After a straightforward victory over a beleaguered Colchester side yesterday Coventry City moved from the bottom of the league, signifying the team’s ascent into positive points for the first time this season. On the field the team played a confident brand of attacking football, combining effective pressing with numbers 1-11 all extremely comfortable with the ball at feet. The first goal came from a passage of play where the target man, Leon Clarke, played a weighted back-to-goal pass to the left-full-back, Blair Adams, who struck a right-footed shot from the edge of the area, parried by the Colchester keeper and in-form striker Callum Wilson tucked away the rebound. It summed up the confidence that has filled the every single member of the side where there wasn’t a single weak link.
Yet look just a bit further from the pitch and you see this wonderful side playing in front of just under 2,000 fans. Look just slightly further and there’s another smaller group watching for free just on top of a hill. In Northampton.
Even ignoring that example, the fact that the club registered its first positive point in September symbolised how bittersweet watching this Coventry side now is. For every victory, every good individual performance there’s the question of ‘how long will this last?’
Looking at the bigger picture for this club is depressing. Where is the plan for the club to return to the city? At this moment in time we have two sides of an embittered rent dispute refusing to speak to each other, yet the prospect of returning to the Ricoh is by far the most tangible option for Coventry City. SISU’s plans for a new stadium have gone quiet, perhaps to improve the confidentiality of bidding for sites but more worryingly perhaps because there is no plan.
For over a year now we’ve been told SISU had been planning to purchase a share at the Ricoh in order to improve the revenues at a club hemorrhaging money for several decades. Almost exactly this time last year it was announced that they had agreed in principle to purchase the Higgs Trust’s share in the stadium but then that went very quiet. Reportedly this deal was vetoed by the council who wanted the owners of Coventry City Football Club to redevelop the area surrounding the Ricoh Arena, a bit of a strange ask of a football club from a council. From this outset it’s clear that both sides wanted very different things the relatively straightforward deal of a football club owning a share in its stadium.
The obvious compromise has always been a fairer rent deal for the club to play at the Ricoh. It allows the club a better chance at making money and delivering a better team to play at the arena. For the council it allows them time to wait for a new party to come in and regenerate the former Foleshill gasworks site. However neither side has been able to countenance ceding their ego and actually making a deal.
Now they both find themselves in a situation far worse off than they were in 12 months ago. For SISU they now find themselves either having to stump up the capital to build a new stadium or sell/liquidate the club. The council’s task of redeveloping the area of Coventry around the arena is now in tatters with a massive white elephant of a stadium with no football club to play in it. The council’s only source of pride thus far has been that they’ve escaped a lot of the blame for failing to negotiate a fair deal with the Football Club.
So whilst another team in our position, playing our brand of football with a positive manager on the rise in the game, might now be looking towards promotion us Coventry fans are in the dark over the future of our football club. For around a month now there has been little indication that either party is willing to speak to the other about a return for the club to the Ricoh and there are, as of yet, now firm plans for another stadium to be built.
For me this makes it difficult to enjoy the football, yes it’s brilliant to see play positively and react to setbacks with character but there’s no sustainability to it. It feels still like the vultures are hovering above this Football Club, waiting to take advantage of our financial losses in order to entice players or even our manager on the cheap. It’s like at any moment things are going to take a turn far more appreciably for the worse. With Pressley at the helm it may take a while for it to set in, and I’m still hoping that there’ll be some good news (i.e. a return to the Ricoh), but it seems like we’re still on that downward trajectory from our Premiership relegation.
Whilst I wanted to write a piece on the impact of Pressley’s positivity has been at the club it’s been difficult. I’ve been trying my hardest to focus only on the football but it’s hard to get this rent row out of the back of my head, particularly when my head’s been in Northampton as a direct result of said row. I remain hopeful that a resolution will come to pass however I think it’s important that we as Coventry fans put pressure on both sides to put their petty differences aside and come to a conclusion that benefits an entire area of the country (I say that as I’m not from Coventry myself) rather than individual parties.