THE START of the 2016/17 League One campaign has once again been overshadowed by off-field revelations that continue to linger over the Sky Blues, but the latest stand-off surrounding the future of the club’s hugely successful Academy is a little to close to the bone for supporters.
It is fair to say the club has been through its fair share of problems in recent years and supporters have been left to make up their own minds on who is to blame.
But the fans must stick together on the current Academy situation because if you are not worried about it yet you should be.
The Academy has been the lifeline of this football club for so many years and with the financial implications of dropping down to the third tier and financial fair play rules, it is now pretty much acting as a life support machine for the club.
No fewer than 33 graduates have made the step up and tasted first team football in just nine seasons. Three years ago there were 11 Academy players in the matchday squad for the opening match at Crawley Town, while this season Tony Mowbray named six in his starting 11 for the Swindon Town match last Saturday and three others were ready to be called into action on the bench.
We have one of the best Academies in the country when it comes to fielding home-grown talent on the pitch, but it also produces exceptional, Premier League talent too.
There has been many examples of players going on to play at the top flight of English football, which in itself provides a much-needed cash injection and a source of money through transfer sales and add-ons which has helped keep the club ticking over.
Callum Wilson at one point was seen as the club’s third choice striker at youth level, but he worked hard on his game and when the pacey striker was given his opportunity in the first team by Steven Pressley he took it.
Controversially Wilson was sold for a fee believed to be in the region of £3million but he has now become one of the best young strikers in the Premier League and don’t be surprised to see him named in Sam Allardyce’s England squad in the near future.
Fellow Coventry kid James Maddison is the latest talent to leave the club. Again perhaps sold too soon, but you cannot stand in the way of a player who like Wilson wants to progress and he is another player that Richard Stevens and his team can be proud of producing.
Last Tuesday night we got a glimpse of maybe the next youngster likely to attract interest from above in the shape of Ben Stevenson.
The 19-year-old is knocking on Mowbray’s door for a regular slot in the heart of the Sky Blues midfield and Academy boss Richard Stevens is tipping him to have a very bright future in the game.
The Coventry Observer launched a campaign earlier this year called Save Our City and has two clear aims: to protect the football club’s sporting tradition and save its academy from being closed.
I urge all supporters to read about the campaign and back it because without an Academy this football club will continue its slow and painful decline down the Football League ladder and us fans cannot just stand there and allow certain individuals and organisations to allow that to happen. PUSB!