Sky Blues strengthen as Robins recruits

Although the loan market remains open, the window for permanent transfers slammed shut on Thursday evening, bringing an end to the drama and pandemonium that comes with it. Despite losing 28-goal Marc McNulty to Reading, Coventry City did manage to keep hold of their prized asset – Tom Bayliss.

Whilst Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media went into meltdown with rumours of Premier League interest, plenty of supporters were fearing the worst. The sale of James Maddison back in January of 2016 was announced on the final day of the window with a minute to spare, so we had experienced the feeling before.

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So, when the club revealed at 4:59pm that a player was leaving, hearts were in mouths. However, the brief panic quickly disappeared as it was announced that Peter Vincenti was off to League Two newcomers, Macclesfield Town. No disrespect to the winger, but he won’t be much of a miss as we strive for a fruitful season back in the third tier.

On the whole, Mark Robins and the recruitment team have done a good job this summer and they deserve great credit. They did all they could to keep McNulty, but when you’re in the lower echelons of the Football League, it is incredibly difficult to keep hold of such prolific players. All the other departures have been expected ones with reasonings that supporters can understand.

We have also tied down some of the star performers from last season to long-term contracts, and we have strengthened in areas that needed reinforcing. Some would argue that we still need another centre-back with Rod McDonald joining AFC Wimbledon, but Tom Davies is now available after his suspension which aids our cause. There’s still time to work on loans anyway, so we’re in a very good position.

Below is a quick overview of our summer business and what I think of each player leaving/joining the Sky Blues…

Our new arrivals…

Zain Westbrooke

The first of City’s newly recruited players, Westbrooke made the move to the Ricoh Arena from Brentford back in May with plenty to prove. Having once donned the royal blue of Chelsea as a youth player, the central midfielder was touted as a potential replacement for Tom Bayliss by a minority of fans.

With Bayliss now staying put and Tony Andreu returning to fitness, it seems as if the 21-year-old will have to be patient for his opportunity this season. Having impressed the management staff during his trial period, he adds depth to what looks to be a very strong City midfield – something which we weren’t blessed with before Robins’ return to the midlands.

Reise Allassani

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Image courtesy of Danielle Edwards Photography

Similarly to Westbrooke, Allassani joins the Sky Blues having progressed through the academy system at a Premier League side. Having risen through the Crystal Palace youth system and representing England at U16, U17 and U18 levels, it seemed as if the winger was edging towards a bright future after he signed a professional deal at Selhurst Park as a 16-year-old.

Unfortunately, injury hit and he was forced to drop to non-league to rekindle his career. After spending a season at Dulwich Hamlet and proving his worth, Robins identified him as a player with huge potential and he was snapped up. Being likened to Jodi Jones in style, he could prove to be an important figure throughout the 2018/19 campaign.

Junior Brown

Another risk given the fact he suffered a nasty injury whilst at Shrewsbury Town last season, but he arrives having been of the Shrews’ best performers over recent times. As a winger who has been converted into a full-back, he offers plenty going forward and he looks to be defensively capable enough to deal with the rigours of League One, a division he is familiar with.

The left-back position caused City some issues last season as the manager couldn’t decide between Chris Stokes and Ryan Haynes, but the signing of Brown should bolster our chances. With experience on his side too, the 29-year-old will be hoping to put his injury nightmare behind him and help his new team towards a successful season.

Jonson Clarke-Harris

A familiar face to the City faithful, Clarke-Harris upgraded his loan deal to a permanent one this summer having joined from Rotherham United. Having progressed through the academy at Coventry before being shipped out, he will be determined to show everyone at the club why he deserves to pull on a sky blue shirt.

Still only 23, the striker has a lot of room for development and he adds depth to the striking department which is still lacking in goals. Despite not being prolific during his temporary spell at the Ricoh last season, he showcased that he has enough about him to cause problems for opposing defenders. Whether or not he will feature too regularly remains to be seen, but it’s another decent option.

Bouwe Bosma

At 6 feet 2 inches tall, the 21-year-old midfielder offers some height in the middle of the park. However, he was drafted in from Lewes FC as someone who would play a part in the U23s side under Jason Farndon. Since then, he has rejoined Lewes on a one-month loan deal, allowing him to further his development.

Abu Ogogo

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Perhaps the biggest statement of intent in terms of incomings, Ogogo joins Coventry with a reputation as one of League One’s standout talents. Having captained Shrewsbury Town to the play-off final in the division last season, the combative midfielder is a natural leader who could well replace Michael Doyle as City skipper when the veteran hangs up his boots.

The 28-year-old has made almost 400 appearances in the Football League, so he has a wealth of experience and knowhow. That could be pivotal as City look to progress on the field, and the signing generated plenty of excitement on social media. With great reviews from fans of his former clubs, he could become a favourite at the Ricoh Arena if all things fall into place.

