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Sky Blue thinking

No, I refuse point blank to use the title “Sent to Coventry”.

Well, it came a bit of a shock to us all when it was first announced on Wednesday, but Chris Hussey is now a Championship player with Coventry.

I suppose we’re all feeling a mixture of sadness but also joy at the fact he’ll have a great chance to realise his obvious potential. He was one of those sort of players who we’d only had for a couple of years yet felt like he’d been here a lifetime. After reading the OS writeup, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t too long ago that he was sent out on loan to Windsor and Eton.

We’ve still yet to find out the exact terms of his transfer, if we ever do. I don’t think we should take too much heed of yesterday’s Coventry Telegraph’s “nominal fee” terminology – by all accounts, everyone at AFCW seems pretty pleased with what we’ve received from Highfield Road the Ricoh. Remember that a nominal fee for a Championship outfit can easily be a six figure sum…

I think you can see the reactions today compared to the Robin Shroot saga (schadenfreude is a bitch, if his recent exploits at Burton have any foundation). People are most certainly wishing Huss well. Assuming he doesn’t play at Palace or QPR in the meantime, the first game we can see him will be Derby v Coventry on Sky on 6 Nov. Will he start? Probably not, but just because you don’t start each game first off doesn’t mean you’ll be shit. Ask Nigel Winterburn about his first season at Arsenal.

It’s times like this when you can be allowed to engage in a little nostalgia. We remember him (Hussey, not Nigel) starting one of his initial games for us, thinking how raw yet talented he looked and Jason Goodliffe openly encouraging him. The way he grew into a Conference-standard left back after a painful awakening against Luton always meant that he’d be prone to purchasing.

Not only that, but as it was pointed out this morning elsewhere, he didn’t sulk much when he was dropped for the Wycombe and Chelmsford games in favour of Micky Haswell. Moves that arguably costs us both games, and probably the worst things TB has done. It’s ironic though that both players are now no longer at AFCW…

Make no mistake though, this is a big step for him. Even though he’s looked the business this season, I’m still genuinely surprised he’s gone up as high as the Championship. Then again, I suppose a season in the Coventry stiffs at least will develop him at a level he can’t get at AFCW (yet, with luck). As we’ve all seen though, he’s certainly got the aptitude and – more importantly – the attitude to progress.

In a way though, we shouldn’t be surprised. If you’ve got a spare half hour one day, do yourselves a favour and check the squads of the likes of Peterborough, or Dagenham, or most teams in L1/L2. The sort of teams you might have expected Hussey to go to instead, and ones with reputations of bring through non-league players.

Yet look closely at where exactly they tend to come from. People like Bishop’s Stortford, Slutton, and at a push Grays. None of whom, with all the respect in the world, are big clubs even in non-league. How many of them are from the likes of ourselves, Luton, Oxford etc etc? At that level, not nearly as many as you think.

That, everyone, is one of the biggest compliments anyone can pay us. We effectively nurtured Hussey to the stage where a significant amount of league clubs – Championship level too – have shown enough interest in him. A scout may go once or even twice to watch somebody. If Coventry have been watching Huss for a good two months, it proves how interested they were in him. And how consistent he’s been each time he’s played.

Of course, as much as it strokes our collective ego to develop a player to the point a Championship side buys him, it does leave us with the little problem of having one less player in the side. Especially at left back. It’s probably not so much of an issue right now – we have both Brett Johnson and Derek Duncan to fill that particular role, certainly until January. Indeed, TB is about to give DD a series of starts. But it does prove once and for all how vital it is to have a decent reserve and youth setup.

At the moment, we can’t really dip into the reserves and bring another fledgling up to speed. But if we start becoming a player conveyor belt, we’ll need to do exactly that. Since 2002, we’ve never really needed to answer the question of what happens when our players suddenly become sellable commodities. The likes of Kevin Cooper (mark 2) and Rob Ursell were easily replaced after a season and with precious little dent in our budget.

Now, we’ve done a proper transfer with proper money and proper terms and conditions. And right now we can’t suddenly go out and buy somebody. But then, this is yet another part of the Conference Learning Curveâ„¢ – it’s now going to show us how we cope with losing a player in this manner. We need to remember the WFC days to get through that, and one of the things we did get right back then was the youth/reserve system.

The very fact that we can name two replacements for Huss for tomorrow is further proof we’re stepping in the right direction. Just imagine how soiled your undergarments would be right now if TB said that we have no obvious replacement with dipping into the transfer market. But then, this was always going to be the consolidation season we all predicted it would be – part of that is most certainly dealing with a big transfer out.

Not to mention that this transfer proves to the likes of Kennedy and any other youngsters that they can become Championship players with the right attitude and consistent, high level performances. We may have succumbed to the inevitable transfers out now, but we may get more talented, determined youngsters through hoping to become the next Chris Hussey. And if we do, watch out.

Will Hussey be the only one to leave our humble abode this season? You’ve got to assume that Keds will be next (though again, Monty can and will step into his role eventually). That will weaken us in the short term, but if we have designs on being a League club once again, we  have to deal with that. And when we do, we’ll be a lot stronger for it.

Still, that’s all for the future. Seems like Hussey is coming down to KM tomorrow to wave a tearful goodbye to everyone. While some may not like the fact he’s primarily on loan for them (though Coventry are committed to signing him in January) it’s something that isn’t unusual practice. And one day we’ll be doing the same.

Anyway, it’s nice to be proper Wimbledon again. Now, will we get a pre-season jolly to the Ricoh Stadium out of this…?