Feature

Who are key men leading Coventry's promotion push?

By Andy Turner, Coventry Live 20 May 2023
Coventry

Coventry City reporter Andy Turner looks at the Sky Blues' main protagonists ahead of the playoff final

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Ahead of Saturday's Championship playoff final, Coventry City reporter Andy Turner profiles some of the key figures in the Sky Blues' quest for a Premier League return.

Manager: Mark Robins

Having had a short but incredibly sweet five months in charge of Coventry between September and February in the 2012/13 League One campaign, before being lured away by Championship side Huddersfield Town, Robins returned to the club at the back end of 2017.

His first achievement saw the club lift the EFL Trophy after victory over Oxford United at Wembley Stadium. That was the turning point for Coventry, with the manager putting off-field politics to one side and galvanising the fans and players with a “Rise Together” mantra and mentality that has stayed true to this very day.

Coventry, Mark Robins

A summer rebuild followed and, despite a sluggish start to life in League Two, Robins led Coventry to a sixth-place finish and the playoffs, beating Notts County in a memorable semi-final second leg at Meadow Lane ahead of a final victory over Exeter City.

A second promotion as League One champions came in 2019/20, before Coventry re-established themselves in the Championship despite a bottom-six budget in their first two seasons back.

See: Coventry's long road to the playoff final

With smart recruitment, supplemented by a sprinkling of magic in the loan market, Robins has build a squad that has defied all the odds this season, due to yet more off-field adversity from a string of early-season home postponements and the sale of one of his best defenders, Dominic Hyam, against his wishes.

Throw in long-term injuries to star midfielder Callum O’Hare and fellow playmaker Kasey Palmer and a fifth-place finish has been all the more remarkable for the Championship's longest-serving manager, who celebrated his sixth anniversary in March.

Ben Wilson (GKP)

Since being handed the No 1 spot four matches into the 2022/23 campaign, the 30-year-old hasn’t looked back, taking his chance with both gloves to cement his place as Robins’ first-choice goalkeeper.

It has been an incredible season for the bubbly character from the North East, who has kept an outstanding 22 clean sheets - 20 in the regular season, an all-time club record for a goalkeeper at Coventry, and two more in the playoff semi-finals - to earn the EFL Golden Glove and a place in the Championship's official Team of the Season.

Coventry, Ben Wilson

The icing on the cake was his last-minute goal from a corner at Blackburn Rovers which secured a vital point to keep the promotion hopes alive.

Gustavo Hamer (MID)

The Brazilian-born Dutchman has been nothing short of sensational in his third season with Coventry. A deep-lying playmaker by trade, Hamer joined the club from PEC Zwolle in the summer of 2020 for a reported £1.3million.

He is an all-rounder who is just as likely to pop up nicking the ball in his own half as driving into the opposition box and finding the back of the net.

Coventry, Gustavo Hamer

Hamer is a class apart in terms of his reading of the game and quality on the ball. He is constantly stealing possession and sparking attacks, and has made eight goal contributions (four goals and four assists) in the last seven matches.

Crucially, he scored the winner with a stunning top-corner finish against Middlesbrough in the playoff semi-final to book Coventry's place at Wembley.

More recently deployed at the top of a midfield box, the lively 25-year-old has 10 goals so far this season and is arguably the team’s best player - a real matchwinner who oozes star quality.

Viktor Gyokeres (FWD)

Signed on a half-season loan from Brighton & Hove Albion in January 2021, the Sweden international took time to get going up front, scoring just three goals in his first five months.

However, he showed enough raw talent in that time to prompt Coventry to upgrade his move to a permanent contract for just over £1m that summer – an astute bit of business that paid instant dividends with a return of 18 goals in all competitions in his first full season.

Coventry, Viktor Gyokeres

A big and powerful centre-forward, Gyokeres is at his most dangerous when running at defenders with the ball, twisting and turning them inside out before picking his spot.

He struck 21 goals this term in the regular season, despite opposition managers regularly instructing their defenders to double up on him. He has been linked with a stack of Premier League admirers and, on his day, is simply unplayable. 

Andy Turner, is the Coventry City reporter for Coventry Live, and has covered the club since 1998

Also in this series

Part 1: Coventry's long road to the playoff final
Part 3: How Luton fell far and rose high again
Part 4: Luton's key men

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