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The dramatic fall from grace at Coventry City

The new football season in England kicks off on Saturday, August 18.

At Huish Park on that afternoon, League One regulars Yeovil Town will play host to Coventry City.

Coventry will start their first campaign in the third tier of English football in 48 years, following relegation from the Npower Championship last season.

The club is on its tenth manager in 11 years and has been on a downward spiral for over a decade now.

It is a dramatic fall from grace for a side that still has a loyal supporter base but look likely to struggle to regain its Championship status. The dark days might not be over in the Midlands just yet.

Tough times for Thorn

An FA Cup winner with Wimbledon in 1988, Andy Thorn is about to enter his second season in the job and looking at the squad he has, the job to get them back up looks like an insurmountainble one.

Not only is the Championship getting harder to get out of, so is League One as the gap between the smaller and more prestigious clubs diminishes with each passing season.

Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town were promoted last season but the league’s strength in-depth means Coventry will find the going tough.

Sheffield United probably start as title favourites, Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers will be contenders, whilst Milton Keynes Dons, Stevenage Borough and Carlisle United all look to have stronger squads than the Sky Blues.

Throw in Paolo di Canio’s newly promoted Swindon side, fellow rookies at this level Crawley Town, Notts County, who have an excellent cup pedigree in recent seasons and former Championship sides Colchester United and Preston North End and you can see that this division isn’t a walk in the park anymore.

Considering he is such an inexperienced manager, Thorn will be looking to turn to a knowledgeable backroom team.

This includes legendary goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, newly appointed assistant Richard Shaw and academy manager, Gregor Rioch to help guide the Sky Blues out of the mess they are in.

Poor finances

Coventry have a small squad as it is and for many years now, have been hampered by a severe lack of finance, which has seen them flirt dangerously close to administration in the past.

The owners of the club, SISU, have ran the club poorly for a long time now and many fans have shown their disgust with them, staging demonstrations and hoisting banners of anger and frustration.

The club’s best players keep getting sold to meet severe cost cutting measures put in place by the board.

Last season, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Kieran Westwood and Aron Gunnarsson were all transferred on either cheap sums, or free transfers.

This summer, Clive Platt has already dropped down a division to Northampton Town, Gael Bigirimana has swapped the Ricoh Arena for the Sports Direct Arena and Newcastle, Martin Cranie and James McPake have departed as free agents and there is talk that star defender Richard Keogh will leave too.

Keogh is a target for both Bristol City and Cardiff City and is stalling over a new contract offer to stay at the Sky Blues. If he does leave whilst under contract, it will only increase the discontent around the Ricoh.

The days when Robbie Keane arrived for a hefty £6m in 1999 seem to be all but a distant memory for many Coventry fans.

Light at the end of the tunnel

The club had a transfer embargo lifted on 20 June, which had been placed on by the Football League last season after issues with filing accounts on time.

Since the embargo, Thorn has done well to attract several players from Scotland to the squad, which lacked both experience and firepower.

John Fleck is an exciting player and an excellent acquisition from financially destitute Rangers.

Midfielder Steve Jennings is on trial at the club at the moment after being released from Motherwell, whilst Steven Elliott joins from Hearts and should add some striking power to an attack that looked very toothless last season.

Gary McSheffrey was top scorer last season for the Sky Blues with nine, whilst summer deadline day signing from Norwich Cody McDonald, managed a pitiful four strikes.

When you consider the amount of goals Jordan Rhodes (38) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (22) managed last season, Coventry will need a striker who can score 20+ if they want to launch a serious challenge for promotion.

Lastly, experience has arrived in the shape of Kevin Kilbane on a free transfer from Hull City.

Kilbane has won over 100 caps for the Republic of Ireland, played in the 2002 World Cup and featured in the Premier League for Sunderland. His experience of playing at the top level could help the youngsters in the squad.

Stability required

Since Coventry’s relegation from the Premier League in 2001 after 34 successive years in England’s top flight, they have chopped and changed managers on a regular basis.

Roland Nilsson, Gary McAllister, Eric Black, Peter Reid, Micky Adams, Iain Dowie, Chris Coleman and Aidy Boothroyd have all managed the club since its Premier League demise. This highlights a distinct lack of stability.

Stability is required and Andy Thorn needs a chance to stamp his authority on the squad and the city, which has one of the best stadiums in the country.

The Ricoh Arena can hold upto 32,000 in capacity and is hosting matches at the upcoming London 2012 Olympics.

It deserves Premier League football, not League One football. With such a modern home, some solid signings and potential youth coming through the academy, there is hope for the loyal fans of Coventry City.

The club has been living on former glories for far too long now. 25 years after their memorable FA Cup final win over Tottenham, even five years since shocking Manchester United in the League Cup at Old Trafford.

Coventry’s decline has been a sad and sorry one to witness in the last decade.

Hopefully, there will be brighter times ahead for the club, the manager and its dedicated fans, some who will stick with their club no matter what happens in the short and longer term.

Promotion would be the perfect tonic for the fans who have suffered so much since that painful relegation from the top flight at bitter rivals Aston Villa in May 2001.

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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