INTERVIEW: Marc McNulty on an ‘Incredible’ season at Coventry City and his move to Reading

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20-goal-a-season strikers are not easy to come by, but Coventry City struck gold last season with Marc McNulty. The Scottish forward made the move to the Ricoh Arena on a free transfer and supporters were unsure as to how he would fare, but he ended up rattling in 28 goals as the Sky Blues secured promotion to Sky Bet League One.

As the season progressed, ‘Sparky’ grew in confidence and his rich vein of form spearheaded Mark Robins’ men to an immediate return to the third tier. Having developed a formidable partnership with Maxime Biamou, the 25-year-old was catching the eye of various media outlets, with the play-offs allowing him to showcase his talents live on television.

With success comes added speculation, and it soon became apparent that it would not be easy to fend off interest from clubs in a higher division. Despite Coventry City knocking back a couple of bids, McNulty finally joined Reading on a four-year deal on the 6th July 2018 in a deal rumoured to be worth £1.2 million.

Now having made the move to the Royals, I caught up with the striker to reflect on that phenomenal season with the Sky Blues, and how the decision was made to leave the midlands. For the full interview, please click the soundcloud link below:


 

Image courtesy of Danielle Edwards Photography – http://www.danielleedwardsphotography.co.uk/2441539-football

 

INTERVIEW: Adam Armstrong on his time at Coventry City, Tony Mowbray and the Toulon Tournament

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When Adam Armstrong ventured out on loan to Coventry City during the 2015/16 season as an 18-year-old, supporters were unsure what to expect of the young striker. However, the Newcastle United academy graduate went on to score 20 goals in League One as the Sky Blues narrowly missed out on a play-off spot.

That impressive goal haul earned him temporary switches to Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers, allowing Armstrong to test himself in the Championship. Mixed fortunes were experienced before he linked up with former Coventry boss, Tony Mowbray, this time at Blackburn Rovers for the second half of the 2017/18 campaign.

Having netted nine goals to help Rovers secure promotion to the second tier and representing England’s U21s during the summer’s Toulon Tournament success, Armstrong is eager to impress during pre-season as he trains with his parent club. Nobody knows what the future holds for the now 21-year-old, but he is building a reputation as a man who knows where the net is.

I had the opportunity to chat to Armstrong about his time at Coventry, as well as his recent achievements with both Blackburn and England. The full interview is available to listen to below:

 

INTERVIEW: Tom Davies on Coventry City’s promotion-winning campaign

Following his arrival at the club in the summer of 2017, Tom Davies had to bide his time before breaking into Coventry City’s defence, with Jordan Willis and Rod McDonald forming a formidable partnership. However, the 26-year-old kept his head down and he was determined to prove that he could play his part as Mark Robins’ men aimed to make an immediate return to Sky Bet League One.

As the season progressed, Davies began to display the qualities needed to earn a regular place in the starting line-up. He quickly gained a reputation for being a combative centre-back who could comfortably handle the rigours of Sky Bet League Two, and he went on to make 26 appearances in a sky blue shirt either side of an injury that kept him out of the side for six weeks.

Davies’ form ensured he was one of the first names on the team sheet during the final stages of the campaign and he played a pivotal role in pushing the team into the play-offs. However, during City’s semi-final home leg against Notts County, he was involved in an incident off the ball and was subsequently handed a three-match retrospective ban, meaning he had to watch on as the Sky Blues triumphed at Wembley Stadium.

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On missing out, he said: “It was gutting. Having to ring my Dad to tell him about the ban was difficult – it certainly wasn’t a nice feeling. You can’t be selfish in football though, and everyone at the club wanted to get promoted and that’s what we have achieved. I may have missed out on a semi-final and then the final at Wembley, but we have done what we set out to do this year so I’ve got to be happy with that.

“When I came in during the summer, promotion was what the gaffer talked about. It’s notoriously tough to do that (getting out of League Two at the first attempt), but with the players that we’ve brought in and the other lads coming through, we managed to do it and it was just unreal to do it for the fans.

