NOV 01] THE STUART LINNELL
Coventry City are “riding their
luck” according to some wise men of the media, as their
unbeaten run under Roland Nilsson goes on.
Certainly, the Sky Blues 2-all
draw with Preston North End included an element of good fortune
with the hitherto apparently invincible defensive duo of Gary
Breen and Mo Konjic having a distinctly off night. The
positioning of ‘keeper Andy Goram for both Preston goals was
also questionable, the Scot sticking to his line as the headers
went past him.
If anyone had a right to call the
City defence to account for their failings it was David
Regular readers will know how
highly I regard the Birkenhead born midfield man, and his two
spectacular goals against Preston only served to add to his
growing reputation. To see both his strikes cruelly and quickly
cancelled out by the visitors each time left him “disappointed
and deflated” after the match, but he told me that he would
certainly not be aiming any criticism in the direction of the
“After the way they’ve been
playing, the last thing I’m going to do is have a pop at
them,” he said, “we win as a team and we draw or lose as a
team, and we all take responsibility for not collecting the
Nonetheless, luck or no luck,
collective responsibility or no, City extended their unbeaten
run to secure the First Division Manager of the Month award for
October for Roland Nilsson. Like Thompson, he also insisted that
all concerned deserved credit for it, saying that it was a team
effort involving the entire squad of players as well his coaches
and back-room staff.
It is surely nothing to do with
luck either that when Nilsson has given an opportunity to some
of those who were somewhat forgotten under Gordon Strachan, none
of them have let him down. Laurent Delorge, Jairo Martinez,
Runar Normann and Tomas Antonelius (who was called Gustaffson
when he signed for Coventry) have all responded positively to
the chance to show what attracted the club to them in the first
Delorge in particular has grown
in confidence with every kick since coming off the bench to
score the winner at Sheffield United. He mesmerised the Preston
defence at times but was substituted to allow Antonelius to
return late in the match.
The 1-0 win at Wimbledon, won by
a Thompson 25-yarder, was by common consent a poor display
despite the result and Nilsson’s men were certainly off colour
against a good, hard-working Preston outfit. They will need to
be on their mettle at Milwall, but there is no need for anyone
to worry about bubbles being burst or the boat rocking.
As Corporal Jones was wont to
say, “don’t panic!”
First and foremost, after the
shaky start we endured, to see us take the top spot, albeit
briefly, and to then slip into second place, is encouraging
indeed. To be second at the end of October and go on an
eleven-match unbeaten run in the League is sensational.
And, much as we would all like to
win this League – and as I have said at least twice before in
this column, we are more than capable of doing that – if
offered a second-place finish and automatic promotion now, we
would surely accept it with glee.
So what if we’ve been lucky?
Surely we deserve to be after all that we’ve endured. And
isn’t there a saying about “making your own luck”? I
repeat, “Don’t panic!”
What we need is good solid dose
of courage, a quality that has been sadly lacking in some of our
sportsmen of late.
Warwickshire bowler Ashley Giles
is a very nice man and was courtesy itself when I interviewed
him for Sky Sports News about his decision to go on the
forthcoming tour of India. Giles had been one of the five
England players who asked for time to consider whether to make
the trip in the light of the uncertain world in which we
He told me that he was concerned
about his family and what their reaction would be to him going
within a few hundred miles of a war zone to play cricket for his
country. His wife is pregnant with their second child and has
her hands full with their seventeen-month old first-born.
It was Mrs Giles who made the
decision, however, quite rightly telling her wavering husband
that if he wanted a career in international cricket he should
get on the plane without any further hesitation.
Andy Caddick and Robert Croft,
however, will not go. That is their choice and they are entitled
to make it. I happen to agree with the school of thought though
that says that the selectors should ignore both of them when the
next England squad is chosen.
If it is appropriate to take that
line with Darren Gough and Alec Stewart, whose decision not to
tour before Christmas was made long before the events of
September 11th, then it must surely be right to apply it to
Caddick and Croft.
There is, too, a sense of justice
in Chelsea being dumped out of the UEFA Cup, their defeat coming
as a direct consequence of six of their highly-paid, pampered
superstars deciding to stay at home rather than travel to Israel
for the first leg of their Second Round tie.
As David Thompson said, “we win
as a team and we draw or lose as a team”. Well, the Chelsea
six decided to ignore that maxim and let down their teammates,
their supporters and the country in which they ply their trade.
Their exit from the competition is no more than they deserve.
Thommo also acknowledged that
criticism of Lee Hughes, Jay Bothroyd and Jairo Martinez for not
scoring is unfair, as he and the rest of the team have hardly
created a chance for them to miss.
That honesty, that courage to
face up to failings even in the midst of a great run of results,
is just what Coventry City needs now.
We are nicely tucked in behind
the pacemakers and, at this stage of the season, that is just
So – “don’t panic!” –
have courage and, yes, a little luck too.