Tranmere Rovers tipped to beat Coventry in 13-year role reversal
TRANMERE prepare to welcome Coventry City to Prenton Park this weekend in circumstances that make a stark contrast to the club’s last meeting 13 years ago.
Rovers created an upset when they put the Sky Blues out of the League Cup on a 6-4 aggregate in 1999.
Coventry, who had been a top-flight club for more than 30 years at the time, were effectively sunk in the first leg, when a second-half hat-trick by David Kelly set up a 5-1 home win for Tranmere.
On Saturday, when the teams face each other again in a League One fixture, Coventry will start as underdogs with the bookmakers. Rovers are evens to post a fourth win in seven games while the visitors are 11/4 to claim a first victory of the season. The gambling industry sets little store by history, tradition or sentiment.
Coventry’s decline, which began with relegation from the Premier League in 2001, gathered fresh momentum when they dropped into the third tier at the end of last season.
The way in which the club have approached the new League One campaign suggests a puzzling line of thinking in the boardroom.
Andy Thorn, the former Wimbledon and Tranmere defender who had been manager since March 2011, was given the funds to build a squad designed to take the club back into the Championship at the first attempt. After Coventry drew their first three games, Thorn was sacked.
Since then, team affairs have been put in the hands of caretaker Richard Shaw (assisted by former Everton midfielder Lee Carsley and former Liverpool goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic) while more than 50 applicants are hoping to land the job as Thorn’s permanent replacement.
Shaw started with two defeats and the 2-1 home reverse to Stevenage last weekend was watched by a crowd of 9,458 inside the 32,600-capacity Ricoh Arena. He admits a new appointment needs to be made “sooner rather than later” and was interviewed himself this week.
A new manager is not expected to be in place for Saturday, following the latest round of interviews.
Coventry’s Development Director Steve Waggott has said he has been impressed by the quality of candidates. He said: “We are encouraged with the level of research and professionalism showed by everyone who had made it through to this stage.
“They all would clearly relish the challenge of helping us return to where a club of our size should be.
“Importantly, to a person, all candidates thought that, without doubt, we have a good strong squad more than capable of challenging for promotion. The candidates equally appreciated the level of budget we have invested in the squad despite relegation. Further trading within the loan window can be expected following the appointment of the new manager.”
Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore is among those who argue it would be foolish to write off Coventry’s promotion prospects at this early stage, although he questions the timing of Thorn’s dismissal.
Moore said: “Was it a wise decision to sack the manager when they did?
“If you were going to do that you would have thought it would have been done at the end of last season. To give him three games, in which Coventry were undefeated, and then do it is one of those things that shows how crazy football is.
“But I still think, that with the right guidance, the right person in charge, Coventry are going to be a threat. I saw a bit of them last season. They have some good young kids and they have that experience behind them now. The best is yet to come from them. I don’t rule Coventry out of anything.”
Many Coventry supporters are not so optimistic. For them the lack of clarity from the club’s owners, Sisu, a Mayfair-based hedge fund, remains a key issue.
Representatives from Sisu rarely attend games and they have been trying to buy a 50% stake in the Ricoh, Coventry’s home since they left Highfield Road in 2005. It is currently owned equally by Coventry city council and the Higgs Trust. The rent costs the club £1.2million a year.
Coventry are understood to have debts close to £60million and relegation from the Championship hit the club hard financially.
Chief executive Tim Fisher said: “There’s been an awful lot of hard work transforming what is a Championship-budgeted club into a League One-budgeted club, because the revenue just falls off a cliff.”
Meanwhile, Moore has been nominated for the League One manager of the month award for August. During the month Tranmere posted League One wins over Leyton Orient and Carlisle United together with a 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury. They also enjoyed a Capital One Cup win at Chesterfield but were beaten in a second round tie at Aston Villa.
Yeovil’s Gary Johnson and Richie Barker of Crawley Town are also nominated.
Midfielder Andy Robinson has been nominated as League One player of the month.
The winners will be announced tomorrow.