18th Feb, 2020

FEATURE - Which Coventry City players should stay and who should go?

FOOTBALL: THE SKY Blues are set for another summer clearout as Mark Robins looks to build a side capable of winning promotion from League Two at the first attempt next season.

No fewer than 14 first team players are out of contract in June and Robins is due to meet with each player in the first week of May to decide their fate.

Observer sports editor Steve Carpenter takes a look at who he feels the City boss should keep and those who should be worried about heading towards the Ryton exit door.

In the first of a two-part feature, he looks at the seven players who have come through the club’s hugely successful academy.

Lee Burge – STAY

The goalkeeping department is an area I would address this summer but having said that I do think that Lee Burge has done enough to earn a short term deal.

We’ve been crying out for an experienced goalkeeper since Joe Murphy left the club. We need someone in-between the sticks with a bit of quality and someone who can give the defence some confidence. Robins needs to build from the back and his defenders must have confidence in the keeper behind them.

Burge, like Riece Charles-Cook, has made mistakes and he still doesn’t fill me with great confidence. He comes across as a quiet and calm goalkeeper but he has demonstrated his quality at times, particularly in the second half of the season.

He produced an outstanding save in the final moments at Wembley to make sure it was the Sky Blues lifting the Checkatrade Trophy and that will never be forgotten.

Drafting in an experienced keeper would be my priority this summer but Burge in my eyes would be a suitable number two.

Dion Kelly-Evans – STAY

I’ve been very impressed with what I have seen from young full-back Kelly-Evans this season and it’s pleasing to see yet another ‘Coventry kid’ break into the first team and make such a positive impact.

After making his debut in the final game of last season away at Oldham, the 20-year-old has gone on to make no fewer than 31 appearances this season and he’s becoming something of a hit with the fans.

What he lacks for in height he makes up for in fight and you can see that he’ll run through brick walls for his boyhood club.

Kelly-Evans wears his heart on his sleeve and we saw that last weekend when he put in two crunching tackles that got fans on their feet.

His energy down the right could be a useful in League Two next season and he could cement himself as a firm fan’s favourite if he continues playing in the same sort of manner.

Devon Kelly-Evans – GO

I must admit that I’ve not had the chance to see much of Devon Kelly-Evans other than a few performances for the under-23s and a couple of pre-season games at the beginning of the current campaign.

He has the same energy and determination as his brother Dion, but perhaps because of his position Devon has not been handed the same opportunities.

Two loan spells at non-league side Nuneaton has provided Devon with much-needed first team football, but I’d be surprised if Robins were to offer the youngster a new deal.

Ryan Haynes – STAY

There is no doubting that Ryan Haynes is a hugely talented full-back who has fans on the edge of their seat when going forward down the left, but for me he lacks consistency and I think Robins has a difficult decision to make here.

Going forward he can be a real threat and he’s shown on four occasions this season that he has an eye for goal which some excellent finishes in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Perhaps it’s because I used to play left-back myself so I’ll always view it as ‘my position’ but Haynes struggles with the defensive side of his game and has been caught out on a number of occasions.

There was interest in his services from the Championship back in January with Wolves making an approach, so Haynes himself may opt for a move away, which could take the decision out of Robins’ hands.

Gael Bigirimana – STAY

A firm fan’s favourite during his first spell at the club, Bigirimana was given a chance to revive his career with the Sky Blues after initially re-joining on loan in November 2015, but last summer he put pen-to-paper on a one-year deal.

The Burundi-born midfielder enjoyed a positive start to the season, but like the team, his form dipped.

Russell Slade was not a fan of Bigirimana and perhaps his game did not suit the manager’s style of play when he replaced Mark Venus towards the end of last year.

But the return of Mark Robins has allowed Bigirimana to return to somewhere near the form he showed during his first spell at the club.

He was one of the standout performers in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley and against Walsall he produced a man-of-the-match performance with a superb performance in the heart of the Sky Blues midfield.

Jack Finch – GO

It looked as though at one stage that Jack Finch would have a bright future at the club having been offered a route into the first team by former manager Steven Pressley.

Back in the 2014/15 season, Finch made 16 league appearances but since then a combination of injuries and a change in management has seen the midfielder drop way down the pecking order.

This term Finch has been limited to just one start, coming in the Checkatrade Trophy victory at Wycombe back in November.

With Robins seemingly reluctant to give Finch a chance, it seems very unlikely that he will be offered a new deal this summer.


George Thomas – STAY

Young Welsh striker Thomas has been one of the very few positive to come out of a truly dreadful season for the Sky Blues.

Under former boss Tony Mowbray he was given little opportunities and didn’t take them, but Russell Slade put his faith in the Academy graduate and now we’re seeing a very talented and hungry striker come good.

I first interviewed Thomas a few years back when he first started training with the first team and back then I was taken back by his positive attitude and determination to succeed at this club.

This season we’ve seen him go from a fringe player, then back to the Under-23s, then back into the squad and now Thomas would be the first name on my team sheet.

A scorer of great goals and a player who can produce on the big occasion when it matters, Thomas deserves to be offered a long term deal so he can play a key role in guiding the Sky Blues back to League One next season.

Visit the Observer website tomorrow to read sports editor Steve Carpenter’s views on seven other players who are out of contract at the Ricoh Arena this summer tomorrow.


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