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Kirky Absence Adds To City Woe

Coventry Cityís dreadful performance against Wolves in their first home match of the season was not the only black cloud to hover above Highfield Road.

There was more bad news when it was revealed that Number One goalkeeper Chris Kirkland will be out of action for a further three weeks with the knee injury that forced him to pull out of the England Under-21 squad in midweek and miss the 1-nil defeat by Wolves.

Swedish International Magnus Hedman was a more than accomplished replacement against Wolves, making two outstanding saves in an otherwise dismal City display. The only other performance worthy of mention by a man in Sky Blue was that of fellow Swede and player-coach Roland Nilsson.

Roland Nilsson, Coventry City FCThe oldest man on the pitch, Nilsson turned in an almost impeccable display at right back, winning the ITV Sport man of the match champagne and deservedly finding himself voted Sky Blues Man of the Match by the match sponsors and by the members of the Vice-Presidents club.

The accolades barely compensated Nilsson for the disappointment of the defeat and the manner of it.

ďWe were dreadful in the first half,Ē Roland admitted when I interviewed him after the match in the sponsors lounge. ďWe could not string two passes together and if you canít find a team-mate with a pass over ten yards, you donít deserve to get anything from the game.Ē

That frank assessment would be borne out by a near-capacity attendance who had responded magnificently to the clubs appeal for their supporters to turn out wearing something Sky Blue and fill the ground with colour for the TV cameras.

The anticipation at the start was sky high, the deflation at the end noticeably hitting rock bottom.

New boy Lee Hughes, not surprisingly but nonetheless cruelly barracked throughout by the Wolves fans, received no service whatsoever. Great goal-scorer he undoubtedly is, but even he canít find the back of the net without the ball. He did not receive one pass of note in the opposition danger area during the entire 90 minutes.

Just as I work at my computer or microphone, Lee Hughes works in the opposition penalty area. Supply him with the football there and he will deliver. Make him run back almost into midfield, as he had to once or twice in the second half just to get a kick, and you waste his talent.

But, just as the opening day win at Stockport should not have been allowed to raise our expectations, so the great anti-climax of the performance against Wolves should not be used to pour cold water on out promotion aspirations.

Yes, it was shoddy, shambolic and shameful for any group of players who call themselves professional, but Gordon Strachan and his players know that. They spent the morning after the Wolves match watching a video of the action, so rest assured that they will know just how bad it looked.

They are already applying themselves to delivering a totally different display at Bradford on Friday night and then in their next home match against Nottingham Forest on Bank Holiday Monday evening.

The good news is that newly appointed captain John Eustace should be fit again soon and former Villa striker Julian Joachim is expected to shake off the ankle injury that has so far prevented him from making his City debut.

I have also heard whispers that the club has made significant strides towards signing an experienced midfield player from the Premiership. I have referred to this possibility in previous columns and, indeed, the club revealed before the start of the season that they had unsuccessfully made a bid to take David Ginola on loan from Aston Villa.

Now, though, I understand that an announcement could be made soon about a new arrival, although the club are sticking firmly to their usual policy about not commenting on transfer speculation. Their long-stated attitude is that they will say something when they consider that there is something to say. Knowing how some deals go belly-up, even at the last minute, I can understand where they are coming from.

Kirklandís continuing injury may delay Hedmanís planned move to Everton, although City still have veteran Scot Andy Goram lined up as cover, so that deal could yet proceed within the next few weeks.

So, with lots of football yet to play we should not get too despondent.

In any case, if you want to blame anything, have a go at the ridiculous nonsense of a 6.15pm Sunday kick-off. It didnít work for me and it clearly didnít work for the players. ITV, scrap it now please and letís have our football geared to our lives for a change, instead of your programme schedules.

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Stuart Linnell / 20 Aug 01
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