then a vitriolic loan stint at Leeds he returned, this time at the dark, dark Ricoh Arena and playing a more attritional style of football under Boothroyd.

During those final two seasons in the Championship there were flashes of the player he once used to be. However by the time we were relegated the boo boys were slowly getting ready for McSheffrey, the distractions of Clingan and Hussey probably slowed this process down.

Last season he started off nowhere to be seen but eventually earned his place after Robins’s experiments with Fleck and Moussa as left wingers failed. Although he came in for a lot of criticism by the end of the year, I always felt that he was by far the best option we had available (especially with Bell injured for 90% of the season) and that he provided a decent level of threat from that left flank. His combination play with Blair Adams in the period from December to February was one of many highlights of our season, from my perspective at least. I believe though that a lack of goals, especially with some high profile misses and fluffs, exposed the frustration that the fans had that Gary McSheffrey of 2012/13 wasn’t the one we once knew and loved so much.

What now for McSheffrey? Again his wages are a huge stumbling block for League One and Two clubs, it also makes paying him off that bit more difficult. Again I can’t imagine a Championship club is going to go for him now, but I there maybe a few who are after a decent back-up and remember the old McSheffrey. Despite his period away it’s still difficult to imagine him pulling on another team’s shirt in all honesty. Perhaps Mickey Adams retains a soft spot for him and a compromise on wages can be reached to take him to Port Vale.

Jordan Clarke

Let me take you back to the year 2009 for my abiding memory of Jordan Clarke. It was in a home game against Reading and Coventry were on another winless streak under Coleman. Thrown into the fire of Championship football was a young Jordan Clarke making his sixth league appearance for Coventry (‘young’ perhaps goes without saying with JC). Reading had taken a three goal lead, everyone involved with the Sky Blues felt that horrible sensation of defeat, all too familiar with the club. Jordan Clarke looks despairingly into the stands and meets my glance. At this moment in time I tried my hardest to transmit every single positive energy towards this young full-back. It was also at this moment in time that I decided that Jordan Clarke will one day become an important player at the club.

Flash forward to the final weeks of the 2010/2011 season. Under Andy Thorn, Coventry have steered clear of relegation to the third-tier yet again. The visitors to the Ricoh Arena are Millwall and Jordan Clarke is slowly playing his way into a starting position for Coventry. After being tried at right-midfield and left-back it’s decided that Clarke is in fact a right-back. The first half Clarke spends being partially terrorised by the Millwall left-winger Andros Townsend, one of the problems of Thorn’s diamond formation being a lack of protection for full-backs. At half-time I was beginning to get worried that my prophesy for Clarke was not to be. The second-half though saw Clarke, in my imagination at least, transform from that despairing young man of 15 months ago to Dani Alves. Rampaging forward and combining well with a revitalised David Bell playing to the right of midfield he lay himself down a marker for anyone with the gall to challenge his right-back berth.

What happened next though was that Cyrus Christie took an opportunity to take that right-back spot, afforded to him by an injury to Clarke. Am I saying this was down to voodoo? Perhaps not. Maybe another Coventry supporter with greater spiritual positivity powers made an even greater oath of solidarity to Cyrus Christie? Maybe. Maybe it just so happened that Cyrus had that greater physical and mental edge to overtake Clarke once he got that opportunity? Sounds like some sort of mystic hokum to me.

That’s been Clarke’s problem really, a roadblock the shape and size of Cyrus Christie in his way. Yes he’s had a few opportunities but with Cyrus around he simply can’t get the run of games to fulfill my prophesy for him. With Aaron Phillips now showing his worth with a decent spell at Nuneaton it’s perhaps time to let Jordan Clarke go before he stagnates.

What and where now for Jordan Clarke? Personally I believe would be an automatic starter for the majority of other League One clubs. That is where I believe he’ll end up, so long as he’s been watched by enough scouts or caught anyone’s eye. I also believe he’ll be very unfortunate to end up with a League Two club, although that is still an opportunity very few Coventry academy graduates end up with.

William Edjenguele

Although I have this spiritual connection with Jordan Clarke I can at least understand the reasoning for his release. For Billy Edge though I don’t think letting him go is particularly wise. We saw over the past season both the best and worst of the Edge and I think there is within him the capability to play at least one level higher.

The best of Edjenguele was of a dominating centre-back aerially. He also had a decent level of distribution that is rare amongst other League One centre-backs. His best spell undoubtedly was during that great run during November to December, where he and Richard Wood were the basis of so many of those classic counter-attacking away-days. Wood and Edge also provided something fairly unique in football, two left-footed centre-backs in the same team. Furthermore his nice guy persona made him a fan’s favourite, perhaps excusing several poorer performances.

The worst of Edjenguele was largely a lack of pace, combined with some questions regarding his positioning. These weaknesses though had a lot to do with tactical and strategic choices made during the season, particularly during home games. By playing our defenders further up the pitch and with the full-backs steaming forward and little midfield protection it often led to 2 v 2 situations on the counter, exposing the lack of pace our centre-backs had. However I believe that very few centre-backs in League One could have had the pace required to keep out these counter attacks, many exploited the gaping channels left by our rampaging full-backs.

I’m rather frustrated at this decision as although Billy Edge was not without his faults I struggle to see how we can find someone of similar quality, especially with a lower budget. Even if Pressley didn’t see him as a starter, he surely had some worth as a back-up option. I presume that this choice was one dictated by budget, but it means we’ve lost yet another centre-back. For me consistency amongst the back four is vital in football and can prevent a lot of sloppy defending simply by how it can lead to improve communication, both verbal and mental, across that back four.

For Edge though I can imagine that any League One side, probably aside from those three relegated from the Championship, would seriously consider taking him on. I imagine though that the reality is going to be a move abroad, possibly to the French second-tier or perhaps back to Greece.

Part Two can be read right here

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