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BRIAN READE: Greatest prize Coventry can win at Wembley on Sunday is new owners

Date Posted,March 29, 2017

It’s going to be pretty emotional for the people of Coventry as they stare at images beamed from Wembley on Sunday.

It’s 30 years since their football club enjoyed its greatest moment there – Keith Houchen’s diving header in the 3-2 FA Cup final win against Spurs – and this weekend more than 40,000 Sky Blues fans will be back for another final.

The emotion won’t stem from ­believing the city’s 133-year-old club is on the cusp of a rebirth.

Having recently spent 34 ­consecutive years in the top flight, they’ve seen bigger days than ­fighting Oxford United for the Checkatrade Trophy .

It will come as they remember what their club once was, how it might have been, had its owners cared, and how far it has fallen.

Coventry are in their worst ­position for almost half a century – bottom of League One, 14 points from safety, with seven games left, and relegation a near-certainty.

Anti-Sisu protests at a Coventry game against Sheffield United in December… (Photo: Birmingham Mail)
…although the fans remain angry, they vow there will be no such scenes during Sunday’s final (Photo: Birmingham Mail)

After 10 years of being run by ­London hedge-fund firm Sisu, they don’t own a ground and, maybe soon, no training ground; their best players have long been sold; their academy status is under threat and their owners are refusing to leave.

The Football League had a chance to end Sisu’s abominable reign when the club went into administration in 2013, yet, incredibly, they allowed Otium (a subsidiary of the same hedge-fund firm) to take over and the following season fans were faced with 60-mile round trips to watch their beloved club play at ­Northampton Town’s ground.

Once again, the football ­authorities’ so-called fit-and-proper ownership test was unfit for proper purpose.

As a once-great club plummets towards non-league status, many fans have become as disinterested as their owners and gates are down to 8,000. Many of those who remain seem in a permanent state of protest, with everything from pitch invasions to mock funerals being staged.

Like fans of Charlton, Leyton ­Orient, Blackpool and Blackburn, they’re being slowly consumed by their own impotent rage.

Rare delight for League Two-bound Coventry as they book their place at Wembley (Photo: Birmingham Mail)

Fans’ group The Sky Blue Trust want to put forward a proposal to Sisu, based on Portsmouth ­supporters’ successful buy-out.

But they have been repeatedly snubbed and, last month, more than 20,000 fans signed a petition begging the owners to put the club on the market. But not a peep was heard. Which is why up to 46,000 of them will head to Wembley, the numbers boosted by a desire to ­remind the football world that they still exist.

David Johnson, of The Jimmy Hill Way group, urges all who are going to “celebrate what our club once was and could be again, rather than the sorry mess that it has become”.

Fans’ group Fight Til the Game is Won is staging a march on Wembley to arrive by 1.30pm, leaving plenty of time to get inside and hold up signs bearing with the word ­“POTENTIAL” in the hope that ­prospective owners will see that Coventry still have a big and ­passionate fan base.

For the entirety of the game, there will be no protests.

Instead, they’ll get behind the team and try to ­remember how it felt back in ’87, when Houchen stooped to conquer.

Then-boss John Sillett leads the celebrations after the 1987 FA Cup final (Photo: Coventry Telegraph)

I hope someone sees that ­potential and has the cash and will to realise it.

Not just because a city the size of Coventry deserves a properly run club or that a club, which not so long ago, boasted players such as Dion ­Dublin, Gary McAllister, Craig ­Bellamy and Robbie Keane, deserves more respect.

But because so many proud fans do not deserve to be kept in a state of permanent limbo, suffering at the hands of callous shysters who should never, ever have been allowed ­anywhere near English football.

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