Today confirmed many rumours over the summer that Coventry City are to return to the Ricoh Arena. It’s been a dark era for the club involving the loss of 20 points, a move to a stadium over 30 miles away from the city, a stream of frivolous court cases and a veritable divide in the fan-base.
However today’s announcements have given the club and the fans the opportunity to move forward from the abyss that we had been heading in to. The hope is that the return to Coventry will instil pride and forward momentum for the club at long last.
The Ricoh Arena began as a project to take the club from Premier League strugglers into European contenders, however the financial set-back of relegation from the top-flight led to a series of compromises which turned the 45,000 seater ‘Arena 2000’ into a scaled-back indentikit stadium. Aside from one decent spell in the first season in our new surroundings, the chances of success at the Ricoh Arena were very slim. The various financial dealings which paid for the construction led to a brush with liquidation in 2007, followed by the last-minute arrival of SISU, you know the rest of the story.
Whilst the exile in Northampton was an unqualified travesty, denying many fans the opportunity to see one of the best Coventry City sides since the Robbie Keane days, the return should provide a similar effect to Brighton and Rotherham’s return to their home-towns in recent years. The club was on a long-term negative spiral both on and off the pitch which led to the rent dispute, a lot of the bad work has now been undone. The rental deal should be more favourable towards the club, we have a manager who knows what he is doing, we have the nucleus of a really solid side and attendances will be initially swelled with fans grateful to see their team again.
As Coventry City fans we don’t really know how to be optimistic for the future, generations of fans have seen the team disappoint and decline. The often dead atmosphere at the Ricoh Arena which seemed to engender dismal performances symbolised this sense of decline. Not only has our overall form at the Ricoh Arena been quite poor but particularly in games which have seen swelled attendance figures. A few early good results will banish a few of those scarring memories.
The worry is that the way the current team lack the quality to break down what will undoubtedly be some determined defensive displays from opponents. It may take time for Steven Pressley to figure out the best way to overcome this challenge will be. The old excuses about not showing up to the Ricoh Arena; hard to get to, expensive, Cov only let you down, will be easy to bring out for many of the ‘floating fans’. It is important that the team gives these sorts of fans, the ones who will make a big financial difference. a reason to stay behind the team.
Will those fans who were so entrenched in their views on either side of the dispute be willing to forgive and forget? At away games in particular there have been rumblings by over-passionated fans towards others with conflicting views. If the team continues to disappoint then this issue could come into sharp focus. Overall though, these people are in the minority, a few good results early on will also allow for some collective forgetting.
Whilst we can be a fickle fan-base, examples such as the Crewe Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game show that we can be as quick to giddy joy as we can be to negativity and pessimism. This is our chance now to become one of those clubs which other fans talk about (e.g. ‘Let’s do a Swansea’), the momentum from this wonderful news should make us an unstoppable force. For many this season was about stabilising after a schizophrenic campaign last year, we cannot let this season slip away from us now. The play-offs should be a realistic expectation at the very least.
The best chance to make this return to the Ricoh is if we all unite in getting behind the team. Our stadium is a massive advantage over our league rivals now, let’s make sure it’s used to full effect.
Play Up Sky Blues!