|As Coventry City’s new Chairman contemplates the
club’s future, amid talk of dramatically reducing the number of
players on the books and a “race against time” to fund the new
stadium, there’s one young player who is giving a clear indication
of how the club must go forward.
only 26 years of age, Marcus
Hall is currently playing some of the best football of his
career. Capped at Under-21 and “B” international level by
England, Marcus can count himself unlucky that injuries at key
moments in recent years have prevented him having the chance to fill
one of the national side’s problem positions – his natural
Coventry born and bred, Marcus has only ever played for his
hometown club and I can tell you, from personal contact with him
immediately after matches, that no one feels worse than Marcus when
the Sky Blues lose and no one is more elated when they win.
The key factor in this young man’s make up is his total
commitment and dedication to the badge that bears the name
“Coventry City Football Club”.
Marcus’s fierce pride in playing for the Sky Blues has been a
prime motivation in his fight to establish himself as a first-team
regular. And make no mistake – at times it has been a fight.
The injuries that I mentioned earlier have kept him on the fringe
of things and allowed others to challenge for his place, and if
Gordon Strachan had decided to play Keith O’Neill in his favourite
role – at left back – after his arrival from Middlesbrough at
the start of the season, Marcus may well have been sidelined yet
As it turned out, Strachan wanted O’Neill to play in a more
advanced position on the left, O’Neill has in any case been out of
action for much of his time at Coventry because of injury, and –
oh yes – Strachan got the sack.
So, re-enter Marcus Hall, responding to the call from his new
manager, and the way he is playing at the moment, it will take
someone very special to take his place.
Since making his first team debut in 1994, Marcus has served
under four managers – Phil Neal, Ron Atkinson, Gordon Strachan and
now Roland Nilsson. Of that illustrious quartet, two – Neal and
Nilsson - ranked among the world’s best full-backs when they were
players, and with Marcus widely regarded as a good learner,
something from both of them will have rubbed off.
Another former top-class defender, former England star Kenny
Sansom, who played for Coventry City briefly towards the end of his
career, said this week that the sign of a good player is if he
learns quickly during a game.
“If he’s under pressure from a forward early in the
game,” said Sansom, “but works out how to cope with that and
then applies what he’s learned as the game goes on, that’s the
sign of a good defender.”
Sansom was talking specifically about Southampton’s Wayne
Bridge, who did so well for England in Holland in what has quickly
become known as “The Darius Vassell Show”, but he could just as
easily have been referring to Marcus Hall.
Sky Blues Chairman Mike McGinnity says, quite rightly, that the
club cannot afford to continue with more than 50 players on its
books. When the pruning starts, some youngsters will be among those
discarded. That is a painful task for the coaches that have been
their guides and mentors, deciding which of their young charges will
make the grade and then having to tell those they let go that the
club has no further need of their services.
But for many, many clubs, including several in the Premiership,
the practice of buying in costly imports from overseas on hugely
inflated wages, cannot continue. Growing your own is the way
Aston Villa did that with Vassell, who looks destined to be an
England regular for many years ahead. Coventry City have done it
with Marcus Hall, who could yet secure an England place, too, if his
club can regain its Premiership status and he can remain injury
Marcus is the role model for the Sky Blues emerging stars, and
his success should give Mr McGinnity a clear sign to the future as
he battles his way through the club’s financial ills.
A Coventry kid with Coventry emblazoned on his heart as well on