“There were a few blips and because the league is so tight, one time we were up to third and then we dropped down to eighth or ninth shortly after. But, with players like Tom Bayliss and Sparky (Marc McNulty), we were always confident we could get the job done. I think when you have the quality of players we have at the top end of the pitch, you have to be.”

Although Davies would have been frustrated having to watch the 4-1 victory away to Notts County and the Wembley triumph over Exeter City from the sideline, he admits he was very impressed with how the squad performed and handled the pressure of the occasion. The Sky Blues scored both in first matches before going on to win, meaning in the 29 games where they have opened the scoring, they finished the season unbeaten with 27 wins and two draws – a remarkable stat for such a young team.

The central defender believes that the academy graduates who have made the step up to the senior squad have been crucial in securing success, but he admits that the experienced professionals have been imperative too in what was a long, hard season. City’s game management has dragged them over the line, and with the scorching heat beating down on the Wembley turf during the final, their approach to the fixture prevailed once more and Davies wasn’t surprised.

He said: “We were unbelievable, especially in the second half of the final which was some of the best football we have played all season. That comes from the manager and Adi Viveash as they are very good at instilling how much things mean, not just to the lads themselves, but the whole City. You could see when we came out for the second 45 that he had spoken well at half-time to get the lads’ heads on it.

“It’s well documented that we have a young squad and you’ve got people like Bayliss and Jordan Shipley who have come in and played over 30 games each this season. That’s an unbelievable achievement for those lads and they have been helped massively by the management.

“You’ve then got your experienced pros like Michael Doyle and Liam Kelly to talk them through games, but what all the youngsters have done this season is incredible. They will go on to have good careers in the game and that is testament to Coventry City and the academy here.

“The lads that have stepped up have been a breath of fresh air and it adds a youthfulness to the team, but it’s refreshing to know that the club has such a productive youth system and everyone is reaping the rewards.

“We don’t have too much contact with the academy , but there are very good coaches and people here. It’s like a family which creates togetherness and unity within the team. If that starts at the lower levels, the lads are going to be nurtured correctly and that filters up into the first team.”

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With two products of the academy finding the net in the play-off final in Jordan Shipley and Jordan Willis, the youth system came up trumps again, but Davies was surprised to see the latter curl one beyond Christy Pym in the Exeter goal. Jack Grimmer, a fellow defender and a close friend of his, then wrapped up proceedings with a superb finish, but Davies has joked with them about their strikes.

“We’ve been saying it since they scored, but I never saw those two goals coming! They are top players who have been solid all season, but when Jordan got the ball I was thinking ‘pass it, I don’t want you shooting from there’, but he’s just whipped one into the corner.

“Then, my boy Grimmer looked absolutely knackered so I think he has swung a left foot at it and it’s flown into the top corner. I said to him that he was trying to waste time by putting out for a throw-in, but it’s ended up going in. He has been getting some stick, but he will never forget that.

“I’m just buzzing for the boys. For them two to score against Stoke in the FA Cup and to do it in a Wembley final is unbelievable, so they’ve stepped up on a big occasion, pulled one out of the bag, and they will always remember the day.”

Around 38,000 Coventry City supporters made the trip to watch their team compete under the famous arch, and with thousands coming out to celebrate with their heroes during Wednesday’s open-top bus parade, the potential of the club was showcased once more and the backing has been overwhelming for the players and staff over the past 10 months according to Davies.

Throughout the season, there has been a real bond between the players and the fans, something which Davies is keen to strengthen. The togetherness in the changing room has also been widely reported and the defender is loving life as a City player, touting Mark Robins’ recruitment as one of the main reasons why there is such a powerful sense of unity at a club which hasn’t had that for a while.

He said: “I think the gaffer has recruited well in terms of bringing in strong characters. Last season, the lads were losing more than they were winning, and that makes it hard because you have a disconnect with the fans and people stressed. Bringing in winners has helped massively, and you turn up to work every day to do a job that we all love – there is no reason not to be happy.

