AUG 01] THE STUART LINNELL
Sky Blues To Go Up As Champs Says Lee
Coventry City will not only win
promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt, they
will do so as First Division Champions, according to new £5-million
striker Lee Hughes.
Lee’s confident prediction came
after just one half-day training session with his new team
“There is quality in this
squad,” he said, “and I have no doubt that we will bounce
straight back to the Premiership and, in fact, I think that we
can win this league.”
“Mind you, it will be tough.
Anyone doubting that will soon find out I’m right as soon as
we run out at Stockport on Saturday.”
Hughes and another City new boy,
Keith O’Neill, were formally introduced as Sky Blues players
at a press conference at the club’s Ryton training ground.
Hughes told me that he was excited about the move across the
Midlands, even though it meant leaving his beloved Baggies.
“And they always will be his
beloved Baggies,” said manager Gordon Strachan. “Make no
mistake about that. They are the team he supports and there is
nothing wrong with that. But sometimes in life you have to
move on and he now plays for Coventry City and he is here to
“Lee will give us what we
didn’t have last season until John Hartson arrived,” added
Strachan. “For most of last season we had footballers up
front, but we didn’t have goal-scorers. That, by the way,
was the manager’s fault, no-one else’s.”
“What we now have is the
potential for another good partnership at the front. In my
time here we’ve Dublin and Huckerby together and we had
Roussel and Keane and when we did we were ok. Now, with Lee,
Julian Joachim and Phil Masinga, we have the chance to
establish a new partnership because all three are goal
scorers. They are the most important members of the team.”
Lee Hughes posed for pictures
underneath a shirt bearing his City squad number - number 9 -
while also alongside Gordon Strachan was Keith O’Neill, signed
for £700,000 from Middlesbrough.
O’Neill, who will wear number
16, comes with the strong recommendation of his former manager,
and Strachan’s former Manchester United team-mate, Bryan
Robson, who not only told Strachan to sign him, but also told
O’Neill what a good coach Strachan was.
“Bryan Robson told me about
the gaffer here,” said O’Neill, “but if I’m honest,
when I was told Coventry wanted to talk to me I travelled to
the Midlands expecting it to be no more than an interesting
chat, end of story. After meeting Gordon Strachan though, and
seeing what was on offer, all I could say on the way back was
how much I wanted to join Coventry.”
“Everyone wants to play in
the Premiership, but there is Premiership quality here and no
reason at all why we can’t go back up.”
So, optimism abounds at the
training ground, leaving Gordon Strachan to ponder on his team
selection for Saturday’s League opener at Stockport.
Joachim’s fitness remains a
worry with the former Villa man still trying to shake off an
ankle injury picked up on the pre-season tour in Ireland. The
club are also waiting for work permits to come through for
Masinga and the club’s other new signing, young Moroccan
midfield man Youssef Safri.
“The Safri deal is done,”
said Strachan, “all we are waiting for is his work permit.
He is another exciting addition to the squad, particularly
following the recommendation I have had about him from
City Chairman Bryan Richardson
was not at the press conference. He is in Germany, where his
daughter is riding in a show jumping competition.
Richardson will be back in time
for the trip to Stockport, when I expect the City line-up to be:
Kirkland, Nilsson, Williams, Konjic, Antonelius, Thompson (or
Chippo), Carsley, Eustace, O’Neill, Joachim (or Zuniga),
Congratulations, by the way, to
Lee Carsley for his continued selection in the Republic of
Ireland international squad. Gary Breen still missing through
injury of course, but the good news about Gary is that he was
off for a run just as the Hughes-O’Neill press conference
began, so hopefully he will be back soon.
Congratulations, too, to
goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, named once again in the England