Coventry City had failed to finish higher than 17th in any of the previous five seasons in the Championship. Therefore with a lack of investment and an over-reliance on promising but raw youngsters it was hardly surprising that the Sky Blues had a tough season which culminated in relegation to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1964.
Manager Andy Thorn who had lifted the gloom somewhat at the back end of 2010-11 had to manage without some of the key players he had inherited including King, Westwood, Turner, Gunnarsson and latterly Jutkiewicz. He also had no luck on the injury front with players like Clarke, Deegan, Wood, McPake, Cameron and Baker missing big slugs of the campaign.
Points: The team gathered only 40 points in finishing 23rd (the lowest finishing position in the club’s history). Only once since three points for a win was introduced in 1981 has a Coventry team recorded less points, in 1995-96 under Ron Atkinson, but that was from only 38 games (and we weren’t relegated!). Under the pre-81 points system only 31 points would have been gained it wouldn’t have been the worst season ever – that was in 1919-20 when only 29 points were gained (from 42 games) and the club avoided re-election only through bribing their final day opponents.
Home Form: The home record was won 8, drew 7, lost 8. The goals scored (28) and conceded (26) were almost identical to 2010-11 (27-26) – only the second positive home goal difference since 2006-07. Between Boxing Day and April the team lost only one home game in nine in their efforts to avoid relegation.
Away Form: The away form proved to be the Sky Blues’ undoing with only one win all season (at Hull at the end of March). They were the last of the 92 league clubs to register an away victory. The final record was won 1, drew 6, lost 16 in other words nine points out of a possible 69 compared with 23 in 2010-11. This was the second lowest away points since three points were introduced in 1981 – the worst was in 1999-2000 when only seven points were gained, but from 19 away trips. Next season we will be visiting our ultimate bogey ground, Preston, again. We have never won a league game there. The run of 20 away games without a win was just two short of the modern record set in 1999-2000 when they went the whole season without an away win. The run of 10 away defeats was the worst by the club since 1929-30 and one short of the all-time club record set in 1925-26.
Wins: City won only nine games in total – one more than the record set in 1995-96 and equalled in our Premier League relegation season (2000-01) but it is the club’s lowest in a 46-game season.
Defeats: The Southampton defeat was the 24th of the season and set a new club record, ‘beating’ the 22 suffered in previous relegation seasons (1924-25 and 1951-52) as well as 1984-85 and 2006-07.
Biggest win: The team failed to beat anyone by more than a two-goal margin therefore the biggest win of the season was the 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough in January. For the second season running they failed to score more than three goals in a game.
Biggest defeat: Despite City’s lowly position throughout the season nobody thrashed them apart from Southampton. The Saints were the only team to score more than three goals against us (4-2 at home and 4-0 away) with the final day hammering counting as our biggest defeat.
Goals: The goals total of 41 tells the story of our season. This was the lowest in the division and only League Two Macclesfield scored less in the Football League. The lack of goals was the single biggest reason why City were struggling all season. It was the club’s lowest goals total in a 42 or 46 game season since 1972-73. This is a strange fact as that was the season we signed Colin Stein and Tommy Hutchison and everybody has rose-tinted memories of that time! 65 goals were conceded was better than six other Championship teams but only once in the last 25 years have City conceded more (75 in 2004-05).
Final position: The final position of 23rd means that the Sky Blues finished in the top ten only once in eleven years of second tier football. They are the only club, bar long-serving Premiership clubs and recent promotees from the Conference, not to have been promoted or reached the play-offs since the play-offs were introduced in 1987 nor to finish in the top six of a division.
Leading scorers: Lukas Jutkiewicz and Gary McSheffrey were joint top scorers with 9 goals. The Juke’s all came in the league in 25 games whilst Gary scored eight in the league and one in the FA Cup.
Doubles: For the first time since 1999-2000 the Sky Blues failed to ‘do’ the double over any team. This is only the third time in the last 25 years this has happened. Five clubs, Southampton, Leicester, West Ham, Ipswich and Millwall achieved the feat against City. City have played the Saints in almost 50 seasons and this was the first time they have done the double over the Sky Blues.
Appearances: Joe Murphy started every league game but did not complete two games (Derby and Nottm. Forest). His replacement Chris Dunn was unbeaten and has yet to concede a league goal! Murphy is only the third City player to start every league game in a season since City were relegated in 2001 – Westwood in 2009-10 and Keogh in 2010-11 were the others. But for his red card in the penultimate game Richard Keogh would surely have completed a second successive season of playing in every minute of every league game – a great achievement. Six players failed to start a league game but made substitute appearances (Freddy Eastwood, Shaun Jeffers, Chris Dunn, Josh Ruffels, Will Roberts and Joe Henderson).
Players used: Thirty one players were used in league and cup games. Of the 31, 12 players made their debuts during the season, three of them loan players (Gary Gardner, Alex Nimely and Oliver Norwood) and 11 of them came from the club’s academy – a remarkable achievement by Greg Rioch and his team. In addition to the 31 players used, two more, Lee Burge and Callum Wilson sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used.
Records: Gary McSheffrey reached 238 appearances by the end of the season and is in 33rd place in the all-time chart, level with 1920s legend Jimmy Dougall and close behind players such as Chris Cattlin (239), Alf Wood (246) and Harry Roberts (249). McSheffrey also crept up to 10th place in the club’s all-time goalscorers list having now scored 70 goals for the club. He is just behind Dion Dublin (72) and George Hudson (75)in the all-time scorers chart. Conor Thomas’ goal at Blackpool made him the fifth youngest City scorer of all-time. Hermann Hreidarsson became the fifth oldest City debutant when he made his debut v Middlesbrough.
