Adventures in Football #11: Ricoh Arena (Coventry City FC)
August 1, 2021
Coventry City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Obviously, it’s not called the Ricoh Arena anymore but that’s what I know it as, and, as you can see, it still says RICOH in massive letters above the ground. Coventry Building Society Arena is far less catchy. This was Coventry’s home from 2005-2013 and then again from 2014-2019. They’ve twice been ousted due to issues with stadium ownership. Firstly, to play at Sixfields in Northampton and then to St Andrews for two seasons ground sharing with Birmingham City. Coventry never owned this stadium, despite being the main attraction to use it.
The relationship between club and stadium remains rocky and there’s no guarantee they’ll stay, despite moving up the divisions back to the Championship. Coventry Building Society have paid the rights to name the ground for ten years and that’s how long Coventry City’s new lease is for. So, is this finally stability for Coventry City? After last season’s survival in their first year back at tier two the future seems rosy.
Visitors today are Premier League Wolves, coached by former Benfica man Bruno Lage. He’s already got a squad fairly familiar to him. Assembled by predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo. There are nine Portuguese players (Jose Sa, Bruno Jordao, Pedro Neto, Ruben Neves, Daniel Podence, Francisco Trincao, Fabio Silva, Nelson Semedo and Joao Moutinho) in the squad and a further three from the Iberian Peninsula. Plus, Mexican striker Raul Jimenez, who has recovered from a horrific fractured skull. We didn’t get to see a first eleven from Wolves but it was a strong side including Adama Traore, Ruben Neves and Fabio Silva.
I set out for the ground at around 10am. It’s cloudy but mild. Around 14 degrees. I’ve got a hoodie on and the pessimistic umbrella in my pocket, which may come to every game after Tamworth. Josh is meeting me on the train again but he’s had directional confusion already, telling me he’s in the front carriage, amending it to rear carriage when realising the train is going in a different direction to the one he assumed. I’ll have to teach him where north is. Get a compass! The Birmingham switch goes well as we head across and jump onto a Northampton train. It has a lot of carriages. Josh once again blots his positional copybook by asking if “Tile Hill” is our stop. Yes, Josh, Tile Hill the famous home of Coventry Football Club. I claim that the car park is the Ricoh Arena because two kids are playing football in it.
Tom meets us at Coventry station for the trip across Coventry. I was considering walking it but it’s three miles and Tom has a car so here we are. You’ll notice I don’t have much legroom. That’s because we were in a rush and the seat was that far forwards. I asked Tom where the adjuster was for it and he said front right. I fumbled around for ages and couldn’t find it so I just sat like that until the ground. I then discovered it was front left. Outside the ground we get to see some sensational graffiti. This is what football is about. Plus a statue of Jimmy Hill. I worry his chin may actually be anatomically correct.
Incidentally if you don’t know who Jimmy Hill is and why he’s an important historical figure you may have to google him. Every modern footballer who’s milking their club for a small fortune owes him a debt of gratitude.
We nip into the Grosvenor Casino for a pre-match pint. I’m pretty sure casinos don’t allow photography but I did take a picture of my beer for Untappd because of course I did. There are a million security cameras in there. There’s so much security that Josh mentions security cameras and a dude walks past eyeballing us. *They can hear us*. Chris Parker joins us here, sporting an Albert Day shirt from 2018.
You can see most of his face/beard in the background here. I’m left, Tom centre, Josh right. The Ricoh Arena is a great ground. It’s a 32,609 seater stadium. It’s also home to the Coventry Wasps rugby union team. Which means when you access the Wi-Fi in the ground it asks if you want information about Wasps or their associated teams and there’s nothing about Coventry City. This is their first game back at the Ricoh Arena though, so we’ll cut them some slack. It feels like a historic occasion and the fans are in good voice.
The travelling Wolves support is very strong. The two teams aren’t far apart geographically and it’s the first game I’ve been at this season that had a bit of edge to it. There were fans yelling obscenities and guys running over towards the opposition support to make “wanker” gestures at them. It felt like a proper competitive game.
The seats we got were incredible. It was right by the pitch. I knew they were ‘front row’ and it was a very pleasant experience. Tom, who’s been many times, said he’s never been so near to the action. Sadly for him it’s not a day to remember for Coventry City. They’re behind after 7’. Fabio Silva ghosting in at the far post. This makes the Wolves fans even louder and they’re further greeted with a wave from Bruno Lage. It gets a little spikey and one of the Wolves fans is escorted back to his seat, all the while gesticulating towards the most ardent City supporters. He’s serenaded by chants of “yam yam”. A local slur against the people of Wolverhampton.
Adama Traore is, truth be told, a bit fast. Parker notes this without realising who he is. Seeing him cover the ground live is downright startling. Coventry struggle with him and at one point a rugby tackle is used to stop a break. Well, the Wasps logo is still on the wall of the ground alongside the Coventry City one!
Half-time and Wolves had four players treated for injuries first half. Either they’re flimsy or they’re play acting. You be the judge. Ruben Neves makes it 2-0 on 55’ effectively ending the contest. The shot is from outside the box and takes a big deflection. Neves has been very classy to watch in all fairness. Great distribution. Only two minutes later Coventry are awarded a penalty though after Martyn Waghorn is dragged down. He steps up and converts it himself for 2-1. John Ruddy in goal for Wolves this afternoon! The Coventry fans finally have something to really sing about and they start belting them out. “You’ve want a cathedral, we’ve got one to spare” is a wonderful line.
Jodi Jones gets on and I find myself getting very into the possibility of a dramatic equaliser but the sheer number of subs in the second half takes the sting out of proceedings and it grinds to a 2-1 loss for the City. “Wanky Wanderers” come away with a victory.
With the game done we head out to the local retail park in an attempt to kill some time to let most of the car park go home. We consider Burger King and Pizza Hut, put off by queues and a lack of reservation, before settling on a Tesco meal deal. Ideally I would have got something at the game but it was incredibly busy in the concourse at half time. Josh manages his dumbest moment of the day; literally going and buying cutlery for his little pasta pot. Not realising it comes with a spork taped under the lid. So, he’s off home with a packet of forks. Parker reveals he has the “coriander gene”, which makes coriander taste like soap. “It’s a thing, look it up”. He’s getting very defensive about it. We head back to Coventry station and thanks to a last gasp train cancellation I end up having to call my wife from Birmingham to pick me up from Longbridge.
My overwhelming feeling from Coventry vs. Wolves was that people were getting very excited for a pre-season. It’s been so long since fans were allowed into games, I think the atmosphere at some of this season’s early fixtures is going to be electric. I’m all for that. I’ve got three competitive games next week!
I’ll be sure to bring you the 411 right here.