Coventry City fans united for today's big match but will they be for a groundshare?

Robins on groundshare numbers

Mark Robins remains hopeful that Coventry City will stay at the Ricoh Arena next season but believes that if the club does groundshare away from the city that the fans will follow.

The Sky Blues boss says he thinks the club will get similar numbers to that enjoyed this season. City have around 6,850 season ticket holders this term and an average gate of 12,337.

When the club went into exile in Northampton in 2013 just 491 season tickets had been sold as the team prepared for the first scheduled game of the 2013/14 campaign at Sixfields when there was, according to club statistician Jim Brown, an average home contingent of 1,722 (2,364 overall average gate including away fans).

Robins acknowledged that the level of ticket sales at any groundshare “will make that huge difference” to the club’s finances and admitted he hasn’t “got a clue” about his playing budget for next season. Season tickets normally go on sale in March but have yet to be released.

City are currently in negotiations with a shortlist of clubs they have identified as possible groundshare options with whom they say they are close to agreeing heads of terms.

Mark Robins applauds the Coventry City fans

Asked if he’s confident the club can make their preferred groundshare option work in terms of getting the fan base to go to ‘home’ games and that scenario working for however long it has to, the manager said: “I’m confident that the supporters will follow us and watch the team.

“I’m confident that they are passionate because you can see that they are right behind the football team and the football club, and that momentum is only building.

“I want them to follow us because that means I can deliver what I need to deliver for the team, the club and the community, because that’s important.

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“I have learned a hell of a lot this year. I am just excited by whatever is going to come next and I am hopeful that we can be in the Ricoh next year because that’s our home and what we class as our rightful place to play football.

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“If that’s unachievable then we will get on with it somewhere else and make the best of it.

“But I hope that the supporters will certainly continue to watch us and that we get the same sort of numbers that we have had this season because that’s imperative to what we need to do because, financially, it will make that huge difference.

“Everyone just needs to know so we can get on with it.”

Fans stayed away and protested when the club went to Northampton in 2013

Asked if he feels it will be different this time compared to when the club went to Northampton and the majority of supporters stayed away, he said: “I have no idea, no idea.”

As to whether he thinks the club would be taking a huge risk, he replied: “We don’t know. We just have to wait and see.

“I think, from what I hear and see, we will get some support following us wherever we go.”

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He added: “What I would say is we’re hopeful we will be at the Ricoh and we can continue building the same way.

“It will just be a different environment for us if we end up moving but I would hope that those supporters will stick with us and stick with what’s happening, knowing the circumstances and the scenario behind it and the reasons why we would have had to have moved, and just keep the faith and keep moving forward.

“That’s the only thing you can do in adversity. You have to move forward and stick together, and if that’s not the case then we have to re-assess and take it from there.

“But ultimately, it’s going to be a case of waiting and seeing what the uptake on season tickets is when they can eventually put them on sale.”

Potential groundshare club ruled out

One of the Midlands football clubs who were interested in a groundshare with Coventry City next season have revealed that they have had “no recent dialogue” with the Sky Blues.

Coventry City yesterday revealed that they are close to signing a contract with one of two clubs over a potential groundshare next season.

And despite Burton Albion chairman Ben Robinson previously revealing that they would take “a positive look” at Coventry City’s proposal, they are no longer believed to be one of the clubs referred to in yesterday’s statement released by Coventry City.


It has been revealed that Burton have had “no recent dialogue with Coventry City over potential groundshare”, according to a Burton spokesperson today.

The Sky Blues are considering options over sharing the ground facilities of another club in 2019-20, as their existing agreement with Wasps, landlords at the Ricoh Arena, expires in the summer – and Wasps are refusing to talk about a new deal until Coventry’s owners Sisu drop their ongoing legal action.

Rival fans united

Coventry City and Sunderland fans have come together for a unique away trip to the Stadium of Light.

A group of 14 Black Cats fans, including a family of five brothers who were born and bred in Coventry, joined a coach load of Sky Blues supporters to make a weekend of the big League One match.

The Sunderland supporters are off-spring of Mackems who moved down to the city in the mid 1950s to work at Keresley pit.

Alan Downing and his four brothers – Chris, 60, Graham, 59, Steven 57, and Michael, 55 – were born in Coventry and all followed in their father Alan’s footsteps by working in the pit.

Sky Blues and Sunderland fans prepare for their big coach trip

Alan senior passed away eight years ago but mum Brenda, 84, still lives locally.

