Coventry City’s Classic XI

Every club has its heroes. But equally, there are players who you might have forgotten about. These are the players that we love at Forgot About Him, and this feature is dedicated to them. Coventry, it’s over to you.

Coventry City had been a fixture in the English top-flight for over 20 years, when, under the management of Bobby Gould, they finished 15th in the inaugural season of the newly-formed Premier League, with porky striker Micky Quinn netting 17 times. Throughout the rest of the ’90s and into the 2000s, the Sky Blues established themselves as a rather average, if not underwhelming side, often flirting with relegation, with the odd season of mid-table mediocrity thrown in for good measure. Their Premier League tenure came to an end in 2001, when Gordon Strachan guided them to 19th in the league, bringing an end to their life in the top-flight. Focussing solely on their time spent in the Premier League, this is their Classic XI.

Jean-Guy Wallemme is currently unemployed after being relinquished of his duties as Lens manager in January 2011. Photo: la Ville d'Arles via Flickr

GK: Morten Hyldgaard

Signed as cover for Magnus Hedman in 1999, Hyldgaard arrived at Highfield Road with little experience of professional football, having made only a handful of appearances at Danish Second Division West team Ikast FS. He made 31 starts over four seasons at Coventry, where he also had spells at Lincolnshire sides Scunthorpe and Grimsby on loan. The Denmark under-21 international was released in 2003 and signed for Hibernian and then Luton, before ending his career in 2004. He made a comeback in 2005 with Esbjerg and then AGF Aarhus but announced his second retirement in 2009. He also likes ice skating.

RB: Regis Genaux

Full back Genaux enjoyed a successful start to his football career, helping Standard Liege to two runners-up finishes in the Belgian league as well gaining a Belgian Cup winners medal in 1993. Coventry City parted with £750,000 for the up-and-coming Belgian international, but he never settled at the club, appearing only four times before signing for Udinese halfway through the 1996-97 season. He played for the Italian club for six years before hanging up his boots in 2003. He had ambitions to become a coach but, in 2008 at the age of just 35, Genaux tragically died as a result of heart failure.

CB: Muhamed Konjic

The Bosnian war veteran played out his early career in eastern Europe before signing for FC Zurich in 1996. Monaco added ‘Big Mo’ to their squad in time for the 1997-98 season, and he went on to play 41 times in his season and a half in France before Gordon Strachan came calling. Bought for £2million, Konjic established himself as a consistent performer at the heart of the Sky Blues defence as he made 130 league starts over three and a half seasons at the club. Midlands rivals Derby County signed Konjic in the summer of 2004, but a spate of injuries meant he couldn’t make the impact he did at Coventry and he retired from football after being released by the Rams in 2006. In 2007 he made a return to the club as a guest of honour.

CB: Jean-Guy Wallemme

After a magnificent 12-year career with Lens in Ligue Un, the versatile Frenchman decided to cross the English Channel to try his luck in the Premier League with Coventry. Despite making over 350 appearances for Les Sangs et Or, Wallemme didn’t adjust to the British lifestyle, and left at the end of 1998, just six months after signing. Sochaux were happy to accommodate the Maubeuge-born player, before he moved on to St Etienne and Lens. He is now an established manager in the French leagues and most recently played a major part in Lens relegation from the French first tier this season. He quit as the club’s coach before the winter break.

LB: Robert Jarni

Several players who have made only a handful of appearances for their club have made it into Forgot About Him’s classic elevens – but Robert Jarni’s case pushes that to the limit. The established Croat signed for Coventry from Betis in 1998 on the back of a successful World Cup in France. However within a month of him signing, European giants Real Madrid decided that they wanted Jarni and made a bid of £3.4million – £800,000 more than the Sky Blues paid for his services. The club accepted the bid – which some say was a conspiracy because Betis didn’t want to sell to their La Liga rivals – and Jarni signed on at the Bernabeu. After playing a bit part role at Real – despite scoring this cracking goal – and later Panathinaikos, he took up futsal – winning two international caps for Croatia.

