No club in England has reversed a downward spiral to rise at a greater pace than Coventry City. They could yet go top of the Championship.
If all goes to plan on Friday night, Coventry City will start the weekend top of the Championship. Given the Sky Blues are playing under home lights, it could almost be a foregone conclusion.
Were it not for the double bill with West Brom – also within touching distance of the summit – playing host to QPR at the same time, it would be good advice to put your house on Mark Robins’ side soaring to the summit of the second tier come the end of the night after another home success.
Four league outings at the CBS Arena have brought 12 points, two dramatic late winners, three 90th-minute goals and a perfect record in front of their own fans. It will be the envy of every other Championship club: Stoke (10) are the only other team to reach double figures for home points so far.
Returning to their own city was always going to bring with it a boost, be it tangible or just an improved atmosphere and a belonging and identity in being back where they belong once more. But few if any could have envisaged just how good it would be.
Forty-eight successive seasons without a top-six place came to an end when finishing inside the League Two play-offs in 2017/18 and a subsequent automatic promotion from League One two years later meant the duck was well and truly broken.
These feats were remarkable considering the tumultuous times in which Coventry have found themselves, in particular the civil war emanating between the fans and the owners, Sisu.
The fact that Coventry have been forced to spend two and a half years of their recent existence in Northampton and Birmingham is testament to that, but the Sky Blues are hell bent on avenging that time in exile.
And they are doing it with ever-increasing home comforts. From turning around a half-time deficit on the opening day with two late goals against Nottingham Forest, to repeating the trick a fortnight later against Reading. Two second-half strikes in the third home game against Middlesbrough came with the first CBS Arena clean sheet since their return and the subsequent fixture was as easy as they come in anything but the scoreline – a 1-0 triumph over Cardiff City.
The drama has lessened with every passing home result, but the confidence is only improving. In a league littered with below-par sides and average outfits – yes, yes, we say that every year – Coventry are beginning to look like one of the most balanced and exciting teams in the entire division. The boost from being back home has been undeniable, but this is a club that coped so well with the two-year exile to the blue half of the Second City.
Eleven home wins from 17 in their League One campaign at St. Andrew’s were a huge part of their promotion, albeit with the season being curtailed by the Covid-19 outbreak. A further ten victories from 23 would follow in their first season back in the Championship, a more than modest return.
But already this season, four from four has brought about a sea of positivity and an ocean of change from the negativity in which everybody connected to Coventry has so recently been swimming and sinking in.
What makes this stunning start to the season even more impressive is the swathe of stability that comes on the pitch and in the dugout. For all the instability off the pitch, the steady nature of Coventry’s growth from a club on a downward spiral to going up in the opposite direction at an even greater pace is unmatched in English professional football.
They are the living embodiment of a club operating in less than ideal circumstances behind the scenes but it mattering not because of the success on it. The tenacious and versatile midfielder Gustavo Hamer was a roaring success last season while Viktor Gyokeres has returned on a permanent deal and started the season on fire, his five goals bested only by John Swift and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
As ever under Robins, one of the EFL’s most underrated managers in many circles despite a portfolio of success and experience, the current squad is chock-full of whatever the opposite of established EFL stars would be. There are the Premier League loanees in the guises of Jake Clarke-Salter and Ian Maatsen, who form an important part of one of the division’s tightest backlines thus far, while the experience comes in the guise of Matt Godden up front and Kyle MacFadzean at the heart of the defence.
The talismanic Callum O’Hare is the Jack Grealish of the league while Gyokeres is the undoubted goal getter. On paper, this squad is no different to much of the rest of the league, but there is a bond which unites them. Under one of the division’s most experienced, likeable and definitive managers, Coventry have completely turned themselves around.
Coventry City are back home and they are more comfortable here than ever before. There is no better feeling, like sliding into an old pair of slippers and putting your feet up. Coventry have slipped back in and feel on top of the world. If it continues any longer, they will be on top of the league.