“People like Doyler are worth their weight in gold and he is a superb captain. On the day of the final, he text me to say that he was thinking of me for missing the game, and little things like that, he does. Those touches are great and he is one of the biggest factors as to why the lads got themselves over the line.

“He is an angry man and he can be hard work out on the pitch, but he only does it because he wants the best for his teammates and he wants it for Coventry City. He is a born winner and he wants success in everything he does, and that’s why he came here, because he wanted another promotion.

“Having figures like that in the changing room does make a massive difference. You want to do well for him because it means so much to him. That’s why the team spirit is so good, due to those people who drag everyone else through. It is invaluable.”

“From a personal point of view, I have made some great friends here and I look forward to coming in to work. Generally, it’s a great club to play for and the boys in the changing room make it like that, so to round it off at Wembley was unreal. It’s probably the best way to go up, so to get that done and share it with the fans was excellent.

“I didn’t really understand the level of support that we had until the final and the bus parade, but when we pulled into the city centre you could see thousands of people lining the streets – it was quite emotional really. It was clear how much it means to fans, and to be a part of that on Wednesday was phenomenal.

“Hopefully the success generates more support next season and it would be great to fill the Ricoh out a bit more. It means as much to the players as it does to the fans and we all want the same thing, to be successful with Coventry City. If we can do that, there’s no reason why supporters won’t continue turning up and singing like they always do – it’s an amazing feeling when we are all in it together.”

With a few weeks to go until preparations begin for the 2018/19 Sky Bet League One campaign, Davies is going to enjoy a short break before returning to training raring to go. Having won promotion with Portsmouth in 2016/17, he is relishing the opportunity to play in the third tier and he fully believes that the Sky Blues can compete at the top end of the table.

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Howarth – Press Association

He acknowledges that keeping hold of key players will go a long way in ensuring the team are suitably prepared, but he is just looking forward to testing himself at the next level whilst having fun at the same time, particularly on social media where he has quickly become a cult hero.

“I’m so happy and relaxed here that I want to just be myself, and the fans seem to like that so I’m having a great time. I like to have a laugh on social media with the fans as they deserve the success as much as we do, so we can share it all together which is a lovely thing to do,” he said.

“I’m not touching any more Budweiser for a while now as I’ve had enough, but I am going golfing in Portugal with my mates to have a chilled time. With the season finishing So late, we haven’t got the longest break, but I will have a few weeks not doing much before getting some jogging and bike sessions in.

“The gaffer has said we need to hit the ground running next season and we must come back in decent shape so that we can get a solid pre-season under our belts. We need to keep hold of our main players which may be tough, but that isn’t my concern.

“There is a good core to the group and a real sense of togetherness in the dressing room, so with a couple of tweaks and a few quality additions, there’s no reason why we can’t be pushing at the top end of the table.

“We have the players to do that and we have the experience, but success breeds success and hopefully we can manage the expectations that we set ourselves to kick on next season in the league above.”

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART TWO: Gary McSheffrey on his return to Coventry City and what he thinks of the club now

In his four years at St. Andrews, two of which were whilst Birmingham City graced the Premier League, Gary McSheffrey amassed almost a century of appearances. After being a mainstay in Steve Bruce’s side that won promotion to the top flight during the 2006/07 campaign, he remained a regular the following season, but it proved to be one of turmoil as Bruce was replaced by Alex McLeish and Birmingham suffered relegation back to the Championship.

As the Blues eyed an immediate return to the highest echelons of English football, McSheffrey was involved in seven matches before a persistent knee injury saw his game time become limited. Loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Leeds United either side of a few more Premier League appearances allowed him to regain match fitness, but he was released by Birmingham in June 2010. Cue a return to his hometown club, Coventry City.

