Reasons to be cheerful as Coventry City bid fond farewell to 2023/24 but have much to look forward to

Coventry City brought an end to another memorable season under Mark Robins and his trusty side-kick Adi Viveash – but it ended up being more a day of celebration and reflection than bowing out in style.

The Sky Blues set out with good intentions as they prepared to say goodbye to a handful, maybe more, of the players who have made their mark at the club, but came up against a reinvigorated QPR side under Marti Cifuentes who played the perfect away game.

The visitors allowed City to dominate much of the ball and hit them on the counter attack, and with the quality of Ilias Chair who unleashed an unstoppable opening goal into the top corner to put the first dampener on Legends Day.

Then there was a second before the break, but that was more in keeping with a worrying recent trend of poor defending/goalkeeping as City failed to deal with a free-kick to the back post.

Despite a determined fight-back that eventually produced a quality goal from a pinpoint cross from Haji Wright and header from late sub Jamie Allen, the Sky Blues were unable to take anything from the game other than a collective sense of exhaustion from a long and eventful, often emotional campaign. Here are some of the big talking points and things learned from City's last match of the season.

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Not that far away

The sun was shining and the pitch looked pristine, like the opening day of the season at the CBS Arena, where another bumper crowd of 29,102 turned out for a match that had nothing riding on it apart from improving the final points tally and league position.

In the end, after nine long months and 46 games, City finished ninth with 64 points. Even a win wouldn’t have changed that final standing due to Middlesbrough’s victory over Watford. The final tally is six short of last year’s 70 point total that wouldn’t have been enough to get them into the play-offs this time around.

But given the fact that the team were a mere three wins and a draw away from making the final cut and pipping Norwich to sixth place, it wasn’t a bad effort considering the significant turnover of players last summer. Many supporters prepared for a season of consolidation, and the fact that the team were up there competing up until a few weeks ago, speaks volumes for the potential of the latest crop of exciting players.

The big starting point

If there’s one aspect that stands out as an area that needs improvement it is how City start the season. One win in the first eight league games turned into three in 16, which put the Sky Blues on the back foot in the opening three months. That included six defeats and seven draws. Interestingly, five of those stalemates were at home against Sunderland, Watford, Huddersfield, Norwich and Stoke.

Coventry’s home stats show nine wins, eight draws and six defeats compared to 11 wins, seven draws and five defeats in 2022/23, so there’s clearly a bit of room for improvement. There are mitigating circumstances, of course, not least the fact that 10 new players were thrown together and had to get used to both each other and another level, and that shouldn't be the case next time around when a good start will be all important in the quest for top six football.

Coventry City fans pictured during the match against Queens Park Rangers
Mark Robins applauds the fans as Coventry City end their 2023/24 campaign with defeat to QPR at the CBS Arena

CBS gone up a notch

Although results may not have significantly improved on home soil this season, the atmosphere at the CBS Arena has gone up several notches. With a new average gate of over 25,000, including a season’s high of 30,232 against Leeds United, the stadium really does feel like home these days, something enhanced by the utterly brilliant way fans have latched onto belting out the pre kick-off anthem of The Enemy’s ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’. The connection between the supporters and the players continues to be something quite special and all that needs to be harnessed and enhanced further to make the place even more of a fortress next season.

Legends Day for past and present

Legends Day has not witnessed too many positive results in recent years but what it does do is remind us all of some wonderful players from the past. The biggest cheers of the half-time roll of honour when they were introduced onto the pitch went to Richard Shaw, from the club’s Premier League days and, more recently, Max Biamou, one of the modern day favourites who played his part in City’s rise up from League Two to the Championship.

But the day was all about recognising the club’s latest legends as Callum O’Hare and Liam Kelly pulled on a Sky Blues shirt and took a bow for one last time. Both earned a warm ovation when substituted in the second half and will forever be remembered for their significant contributions over the last five and seven years respectively. Although the skipper hasn’t played too often this season and the love affair with O’Hare waned slightly in recent months due to his contract stance, it was great to see the fans singing their respective songs aloud with renditions of ‘Kelly in the middle...’ and ‘We’ve got O’Hare...’

Exciting times ahead

Others will, inevitably, slip out the back door this summer with a likely move for Matty Godden and possibly even Ben Wilson and Jake Bidwell – another three players who have more than played their part in City’s progress and relative success in recent years. But as we bid farewell to another memorable campaign, fans can look forward with renewed enthusiasm and excitement to 2024/25. This football club has been on an upward curve since Robins walked through the door and that will continue in earnest this summer with further smart recruitment and strengthening to take the team to the next level, edging ever closer to a return to the Premier League.

There’s still plenty of work to be done in terms of tightening things up at the back but the building blocks are in place with a core of a squad that, boosted by a few choice additions, looks more than capable of having a right good go for promotion next season. To have two strikers in Ellis Simms and Haji Wright finish the season on 19 goals apiece is hugely encouraging for the future. Throw in the return of seven goal Tatsuhiro Sakamoto from injury and arrival of Ephron Mason-Clark and City already have the makings of a formidable forward line. A replacement for O’Hare will be needed, and that’s exciting in itself, not to mention the quality that will be sought in several other positions this summer.

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