Dujon Sterling

Part of England’s U19 squad for the European Championships alongside Tom Bayliss this summer, Sterling is a player who is very highly rated at Chelsea. He made his debut for the Blues last season when they overcame Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup, and the defender will be determined to kick on after signing a season-long loan deal with City.

He worked with Adi Viveash at Chelsea and he would have played a huge part in recruiting the 18-year-old. Capable of playing further forward as a winger, Sterling gives Robins plenty of options and that will be very handy throughout the season. The youngster will undoubtedly be tested physically, but he will push Jack Grimmer all the way for a place in the starting 11.

Morgan Williams

Similarly to Bosma, Williams was identified as a player who can step into the U23s setup with the Sky Blues. The 18-year-old signed a two-year deal following an impressive season with Mickleover Sports, with his performances rewarded with a place in the 2017/18 Northern Premier League Team of the Year.

Brandon Mason

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Image courtesy of Danielle Edwards Photography

Drafted in to compete with Junior Brown for the left-back position, Mason joins with great pedigree having represented Watford from a young age. He made his Premier League debut against Tottenham Hotspur in January 2017 and he was handed his first start less than a week later versus Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup.

Blessed with great pace and technical ability, the 20-year-old will be eager to impress in Coventry having signed a two-year-contract. With him and Brown both available for selection, the Sky Blues look to be in a better position in that department in comparison to last season.

Jordy Hiwula

Despite the manager insisting Hiwula wasn’t the ‘direct replacement’ for Marc McNulty, the 23-year-old could thrive under his new boss if he is given a regular starting berth. Whilst part of Manchester City’s academy, he proved that he knows where the net is, but he never made a senior appearance for the Citizens before signing for Huddersfield Town in the summer of 2015.

Loan spells at Wigan Athletic, Walsall, Bradford City and Fleetwood Town then followed before he was announced as a City player this summer. Despite his goal scoring record not being overly spectacular, he is a versatile forward who boasts pace, power and skill. Like McNulty, he could flourish under Robins if confidence is placed in him. Fingers crossed he can be a big figure in our campaign.

Dexter Walters

Another of the club’s signings that were made with one eye on the future, Walters joins from Tamworth on a contract until 2020. The 19-year-old will offer an option on the wing for the U23s and he will be looking to catch the eye of the manager in order to force himself into first-team plans.

Amadou Bakayoko

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Whilst the reaction to Bakayoko’s arrival wasn’t one filled with excitement on social media, he has the attributes to be a success in League One this year. Another player who could progress with a run of games and some coaching from the manager, the 22-year-old deserves a chance to prove his worth in a sky blue shirt.

David McGoldrick joined with an underwhelming scoring record and Marc McNulty took a while to find his feet, but they turned out to be phenomenal pieces of business. At this level, every transfer is a calculated risk and you can only hope that Bakayoko will be a diamond in the rough.

Sam McCallum

At only 17 years of age, the defender will be eligible for the U18s and U23s this season after joining the club on deadline day. The full-back joins after representing the V9 academy this summer, and he will continue his progression with the Sky Blues after putting pen-to-paper on a three-year deal.

The players who have moved on…

Ryan Haynes (permanent to Shrewsbury)

I still remember seeing the defender make his debut at home to Brentford in the 2012/13 season, and he looked impressive even though he was sick on the pitch at one stage. Tipped to be another bright prospect from our academy, Haynes put in some good performances in a sky blue shirt, but he was never able to hold his spot down on a regular basis.

Often susceptible defensively, many supporters wanted to see him play further forward but that never came to fruition. It’s a shame things haven’t worked out for him under Mark Robins, but it wasn’t a surprise to see him offloaded. Hopefully he can go on to have a good career with the Shrews, but he isn’t a huge loss to the Sky Blues at this stage.

Marc McNulty (permanent to Reading)

The loss of McNulty was a real blow and not having his goal scoring ability around the place could cost us dearly come the end of the season. Natural finishers who guarantee you goals are hard to find – especially at this level – but it was inevitable that he was going to attract interest having stolen most of the headlines during City’s promotion-winning campaign.

Despite not finding the net on a regular basis during a difficult opening few weeks in the midlands, the Scottish striker went on to prove the doubters wrong and he deserved his move. It would’ve been a huge bonus had we managed to keep him, but he is now fighting for a place at a higher level and the money will be better too – you can’t blame him.

Chris Stokes (permanent to Bury)

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After signing for the Sky Blues from then National League Forest Green Rovers, supporters were unsure as to whether the defender could make the step up to the Football League. However, during his time here, the 27-year-old displayed enough talent to make him a consistent performer in a City shirt. He was an important figure in 2015/16, but an injury suffered at Blackpool had a huge affect on his development.

