THE SKY Blues Academy has become a conveyor of talent breaking into the first team in recent years and the latest youngster hoping to make his mark next season is defender Cian Harries.
The 18-year-old joined the Sky Blues after being released by Aston Villa at just 14-years of age but since then he has been determined to prove his doubters wrong.
Harries has progressed through the Academy to captain the club’s Under-18s and in recent years the Wales Under-19 international has produced a series of impressive displays for the Under-21s too.
The natural progression now is selection for the first team and teenager Harries knows he has what it takes to compete at League One level.
“I’m dieing to break into the first team,” Harries told the Observer. “There are a few centre-backs at the club but I’m hoping to push my luck in that position.
“I’m looking to play as soon as I can. The gaffer knows when the time is right. He’d have seen hundreds and hundreds of players come through in the same sort of situation so he knows what’s right and what’s wrong and will know when I’m ready.
“All I can do is my level best and hopefully I’ll get a chance in the pre-season games, impress in them and then who knows what could happen.
“Even if it’s not the first game of the season – it could be the fourth or fifth game in. The Johnstone Paint Trophy is a great way to give young players a chance so hopefully I might get selected for that.”
Like most young footballers, Harries’ journey in the game began as a youngster playing for his local side Binbrook who are based in Shirley.
He had trials at Wolves and West Brom as well as Birmingham and Aston Villa at the age of seven and his parents chose the latter, where he remained until being released at 14.
“I didn’t go to the meeting, my dad went. I suppose I was still a kid back then so they didn’t want us there.
“I’d actually had quite a good season that year but I was playing at left back. One of the main reasons why I think I was released was because they were pushing me to play left centre-back.
“Villa also said I wouldn’t grow much more which is ironic because I think I’ve grown a fair bit since then.
“At the time it was quite hard to take but I got over it pretty quickly because you’re straight back into football, rather than taking a break and reflecting on it.”
Sky Blues move
That break lasted just one day as Harries, with the support of his family, made the decision to join the Sky Blues.
It was an easy decision to make having already been made are of the talent in the team having played against the likes of James Maddison and George Thomas for Villa in the youth leagues.
“At the time Coventry the time they had the likes of Gary McSheffrey and Kevin Kilbane who are very recognisable names.
“When they got relegated I still knew a fair few players because I’d trained with the Under-21s a couple of times.
“I still think Coventry is a massive club now. We’ve got the Ricoh Arena which holds 32,000 so it’s still a huge club with a huge fanbase.”
Harries’ attitude towards playing in central defence has changed during his time with the Sky Blues having switched permanently from left-back and his on-field style of play has seen him compared to the likes of Liverpool great Alan Hansen and German World Cup winner Franz Beckenbauer.
“I used to think the job of a centre-half was heading it, kicking it long and fouling people!
“Most of the time I won’t come towering over a 6ft centre-forward or be smashing people in the air, I’m more of a cultured maybe.
“I prefer the ball at my feet rather than having to do stuff in the air. I try to take the physical element out of it, because being quite tall, I’m not the strongest so I try and take that aspect out of it and in a way take the striker on with my feet.
“I’m a ball-playing centre-back that gives the team a foundation to play on. I quite like Jan Vertonghen because like me he used to play left-back for Ajax but came over to centre-half when he joined Spurs.
“I’m allergic to kicking the ball down the pitch if I can help it. I think that’s quite different to the centre-backs we’ve had at the club in the past few years. So I hope I can bring something different to the team.”
Harries was one of several academy players to sign professional contracts earlier this summer after putting pen-to-paper on a three-year deal.
And the young defender admits event he was surprised to have been offered such a long term deal.
“The Under-21s played Sheffield Wednesday last season at Nuneaton and Mowbray came to watch. Luckily I had a very good game and Mowbray came over to me at the end and said I was exceptional.
“Then I played another Under-21 game, I think it might have been Barnsley away and we won 2-0. The gaffer was there. Then we trained on the Friday with the first team and the gaffer called me over.
“He asked me if I had any sort of representation, like an agent, because there’s going to be people asking about me now. He told me to keep my head in the right place and if I needed any advice go to him, and the following Friday he said he wanted to offer me a three-year deal.
“I was chuffed and over the moon. I rang my mum and dad and they were excited.
“At the start of last season I’d have taken a one-year deal. That was the aim, so to get offered two years was exceptional and three years was a lot, lot more than I ever expected.”
Despite not having made his first team debut, it is understood that a number of Premier League teams have taken an interest in the young defender.
But Harries is fully focussed on enhancing his reputation at the Ricoh Arena first before considering what the future holds.
“I don’t think I’d let interest from other clubs go to my head. James Maddison certainly hasn’t and he’s taken it all in his stride.
“At the minute I think we’re both just focussed on playing for Coventry and getting the experience because we’re only still young.
“If I moved to say Arsenal, they’ve probably got about ten players in your position so I’d imagine it would be quite hard to find your feet.
“You can then get lost in the system. I’m settled here and I wouldn’t see any reason to move at this moment in time.”
Asked what his thoughts were on a possible loan move. he added: “I have thought about loans and I have spoken to some people about it because if I was stuck playing with the Under-21s again then it would be my third season and I feel I have proved myself at that level now and I’m ready to make the step up.
“Whether that’s playing in the first team straight away or whether I go out on loan I don’t know. I’d have to consider my options and see if the right move was available.
“But if I felt like I had a chance of pushing through here or if I got to within one injury of playing then I think I’d have to keep my patience and see what happens.
“I feel ready mentally and more than likely technically, but perhaps physically I’m not which is maybe what will hold me back a little bit.
“I want to play first team football at Coventry now if possible.
“If that can’t happen straight away then I’ll just have to wait and be patient and I’m sure I’ll be thrown in at the right time.”