COVENTRY City’s young academy graduates are back in contention to play against Southend United tomorrow night after missing out on starting places due to late unforseen circumstances in the 2-0 home defeat against Bradford on Saturday.
Team boss Mark Robins revealed today left-back Ryan Haynes, midfielder Gael Bigirimana and club captain Jordan Willis were all in training today.
Robins had indicated after Saturday’s defeat at the Ricoh Arena that Bigirimana could have started for Robins’ first match back at the Sky Blues instead of sitting on the bench, having impressed in his return to first-team action against Shrewsbury the previous week.
But he missed a starting berth for “personal” circumstances, which were understood to be a false alarm over childbirth with his partner pregnant.
Haynes, who has shown his attacking flare in recent performances, also missed out due to “sickness” overnight, and was surprisingly replaced by Chis Stokes coming back from long-term injury. Stokes suffered cramp in the second-half and was substituted.
Speaking at today’s press conference, Robins said ahead of tomorrow night’s Ricoh Arena clash (kick-off 7.45pm) against the promotion-chasing Essex side: “We’re still missing a few. We trained today. We’ve had some missing and some back in.
“Stokesy’s missing today. Ryan Haynes has come back in.
“Jordan Willis is back in training. That’s great news for us. Jordan can be an asset.”
Willis came back for the away defeat against Bury a fortnight ago but was considered to be brought back too soon, and suffered a recurrence of his injury.
The manager also revealed 32-year-old right-back and holding midfielder Kevin Foley, brought in by former boss Russell Slade in January, is unfit having suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury on Saturday, when he was substituted
Robins added: “It’s disappointing but it gives an opportunity to other people.”
Of Bigirimana, Robins said the midfielder trained today and would likely be available tomorrow.
Southend are seventh in League One, just one place off the promotion play-off positions, but have only won two in six and were defeated 2-0 by Bristol Rovers on Saturday, when manager Phil Brown heavily criticised the attitude of some of his players.
Of Southend, Robins said: “They’ve got some experience. They’ve a number of strikers, Marc Antoine-Fortune, Simon Cox.. Theo Robinson just signed in January.
“They’ve got quite a decent squad… they’ve got good players.” He noted the abilities of Cox, Nile Ranger, Ryan Leonard, Stephen McLaughlin and Ben Coker.
But Robins added: “It’s down to us what we can do to hurt them and try and take things forward from Saturday to tomorrow.
“One win gives us three points. We’re running out of games. A draw or a defeat is no good. We have to win as quickly as we possibly can.”
He added: “Games come round very quickly. There’s little time to prepare and we go again.”
Of assessing his players in training, he said: “It’s not just about ability. There’s some good technical players. Some have different attributes.
“Some are young and finding their way in the game and how things work at this level.
“We have to find a way of playing for our club and build on that and take us forward. We’ll try and settle with a style of play,” although he added a squad allowed for changes when necessary.
“I was disappointed on Saturday with the lack of reaction to going a goal down. It’s not that players don’t care. It’s about the knowhow and where-with-all to make things happen.
“We need a lot of time on the training pitch to work with them. We’ll be working with them as much as we possibly can. It’s a good time in terms of getting to know them and talking to them.
“There needs to be a consistency of message. After a week, we see what we’ve got to work with technically. We’ve still trying to get to know the mentality and personality of players.”
Coventry City are now 14 points from safety at the bottom of League One, with just 10 games left.