Who Are These Jobbers?
This week is a big one for yer da.
Since Monday he has been stewing with rage every time he looks at the fixture list. He’s been wandering around the house muttering the words “Bristol City”, “1977” and “Jimmy Hill” under his breath. He can’t even look at the sky as the affiliation of the azure tone brings is making his blood boil.
Yer da remembers - he has never forgotten, and he has certainly never forgiven Coventry City for having the gall to contribute to Sunderland’s relegation over 40 years ago. He has never forgiven the now late-Jimmy Hill for allegedly delaying The Sky Blues’ game against fellow basement boys Bristol City so the pair would play out a mutually favourable result to demote the Black Cats.
Yer da remembers and, boy, he’s going to find it incredibly sweet should Sunderland prevail over the heinous Sky Blue b*stards. And then there’s you, born 20 years after the event, who shares the resentment towards Coventry. You don’t exactly know why as the only recollection you have of Coventry is Dion Dublin scoring that banter goal against Newcastle in the 90s but there you are, rushing to reply to a tweet laughing at them conceding to Wycombe Wanderers.
Isn’t it best we just let this thing go? Maybe it wasn’t all Coventry’s fault, maybe Sunderland shouldn’t have lost eight games on the spin earlier in the season. Besides, we’ve only been relegated eight times since, it’s not like this is a unique occurrence.
If the world does dish out karma then Coventry City have certainly had their fill from that day in the years since. The Sky Blues were the original ‘Sunderland of the Premier League’ managing to escape relegation by any means possible. They were the team of Dublin, Ogrizovic, Ndlovu, Huckerby, Hadji and Chippo - but that over-achievement was soon put to rights by the universe.
Since their eventual relegation from the Premiership in 2001 it has been one hell of a toboggan ride to the bottom. The Sky Blues have well and truly clattered through the trapdoor of each division. They are the perfect encapsulation of the “oh, you think you’ve got it bad? Try supporting us” badge of honour that football supporters carry.
Their banter era has surpassed all others (with the exception of possibly Portsmouth... and Sunderland) as up until the 2017/18 season they had failed to finish in the top six of any division since 1970. Entire generations of Sky Blues supporters had never witnessed a Coventry promotion - almost 50 years of relegation and mid-table malaise.
The nadir arrived in 2017 when they were pathetically bombed out of League One with just nine wins, and were forced to play in the fourth tier for the first time since 1959. Then there is the dispute with their risible owners SISU which saw the team exiled to Northampton for an entire season with many supporters simply refusing to attend “home” games. They have since returned to the vacuous Ricoh Arena and even picked up a Checkatrade Trophy along the way, but the SISU grip on the club remains as vice-like as ever.
Much to yer da’s delight, Coventry certainly paid the price for daring to relegate Sunderland in the days of black and white TVs and you better believe he’s going to tell everyone about it.
Luckily, the rest of us couldn’t care less as Coventry vs Sunderland in a third tier league game is something no-one can be proud of.
What’s The Ground Like?
If there could be a single symbol for the demise of Coventry City in the past decade, the Ricoh Arena is it - an enormous, vacuous stadium where a lower league football team rattles around in front of a sparsely populated crowd every other Saturday.
When plans were outlined to move The Sky Blues away from their spiritual home of Highfield Road in 1997, it seemed like a pretty reasonable idea.
Despite regular flirtations with relegation, they were an established top flight club and boasted names such as Dublin and Huckerby. However, by the time it opened in 2005, Coventry were in the Championship and about to embark on a slide that would take them to the bowels of League Two.
Regular disputes with SISU has seen Coventry play home games in Northampton and struggle to occupy even a third of the stadium’s capacity. The Ricoh is now owned by Wasps rugby club just to add another layer of thick, creamy banter to the recent history of Coventry City.
Sunderland’s visit will result in one of the largest away supports at the Ricoh since it opened. Our lot are housed in the towering South Stand and will be vying to outnumber the home support.
How Do I Get There?
The bonus of having a soulless stadium placed on a bleak retail park is that it is pretty easy to reach on the UK’s pristine highways. Wipe away the sleep from your eyes, hop in the car and hoist yourself onto the A1 (M) to junction 35 before exiting for the M18 and subsequent M1. Continue until junction 21 south of Leicester onto the M69 before leaving at junction 2 for the M6, follow the signs for Ricoh Arena and exit at junction 3 for the A444 and the ground is on your left hand side.
You can book a parking space at the stadium in advance for £10.20 per car here. Alternatively, you find details on Ricoh Arena car parking here. Planning on getting lost? Punch CV6 6GL into your sat nav.
You would think that a 32,000-seater stadium located three miles from the city it is meant to represent would be well served by transport links to said city? Oh, how wrong you are. While the Ricoh Arena is serviced by the Coventry Arena train station - there are only hourly trains to Coventry’s main train station (ultimate banter).
If arriving by train you can take the 11.42 which arrives at Coventry Arena at 11.49 before the match. Post-match there is the 14.28 or the 15.28 (if you fancy hanging around on a retail park after a game) which will take you back to the city centre. Oh, one more thing. These are usually just two carriages with a capacity of 150 people so will no doubt be packed by the time it pulls up.
Alternatively, you can catch the number 4, 56, 20 or 48 bus from Pool Meadow bus station in the city centre to the stadium. A taxi will cost about £12.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 6am with return fares priced at £30. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Nothing really gets the juices flowing prior to a pulsating League One clash than queuing outside a casino on the outskirts of Coventry to purchase an overpriced bottle of Heineken.
This is the reality at the Ricoh Arena where the choice of pre-match venue is either inside the ground, the Grosvenor Casino or the Hilton Doubletree.
However, a short walk from the away turnstiles is Dhillons Brewery situated on Hales Industrial Estate. The brewery opens its door on matchdays serving its range of real ale produced on the premises.
If you have parked in Longford then you can choose from The Coach & Horses on Longford Road or The Old Crown on Windmill Road. Alternatively, there are absolutely tonnes of pubs in the centre of Coventry to help you whet your whistle.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
As a city that unceremoniously robbed Sunderland of the City of Culture 2021, it should be fairly obvious that there is absolutely loads to do in Coventry. Like Hull that has gone before it, you can expect a huge slice of cultural and historical pie to feast on from the moment you arrive in this fine corner of the West Midlands.
After giving the world the nadir of indie music The Enemy, it goes without saying that Coventry would honour its favourite musical sons and daughters and you can see it all at The Coventry Music Museum. Chart the history of everything the city has given to music and even hear that dreadful, dreadful ‘Away From Here’ song and marvel at a framed copy of “one of the worst albums of 2012” that is ‘Streets in the Sky’.
What? Oh right, The Specials are also from Coventry and are pretty good I guess.
If you absolutely detest music but love buses, then you, my friend, are going to bloody love Coventry Transport Museum. Get absolutely f**king hyped wandering around the world’s largest collection of British road transport and listen to stories from the people that made it happen. Trace the progression of public transport from beloved, vital modes of connectivity of the 19th century, to the piss-stained carriages of the 1990s and finally at the overpriced, privately-owned messes of modern day. It’s free as well!
And if none of that takes your fancy, you can wander the ruins of Coventry Cathedral which was bombed during World War II before seeing the one that replaced it. Do it all in one day if you like, when else could you visit the 2021 City of Culture?