Press conferences have not always been cheerful affairs at Coventry City. The Sky Blues have flirted heavily with relegation in the last two seasons, and managers haven’t usually had too much to be upbeat about in front of the media. But there was a marked change in mood at the club’s training ground in Ryton yesterday. As Aidy Boothroyd sat down to field questions from the assorted journalists, he found himself having to tactfully play down expectations, in an effort to avoid putting too much pressure on a Coventry side that have made a promising start to the new season.
The Sky Blues have accrued nine points from a possible seven in their opening three games, and Boothroyd was met by a media eager to view this bright start as a sign of greater things to come. However, the manager was the model of careful optimism. Although he agreed that there was a good confidence amongst the players, saying that training was “feisty” and fostering “good competition for places,” Boothroyd stressed that his side is a long way from the finished article. “Momentum is building slowly,” he said, but “the idea that good clubs are built quickly is a fallacy.” Successful sides, Boothroyd stated, are formed on “relationships built over a period of time – it’s not a case of days, but a case of weeks, months.” Although he appeared buoyed by what he called a “belief” in his team – a belief which saw them come back from 2-0 down in the 88th minute to draw 2-2 against Watford a fortnight ago – he stressed that they were still searching for consistency in their performances, and were, for the moment at least, “a stuttering car.”
Boothroyd was full of praise, however, for a number of his new signings. He labelled Lukas Jutkiewicz – who has netted two goals in three games for Coventry so far – “a revelation,” and said that his “work rate, presence and application has been absolutely terrific.” He also stated that Jutkiewicz’s strike partner, Clive Platt, was “going to be a real handful this year,” even suggesting that the ex-Colchester forward could become something of a “cult figure” at the Ricoh Arena. On the whole, Boothroyd appeared delighted with his new acquisitions: “It is these sort of physical players,” he declared, that are “needed in the Championship”. Everyone wants to “play little pockets and pretend they’re Spain” after watching the World Cup, joked the manager, but what you need first and foremost is “physical presence,” and the capability to “mix it” before you “play the attractive stuff.”
With the close of the transfer window only five days a way, the Coventry manager was relatively tight-lipped on potential signings. When asked about talented shot-stopper Keiren Westwood, whose contract expires soon, Boothroyd implied that the young keeper is not convinced the Ricoh Arena is the best place for him to play his football, even though he was keen to keep him there: “I think, for Keiren, his best place is here… We’ve gotta find a way to make Coventry City more appealing for him.” The Sky Blues manager also stated that he would “very much like” to extend goalkeeper Iain Turner’s loan, and that he would like to secure a similar deal for Bolton’s Danny Ward.
There was a noticeable perking of ears in the room when the conversation turned to potential new signing Marlon King. King, who has recently completed a jail sentence for physically assaulting a woman in a nightclub, has roused strong opinions in the football world. Indeed, in the hour before the press conference, a Coventry city councillor appeared on BBC Radio stating that she and other fans would be boycotting the club if King signed. Boothroyd, however, was relaxed on the issue: “It’s a big subject. Opinion is divided… But we’ll focus purely on football… I think life is riddled with politicians that try and use sport to make a name for themselves… Over time, these things sort themselves out… My job is to improve the fortunes of this club, and if I’m afraid of breaking eggs I’m not going to make an omelette, am I? 85% of people would love [King] to come.” Boothroyd revealed that the ex-Wigan striker had been training with the club for three days, and appeared quietly confident of securing his signature.
Attention soon turned to Saturday’s away fixture at Millwall, and again, Boothroyd was careful not to overstate his team’s chances. “Without a doubt it will be our hardest game so far,” he said, calling Millwall “a horrible rash” of a team who press incessantly and who are “very well organised.” Boothroyd said The Den was “not a nice place to go,” and that he was predicting “a good old-fashioned British game; a tough game for people to grow up in.” The Sky Blues manager revealed that he was relying on experienced players like Lee Carsley to provide a cool head during the fixture. Meanwhile, the assorted journalists discussed ways in which they might travel to The Den incognito, so as to avoid unwanted attention from Millwall fans.
On the whole, Boothroyd’s press conference carried an air of quiet optimism blended with hard realism. When towering centre-back Nathan Cameron appeared for some brief words, he praised his manager for giving him “a lot of confidence” in his abilities, and said there was a “great atmosphere in the dressing room.” He even hinted at his hope of a possible call-up to the England U-21s, displaying a sense of ambition in the Sky Blues’ ranks which has been lacking too often in recent seasons.
Just before he left, Cameron was asked how far he thought the team could go this season, to which he replied “as far as we want to.” While this might sound like little more than airy sentiment, for a rejuvenated Coventry team with a solid first eleven and a pragmatic manager, it is probably truer now than it has been in any other season of the last decade. Blackpool went from 16th place to promotion via the play-offs in the space of two seasons; for now at least, there are Coventry fans who can dream of similar such miracles.