Coventry City’s season began with them unable to play home games due to the state of the pitch, more recently they have received an eviction notice from the stadium and are in the process of being taken over. Anyone would forgive their small squad for being unable to focus considering everything going on around them but instead they are eighth in the Championship with a game in hand on those in the playoff places.
The key man holding things together is manager Mark Robins, who takes his side to face Sheffield United on Boxing Day. In his second spell in charge of the club, Robins has taken City from League Two to the Championship in three seasons, despite the turbulence around him, and kept them in mid-table for the past two campaigns.
He is currently the sixth-longest serving manager in England and is ensuring Coventry continue to evolve. The feeling towards Robins could be seen on Thursday by the responses to the club tweeting to celebrate his 53rd birthday, with many supporters referring to him as “The King”.
He might not be the only King at Coventry after local businessman Doug King agreed a deal to buy an 85% stake from Sisu Capital. Robins has already held positive talks with King about the club’s future. The deal, which would rid the club of debt, is awaiting approval by the EFL. Fans are excited by the prospect of removing the unpopular current owners from the throne.
One of Robins’ most important decisions was to sign the Swedish striker Viktor Gyökeres on loan from Brighton in 2021 and pushing through a permanent deal. During his temporary spell Gyökeres scored three league goals in 19 appearances but since has become one of the Championship’s most-prolific marksmen with 11 goals in 22 matches. Everton and Leeds have been linked with a move for the striker but Robins would be loth to lose him, and with King’s proposed takeover progressing, the manager is confident of keeping his key man. If any team are to tempt Coventry, it is thought a Championship-record fee would be required.
Against West Brom on Wednesday it was Gyökeres who made the difference once more; he dribbled into the area, beating numerous players before being fouled. The striker took on the responsibility to score the 93rd-minute winner from the spot.
Takeovers are rarely the smoothest of transactions but there is a sense of impatience surrounding the “imminent” confirmation of King taking the reins from Sisu. One issue for the incoming owners is that they were unable to secure the Coventry Building Society Arena, which was sold to Mike Ashley who subsequently served an eviction notice on the club. The two parties have come to a temporary agreement that will see Coventry stay until the end of the season, with the club hoping it will result in a more positive relationship.
On Thursday, Coventry agreed a suspended five-point deduction for the postponements against Rotherham, Wigan and Huddersfield. The issue was brought about by Wasps not relaying the turf and it being used to stage rugby sevens during the Commonwealth Games.
Further positive news on Thursday came in the form of the club completing their final payment to HMRC as part of a “Time To Pay” agreement with authorities to help Coventry run in the short term due to cashflow problems caused by the postponements. Six instalments were paid to allow a transfer embargo to be lifted heading into the window.
Only Kasey Palmer arrived for a fee in the last window but smart loan signings were made in the summer, with Callum Doyle joining from Manchester City and Jonathan Panzo from Nottingham Forest. The other two permanent arrivals were youngsters who are yet to feature in the first team. Midfielders Callum O’Hare and Gustavo Hamer arrived on frees and would be expensive to sign now, a testament to the smart recruitment that has taken place. However, the club’s head of recruitment and chief scout, Chris Badlan and Stuart Benthom, left for Blackpool last month. They have already been replaced by the former Tottenham defender Dean Austin to see if he can continue the search for gems with equal success.
The hope for fans is that the takeover will go through and allow them to make signings in January. Coventry face a critical few months regardless of what happens off the pitch but it seems they are in safe hands on it with Robins in the dugout.