Coventry can begin to paint rosy future with morale-boosting Wembley run
15:53 GMT, 19 October 2012
News that Coventry City have been installed as second favourites to lift the Johnstone's Paint Trophy probably passed by without too much notice.
It would have been greeted by stifled guffaws in some quarters – mainly those with Leicestershire postcodes, it must be said, but nevertheless here is a pot that the Sky Blues clearly have a decent chance of lifting.
I realise that last sentence sounds patronising. But it wasn't written to sound as such. Hear me out.
Wembley run: Robins will be hoping to use the cup as a springboard for success
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Standing in the way of an area semi-final in early December are Sheffield United. Not the easiest of ties, but at least it's at the Ricoh Arena.
Now, while new boss Mark Robins may have more pressing concerned than the Blades' visit, I would hope he recognises the value of a decent run in the competition.
For years, Coventry City supporters have had nothing by way of excitement to cheer about.
It has been one slog of a campaign after another. Players sold off to meet mounting debts. One failed adventure after another.
What was it that Paul Fletcher attempted Operation Premier League
I can't remember. There have been so many changes of manager. So many issues, anxieties, problems. So many different negatives.
At last, here is an opportunity for the club to give itself a major boost. A trip to Wembley, dust off the pictures from '87 and all that.
Some younger readers won't recall the Sherpa Van Trophy. Or the Leyland Daf Trophy either, for that matter.
But they had a hugely positive effect on both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City two decades ago.
In the doldrums: The Sky Blues are desperate for a change in fortunes
They were the forerunners of today's
Johnstone's Paint Trophy. A cup to be contested by those teams in
Division Three and Four (as was).
At the time when both of those west Midlands' sides went to Wembley, they had seen better days. Far better days.
were recovering from the depths of despair. A broken club until Graham
Turner's shrewdness in the transfer market allowed a pair of strikers
called Andy Mutch and Steve Bull to revitalise a club on its knees.
Over at St Andrew's, Lou Macari was attempting to do likewise with another club that was slipping in and out of playing consciousness. John Gayle was the unlikely hero on a great day out for around 50,000 Bluenoses at Wembley.
Glory days: A trip to Wembley would bring golden memories flooding back
Both of those teams are regarded with fondness by their respective supporters, basically because winning that competition put some much-needed pride back into the club.
It's no fun, slipping into the third (and fourth) tier of English football.
Particularly for Coventry City's supporters who have had nothing, absolutely nothing, to celebrate of note since that day at Villa Park when their Premier League status was lost.
So I hope whatever Mark Robins does – and I'm convinced the Sky Blues have finally sourced a good, capable manager – I hope he doesn't regard this competition as in any way inferior to the league campaign.
He has plenty of time to mount a charge back into the Championship.
He would do well to give the Johnstone's Paint Trophy his fullest attention. It could be a happy first step back towards giving the club a much-needed shred of self-respect.
Grounds for praise
If you shout repeatedly at a child, it will end up ignoring you. Worse still, disliking you.
If you criticise and do nothing else to a football club, it will accuse you of highlighting negative stories and never the positive.
So, it's time to dish out some praise.
Take a step forward Aston Villa after the news that they offer the third-cheapest match-day experience in the Premier League.
That's good going. And well deserved too if a visit to Villa Park is a cheaper day out than one to the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham.
Generally, the facilities are excellent at Villa Park. Yes, supporters can (and will) moan, but as I'm in the privileged position of visiting stadia for a living, Villa's fans don't do badly.
Grounds for concern: Results aren't great, but it's a cheap day out at Villa Park
You know, Doug Ellis was many things. But let it not be said that he did not place a value on customer service. (As a student, I remember writing a letter to him as part of my thesis. He wrote a four-page reply).
That legacy has been continued by Randy Lerner.
The American has already pumped 200m into Villa, chasing his dream and that of thousands of others.
But he has clearly maintained a degree of benevolence in his patronage of the club. He is not fleecing the fans in an attempt to claw back some of that cash.
The figures speak for themselves. And for that, both he and chief executive Paul Faulkner should be given a pat on the back.