By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Friday, January 4, 2013
For Coventry fans, tomorrow’s tie with Tottenham is a poignant reminder of the greatest day in the club’s history – their victory over Spurs in the 1987 FA Cup Final.
Having scored at the right end in the first half, Gary Mabbutt’s own goal in extra-time secured a historic 3-2 victory for City at Wembley – the only major trophy the club have ever won.
Sky Blues fans will also have fond memories of their great escape at White Hart Lane on May 11 1997 – the final day of the season – when goals from Dion Dublin and Paul Williams secured a 2-1 victory away at Tottenham and saved the club from relegation.
However, there have been few highlights over the last decade following Coventry’s relegation from the Premier League in 2001.
This season the Sky Blues are at their lowest ebb for almost half a century, having dropped into League One in 2012, leaving them in the third tier of English football for the first time in 48 years.
City’s decline has had financial implications and they are in danger of going into receivership – Arena Coventry Limited, who operate their home at the Ricoh Arena, claim that the club owe them £1.1million in unpaid rent.
Despite all of that, Coventry are enjoying a mini revival under their new manager Mark Robins, who replaced Andy Thorn in September and has led the team from 23rd place to their current berth in 11th.
City are also the top scorers in the division with 44 goals from 26 league games, and their 3-2 win at MK Dons on Boxing Day was their sixth away win in a row – a new club record.
There are few familiar faces in the Coventry ranks, but Spurs fans will probably recognise Gary McSheffrey, who was on City’s books when they were in the top flight.
McSheffrey made his debut for the Sky Blues against Aston Villa in February 1999, aged 16 years and 198 days – which made him the youngest player ever to appear in the Premier League.
He held that record for over four years, until Aaron Lennon made his debut for Leeds in August 2003.
McSheffrey spent four years with Birmingham between 2006 and 2010 and played in the Blues’ 2-1 defeat at the Lane in August 2009, when Aaron Lennon hit a late winner.
That was followed by loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Leeds, but the winger returned to Coventry on a free transfer in June 2010 and the 30-year-old is likely to line up on the left side of a 4-4-1-1 formation tomorrow.
On the far side, captain Carl Baker is the club’s most improved player, and the tricky wide man has chipped in with nine goals so far this campaign.
In the centre of midfield, playmaker James Bailey is on loan from Derby and is enjoying a fine campaign alongside the more defensively-minded Steve Jennings.
Unfortunately for City, their star striker David McGoldrick’s loan spell from Nottingham Forest ended on New Year’s Day.
The 25-year-old scored 17 goals in 25 games for City in the first half of this season so he will be sorely missed, but Robins has taken striker Leon Clarke on loan from Charlton with a view to a permanent deal.
At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Joe Murphy is expected to line up behind a back four of Cyrus Christie, Richard Wood, William Edjenguele and 21-year-old left-back Blair Adams, who is on loan from Sunderland.
The Greek centre-back Edjenguele – aka ‘The Edge’ – is fast becoming a fans’ favourite after his arrival from Panetolikos in the summer.
A no-nonsense centre-back, he is dominant in the air and enjoys the occasional surging run forward.
The verdict: Spurs have hosted Peterborough, Charlton and Cheltenham in the third round over the last three years and the aggregate score is 10-0. We’ll go for another comfortable victory this time too – 3-0.
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