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Don't Panic

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 Thompson.

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 defence.

“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 three points.”

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 place.

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 currently live.

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 fine.

So – “don’t panic!” – have courage and, yes, a little luck too.

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Stuart Linnell / 2 Nov 01
©1995-2001 Coventry Internet Developments Ltd This page updated 27 May 2010