ON THE ROAD: Nomadic Coventry hit dizzy heights in League One with dramatic comeback victory over Blackpool at St Andrew’s
- Even after a thrilling win, Coventry fans can never be happy at St Andrews
- In their state of homelessness, rising to second in the third tier is no consolation
- The Sky Blues are back on the up but thousands are staying away in protest
- 6,637 saw Callum O’Hare’s winner as Coventry came back from two goals down
The joke wasn’t lost on the home fans as they gathered at the Happy Abode. Supping on pre-match lager from plastic pint pots and surrounded by the wrong shade of blue at the wrong end of the Coventry Road.
This abode will never be a truly happy one for them. Not even on thrilling days like this when their team fought back from two down to win in stoppage time against a strong, confident and ambitious Blackpool side.
The reward for a fourth home win out of four at St Andrew’s was to clamber up to the dizzy heights of second in League One.
Callum O’Hare (bottom right) scores a stoppage time goal in Coventry’s 3-2 win over Blackpool
Coventry City are upwardly mobile once again with eyes starting to focus on a second promotion in three years.
Unfortunately they are once again mobile in another sense.
Homeless and nomadic, they are the travelling circus of the Football League and in serious peril just five years after an emotional homecoming which ended a year lodging at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium and was meant to signal better times ahead.
Back in exile and fans are divided. Thousands are staying away in protest.
Blackpool forward Sullay Kaikai celebrates after lobbing Coventry goalkeeper Marko Marosi
Many meet to follow the games in Coventry. Some at Coventry Rugby Club. Others in the pubs and bars in the city.
Some have made a commitment to get behind a team doing well under Mark Robins, a popular manager and a unifying force with his understatement and dry realism.
The football is decent and Robins has brought success but it is not easy to relax, sit back and enjoy when you’re unsure if what you’re witnessing is the end of your football club.
The demise of Bury has sharpened minds in the lower leagues.
Matt Godden salutes those in the stands after scoring Coventry’s first goal of the game
In one sense for Coventry, this isn’t quite as bad as Northampton because Birmingham is closer, easier to reach. And in another sense it is worse because the issue at the heart of this dreadful mess is more tangled than ever and there is no sign of a solution.
Some families are agonising over the best way forward.
Neil White of the Sky Blue Trust fans’ group has persuaded his parents to join him for the first time this season.
They have attended Coventry home games for more than half a century — apart from the year at Northampton — and to abandon matchday together is to sever the bonds which keep their family close.
‘It’s heart-breaking, I couldn’t face the prospect of another season like that,’ says Neil. So, they meet in the Greyhound Inn near the Ricoh Arena, drive west and have no trouble finding a parking space in the streets around St Andrew’s.
6,637 spectators were in attendance to watch Coventry play at their temporary home
They watch their team concede within two minutes and Blackpool were soon 2-0 up — both from Sullay Kaikai — and chuckle along as the away fans sing: ‘You’re supposed to be at home.’
They draw level before half-time with goals from Matt Godden and Wesley Jobello and celebrate as substitute Callum O’Hare, on loan from Aston Villa, grabs the winner in the 91st minute. There were 6,637 inside a stadium with a capacity close to 30,000.
Two stands were closed with nearly 900 Blackpool fans pinned into one section of an otherwise empty Railway End and Coventry fans confined to the Kop Stand on one side of the pitch.
This is a club which have twice in the last three years taken more than 40,000 to Wembley.
Coventry’s Wesley Jobello (No 10) and Liam Walsh battle for the ball with Blackpool’s Kaikai
A fanbase of this size is a big factor at this level where matchday income remains important, especially for a club without a stadium. But supporters have long since lost faith in owners Sisu to sort out the dispute with the council and Wasps rugby club, owners of the Ricoh since 2014.
‘I totally accept the reasons behind the people who haven’t come,’ said Robins. ‘People have been angry, and angry for a long time. I want them to put that aside to come and help the club.
‘I really want them to come and see us, because they’re missing some really good football.
‘We saw what happened with Bury and we have to keep the money coming in and that’s one of the ways we can do it.’
Carry on winning and Robins may get his wish. Some fans may return but there will be no blue skies ending without a happy abode in Coventry.