FORMER Sky Blues midfielder Tom Bayliss has paid tribute to Coventry City manager Mark Robins for the role he played in furthering his development.
The 20-year-old, now at Championship side Preston North End, also lauded the academy set-up and quality of coaching at the club – admitting the level of standards at the Sky Blues as being above their current League One status.
Bayliss gave insight on a range of topics of his time at the club, from breaking through to the first team, to Coventry’s success in the League Two play-offs in 2018, when sitting down to talk to The Nii Lamptey Show podcast.
When quizzed about his time in the club’s youth ranks, Bayliss said that the encouragement he received allowed him to perform beyond his years.
“The people that run it and the coaches there are of a really high calibre, obviously because they want to push people on to play in higher age groups at a young age,” he told The Nii Lamptey Show.
“It exposes you to the physical nature – if you’re lucky enough to experience it – at first team level.
“The attention to detail of the coaching is second to none, and you can’t fault it.
He recalled the time he almost gave up playing altogether, and credits his family for keeping his focus firmly on breaking through into the professional game.
“When I was 15 years old and they were in the process of handing out scholarships to be a full-time scholar at Coventry, I was one of the last ones to be offered,” said Bayliss.
“They offered them out in November time, and I got told that they were going to hold my decision back, and if it weren’t for my Mom and Dad at that time – I probably would have not have played football.
“I was obviously distraught, but I made the decision having had the conversation with my Mom and Dad and said ‘look, this is what I want to do and I never want to feel like this again’ so it was a real turning point for me.
Having appeared from the bench in November 2017 in an EFL Trophy win over West Bromwich Albion’s under-23s, it wasn’t until impressing in a training session a month later where Bayliss got his big break in the first team.
“On the Thursday, we used to do the first-team XI against the rest of the lads, and I had a blinder in the training session.
“After the session, the gaffer just pulled me out of nowhere into his office and showed me a team on the board, and I was in it, and he said ‘how does that make you feel?’, and I said ‘I’m ready to take the opportunity’.
“You’ve got to take your opportunity, you can’t wait around or feel sorry for anyone who’s not in the team.”
From there, the academy product was a near ever-present in the team, scoring on his first start and league debut against Cheltenham Town, missing just one game as Coventry made their way into the League Two play-offs.
Speaking on his former manager, Bayliss thanked Robins for the faith he displayed in the then 18-year-old, and said: “He was brilliant for me, he gave me that platform and let me play and just said go and express yourself, and your eyes light up at comments like that.
“The player I am, that’s what I want to be doing, I don’t want to have any pressures or stop myself from trying things or doing what I normally do.
“He would always talk to me and tell me when he didn’t think I was doing as well as I probably should be doing.
“He was always pushing me to stay out longer and develop as well.
“It wasn’t like, you’re in the first team, you’ve made it – you still need to be doing bits and bobs and extras.
“Aidy Boothroyd and Jason [Farndon] as well, they were brilliant coaches – the standard of coaching you get at Coventry is probably not parallel with League One, so that helped me massively.”
The playmaking midfielder admits the arrogance shown by Notts County in the lead up to their semi-final clash was all of the motivation that he and his teammates needed, with the Sky Blues romping to the final with a 5-2 win on aggregate.
“They were saying that they were undefeatable, and we were sat there thinking ‘you’re not’,” said the Preston man.
“I think every single one of us in that changing room really wanted to beat Notts County.
“We thought if we beat Notts County, we’d be so confident in the final – because we knew we could beat one of the other two teams.”
And so it proved, with Bayliss scoring in the 3-1 play-off final success against Exeter City at Wembley.
“The best thing about that night before, the coaches and the manager had gone round to every single person’s family and got them to send a nice message clip,” he said.
“We were in there for about 40 minutes, every player’s family sending a message about how proud they are, ‘good luck tomorrow’.
“It was actually quite touching to see all of the lad’s families wanting us to win, and we all looked around and said ‘we’ve got to win tomorrow – there’s no losing’.”
You can listen to the full podcast episode with Tom Bayliss by clicking on the following link at The Nii Lamptey Show podcast.