Football: Fan's Eye View: Coventry City - The unpredictability that kee ps City alive

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The Independent Online
DEVOID OF enthusiasm and confidence, I allowed a Villan friend to drag me to Villa Park on 27 February for my annual humiliation as a Sky Blues supporter, surrounded by a noisy sea of triumphalist home fans and deafened by the hurtful sounds emanating from the Holte End and its sophisticated desire to "defecate on the City tonight".

The Sky Blue supporters have had a gargantuan share of enervating final games of the season over the years. This year will be no different. It's something to look forward to. We cannot compete with the Manchester Uniteds, Arsenals and Chelseas for the title, so we inflict our own excitement on ourselves. Adrenalin just will not flow in mid-table mediocrity. Unpredictability has become Coventry City's trademark, a win at Aston Villa would doubtless be followed by the direst of home defeats against Charlton.

City fans are proud of their collective chip-on-shoulder condition - the chairman, manager and supporters would never cope psychologically with the offer of a re-match by Arsene Wenger. It just would not happen to us. We are alone. Referees and FA disciplinary panels are part of a conspiracy to consign us to the Nationwide and even that paragon of objectivity, the BBC and its Match of the Day, finds us an irritating side-show to the big four or five.

After the highlights of the defeat by Manchester United, when Paul Williams, a whole-hearted journeyman, was superhuman in his efforts to shackle Beckham et al, Alan Hansen droned through an analysis of Ryan Giggs' modest contribution to the match. There was barely a mention of Coventry, least of all Williams.

A mere 20 minutes into the match City have scored, surely just a blip in the course of historical inevitability. A blatant penalty dismissed with an expansive wave, nothing unusual about that these days. Mark Lawrenson, well known to us as a Cityphobe, will be equally dismissive. Another Sky Blue goal after half-time - ye Gods, how will we cope if it really happens? - the first League win at Villa Park for 105 years!

Oh no... a penalty. A dive surely Mr Lawrenson? Dion Dublin, once an icon, now "just a greedy bastard" shoots to the right as he always did for us and cue the usual posturing from the dug-out and interaction between the referee and our flame-haired manager. Their body language emphasises their lack of respect. Goals from an Australian and a Dutchman finish off the hapless Villa team. It's almost safe to jump up and down.

I lose my friend in the melee but I gloat gleefully to myself as I pass the Holte End. When I arrive home, my wife and mother, not known for their sympathetic views on football, have heard the incredible world-shattering news. They leave me to savour the moment again on Match of the Day.

The historic goal-laden 4-1 victory doesn't even make the three main matches. Who cares? We're happy to play second fiddle to Manchester United on such an auspicious day; as good as if not better than the day years ago when we were promoted to the top flight, and that day in May 1987 when Wembley was a Sky Blue heaven. Nobody loves us but Coventry City will line up in the Premiership once again in five months' time - you can bet on that!

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