Leeds landmark, red devil and leading Haaland – the story of Coventry City’s record-breaking season

Coventry City's Haji Wright (right) celebrates with team-mate Bobby Thomas after scoring his side's third goal
Coventry City's leading goalscorer in the league Haji Wright (right) celebrates with team-mate Bobby Thomas who made the most Championship starts for the Sky Blues last term, albeit not the most league appearances -Credit:PA

Coventry City’s season may be a thing of the past but it’s a good time for reflection, to analyse the detail and look what went well and where the team can significantly improve. There were some remarkable achievements, not least the Sky Blues' hugely enjoyable and memorable FA Cup run, which was the best for 37 long years since they won the competition in 1987. A detailed look at the stats from the overall season, meanwhile, throws up some interesting figures.

Did you know, for instance, that only one player was involved in all 46 of City’s Championship games – only the fourth outfield player to do so since the club left the Premier League in 2001. And after failing to come from behind to win during 2022-23, the Sky Blues managed the feat five times. One surprising and extremely encouraging stat is that eighteen points were won from losing positions compared to seven points last season.

Once again the team excelled in late goalscoring with 23 goals after the 80th minute and an incredible nine after 90 minutes, while they conceded 14 after the 80th minute. Discipline is, however, an area for improvement, with Liam Kitching setting a new club record for three red cards by one player in a season.

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Here is the comprehensive round-up of all the key stats, facts and figures from the 2023/24 campaign, compiled by club statistician and historian Jim Brown.

Games: Coventry City played 53 competitive games, 46 league, 6 FA Cup and 1 League Cup. This is two more than last season.

Points: From 46 league games the Sky Blues gathered 64 points, six less than the previous season and the same number as 2021-22.

Home Form: 9 wins, 8 draws, 6 defeats. The team gathered 35 home points, only the tenth best in the division and surprisingly one less than relegated Birmingham. There were not enough victories and promoted Ipswich won 54 home points. The team scored 36 home goals, the fourth highest since we left the Premiership in 2001.

Away Form: 8 wins, 5 draws, 10 losses. 29 away points, the seventh best in the division. Eight wins equalled the best ever at Championship level, set in 2003-04 and the best since we returned to the division in 2020. The team scored 34 away goals, the third most in the last 60 years.

Biggest win: The biggest league win of the season was the 5-0 home win over Rotherham. City also beat Maidstone 5-0 and Oxford United 6-2 in the FA Cup. The latter being the first time the team had scored six at the CBS Arena since a 6-1 win over Derby in 2006.

Biggest defeat: The biggest defeats were 0-3, at home to Preston and away to Birmingham. The defeat at St Andrews was the biggest away loss since the same scoreline at Norwich in September 2022.

Goals for: The total of 70 league goals twelve more than 2022-23 the seventh best in the division. This total has only been bettered twice in 57 years, in 1977-78 (75) and 2013-14 (74). In total they failed to score nine times in 46 games.

Goals against: City conceded 59 goals, thirteen more than 2022-23 and the eighth best in the division and better than both Southampton and Norwich.

Clean sheets: The team kept 12 clean sheets, eight less than 2022-23. Ben Wilson kept four and Brad Collins eight including six in his first nine games.

Final position: The final position of 9th was pretty good considering they were 20th in mid-November after 17 games. Then, a run of 11 games with only one defeat took them to sixth place in January. The team never got higher than sixth place.

Leading scorers: In his first season in England Haji Wright topped the league scores list with 16 goals. In fifteen seasons of tier 2 football only Viktor Gyokeres has scored more in a season than Wright. Runner up was Ellis Simms whose 13 would have made him top scorer in 10 of those seasons! Seventeen different City players were on the score-sheet in league games. Simms’ six FA Cup goals equalled the post-war record set by Jimmy Whitehouse in 1962-63 and is as it stands joint top scorer in this season’s competition with Blackburn’s Szmodics however Haaland is on five and may overhaul the two Championship players. Wright’s 19 goals is the best by a US player in the English game since Clint Dempsey in 2011-12.

Doubles: City achieved three doubles - over Middlesbrough, Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday. It was the first double over Middlesbrough since the first season in the Premier League, 1992-93. It was the first over Wednesday since 2008-09. Four teams did the double over City – Cardiff, Preston, Ipswich and West Brom.

Appearances: No player started all 46 league games but Ellis Simms with 30 starts and 16 sub appearances was involved in every league game. Bobby Thomas made the most starts (42 plus 2 subs) and Josh Eccles also appeared in 44 games (38 starts plus 6 subs). Simms is only the fourth outfield player to appear in all 46 league games since City left the Premiership – Richard Keogh (46) in 2011-12, Callum O’Hare (40+6) in 2020-21 and Gyokeres (44+2) in 2022-23 are the others.

Players used: 26 players were used in league games (two less than 2022-23) - and one, Ryan Howley, appeared in one League Cup game. Of the 27 players, fourteen made their debuts during the season – two of them loanees. On the opening day, at Leicester, seven players made their debut. In addition to the 27 players used, six more: Evan Eghosa, Luke Bell, Callum Perry, Dermi Lusala, Marco Rus and Bradley Stretton sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used.