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Still in the Championship at this point, the Sky Blues were targeting a return to the elite level after a nine-year absence, but this dream never became a reality and McSheffrey played through a turbulent period at the Ricoh Arena. On a personal level, his goal scoring exploits had diminished and he perhaps failed to live up to expectations, but he believes he performed better than what he was given credit for.

He said: “When Aidy Boothroyd initially brought me back we had a good team, and up until early December, we were in the play-offs in the Championship giving it a real go. Then we went on a poor run where we didn’t win for a long period and Aidy got the sack. Andy Thorn took over and we were playing some lovely football at times, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think I played better than a lot of people gave me credit for in my second spell, but I didn’t score as many goals and that’s what I was judged on because I was know as a goal scoring wide man.

“When I came back, I believed I was a better all-round team player, but the goals dried up a bit and I didn’t score as freely as I used to. We then suffered relegation to League One in my second season back at the club and that is never nice, especially with City being my home, but I did enjoy my football.

“Especially in the first couple of years, I really enjoyed it. Then the season in League One, the expectancy levels were high and people thought we would walk the league, but I didn’t score enough again – it’s as simple as that.

“I played a lot of games under Mark Robins and I thought I was playing a good team game, but as an individual that spark wasn’t quite there where I was exciting on the eye.

“David McGoldrick, Leon Clarke and other players took over the goal scoring and I became a more reliable team player. I am my own biggest critic and I know I didn’t bag enough goals in my second stint, and that’s what people judge you on.”

The 2012/13 term – City’s first in the third tier for almost fifty years – was a period that turned into a frustrating one for both the club, and McSheffrey. Previously an ever present, a change of management saw his Coventry career unceremoniously cut short. Despite playing on four occasions for Steven Pressley, everything changed following an away defeat to Portsmouth on the 23rd of March 2013.

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“Pressley came in and he seemed fine and I played a few games for him. At that point we had a meeting and he said he was delighted with how I was playing for him and the amount of work rate I was showing,” Gary revealed.

“He probably just assumed I was an out-and-out attacker who stayed forward, but my game changed and tracking back became part and parcel of it. That arguably impacted on my pace and flair, but he was happy.

“We went to Portsmouth and lost 2-0, then he had a chat with me and he told me that he was leaving me out of the following game. He then said he was going to change the way he did things, to develop more young lads, and I got told I was surplus to requirements.

“It was all a bit of a shock to the system because I was only one year into a three-year contract, but because I had already experienced that type of thing before, I just thought I could eventually earn my place back.”

Although McSheffrey had the ignominy of training with the academy squad for eight weeks alongside four fellow members of the senior setup, he remained focused and determined to make the most of the situation. With the aim of forcing his way back into Pressley’s plans paramount in his thoughts, the then 30-year-old refused to compromise his professionalism, but this reintegration would never materialise.

Recalling this experience, McSheffrey said: “That wasn’t the case and he didn’t want us training with the squad, so we were at Warwick University with the youth team and that wasn’t where I wanted to be. Fair play to Gregor Rioch, he was very respectful towards us as senior players and we trained there every day. I’m sure he would’ve been quite surprised with how well we were dealing with it and not chucking the towel in.

“Ultimately, sometimes when you are put in a ‘bomb squad’ the people in charge are probably praying that you lose your head so they can discipline you, or that you walk away from your contract.

“We just had to stay strong and dig in, but we trained with some quality prospects such as James Maddison and Ben Stevenson, seeing them for eight weeks. You could tell that a few of them would break into the team in a couple of years.

“It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it’s one of those things and at the time I quite enjoyed training with them. I knew they respected me and liked playing alongside me because a lot of them had watched me play at the Ricoh for the first team.

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“I wanted to help them and be of benefit to them as they looked to progress, trying to set an example of how to do things. I would like to think I always applied myself in the correct manner and I just got on with it.

“Soon after I ended up at Chesterfield, but I wish I had stayed at Coventry longer and dug my heels in a bit because I probably would’ve out-seen some managers and got myself back into the team somehow. I knew I was good enough, but I just needed to start playing again as I had about five or six months without a game and eventually I moved on.”

