Dominic Hyam: The One And Only

This is a player departure that stings. The one remaining regular from Coventry City’s League Two days. From someone who started off looking out of his depth in the fourth-tier to a nailed-on starter for a Championship side, playing key roles in two promotion-winning campaigns during that journey. If anyone has embodied the rise of Coventry City, it is Dominic Hyam.

Brought in to ‘develop and strengthen the club as a whole’ and rather pointedly in Mark Robins’ own words ‘not just the first-team’ Dominic Hyam only made his debut for Coventry City on the opening day of that one League Two season due to the combination of an injury to Jordan Willis and a shortage of alternative centre-back options. Looking nervy and a little unsure of himself, Hyam managed to get himself through that debut but was out of the side after Willis returned to fitness and Tom Davies was signed, not starting another league game until mid-way through February.

After enjoying a decent run in the side as the team found some form to get themselves back in the League Two play-off hunt, a shocking display against Yeovil Town. where he was completely bullied by the Glovers’ attack in a 6-2 defeat looked to have been the last that would be seen from Dominic Hyam that year. That was until another injury to Jordan Willis meant that Hyam was back in the reckoning in time for the team’s play-off campaign. It was in those three crunch games at the end of that year in the fourth-tier that it started to become apparent that Dominic Hyam was a quite a bit better than League Two squad filler.

The following year saw Dominic Hyam start the campaign as first-choice and remain so for the duration of the campaign. Seeming to improve with each appearance at a higher level, Hyam deservedly won the Player of the Year award – even somehow recovering within weeks from a car crash with no impact on his performances.

In terms of his playing style, Dominic Hyam is the kind of defender that is initially hard to detect just quite what he is good at, it is only after watching him over an extended number of games that it becomes apparent how calm, composed and consistent he is. Hyam isn’t blessed with outstanding physical stature, pace nor technical ability, it is his positioning and concentration where he excels. He may rarely produce truly outstanding performances, but it is how rarely his standards drop and how often he keeps things quiet in his area of the pitch that is why Dominic Hyam has been such an excellent performer over five seasons for Coventry City.

The years following that breakout first season in League One saw Dominic Hyam’s mentality come to the fore. Facing extra competition from the summer signings of Kyle McFadzean and Michael Rose, Hyam was in danger of losing his starting place in the side. Instead, he rose to the challenge, forced Mark Robins into adopting a back three and took on the most difficult mantle of playing on the left of the three, despite being naturally right-footed. If it hadn’t been for a stand-out contribution from Liam Walsh in midfield, Hyam could easily have won a second Player of the Year award in a row.

Dominic Hyam’s toughest period at the club came following promotion to the Championship. After initially having seemed to have taken the step up in his stride in characteristic fashion, Hyam’s struggled around the mid-way stage of the campaign as the sheer physical challenge of a tightly-congested second-tier schedule in the midst of the Covid pandemic began to bite. For the first time since those early League Two appearances, Hyam began to look somewhat unsure of himself.

However, that dip in form was soon recovered from, further highlighting Dominic Hyam’s key strength as a professional footballer – his ability to rise to the challenge ahead of him. Hyam was quickly back to the consistent, reliable performer he had largely been for the club for the following campaign. While leakiness at the back has been an issue for Coventry City last year, Hyam was the one member of that defensive unit that it was apparent should be built around.

This is why Dominic Hyam’s departure hurts so much. Other members of the promotion-winning campaigns dropped away as the team’s level improved, Dominic Hyam was the only one who kept on getting better at the same rate as the club did. Leaving aside what this all means in the here and now for Coventry City, this team is not only losing a player of symbolic importance but someone who very much still had a further role to play.

On both an emotional and rational level, there aren’t many players out there quite like Dominic Hyam.

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