Substitutes: Three players each made the most substitute appearances (10).Bigirimana, Platt and Christie. Gary Deegan and Cody McDonald both came off the bench twice to score goals.
Average attendance: Home 15,121 (2010-11 16,307), down 7.2%. Away 17,619 (2010-11 16,311), up 8%. The home average attendance was the lowest since the penultimate season at Highfield Road, in 2003-04 when the average was 14,632. The away average was boosted by Championship newcomers West Ham and Southampton who both had over 30,000 for City’s visit.
Highest home attendance: The biggest league crowd was 22,240 for the visit of Birmingham City in March.
Lowest home attendance: Only 12,054 attended the midweek visit of Crystal Palace in March – the lowest league crowd at the Ricoh and the lowest City home league gate since September 2004 when 11,968 went through the Highfield Road turnstiles for the visit of Gillingham. The Reading home game in September attracted 12,309 – the lowest for a Saturday home game since the stadium opened in 2005.
Highest away attendance: The biggest away crowd was at West Ham’s Upton Park on New Years Day – 34,936. On the final day of the season a ground record crowd of 32,363 watched City at the St Mary’s Stadium. I believe this is the first time City have set a ground record crowd at a League ground since they played at Torquay in the FA Cup in 1948.
Lowest away attendance: 8,426 v Doncaster. Expect many crowds lower than this next season.
Won from behind: (0) For the second season running City failed to come from behind to win a game all season. The last time the Sky Blues came from behind was at Watford in September 2009 and you have to go back to January 2009 (v Blackpool) for last winning home comeback. On six occasions they did concede the first goal but won a point.
Lost from in front: (7) Crystal Pal (a), Burnley (h), West Ham (h), Blackpool (a), Ipswich (h), Bristol City (a) plus Southampton (FAC h). In a further five games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws.
Hat-tricks: (0) No City player scored a hat-trick , in fact only one, Gary McSheffrey, managed more than one goal in a game, versus Leeds and they were both penalties.
Opposing hat-tricks: (0) None. Darius Henderson (Millwall), Michael Chopra (Ipswich), Emile Siclair (Peterborough), Andy Gray (Barnsley) and Ryan Lowe all scored two in a game.
Own goals: For City: (3) Matthew Bates (Middlesbrough h), Liam Cooper (Hull a) and Jon Stead (Bristol City a). Jon Stead scored at both ends, the first time this has happened in a City game since Luton’s Croatian Ahmet Brkovic did it in City’s 3-1 defeat at Kenilworth Road in December 2006.
Own goals: By City: (3) Cranie (Ipswich a), Keogh (Brighton a) and McDonald (Cardiff a).
Penalties: For City: (4) Jutkiewicz, Clingan and McSheffrey (2) scored from the spot. Three penalties were missed: Jutkiewicz (Reading h), Clingan (Leicester a) and McSheffrey (Millwall h) .
Penalties: Against City: (4) Gray (Barnsley a), Halford (Portsmouth a), Ambrose (Crystal Palace h) and Hayter (Doncaster h). Noel Hunt (Reading h), Lee Martin (Ipswich h) and Neil Danns (Leicester a). Danns also missed a penalty against City in 2010-11 whilst playing for Crystal Palace. Murphy saved Martin’s effort but could not stop Chopra scoring the rebound.
Fastest Goal scored: 2 minutes: Gary McSheffrey scored in the second minute of the home game with Reading in September.
Fastest Goal conceded: 3 minutes: Peterborough’s Emile Sinclair in the game at the Ricoh in April.
Red cards: Coventry: (3) Baker (Leicester h), Bigirimana (Burnley h) and Keogh (Doncaster h)..
Red cards: Opponents: (6) Vassell (Leicester h), Thomson & Arca (Middlesbrough h), Konchesky (Leicester a), Mutch (Birmingham h) and Pitman (Bristol City a). In four of these five games City failed to beat their 10-man opponents.
Television: City appeared on live television three times, at home to Derby (Sky) and away to Ipswich (Sky) and Southampton (BBC).
Cup form: City were unable to win a single Cup tie in 2011-12 – the first time the club have gone out at the first hurdle in both competitions since 1992-93 when they lost to Norwich in the FA Cup and Scarborough in the League Cup. Next season City will play in the First Round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1963 and be unseeded in the League Cup first round.
Man of the Match: The final tally of Andy Turner’s Man of the Match awards was: Jutkiewicz and Keogh 6 each; McSheffrey, Clingan, Norwood and Nimely 4 each.
Miscellany: Cov Kids: On Saturday at Southampton the Sky Blues starting line up contained four Coventry-born players –I believe this is the first time this has happened in the club’s league history. Earlier in the season, against Southampton at home, the game finished with four Cov kids on the pitch but we have never seen it in a starting eleven. The four were Jordan Clarke, Jordan Willis, Conor Thomas and the ‘old man’ Gary McSheffrey.
Youngest ever team: Lots of readers assumed that the team at Southampton must have been the club’s youngest ever. I can confirm it wasn’t. Geoff Moore keeps records of such happenings and told me the average age of the side that finished the game (which was slightly younger than the eleven who started) was 22.9 years whereas the record youngest was in 1980 at Manchester City with an average age of 21.2. Despite all the youngsters in the current side, Murphy and Baker are 30 and 29 respectively, whereas the oldest member of the 1980 side was Harry Roberts at 25.
My column has now finished for the season and apologies to anyone whose questions I haven’t answered, I will hold them over until August. If you have any questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
With many thanks to Paul O’Connor and Kevin Monks.