Now 35 years of age and back in the Football League having signed for Grimsby Town on Thursday, McSheffrey still believes he has enough to offer in the professional game. Since parting ways with the Sky Blues, he spent time at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe United, Doncaster Rovers before signing for Eastleigh in the summer of 2017.

After just a few months with the National League outfit, he decided that, logistically, the move was not sustainable. Despite not thinking too far ahead, he has not ruled out delving into the world of football management when he eventually hangs up his boots. Now a holder of the UEFA B licence, he has also passed the practical side of his A licence and just needs to complete the required coaching hours to obtain the qualification.

He said: “I signed for Eastleigh this season, but geographically it wasn’t right for me and my family so we shook hands and cut my stay short. Ever since that, I had been training with Doncaster just to keep my fitness up in the hope that I could get a club. I’ve done that now with a move to Grimsby, so I am looking forward to the next few months.

“Coaching is something I think I’d be good at if I put everything into it, but it isn’t something that I’m chasing. Sometimes, I think things are better when they fall to you when you least expect it, so I’m going to continue concentrating on prolonging my playing career for as long as I can.

“I’ve started my badges so I’d never say never. If anything came up or I fell into the something in the future, then I’m on the road to the necessary qualifications having completed my UEFA B licence. At the moment I feel like I could still be valuable to a squad in the Football League, but maybe managing is something I’ll pursue after I have hung up my boots.”

Having played under Mark Robins at the Ricoh and during his time at Scunthorpe United, McSheffrey is hoping that his former boss can lead the club out of League Two in the right direction. With the season entering its final stages, City are still in touch of the automatic promotion spots, but the play-offs seem to be the more realistic route to promotion.

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Although he would have liked to see Robins draft in some more experienced players in the January transfer window, McSheffrey admires the job that the ex-Manchester United striker is doing in the midlands.

“He took over at a time when the damage was already done last season and he had a good go at trying to keep the club in League One, but the relegation was disappointing. Supporters had a great day at Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy and that was nice to see,” he said.

“Robins is a good manager and I enjoyed playing under him, but I think he got the best out of me when I was at Scunthorpe and it was great working with him. He has done a good job at Cov so far. I think his January transfer window could’ve been better and he could’ve brought in two or three more experienced heads, but he opted for young lads on loan.

“The players are out there and they should perhaps be trusted a little bit more, rather than relying on youngsters. I think you get more consistency with the older players and it can be difficult when you’re gambling on youth all the time.

“That is obviously down to opinions and I think he is doing a good job, but you would say promotion is a must really with the squad he has got and the type of club City are. The expectations are there and the club probably has a top six budget, but it isn’t easy. This season has provided a blank canvas, releasing a lot of players and bringing a high amount in as well.

“Some of his signings this year have been really good, the likes of Michael Doyle, Marc McNulty and Jack Grimmer have impressed me. Two or three of the young lads have been good too. I always knew Jordan Shipley would be good when I was training with him, but Tom Bayliss has been brilliant too and he is the best box-to-box midfielder the club has had for years.

“He carries the ball forward with a big stride like Steven Gerrard used to and he breezes past players, so if people like him keep performing it will help massively. If they can keep pushing from now until the end of the season they can really establish a play-off place, but a spot inside the top three is still up for grabs and that will be the target.

“They’ll want to keep getting results and I don’t think there is anyone better than Robins to do it at the level, but he will want promotion, one hundred per cent.”

City now have ten games remaining in Sky Bet League Two and they sit inside the top seven going into the final run-in. Whether or not the Sky Blues have enough to achieve their ambitions this year is yet to be seen, but McSheffrey could come up against his former employers next weekend as Grimsby travel to the midlands.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART ONE: Gary McSheffrey on his first Sky Blues stint and the move to Birmingham

Rewind to the 27th of February 1999. Coventry City have just beaten Aston Villa 4-1 away from home in the Premier League and three points were on their way back to Highfield Road. The emphatic nature of the result ensured that every supporter of the Sky Blues would look ahead to the latest instalment of Match of the Day with added anticipation, but the occasion was extra special for one teenager in particular. His name; Gary McSheffrey.

