Steven Pressley will look out at a packed Ricoh Arena on Friday as his Coventry City side finally end their 16-month exile from the city. And every face he sees will, in his eyes, be a stark reminder why the Sky Blues are back playing again in the Ricoh Arena. Coventry are back at their former home after settling their long-running rent dispute with the company that runs the stadium.
Pressley, the Coventry manager, insists the reason for the return to the Ricoh is down to the Sky Blues supporters’ refusal for more than a season to watch their side play their “home” games at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium, 34 miles away.
“Ultimately, that decision influenced the club to return to the city,” says Pressley, whose side face Gillingham in a televised League One match.
“I think if the supporters had turned out in their numbers at Sixfields that there would not have been such a great pressure to return.
“But the supporters have voted with their feet and I think you can never forget that football clubs are built around the supporters. I’m delighted for them that we’re back.”
Coventry’s last game at the Ricoh was back in April last year – a 1-0 loss against Leyton Orient. Pressley had taken the reins a month before. So the match will be only his sixth home game at the Ricoh as Coventry manager.
The Scot believes it will be a shot in the arm for supporters and players alike as they try to climb back towards the Premier League. “It’s going to be a massive boost,” says Pressley. “I think that every single person at the club has been affected in one way or another with the situation for the last 16 months.
“It’s been absolutely vital for the future of this club that we returned to the city. We’ve already sold out the first allocation of tickets and there’s a chance we can sell out the whole stadium. That in itself sends out a clear message what the football club means to the whole city.
“It has been very difficult being away from the city. Northampton have been exceptional for us as a football club, they have been so accommodating to us.
“But it’s never truly felt like home and it’s been tough for everybody, especially when you get to the winter months and you’re playing during the week and it’s a cold Tuesday night and you’re running out in front of 1500 supporters.
“It’s been difficult for the players and I think out of this they deserve huge credit. I’m just so pleased we have found a solution to the situation.”
Only two players who played for Coventry in that Orient game – Jordan Clarke and John Fleck are still on the Sky Blues’ books now. On Thursday the club will give a tour of the stadium to the squad, most of whom had never been inside.
“This has to be the start of, hopefully, a new period for the club,” says Pressley. “We can unite and bring some real positivity to the city.
“It’s up to us try and encourage the fans to continue to come back and we can only do that by playing fast, entertaining football which we’ll try and do. The fact that the Gillingham game is live on television is a fantastic opportunity to show everybody what a great club we have.”