1. Hi and thanks for talking to us. First of all, can I ask how long you’ve been supporting Coventry and how did you get into it? It’s about 20 years now. My family moved into the Midlands from Hertfordshire when I was about seven and getting into football. My dad noticed that there were a lot of Premier League clubs in the area – Villa, Derby County, Leicester City, Coventry City – the Sky Blues just so happened to be the first team that we could get our hands on tickets to go to a match. Coventry City lost 2-1 to Middlesbrough in my first ever live football match. If only I knew then that that was about as good as it was going to get…
2. Following an incredible spell of no top six finishes for over 40 years, last season’s promotion must have been a blessed relief? Most definitely. It was a pretty inconsistent season last year, but we found a way to win at most of the key moments of the campaign. Beating Notts County in the Play-Off Semi-Final was the moment that most realised that we were on the verge of breaking the promotion hoodoo. I’m not too manly to admit that once went 3-1 up on the night and any chance of County comeback had been put to bed, there were a few tears of pure relief.
3. Confidence in manager Mark Robins must be sky high after delivering such rare success? Pretty high, although the underwhelming start to the campaign has tempered that confidence somewhat. He is a manager who seems to have a habit of pulling important results out of the bag when required, even if there does look to be an overall lack of a set game-plan or style of play that he’s looking to impose. It will be interesting to see how much time he’s given if we continue to struggle to pick up wins over the next month or so, but there’s confidence from most fans that he will continue to get things right.
4. How do you think your squad has signed this summer? The first month or so of transfer activity looked highly encouraging. Proven League One performers Junior Brown and Abu Ogogo were lured away from Shrewsbury Town to play for us, a statement of intent that Mark Robins was looking to kick-on from last year’s promotion. From the sale of last season’s top-scorer Marc McNulty in early July onwards, the transfer activity has looked a little more slap-dash, particularly in attack. There are currently 10 different players competing the four attacking positions, with Jodi Jones, who excelled last season before picking up a big injury, still to return. Almost none of our forwards have a proven record of scoring reliably at League One level and it looks at the moment like there is quantity over quality. 5. How do you feel pre season went? Poorly. Mark Robins allowed the players to return a week or so later to pre-season because of our victory in the Play-Off Final and it seems to have left us behind most teams in terms of fitness and tactical preparation. It looks like Robins is using the opening weeks of the campaign to experiment with team line-ups and formations, while getting everyone up to speed, which could give us plenty of catching-up to do if we don’t pick up a few wins over the next month or so.
6. Who would you say are the main stars in your squad? Tom Bayliss and Tony Andreu are undoubtedly the star turns in the squad at the moment. Bayliss emerged from the youth-team last season to become the team’s chief creative threat following the season-ending injury to Jodi Jones in November. Energetic, positive and skilful, Bayliss is constantly capable of driving the team forward and taking multiple opposing players out of the game with a shimmy of the legs. He has been played regularly out of position by Robins on the right of midfield, but he still makes a big impact because of his clear talent. Andreu spent most of last season out injured but has hit the ground running upon his return over the summer. Andreu is another creative player, more of an orthodox number 10, who likes to play the ball simply and quickly to his team-mates. He also possesses an eye for goal and is someone who can produce match-winning moments out of nothing.
7. And any dead wood? We have looked to have gotten most of the dead wood out of the squad this summer, with the likes of Stuart Beavon and Peter Vincenti leaving. Nonetheless, we still have a very large squad approaching 30 players, so I would expect some of the less experienced fringe players, such as striker Jordan Ponticelli, to be allowed to head out on loan.
8. What realistic targets do you have for the season and what type of season do you expect Argyle to have? Heading into the season, we were at least hoping to do slightly more than simply establish ourselves back at League One level, with some probably overly optimistic talk of the Play-Offs in some quarters. Having failed to win any of our opening three games, the very least that we want to do now is to avoid a repeat of our last season in this division where we failed to win our opening 10 games, which set the tone for a season of struggle. As for Argyle, while I imagine that there is hope that you’ll go one step further than last year and make the Play-Offs, I think somewhere in mid-table looks a more realistic target given the quality of squads some of the better-resourced clubs have assembled. With Derek Adams in charge, it’s hard not to feel that you’ll find a way to punch above your weight.
9. Which one player of Argyle’s do you most envy and why? Obviously, Graham Carey. Who wouldn’t want a midfielder that can score and create into the double figures and win games on their own? I have a soft spot for Ruben Lameiras from his time with the Sky Blues, where he was one of a number of very exciting attacking players that we had under Tony Mowbray – James Maddison, Jacob Murphy, Adam Armstrong & Ryan Kent – but I’m not sure he is someone who would improve us immediately in the same way Carey obviously would.
10. How do you think you will set up tactically for the game? That’s a big question at the moment. As I mentioned earlier, there is a surfeit of attacking options available for Mark Robins to pick from with only really Tony Andreu and Tom Bayliss worthy of commanding a place in the starting XI. I would hope that Robins looks to build on the positive attacking performance that we put in against Scunthorpe on the opening day, rather than reverting to a more cautious approach to eke out a result.
11. And finally a score prediction? I think both sides are in a similar place at this moment in time with squads of very similar quality. I can see this being a bore draw, 0-0.