Not only had he watched the team he supports get one over their local rivals, he was out there on the pitch revelling in it. Having progressed through the youth system at his boyhood club, he was drafted into the first team squad the night before and less than 24 hours later, a lifelong ambition was fulfilled. After being introduced as a late substitute, he became the youngest player to play in the Premier League, aged just 16 years and 198 days.

“That was a long time ago now! At the time I just remember having a buzz, but it was all a bit surreal because it happened so quickly – I wasn’t in the squad until the Friday night after a youth team game,” McSheffrey recalled.

“I got the call and I had to go to go to the team hotel that night. Due to it all happening so fast, I probably didn’t get time to digest it all so it’s difficult to describe how it really felt.

“The Coventry squad back then was top drawer and it was an established Premier League side, so to get on the bench was a proud achievement for me.

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“I was just buzzing. I was really confident because I’d played well for the youth team and I remember warming up, hoping I would get into Gordon Strachan’s vision so he’d throw me on.

“When it got to 3-1 I thought he would give me the nod, but he left it until the last couple of minutes which was a shame. I was so confident at the time and I felt that, if I had been given ten minutes or so, I would have created an opportunity to score.

“Nothing came of it in the end, I was on the pitch for a couple of minutes and that was excellent. As a local lad to be part of the day, it was something for me to take away, but I just wanted to play and show people what I could do. It was an unbelievable day for me, the club and the city.”

Despite getting the taste of senior football at such a young age, McSheffrey did not make any other appearances for Coventry that season, and he only featured on five occasions during the 1999/2000 campaign. He did train with the first team quite frequently, however, and he admits that he learned a lot from the more experienced professionals.

He said: “Being around players of such quality was great. Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin were firing at that time, but on that day (against Aston Villa) John Aloisi scored two – he was just a predatory finisher.

“His all-round game wasn’t as good as Dublin or Noel Whelan and he wasn’t as quick as Hucks, but they had a good blend between them. It was great to be training with the likes of them and learning things constantly.

“For a stage, Huckerby was like a new hero because he was rapid and so direct. Dublin was a class act and we had some top midfielders too, players like Gary McAllister and George Boateng.

“Defensively, the experience of Richard Shaw, Paul Williams and Gary Breen kept your feet on the ground and they made sure you did the right things daily in training. I remember Shaw telling me to make the most of the moment because the rest of your career goes in a flash, and I’ve learnt that it really does.

“When you look back on it, sometimes you want more, but then you realise that a lot of people would give anything to achieve what you have and to play for their hometown club at the top level – it was unreal.”

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Then, in 2001, a dreaded relegation meant that the possibility of pulling on the shirt of his hometown team in the Premier League would have to wait for at least a year. McSheffrey was out on loan at Swedish side, IK Brage, when he discovered City’s drop to the second tier, but he never envisioned the Sky Blues spending the following 17 years in decline.

“I always thought there was enough there to get back into the top flight, but I couldn’t really believe that it had happened. I was in Sweden at the time and I remember seeing that Paul Merson had curled one in for Villa, and that sealed our fate,” he said.

“We still had a decent squad and we kept the bulk of them as well going into the next season. Obviously we lost a few big players, but we added some quality and I always thought we could bounce back.

“It just wasn’t to be and it was frustrating for the City because we had always been a top tier club. I would’ve loved to play for City in the Premier League for a long time because the standard is always great and you always learn a lot from some top class players.”

Despite relegation hitting McSheffrey hard, it provided himself and many other youth team graduates with the opportunity to prove themselves – something he was determined to do – as the club was forced to become accustomed to life in the Championship.

