Coventry City signing makes bold claim amid tales of being bullied by Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Returning Coventry City defender Luis Binks has made a bold statement of intent, insisting a top two automatic promotion finish is ‘not out of our reach’.

The 22-year-old centre-back is now a fully fledged Sky Blue after Mark Robins upgraded his season-long loan from Italian club Bologna to a permanent deal this summer, joining for a fee understood to be €2m (£1.7m) and signing a four-year contract.

In an in-depth chat with the popular podcast 2 Brits 1 Yank, Binks was in conversation with Maidstone United pair Soloman Wanjau-Smith and Sam Bone, discussing everything from the ‘goose bumps’ he gets from the Sky Blue Army and ‘madness’ of City’s two FA Cup comebacks to being smashed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a tough night against Dries Mertens.

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Speaking about the first time he learned of City’s interest in him 12 months ago, he said: “I heard about Coventry and I knew it was a big club but I didn’t realise how big until I got there. My dad said they were a massive club but the age I was I only knew about them being in administration and using other grounds and stuff. But now the club is in a different place; there’s a new owner and when I heard they had come in for me I said, ‘yes, that’s where I want to go.”

Reflecting on his first 12 months at the CBS Arena, he said: “It was a good season. Obviously the Champ (ionship) is so relentless. Growing up watching it you think it is such a tough league but when you’re in it, you’re like, f***! You have three games a week, all different styles of play, different teams and travelling all over the country, but it’s a great league. I would say one of the top six leagues in the world.”

He added: “I think having no VAR definitely helps the league as well because it is a lot more free flowing. There are different styles of teams; as you could see last year with Leicester, who play good football, Ipswich – obviously a great team who play a different style of football – and then teams like Southampton, who play good football. And then you look at Millwall, Preston... It’s got everything in that league, and literally anyone can beat anyone.

“Sheffield Wednesday had something like seven points after 15 games or something and then somehow stayed up, which just shows how mad it is.”

As for the atmosphere at CBS and what has now become the club’s pre kick-off anthem, ‘Well Live and Die in these Towns,’ he said: “There’s a song the fans sing before kick-off. It’s so loud! Every game you stand there and even though you know it’s coming, you still get goose bumps on the pitch. You know some fans (at other clubs) at the start of the game are all up for it and then 20 minutes in it’s silent, they’re not like that. For 90 minutes they’re singing, win, lose or draw.

“Sometimes fans don’t turn up for the FA Cup but Coventry were playing Maidstone, a team a few leagues below on a Wednesday evening and on the telly, you’d think some wouldn’t go but fair play to them, I think there was still 26,000 there.

“That’s what’s exciting for me as well, because you want to go somewhere with a big stadium. There are a lot of clubs where they don’t fill it or the fans don’t make an atmosphere, but to be fair to Coventry, every away game last year was sold out within minutes.”

Reflecting on City’s incredible run in the competition, Binks started with the ‘madness’ of Molineux.

“We went 1-0 up and then they equalised and scored to make it 2-1 in something like the 88th minute and we’re just thinking, yeah, it’s done. And then I think it was the 92nd minute and we made it 2-2 and we thought we were going to extra time.

“They had a chance and their manager was like screaming to them to get to the corners, run the clock down to get to extra time so they could rebuild, or whatever. Then we went down the other end, put sort of a hopeless ball in but it was a good touch by Ellis (Simms) and Haji (Wright) scored a great finish. And it didn’t really sink in. Everyone was running on the pitch, going crazy, thinking about going to play at Wembley in the semi.”

Coventry City's Haji Wright (right) celebrates with Ellis Simms scoring their third goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final match at the Molineux
Coventry City's Haji Wright (right) celebrates with Ellis Simms scoring their third goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final match at the Molineux -Credit:PA

As for who he wanted next, he said: “I think I wanted United. Man City are a different animal, although I feel like we could have given them a game but I still wanted United, just because of how big they are as a club. Playing on Wembley on its own is amazing, but to play Man United, the biggest club in the world...”

He added: “Everything went so quick. You are looking forward to it and then it’s done. We travelled down the day before and saw all Coventry fans flying down the motorway. Wembley Way was a bit buzzing and the fans are down there drinking, shirts on. And then the day of the game comes and the fans were everywhere. We went up to the rooftop of the hotel and all the fans at this bar spotted us and started singing. It was crazy.”

As for the game itself, where Binks started on the bench, he said: “We were 3-0 down and the manager called me over and he said to me, ‘just go and enjoy yourself, it’s done.’ So I went out there and we got to 3-1, and it was like a consolation. Then it was 3-2 and some of their players’ legs had started to go; Rashford was trying things and not getting back and I’m thinking, ‘we’ve got ‘em.’

