Another nail in Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town coffin – Carl’s Travels with Town at the Ricoh
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he spotlights the Ricoh Arena, the former home of Coventry City
The end was nigh, for Roy Keane, when his Ipswich Town side visited Coventry City's Ricoh Arena on New Year's Day, 2011.
I remember that day well, and was already preparing the 'Keane as Town boss' epitaph, to be used not 'if' but 'when' the Irishman parted company with the Portman Road club.
I always wanted Keane to succeed, on the Town hot-seat, not least because his press conferences were always terrific value, for us hacks, both pre-match and post-match.
His quotes were priceless. Every journalist hung on his every word. Punters always wanted to listen to, or read, what Keane had to say.
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Sure, it was a circus, and sure, the football under Keane was pretty terrible, but it was still a sad day when he finally exited Portman Road - he eventually packed his bags just six days after that visit to the Ricoh, on Thursday, January 6.
So what of that game, a 1-1 draw, on the first day of 2011?
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In essence, it summed up the whole 20 months under Keane, which had almost entirely been spent grappling against the perils of relegation at the bottom end of the Championship.
These days, Town are getting used to playing Coventry. In the column preceding the FA Cup trip to Coventry last Sunday (or rather to St Andrew's, Birmingham), I put the spotlight on the Sky Blues' proud old home at Highfield Road, where they played their home games from 1899 through to 2005.
Their subsequent home, at the Ricoh Arena, has been far less happy, and far less enduring, with two short stays (2005 to 2013, 2014 to 2019).
When Keane took his beleaguered Town side to the Ricoh, on New Year's Day, 2011, the writing was already on the wall.
Ironically, given that Town's previous 16 games in league and cup had yielded 10 defeats and six wins, this 1-1 draw was a long time in coming, but in truth it felt like another defeat.
Coventry, in the top 10 of the Championship, were attracting crowds of around 15,000 to the Ricoh, and most of a gate of 14,412 were fearing the worst when Town deservedly took the lead, towards the end of the first half.
It was recent signing Rory Fallon's first goal for the club, the Plymouth loanee ramming home the rebound after keeper Keiren Westwood had beaten away Jack Colback's stinging shot.
Football is often about small margins, and if they had managed to hold on for a 1-0 win at the Ricoh, Keane's men would have been up to 16th, five points off the top six. Maybe there would have been life in the Irishman yet?
However, Aidy Boothroyd's familiar style of route one football saw the Sky Blues level within three minutes of the restart, via Freddy Eastwood's equaliser.
And even tough the hosts were reduced to 10 men, by Marlon King's reckless challenge on defender Darren O'Dea on the hour mark, toothless Town could not take advantage.
It was the nature of the way Town failed to win this game that was the most damaging, not the actual draw. They were toothless.
Keane had already held discussions with owner Marcus Evans, about possible transfers during the January window. The outcome was not encouraging, for Keane. He had clearly lost the backing of his chairman.
Club: Coventry City
Former ground: Ricoh Arena (2005-2013, 2014-19)
Town's 1st visit (to Coventry): 2-0 away defeat on February 28, 1953
Town's last visit (to Coventry): 1-1 draw in FA Cup on Dec 1, 2019
Overall record: P43 W13 D14 L16
Although the Ricoh no longer hosts Coventry home matches, the stadium complex is far removed from most other football venues, in that it has many other forms of income. The pitch is still used, by Wasps rugby union club, and there's a hotel, Exhibition Hall, a casino and a big shopping centre.
My first experience of Ricoh Arena was memorable.
I arrived in good time, enjoyed pie-and-chips in the basement press lounge, and fired up the lap-top. Thirty minutes before kick-off, I decided to brave the cold of the press box, with a colleague, only to get lost en route - it should be only a two-minute walk.
A bemused steward, who was probably on his first day, directed us up an escalator and onto a higher floor, well away from the pitch area. Perhaps he thought we were late for a business function? We got lost, hopelessly lost. Panic set in. By the time we found the press box the teams were already on the pitch. A lesson learned!