He said: “As a few years went by, we failed to gain promotion and myself and a few other young players began to get regular first team football. The club lost out on quite a lot financially so they had to start bringing some youngsters in.

“All of a sudden you get relegated and you get thrown in a bit quicker than you maybe would’ve been, especially in the modern day now where you’re straight in at 17 if you’re half decent. That’s how football has evolved.

“Back when I was that age, to even get a sniff of training with the first team was a massive achievement. It’s probably easier nowadays to become a bit complacent and take things for granted, but people like Strachan wouldn’t let you do anything out of line. It was all focused on training to the best of your ability and doing things off the pitch that helped you become the best footballer that you could be.”

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As appearances became more regular, McSheffrey evolved into a fans’ favourite at City and his goal scoring exploits began to alert the interest of other clubs around the country. Between January 2004 and the end of the 2005/06 campaign, the striker rattled home 43 goals and his form sparked Steve Bruce into an attempt to lure him to Birmingham City.

When the 2006/07 season got under way and McSheffrey was still a Coventry City player, supporters were hopeful that it would remain that way when the transfer window slammed shut. However, on the 16th of August it was announced that the 24-year-old had completed a move to St. Andrews, but he admits it was not a straightforward decision having rejected a contract elsewhere a year before.

Explaining how the eventual departure came about, McSheffrey said: “The summer before I left, Reading were keen on signing me and they offered me a good contract, but it was the year when Coventry were moving to the Ricoh Arena.

“I’d had two good seasons at Highfield Road and I felt that I was playing really well, so I loved my time at the club and I was never looking for a move. In the modern day you have five or six good games at Coventry City and you get a move. I had three good seasons, but the thought of going away never even came into my head – I was just enjoying my football.

“Reading came in for me and I turned them down to sign a new contract at Coventry, and Reading went on to win promotion by earning over 100 points in the Championship. Looking back, you start to think that you’re never going to play in the Premier League again and we just missed out on the play-offs.

“The next season, I was just getting on with things and Micky Adams told me that Steve Bruce had put a bid in for me at Birmingham. I didn’t think anything of it and we were over in Portland on our pre-season tour and the gaffer asked me if I wanted to leave.

“No was my answer because it was the first I had heard of it and I was happy with two more years on my contract. Bruce was pretty persistent with his bidding and it went on into the second or third game of the season, so I had already played for Coventry a few times that year.

“Then I assessed the situation; they had offered good money to the club and myself as well. They were a Championship club too, but I looked at the Birmingham squad and thought it was good enough to gain promotion, so I agreed to the move in the end.”

Making the switch to a local rival is not always something that goes down well with supporters, and having watched one of their star players leave for pastures new, some sections of the Coventry fan base were not overly impressed with McSheffrey. Despite knowing that his decision would split opinion, the former England youth international has no regrets.

“Do I regret it? No, because it’s your career and your life. It’s a business where clubs want what they feel is the best player they can get at the time and that was the case, with it proving to be a good move for me to achieve my ambitions,” he said.

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“Once the clubs had sorted a fee, I knew deep down that Coventry wanted the money and it was just a case of dragging it out to see how much they could get. Looking back now, I got my wish of playing in the Premier League again.

“We got promoted that season at Birmingham, and the next one saw me play 30 games in the top flight and then we got promoted again in 2009. In the end I got a fair few games in the Premier League and that is every kid’s ambition.

“During the years I was with the Sky Blues I gave everything, all I had for the club and the shirt, but ultimately when someone like Steve Bruce comes calling it’s difficult to shrug him off. It ended up being a good move for me personally and the club got a good deal out of it.

“Obviously I support Coventry and there is a huge place in my heart for them, but at the end of the day, you live once. It’s a career and you’ve got to provide for your family and have a go at it.”

Stay tuned for part two of my exclusive interview with Gary McSheffrey as he opens up about his second spell with the Sky Blues and being part of Steven Pressley’s ‘bomb squad…