RM: Cobi Jones

Arguably one of the best modern-day American soccer players, Jones represented his country no less than 164 times in a 14-year international career, and although he spent the majority of his career in Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy, he began his professional football career in England with Coventry. After impressing at USA ’94, then-Sky Blues manager brought the 24-year-old Jones over to England, where he stayed for the duration of the season before leaving for Brazilian side Vasco da Gama at the end of the campaign. His love affair with LA Galaxy began in 1996, and he would go on to have 11 illustrious years in California. Jones retired in 2007, becoming a coach at Galaxy before moving to the reformed New York Cosmos in January 2011 to take up a Director of Football role. His career is summed up in this rather exaggerated tribute video.

CM: Trond Egil Soltvedt

Soltvedt moved to England aged 30, having already established himself as a combative, gritty central midfielder in the Norwegian Tippeligaen. Having completed an unsuccessful trial at Stoke City, Coventry boss Gordon Strachan paid Rosenborg £500,000 for his services ahead of the 1997/98 season, and he was a regular for two seasons at Highfield Road, before leaving the club for Southampton in 1999. A change of management at the Saints saw Soltvedt’s chances diminish, though, and he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in 2001, appearing over 80 times in two years in Yorkshire, before retiring after being released by the Owls in 2003. If you understand Norwegian, this short video segment on Soltvedt from 1996 is probably quite interesting.

CM: Youssef Chippo

At Forgot About Him, we’ve already declared our love for one half of the Moroccan midfield pair who signed for Coventry in 1999. The other half – creative midfielder Youssef Chippo – made his name in Qatar, before signing for Portuguese side Porto in 1997. His move to Europe, added to the exposure he received at France 98, earned him and compatriot Mustapha Hadji moves to the Premier League. Chippo did do his best to put off potential suitors, though, by scoring an own goal in a 2-2 draw with Norway – a match in which Hadji had scored at the right end. Following Coventry’s relegation in 2001, the Moroccan pair were split up when Hadji moved to Aston Villa. Chippo however, stayed for two further seasons, before moving back to Qatar, where he finished his career in 2006.

LM: Steve Froggatt

Renowned for his mazy runs and quick feet, Steve Froggatt’s case will forever go down as one of the saddest. Once tipped to fill the left wing void in England’s midfield, Lincoln-born Froggatt was forced to retire at the age of just 28 in 2001 after numerous failed attempts at repairing a persistent ankle injury. Despite having just over 18 months worth of first team football with Coventry, he quickly became a fans favourite, with goals like this one epitomising the reason for their admiration. Upon retirement, Froggatt now runs a personal training company.

ST: Viorel Moldovan

After representing Romania at the 1994 World Cup and at Euro 96, Moldovan signed for Coventry in January 1998, on the back of three prolific years in the Swiss Super League, in which he scored 63 goals in 83 games for Neuchatel Xamax and Grasshoppers. In six months in England, he only managed two goals, though – one of which came in the FA Cup against Aston Villa. Successful spells at Fenerbahce then Nantes followed, with Moldovan finishing a well-worked, if not a little scrappy, team goal in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in the 2001/02 Champions League. After stints in the UAE and Switzerland, Moldovan finished his career in his native Romania, with Rapid Bucharest, in 2007, and has since managed three Romanian top-flight sides.

ST: Isaias

Ron Atkinson signed the 32-year-old Isaias in 1995, making him the first Brazilian to appear in the Premier League. However, despite his credentials – he’d scored over a goal every three games in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, for Boavista then Benfica – he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him, and in two years, managed just two goals in 12 appearances for the Sky Blues. Jon Culley and Clive White wrote in The Independent how the Brazilian “[continued] to burn a hole in Coventry’s wage bill” after failing to impress at Highfield Road. After ending his time in the West Midlands in 1997, he returned to Portugal to play for Campomaiorense, before going back to Brazil and eventually hanging his boots up aged 40 in 2003.

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