Saying goodbye to a legend as Coventry City season and era comes to an end

Coventry City round off what has been another eventful and certainly memorable season this weekend when they entertain mid-table Queens Park Rangers looking to send supporters home from the CBS Arena full of cheer and hope for an exciting summer, during which manager Mark Robins will be looking to further strengthen his squad.

The Sky Blues have grown and evolved over the last seven years since the 54-year-old’s return to the club, with the City boss remoulding four different teams to date; the first gaining promotion out of League Two; the second driving out of League One to get a foothold in the Championship; the third making the play-off final last season and the fourth securing anther Wembley visit in the FA Cup last month.

The one constant throughout that incredible journey and sole survivor of the playing squad is skipper Liam Kelly, whom fans will be able to pay tribute to during the customary lap of appreciation after the final whistle on Saturday afternoon. Although it’s not yet official, it seems pretty certain that the 34-year-old midfielder will be moving on this summer, bringing an end to an outstanding seven years of service to the Sky Blues.

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And, fittingly, he’ll be saying his fond farewell on the club’s annual Legends Day, with Robins confirming his status in the club’s history when speaking about the consummate professional in his pre-match press conference.

“Liam Kelly, along with Kyle McFadzean and a few others really, but those two especially have played a significant part in the journey,” he said. “But Kels was one of the first signings I made alongside Michael Doyle and Marc McNulty – those three really gave us a platform to kick on to where we are today.

“Kels has obviously stayed the course. Doyler was immense but was getting older at that stage. He’d had promotion with Portsmouth and came here again and won promotion. Marc McNulty’s goals helped us get to the play-off final and into League One and unfortunately we lost his services that summer.

“But Kels has been a huge part of it and will remain, I have no doubt, a club legend for a long, long time and when we talk about legends day, I expect to see Kels back many times in the future.”

Kelly is not the only player fans may well be seeing for the last time, with players both out of contract and still with a year left on their current deals facing uncertain futures this summer. Of the soon to be free agents, goalkeeper Simon Moore and attacking midfielder Callum O’Hare are fully expected to be leaving.

It will be a particularly emotional farewell for O’Hare, one suspects, after the fans took him to their hearts following his move from Aston Villa. He initially gained great affection for the way he celebrated promotion from League One by donning a Sky Blues wig and videoing himself singing ‘Don’t you know, pump it up, City’s going up.’

The fans then came up with one of the best individual player songs in recent years, along with those for fellow favourites Gustavo Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres, with ‘We’ve got O’Hare... Callum O’Hare, I just don’t think you understand...’

A crushing ACL injury then cut him off in his prime and the player’s personal heartbreak further endeared him to the supporters, battling back to full fitness and then returning with an outstanding ten goals.

His contract situation, however, has taken the shine off a touch for some fans but the fact remains he has been what Robins describes as an “incredible” player who has made an “immense” contribution to the club over the last four or five memorable years. And for that reason he should be applauded, and his decision to move on as a free agent respected, however hard that is to accept.

There will, inevitably, also be a number of contracted players who may be seen for one last time on Saturday afternoon, the likes of goalkeeper Ben Wilson, striker Matty Godden, loan defender Luis Binks and even, perhaps, Mr Consistent and the ever popular Jake Bidwell.

But whatever happens, whether the fans are saying good-bye to players who have reached a natural conclusion at the end of their contracts or set to leave a year early, they’ve all been terrific lads and top professionals for the club.

“Yes,” agreed Robins, “and I think that can be said all the way through. Everyone has been outstanding and I don’t think anyone can turn around and say he wasn’t quite right; that they were not keen on this person or that person. Every single one of them has been a top human being.

“I don’t know how many players have come through since I came back but there have been four teams and hopefully we can try and retain as many as we can to help achieve our objectives for the coming seasons.”

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