Tuesday, 29 May 2012

"Whelan, Whelan..."

The pre-season months of 2000 and 2011 saw little recruitment by Gordon Strachan and Andy Thorn. Nine months later both campaigns culminated in relegation. Lessons were not heeded from our top flight capitulation when four key players departed Highfield Road for pastures new - Gary McAllister, Robbie Keane, David Burrows and Noel Whelan. Fast forward to last summer when Marlon King, Keiren Westwood and Aron Gunnarsson were offered better contracts elsewhere and left the Ricoh. Both summers saw limited activity as David Thompson and Craig Bellamy arrived during Bryan Richardson’s spending boom while two out-of-contract goalkeepers arrived last July as the cash pot dried up completely.

The first game of 2000/01 set the tone for the year ahead. Middlesbrough and the returning Noel Whelan swept City aside 3-1 as ‘Thommo’ saw red and the defence parted at regular intervals. ‘Big Ron’ signed Whelan for £2 million in December 1995 from boyhood club Leeds United. His first two home games brought wonder strikes against Everton and Southampton as 39 goals followed in 156 appearances during his five years in sky blue. Equally at home wide left or partnering Dion Dublin prior to Huckerby’s arrival, Whelan had the ability to change matches with excellent close control and an eye for the unexpected.

His final career appearance at Highfield Road was for Derby in 2004 following spells at ‘Boro and Millwall. Following a running battle with Calum Davenport, Whelan was replaced on the hour to strains of ‘Whelan, Whelan..’ which were applauded by the player as he jogged off the pitch. Last month, with the Sky Blues 45 minutes away from relegation to League One, Whelan appeared on the pitch during ‘Legends Day’. As he made his way over to ‘Singers Corner’ the entire area stood to applaud, memories of his time at City very much at the forefront of the supporters’ appreciation, in the days when we had cult heroes. (forward clip to 1:25 - 2:10 mins)

Five of Noel Whelan's finest Coventry goals

Pre-season there is expectation for who will be joining the ranks but only if you’re not under a transfer embargo. Players supposedly lined up will only wait so long before they look elsewhere. Off-field matters need addressing, Mr Fisher needs to cut the spin otherwise we’ll struggle to fill the substitutes bench come August. The likes of Noel Whelan, Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin must shake their heads in disbelief at the situation the club finds itself in at present. All three scored in the famous 3-2 win against Manchester United in December 1997. In three weeks time we’ll find out the fixtures for next season, 15 years on the sky blue army could be eating their turkey sandwiches at Shrewsbury or Crawley. Coventry supporters deserve better than the off-field shambles currently prevailing - sort it out City and quick.

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