FORMER Sky Blues striker Cedric Roussel admits he was taken back by the love and support of Sky Blues fans on his first return to the city since leaving back in 2001.
The Belgian striker played a formidable role in what many fans believe was the most entertaining Sky Blues team in recent years.
Under the stewardship of Gordon Strachan and playing with the likes of Robbie Keane, Gary McAllister and Mustapha Hadji, Roussel helped the club achieve a 14th place finish in the top flight back in 1999/2000.
The Sky Blues were one of the Premier League’s top-performing sides that season having won 12 matches at Highfield Road.
And Roussel looks back at his time with the club with very fond memories.
“We had a great team back then with some fantastic players.” Roussel told the Observer.
“We had McAllister, Hadji, Chippo and Keane and we all enjoyed playing with each other.
“Keane was a great player and we somehow clicked from day one. The first time we played with each other in training it just seemed to work.
“We both knew each other’s strengths and just played off them. He is one of those players who has that something about him and he always knew where the ball was going to be.
“It was a wonderful time and the best part of my career. We played some wonderful matches and I scored some important goals too.
“I remember beating Arsenal at Christmas and we nearly beat Manchester United at Old Trafford too,
“Playing in the Premier League was my dream and I was given a chance to make that happen at Coventry. I was still young at the time but I had to give it a go.”
There were many highlights for the Sky Blues that season but Roussel picks out his first goal against old rivals Aston Villa as his personal highlight.
“I scored against Manchester United, I scored against Chelsea but for me my best goal was my first one against Aston Villa.
“I remember (Robbie) Keane telling me before the game ‘if you score against Aston Villa you’ll be a legend here with the Coventry fans’.
“It’s always important to score your first goal. When you come to a club and score your first goal it’s always the most important thing because it brings you confidence and it makes you think ‘I can do it at the highest level’.
“It was important for the fans also and the team. We won the match 2-1 and my parents were in the stadium for the first time. That was my best moment in that match.”
Although he does not fully understand the reasoning behind the club’s steady decline down the football league ladder, Roussel sensed there was still a bad taste in the air on his first ever trip to the Ricoh.
“I don’t know what’s happened really in recent years. I think there’s been lots of politics.
“But you can smell that something’s happened here because people are not confident anymore.
“It’s very sad what’s happened to Coventry because this club deserves to be in the Premiership.
Even when Coventry dropped out of the Premiership I would always keep an eye out for the results because I had such a great time here and that made me want to follow them.
“We would have dreamed for a stadium like this in the Premier League. And I think in the Premiership we would have had a full house. We would have filled 32,000 easily back then.
“It’s a strange feeling because you have fantastic facilities and you are two divisions lower. Back in the Premiership it was not so beautiful and nice!”
Roussel was back in Coventry as a special guest for the club’s former players’ association.
Throughout the day he mingled with fans and guests and also provided match commentary.
And Roussel revealed he will never for get the reception he got on his return.
A clearly emotional Roussel added: “It’s great to come back to Coventry. I had have so many good memories from my time here.
“The people here are fantastic. I didn’t think it would be so emotional but the fans have been brilliant.
“I honestly didn’t know I was this popular with the fans.
It’s been an emotional day. I didn’t know I was so important for this club and I am very happy for them. They are my best friends. We shared bad moments, good moments but they were always there.
I will come back as soon as possible because I played for some big teams but what happened to me on Saturday with the reception and welcome I got from the fans, that’s never happened to me before at any club.”