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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 mates.

“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 score goals.”

“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 Moustapha Hadji.”

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), Hughes.

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 Under-21 squad.

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Stuart Linnell / 9 Aug 01
©1995-2001 Coventry Internet Developments Ltd This page updated 27 May 2010