“And then all of a sudden there was a ball to the back post, I have slid in and it has hit Wan-Bissaka’s arm. It’s harsh but I have run around screaming hand ball and the ref gave it. I’m claiming the assist at Wembley for winning the pen!

“So it’s three all and then we go into extra-time and I just remember running round going, ‘they’re gone.’ Someone tackled Bruno Fernandes and he stayed down for ages. We brought on another winger and he kept beating Wan-Bissaka every time, McTominay couldn’t run, albeit to be fair he’d been injured leading up to the game, and then Antony came on and didn’t do a lot and I thought that we had got them.”

Describing Victor Torp’s disallowed goal due to a VAR off-side decision against Wright in the build-up, Binks said: “We scored the fourth, which I am still saying is a goal. I ran off, running behind the goal and smashing the balls on the cones into the crowd in celebration and then Bobby Thomas came to me and said it’s going to VAR. And I’d forgot about it because obviously we don’t usually play with it so it’s not natural for me to think about it.

"I thought, ‘oh no, there obviously must be something,’ and then they didn’t give it. Honestly, the off-side was less than an inch. It took about seven minutes and yet if you look at the Euros or the Champions League, it’s about 20 seconds.”

Talking about his and his teammates’ feelings after the game, he added: “Everyone was gutted, obviously. Some boys had missed penalties but there was that feeling that what more could we do, having come that close. The fourth goal, he could have given it and no-one would have moaned. It was literally millimetres but we were proud, obviously coming back and beating Wolves before taking Man Utd to penalties.”

Binks revealed he’d put himself forward for a penalty, saying: “They asked who wants a pen, so I said, ‘I’ll have one,’ and the manager came over with a piece of paper and I was sixth. I wasn’t going to argue and say I wanted to go fourth and disrupt it. I’d have gone down the middle. The keeper’s got to be brave to stand still in front of 80,000.”

As for the immediate scenes after the final kick was taken and City had lost, he said: “I think some of the United players afterwards were embarrassed. Steve McClaren was on the pitch afterwards and saying to them, ‘get in, get in now’ and their fans had just cleared off. We were in the tunnel after and there was lots of press and the United players were disappointed.”

Asked about Antony’s unsporting gesture towards Coventry, he said: “I didn’t see it at the time because I was the furthest from them and as soon as we missed, I think Maguire was the first one and he’s turned straight to us and come and shook our hands, so it was only the boys who weren’t shaking hands who noticed it.

Manchester United's Antony celebrates victory at the end of the match during the Emirates FA Cup Semi Final match between Coventry City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on April 21, 2024 in London, England
Coventry City's Ben Sheaf tackles Manchester United's Marcus Rashford in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley

“And it wasn’t until I got on the coach and saw it on my phone and I was wondering when he had done it. To be fair, Maguire, Dalot, Casemiro all just came straight over and shook hands.

“I got Maguire and Dalot’s shirts. I was hovering around. I was in the tunnel and the player liaison woman for United asked if I was getting any of their shirts and I said, yes, Dalot, and she went in and got it and then Maguire was there and I asked if I could have his shirt and he said yes. They had so many shirts and the lads were asking for Fernandes and Hojlund and the woman was just bringing them out.”

Turning to the season ahead, the young centre-half was asked about the aims for 2024/25.

“For the club and me, we want to go up,” he said confidently. “We were in and around it this year but I think the cup run probably killed us because everyone was so invested in that. It was a massive high and then the next three or four games after that we lost, which I think is a bit natural, coming after that and trying to switch back to league mode.

“But this year we want to go up. Me, personally, I want to play as many games as I can and help the club get up because I honestly think we can. It’s not out of our reach to make the top two, but minimum make the top six.

“There’s talent in that squad. When I first went there I thought there might be some bad eggs in the changing room because there always is at clubs. But honestly, there’s not one. When we go for lunch there are no cliques, everyone sits together. On the bus to games it’s not like them three, those five and that’s obviously what the manager has implemented at the club, so it’s a really good environment.”

And finally, asked who is the best player he has played against from his time in Italy’s Serie A, he said: “Probably name-wise, Ibrahimovic, but on the day, probably Dries Mertens at Napoli. He played as a 9 but he’s so little and he was dropping everywhere making me run everywhere, so it was a tough night.

“But Ibrahimovic was just so strong and he stood just off my shoulder and when the ball got played in I’d turn and he do me one in the back and in the side of the face. He obviously knew I was young and that he thought he could target me. Every time it got switched I knew he was coming and as I turned I just felt a big shoulder come into my cheek. But what a player!”

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