Big Ron gives us food for thought; FAN'S EYE VIEW

No 147 Coventry
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The Independent Online
It football were to be likened to food, what would your team be? If you're a Manchester United fan, you might say you were caviar: expensive and full of quality. Newcastle? A cream cake: nice, but you can't go on like that forever.

Coventry City are more like the old jar of gherkins at the back of the cupboard. Bought with good intentions, but never actually doing anything.

It is rare for the fans of rival Premiership teams to be so utterly lacking in feeling for a team in the same division, but the fact is very few people like Coventry and very few hate us. No one can be bothered with us - after all, Coventry are traditionally an inoffensive side who are good for a few points every season. Annoying? How would you feel supporting a side who are accused of being worth less than their manager's jewellery?

Apart from a glorious distraction in 1987's FA Cup triumph, the key to everything has been getting by. Shoestring budgets have prevented serious challenges for honours, and managers have usually had little time to get their bench coats initialled before heading for the exit.

Last year, however, it seemed as if things had taken a dramatic turn for the better. Ron Atkinson was forgiven the sin of managing Aston Villa when he took over at Highfield Road. Straight away, an extra 5,000 fans turned up for home games and the results picked up immediately, Gordon Strachan's arrival was another statement of intent from the new chairman, Bryan Richardson, and top- flight football was secured for another season with a stylish 3-1 win at Tottenham last May.

The summer became the silly season for fans. What was this? Hope? Ambition even! The board put their money where their mouth was and financed a number of million pound plus deals. In came Isaias from Benfica, along with Paul Williams, John Salako and Luton's young prospect Paul Telfer.

Six months and another pounds 6m or so later and we are once again frantically looking in the goal difference column to see whether or not we can avoid the drop.

Every fan seems to have a number of opinions as to what has been the problem this season. Some blame Ron's seemingly constant television commitments, others say he has been let down by some of the big signings such as Isaias (Portuguese for ''injury'', apparently), Telfer and Salako. Pretty much everyone, though, agrees that the abandonment of any defensive plans is the main problem.

Dublin and the brilliant Noel Whelan have ensured that Coventry have scored more goals than any other team involved in the struggle to avoid the drop, but a quick glance at the goals against column explains the predicament.

Recent wins against Liverpool and Queen's Park Rangers have shown the fighting spirit which was badly lacking for far too long. The enthusiasm of the likes of Liam Daish, Williams and Eoin Jess has got to be be the norm rather than the exception if, as we are sure they can, City are to survive.

If survival is secured, then this summer is a vital time. Ron must disprove the theory that he is no better than previous managers at disposing of dead wood. Some say he just shops at a more expensive timber shop.

The truth is that for years when there were no resources, Coventry should not really have stayed up. But stay up we did, and didn't it just gall the likes of Manchester City who went down? Well, tough.

Now that the money is there, so is genuine potential for the future. Who knows? Maybe next year the gherkins could be challenging for plate space with the caviars and the cream cakes of this world.

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