Substitutes: Ellis Simms made the most substitute appearances (16 league, 2 Cup) with Matty Godden second with 16. Kasey Palmer was the most substituted player (17 times in league, 5 Cup). Eight goals were scored by substitutes: Wright (Blackburn h), Palmer (Sunderland a), Simms (Swansea h), Wright (WBA a), Tavares (Rotherham (h), Allen (QPR h) and Godden 2 (Oxford FAC). Wright became only the seventh substitute to score a penalty for the club. Godden is the first City sub to score two goals in an FA Cup match. Ben Wilson was the most unused substitute, staying on the bench 27 times and Luis Binks was unused in 26 games. In the home game with Birmingham Mark Robins didn’t use any substitutes, only the fourth time in seven seasons that he has kept all his subs on the bench.

Won from behind: (5) After failing to come from behind to win during 2022-23 the Sky Blues managed the feat five times. Middlesbrough (a), Leicester (h), Millwall (h), Watford (a) and of course Wolves in the FA Cup. They did achieve draws after falling behind six times, at home to Watford, Norwich, Swansea and Bristol City and in away games at Leeds and Plymouth. Against Watford they came from behind three times to share the points. They also came from 3-0 to draw with Manchester United at Wembley. One surprising stat is that eighteen points were won from losing positions compared to seven points in 2022-23.

Lost from in front: (4) City lost four league games from being ahead (at Leicester, Preston and Norwich and at home to Cardiff). The Cardiff loss was only the second time that the team had lost a game at the CBS Arena after taking the lead since August 2018 when Scunthorpe won 2-1. On seven occasions City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws – Huddersfield, Southampton,Swansea and Bristol City at home, Swansea, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday (FAC) away. 23 points were lost from leading positions.

Best run: The Sky Blues best unbeaten run was ten, from the Ipswich loss in early December until the defeat at Norwich at the start of February. If Cup games are included the run was 12 unbeaten.

Worst run: There were three runs of six league games without a win, the last being the last six games when only one point was picked up. The run in October was arguably worse, with five goal-less games after which Wilson and McFadzean were left out and the manager reverted to a back four.

Hat-tricks: (2) Ellis Simms scored two hat-tricks (Rotherham and Maidstone FAC) in successive home games – the first City player to achieve this feat since Darren Huckerby in 1999. His FA Cup hat-trick was only the fourth by a City player since World War Two. His league hat-trick was the first by a City player since Matty Godden at Tranmere in 2020. Both hat-tricks were scored in the first half – the first since Jacob Murphy v Gillingham in 2015. Seven players scored braces with Wright, Simms and O’Hare each managing the feat three times.

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Opposing hat-tricks: (0) No opposing player managed to score a hat-trick against the Sky Blues. Three, Leicester’s Dewsbury-Hall, Watford’s Rajovic and Southampton’s Che Adams, scored braces, as Liam Kitching in his own net.

Former Players: No former City players scored against the Sky Blues.

Own goals: For City: (4) Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough), Wesley Hoedt (Watford), Ben Gibson (Norwich) and Brandon Williams (Ipswich) all scored in their own net.

Own goals: By City: (4) Bobby Thomas and Liam Kitching both scored two own goals during the season. Kitching managed two in the Cardiff home game – only the third City player to score two in a game (Fankaty Dabo and Roy Kirk are the others). Thomas was the culprit v Preston (h) and Birmingham (a).

Penalties: For City: (6) Nine awarded, six scored. Four scored by Wright, one by Godden and one by O’Hare. Godden missed two Watford (h) and Ipswich (a), Wright missed at Southampton.

Penalties: Against City: (3) Leicester’s Dewsbury-Hall, Preston’s Alan Browne and Hull’s Fabio Carvalho scored penalties against the Sky Blues. No penalties were missed.

Penalty Shoot-outs: The Sky Blues lost a penalty shoot-out at Wembley for the second season running and have now lost their last five shoot-outs in all competitions. Since 1988 when they lost their first at Reading in the FMC (Simod) Cup the Sky Blues have won seven and lost 10.

Fastest Goal scored: Kasey Palmer scored in the second minute in the FA Cup replay with Sheffield Wednesday. Simms’ fifth minute goal v Rotherham was the fastest league goal.

Fastest Goal conceded: Preston’s Emil Riis Jacobsen scored in the first minute in the game at the CBS.

Late goals: Once again the team excelled in late goalscoring with 23 goals after the 80th minute and nine after 90 minutes with Haji Wright’s 100th minute winner at Molineux the latest. The Sky Blues conceded 14 after the 80th minute.

Red cards: Coventry: (3): Liam Kitching set a new club record by receiving three red cards in a season. He saw red v Sheffield Wednesday (h), Norwich (a) and Blackburn (a).

Red cards: Opponents: (1) The only red card for an opposition player was Leicester’s Abdul Fatawu in the game at the CBS.

