July 14, 2024

In Coventry City’s case, over the last traumatic decade, it has taken 14 months in exile down the motorway in Northampton, a further seven months up the A45 in Birmingham, then 17 Covid-hit months of no football to watch in the flesh at all.

Now the club find themselves back in the city, and with people allowed in the stadium once more – and that has really made the Sky Blues supporters appreciate what they have got.

On Sunday, in the newly rebranded Coventry Building Society Arena, the Sky Blues will host Nottingham Forest in their Championship opener, in front of an expected crowd of more than 20,000. And it is not just the fans who are happy.

“Being back in Coventry was the missing piece really,” Coventry boss Mark Robins told BBC CWR.

“It’s good to be back – and playing in front of supporters too. They will be excited to see their team and rightly so. There’s going to be quite a few there against Forest.”

If all goes to plan, that expected crowd of over 20,000 might actually be closer to 30,000.

Certainly the demand is there – and the supply. When the Sky Blues last returned to the 16-year-old stadium on the north side of city following their first exile in Northampton in September 2014, there were 27,306 to witness Frank Nouble’s early first-half winner against Gillingham.

And it takes only a count-up of the 40,000-plus followings that saw City win twice in successive seasons at Wembley in 2017 and 2018 to be reminded of the level of support they can still tap into – even 20 years after losing their long-held proud place in English football’s top flight.Gustavo Hamer point made as two Coventry City players named in Championship team of season - CoventryLive

There are still side issues. They return only as a tenants at a ground which was built for them when they left their former 106-year-old Highfield Road home behind in 2005 for housing redevelopment.

The end result of the bitter dispute they fought with Coventry City Council, the previous joint owners of the stadium, has left the legacy of it now being owned by Wasps.

The first reported rumour of the Premiership rugby union side moving to Coventry circulated on the very weekend City returned to play at the Ricoh Arena in September 2014.

By the December, Wasps were playing there too, and had bought the stadium from its first owners Arena Coventry Limited, made up of the local council and the Alan Higgs Trust, financed by the estate of a late Sky Blues supporter.

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