OCT 01] THE STUART LINNELL
Little And Large
Two men, with significantly
contrasting physical attributes, have already put themselves in
the line for the title of Coventry City’s 'Player of the Year'
are fine footballers and both have played key roles in taking
Coventry City into serious promotion contention as joint leaders
of the First Division.
Official stats put Mo Konjic’s
height at 6’3”, but stand next to him and you would be
forgiven for thinking that the tape measure was a good 3 or 4
In contrast, David Thompson is
5’7” and is often shorter than the schoolboy autograph
hunters who regularly seek his signature.
Konjic’s sheer physical
presence and Thompson’s work rate and determination have been
critical to the great Sky Blues’ revival, but make no mistake,
both “can play a bit” as Bill Shankly is supposed to have
once said about Ian St John.
For any opposing forward, the
very sight of Konjic, with muscle seeming to have grown on
muscle and that endearing, disarming smile, must signal that you
are in for a torrid 90 minutes. Only the foolhardy or extremely
brave would be ready to challenge him physically and anyone
thinking that a man so huge must also be slow and clumsy is
guilty of a massive mistake.
If there is one thing the
Highfield Road faithful have come to enjoy more than a
full-blooded Konjic challenge, it is the sight of the Bosnia
captain dribbling the ball forward to link up an attack or even,
as I have no doubt he believes he could, cutting right through
the opposition to score himself.
That he can score has already
been proved with his goal in the 4-3 win against Manchester
City, and it would surprise no-one who saw it if they were told
that the West End cross bar is still shuddering after the
thumping impact of Konjic’s far post header against Crewe.
Mo Konjic’s arrival and growing
reputation in English football has been a long time coming and
follows great difficulties encountered by Mo and his family when
they first arrived from Monaco. It does, however, justify the
faith of former manager Gordon Strachan and Chairman Bryan
Richardson in signing him in the first place.
Thompson is a cheeky, cracker-jack of a player. A Scouse imp who
can, and often does, run his heart out and then emerge from the
dressing room with a twinkle in his eye and a ready quip at the
expense of anyone who happens to be nearby.
Those who think they know often
look at Thompson, shake their heads and say “if he was any
good, Liverpool would never have let him go”, and it is
clearly true that had he been a first team regular at Anfield he
would not have moved to Coventry.
But that is to deny Thommo’s
basic skill, huge enthusiasm, and great appetite for football.
His belief that he can probably score from anywhere on the park
if he wants to, and his consequent willingness to shoot on sight
has paid off with Thompson goals fired in from 25-yards winning
the matches at Walsall and Wimbledon.
That same resolve also means he
tries – quite deliberately – to score direct from corner
kicks. He has succeeded in doing so once this season, and
usually creates panic in the opposing ‘keeper’s mind every
time he attempts it.
If there is a weakness to the
Thompson portfolio it is that he is prone to collect yellow
cards. He has already been booked enough times this season to
warrant a one-match suspension.
Gordon Strachan once told me that
he could see a lot of himself, as a young player, in David
Thompson. The wee man would also lose his cool, get himself
booked, and all too often see yellow become red as a result of
trying to seek personal retribution for the injustice of the
Thommo has, at least, learnt how
to keep himself in check and not rage round the pitch covered in
red mist and get himself sent off for two bookable offences.
His gutsy, all-action
performances, however, mean that he is more likely than most to
leave the pitch having incurred the wrath of the officials.
He is by no means the first
player of diminutive stature to endear himself to Coventry City
fans. Terry Gibson and ’87 Cup hero Michael Gynn are two
Shorter players often excel when
the playing surface is slippy and difficult. Their low centre of
gravity enables them to keep their feet when others around them
have no chance.
Thompson proved that against
Crewe, when heavy rain had left the surface greasy and
treacherous. He revelled in it, giving what I regard as his best
performance in a Sky Blue shirt, deservedly resulting in him
collecting Man Of The Match awards in all parts of the ground.
Mo Konjic also played well that
day. In his case, the conditions matter not. He ploughs through
any obstacle daft enough to get in his way and his partnership
with Gary Breen at the heart of the City defence looks more
impressive with every match they play together.
All successful teams produce
heroes. In ’87 we had at least eleven. Now we are discovering
new ones as Roland Nilsson’s tenure as manager continues to
bring success and the promise of promotion.
Konjic and Thompson are already
high on the list of the heroes of 2001/2002 and both men - both
Little and Large - are walking tall.