FA Cup: A memorable FA Cup run saw the Sky Blues reach the semi final for the first time since 1987 and the quarter finals for the first time since 2009. The goals flowed from the third round tie with Oxford with a 6-2 win, the biggest in the competition since the 7-0 v Macclesfield in 1999. In total the team scored 22 goals in six matches – the most in a season since the club were in non-league. The Wembley comeback from 0-3 to 3-3 was only the second time the Sky Blues have come from three down (the other was in 1932!).

League Cup: The Sky Blues again fell at the first hurdle suffering defeat to League Two side AFC Wimbledon at the new Plough Lane, the third successive season they have gone out in the opening game in the competition.

Bookings: Josh Eccles topped the yellow cards chart with 12, including six in the last eight games. Kasey Palmer picked up 11 but both him and Eccles managed to avoid suspension. Kasey wasn’t so lucky in the FA Cup and received a yellow card for running on the pitch after being subbed at Molineux. That was his second in the competition and resulted in a suspension that ruled him out of Wembley.

Home Attendances: The average home attendance increased again. Boosted by a record 19,500 season tickets the average was 25,468, up 25% from 2022-23. That is the highest since 1970-71 when the Sky Blues finished tenth in the old First Division and were in Europe. It was the ninth highest in the Championship. An average of 1,993 away fans attended City’s games at the CBS.

Away Attendances: An average of 23,591 watched City's away games, an increase of 20% – the fourth highest in the Championship.

Highest home attendance: The Leeds game attracted 30,232, the highest league attendance at a home game at the Arena. You have to go back to January 1980 for the club’s previous highest when 31,644 watched a 1-0 win over Liverpool. The Maidstone FA Cup tie attracted 26,857, the second highest FA Cup attendance at the Arena.

Lowest home attendance: 22,092 v Rotherham on a Tuesday night in March. For the first time since 1970 the club had no league gates under 20,000. The FA Cup tie with Oxford attracted 18,211.

Highest away attendance: The Wembley semi final obviously was the highest attendance of the season with 83,672 watching the game – the fourth highest crowd ever to watch City after the 1987 Cup final and Charity Shield and last season’s play-off final. The highest league crowd was 41,216 v Sunderland which was the highest league crowd to watch a City game since they left the Premiership in 2001.

Sky Blues fans at Wembley
Coventry City's Ellis Simms celebrates with a rare show of emotion after scoring his second goal against Huddersfield

Lowest away attendance: The lowest league attendance was 10,553 at Rotherham. There were 4,781 at Wimbledon for the League Cup tie.

Away followings: An average of 2,375 City fans followed the team away up 15% from 2,054, and but for many restricted capacities would have been considerably higher. This figure is the highest since accurate figures were recorded from 2006 and probably since the Jimmy Hill era in the 1960s for which there are no accurate records. There were 36,000 at the semi final and largest away following, apart from Wembley, was to Wolves when 4,812 City fans were there with the smallest 950 for the game at Middlesbrough. There were some very large away followings at the CBS with the highest being Maidstone who brought 4,800 and Leicester with 4,500. The club reduced the maximum away followings towards the end of the season to enable more home fans to attend, a trend likely to continue next season. The smallest following at the CBS was 247 for Rotherham’s midweek visit.

Television: There were nine live televised league games for the club, all on Sky. Seven were home games (Middlesbrough, Huddersfield, WBA, Birmingham, Leicester, Millwall and Ipswich) plus the Leicester and WBA away games. In addition the FA Cup games with Maidstone, Wolves and Manchester United were all featured on ITV.

Captains: City had six different starting captains during the season, probably a record. Liam Kelly, who was club captain, Kyle McFadzean, Matty Godden, Ben Sheaf, Joel Latibeaudiere and Jamie Allen all wore the armband during the season. Jake Bidwell, Callum O’Hare and Josh Eccles also took the armband following substitutions.

Kits: City wore three different kits during the season. The Sky Blue kit was worn in 26 home games and 14 away games (5 wins, 3 draws, 6 defeats) . The red and blue kit was used in four away games (1 win, 2 draws, 1 defeat). The green and black third kit was worn in nine away games (3 wins, 2 draws, 4 defeats).

Bogeys: City failed to end their dreadful record at Preston's Deepdale. They have never won a league game in 22 visits to the ground. City drew both games with Swansea but have now gone 16 league games since their last victory back in the old First Division in 1981. Norwich are becoming a bogey side for City – in eleven meetings since 2009 City have failed to beat the Canaries.

Player of the Season: Ben Sheaf picked up most of the Player of the Season awards. I record my personal 1-2-3 man of the match for every game and although it is very subjective my overall 1-2-3 were: 1 Sheaf 2 Sakamoto 3 Van Ewijk.

Game of the season: Another remarkable season saw so many highlights. For me the best game was the victory at Molineux in the FA Cup with two goals in added time.

Goal of the season: Haji Wright’s goal at Molineux won the club’s Goal of the Season but for me it was Kasey Palmer’s thunderous shot against Oxford United.

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