Ever since he returned from the lengthy layoff, Stokes seemed to lose some pace and he never quite reached the same standards again. Having said that, he still put in plenty of commendable performances at both full-back and centre-back, playing his part in both the Checkatrade Trophy and Play-Off Final successes. As a fans’ favourite it’s a shame to see him move on, but he would’ve been down the pecking order so it’s a good deal for him.

Stuart Beavon (loan to Wrexham)

Apart from scoring on his City debut against Bolton Wanderers, Beavon proved to be a poor piece of business as Russell Slade allowed Marvin Sordell to go the other way and join Burton Albion. Brought in to provide more firepower, Beavon struggled to do that and his goal scoring record was nowhere near good enough to warrant a place in the team.

You could never fault his work rate or desire, but he was signed at the wrong end of his career and he was just not cut out for this level of football anymore. This loan move suits all parties as he can go and get minutes under his belt before leaving the Sky Blues on a free next summer you would suspect.

Callum Maycock (loan to Macclesfield)

One of the latest products to rise through the youth system at the club, Maycock has featured for the senior team on a few occasions and this move allows him to continue his development. At 20 years of age, his spell at Moss Rose could make or break his Coventry City career, but he now has the opportunity to flourish in League Two and get some experience into his legs.

Rod McDonald ( permanent to AFC Wimbledon)

McDonald deserves great credit for helping City achieve promotion and his performances in the first half of the season were superb, but his form dipped and he fell out of Robins’ favour as a consequence. As a centre-back he looked strong alongside the more athletic Jordan Willis, but he always seemed to lack the aggression needed to really cement himself as a leading figure in the side.

His move away from the Sky Blues may have come as a shock to some people, and we are now undoubtedly a little light in the heart of defence. With no replacement drafted in as of yet, it will be interesting to see whether or not the manager signs a defender on loan or whether there is a potential free agent out there. McDonald would’ve been a dependable option this season, but we have to trust Robins’ judgment and wish him well.

Peter Vincenti (permanent to Macclesfield)

I have to admit, when Vincenti left Spotland for the Ricoh Arena, I was excited to see how the experienced attacking midfielder would stamp his mark on our team. Having seen him tear us to pieces on numerous occasions in a Rochdale shirt, this seemed like a shrewd piece of business at first. However, things didn’t quite work out for ‘big Pete’ and he won’t be remembered for his stint with the Sky Blues.

Injuries hampered his progress, but when he did feature he failed to take his chances and he ended up being a bit-part player. Now 32 years old, it makes perfect sense to offload him as he doesn’t fit in to the style of football we are trying to play. There is no doubting that he can be a handful on his day, but he didn’t have many of those days at Coventry – not a loss at all.

Reasons to be optimistic…

Let’s face it, this summer has been the best in the club’s recent history without a shadow of a doubt. We won promotion at Wembley in front of almost 40,000 City supporters, most of our key players have been tied down to longer term contracts and there is a real feel-good factor amongst the sky blue faithful. Mark Robins is a passionate manager who wants us to succeed, and he has been an inspiration since his return.

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Whilst losing McNulty will leave a sour taste in the mouth if we fail to score too freely, there is reason to believe we can push for another play-off spot this year. The core of our squad stayed put and we have added strength in depth in most positions – you only have to compare this group of players to the one we had during our relegation nightmare. It’s on a different level.

Tony Andreu has been a revelation during pre-season as well and the Frenchman will be like a new signing, as will Jodi Jones when he returns from his injury layoff. Both of those players have the potential to light this division up and they will be instrumental to any success. The aforementioned of the pair found the net last weekend versus Scunthorpe United and he will link the midfield and attack.

Further back in the midfield we have far superior options than plenty of our opponents in League One. Michael Doyle’s presence on a football pitch is unprecedented, but you also have Liam Kelly, Abu Ogogo and Tom Bayliss who all bring a lot to the table. I wouldn’t want to be the manager having to pick between them, but it’s a great position to be in.

Then you look at our back line, and putting that Yeovil game to one side, we had one of the meanest defences in League Two last season. Jordan Willis is proven at the higher level we now find ourselves playing at, as is Junior Brown and Jack Grimmer. Our other defensive players may have to become accustomed to the third tier, but we have enough there to work with.

Nobody is kidding themselves as we all acknowledge that League One is a very difficult league to compete in, but we are on the crest of a wave at the moment and I am praying that this momentum continues. An opening day defeat on home soil wasn’t the start we all wanted, but I remain confident that things will fall into place. We have to trust the manager and keep backing the lads – that’s all we can do.

Play Up Sky Blues.

2 thoughts on “Sky Blues strengthen as Robins recruits

  1. Very well written article and suggests a great deal of knowledge of the incoming players – how do you do it? Robins and the recruitment staff deserve praise for selecting a good blend of experience and exiting, young talent. No one should expect instant promotion from League One, but the current squad should give us hope of achieving that goal next season.

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