Alan junior, aged 62, said: “I grew up supporting both teams while a couple of my brothers are Sunderland through and through.

“But we all like to see both clubs do well and I was as delighted to see Sunderland win the FA Cup in 1973 as I was when City won it in 1987.

“Basically we are all a big group of pals who grew up together, worked together, played works league football and still drink together at The Wallace in Coundon where most of us now live.

“We met for breakfast and then had a brilliant trip up to Durham where we’re staying for two nights, with the match in the middle.

“We stopped off at Wetherby services on the way up where the Coventry players’ coach had stopped off as well and Mark Robins came over to meet us and have his picture taken with the lads, which was nice.”

The group of friends will be travelling to the ground together with the Sunderland fans wearing their red and white and the Coventry lads wearing their sky blue and white and then going their separate ways to their respective ends for the match.

So what’s the score prediction?

“A draw would be ideal,” said Alan, “although the Sky Blues really need the win to keep their play-off hopes alive and I think Sunderland will go up anyway, regardless of this weekend’s scoreline.

“But whatever happens, we’ll have a great weekend and there’ll be plenty of fun and banter.”

Injury news ahead of today’s big game

Coventry City boss Mark Robins admits he doesn’t know whether he will see key midfield man Tom Bayliss in the team again this season.

The 20-year-old suffered a broken arm against Bristol Rovers last Sunday and is definitely ruled out of tomorrow’s long trip to second from top Sunderland.

The good news is that the Sky Blues player does not require surgery and is wearing a lightweight cast, but the City manager is planning for the worst case scenario.

“I have to plan without him,” said Robins .

“They have aligned the bones and he has to go back to hospital next week to make sure they are still in position and then wait for it to heal.

Tom Bayliss looks a doubt for the rest of the season

“He’s got a light cast on but it depends whether he will be allowed to play, but he certainly won’t be available for the weekend.

“And I would imagine that’s his season finished.”

Jordan Shipley, who missed last week’s game with a back spasm, has recovered and is favourite to fill the central midfield void left by Bayliss alongside skipper Liam Kelly.

Fellow midfielder David Meyler, meanwhile, underwent surgery on his dislocated shoulder on Tuesday and, remarkably, is travelling to Saturday’s match to offer his support to the squad as well as catch up with some old friends at the Stadium of Light where he started his career.

David Meyler after this week’s surgery

As for first choice centre-back Jordan Willis, who sat out last weekend’s match with a knee injury, Robins said: “We’re just waiting on Jordan to see if he’s fit to play.

“Hopefully he’ll travel and we’ll see how he is.”

Tom Davies filled in and did an excellent job against Bristol Rovers and will again be on standby to partner Dom Hyam against the Black Cats who have not lost a League One game at home all season.

Can they get a ‘magnificent’ first?

Mark Robins has challenged his Coventry City players to achieve a first at the Stadium of Light this season.

The Sky Blues are travelling to Wearside for the first time in 12 years and have the daunting task of facing a buoyant Black Cats team who are yet to experience defeat at home in League One this season.

Coventry have only won once at Sunderland in 18 visits – a 1-0 victory in 1977 – during which time they have lost nine and drawn eight.

It’s also a management first for Robins who has played at the impressive stadium in his career but never competed there as a manager.

City will be backed by at least 2,652 of the Sky Blue Army, with the remaining 180 of the 2,832 allocation being made available on the gate.

“We have got almost 3,000 fans going which is fantastic,” said the City boss.

“This is a brilliant game towards the end of the season when the players have done pretty well and we just want to see the season out playing some good football, scoring some goals and trying to get ourselves as close as we can to that top six.

“If we don’t make it this year, how close can we get?

“We have put ourselves under a bit of pressure because that’s what you want, to test yourselves and this is a game to do that.”

The Sky Blues have travelled well to the higher placed sides in the division in recent weeks, earning a point at run-away leaders Luton Town and also at automatic promotion pushing Barnsley, while beating Peterborough United on the road.

Sunderland’s Stadium of Light

Asked if the fact that a decent side, good pitch and impressive stadium will suit his players, Robins said: “You’d like to think so.

“They are a good team. They’re unbeaten there this season so that shows what a formidable opponent we face.

“But what a good time to go there and play some really good football without any fear.

“They have drawn a lot of games as well as winning and there’s a real incentive there for us to be the first team to beat them there this season which would be a magnificent achievement.

“If we can go there and play to our capabilities then we will go there and cause them some problems. But, likewise, they are a good side and we have to be on top of our game.”

       

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