JAY Bothroyd says there was no weight on his teenage shoulders when he joined the Sky Blues for a one-million pound fee in the summer of 2000.
Coventry City famously took a chance on an 18-year-old Bothroyd months after he jeopardised his career at Arsenal by throwing his shirt at coach Don Howe following his substitution in the 2000 FA Youth Cup final.
Bothroyd, speaking exclusively to 888sport, revealed that he was destined to turn out in the Gunners’ first team up until the sudden turn of fate.
“At Arsenal, the youth team players weren’t even training with the first team at that point.” he said.
“There was only me and then Jermaine Pennant started to. Even Arsene Wenger still says today I was going to play [for Arsenal].
“Until I made that mistake and threw my shirt I was the first one from the group who was going to play.
“So when I went to Coventry and I was with the first team every day, and being on the bench and things like that, I really enjoyed that and already had the experience from Arsenal reserves.
“At Coventry there was no real pressure on me. I didn’t really care about the transfer fee, I just wanted to go out and play.”
And on reflection of his three-season stint with the Sky Blues, the 37-year-old says it was one of the high points of his professional career – despite suffering relegation from the Premier League in his first year at the club.
“Obviously going to Coventry was a high point,” Bothroyd said.
“When Gordon Strachan called me and said he wanted me to go there and sign I was really happy because everyone who had worked with Gordon – especially the young players – had flourished.
“He guided them in a good way. At the time Robbie Keane was there, Gary Breen was there, Paul Williams and Richard Shaw. Being involved in that first team straight away was one of my high points.
“To be honest that was a very tough season [Coventry’s ill-fated 2000/01 Premier League campaign].
“Even though Coventry had good players, it didn’t turn into a good season. Robbie had been instrumental at the time and losing your top goalscorer and best player isn’t going to help.
“It was difficult for Gordon to put me in and let me learn how to swim in the Premier League. He was under pressure and didn’t have time to let me understand and flourish.
“You see it today with Phil Foden at Manchester City where he is in and out all of the time, playing ten minutes.
“He didn’t have the chance to do that with me otherwise he would have done that a bit more. It was just bad timing and unfortunate really.”
With Strachan sacked just a matter of games into the 2001/02 First Division season, Bothroyd feels it is this decision which prompted the start of Coventry’s demise.
“Gordon was always really good with me, he really honest and blunt and I liked that about him.
“For me, I don’t want ‘yes’ people around me, but those who say it like it is without dressing it up. He guided me – and it was difficult for me because it was the first time I left home and went to live in the Midlands with no-one else with me. It’s not easy.
“But he tried his best to get me along and I always say that Coventry City started going downhill the day that he left.
“He was the one who galvanized them, he was the one who made good signing and who made Coventry a mid-table team.”