Steve Bailey: Fans United: We’ll never be defeated?!

Coventry fans invade the pitch during last weeks match with Sheffield United

Coventry fans invade the pitch during last weeks match with Sheffield United

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There’s no doubt it’s going to be a merry Christmas for Albion fans with the Seagulls flying high in the Championship – but fans of some other teams have less reason for festive cheer.

In between trips to Blackburn and Birmingham last week, I took advantage of a week off to also attend games at Manchester City and Coventry.

As I grew up following football, Coventry were in the top flight for a number of years and won the FA Cup in 1987.

To see them in the state they are now is sad. At last Thursday’s home game with Sheffield United, the game was interrupted by two pitch invasions as Sky Blues fans took the chance – live on Sky Sports – to show their disdain for the club’s owners, Sisu.

Whistles were blown throughout the match and tennis balls thrown on to the pitch as City fans looked to disrupt the game and garner as much coverage about their plight as possible for the watching audience.

Sisu have been in charge of the club for nine years, in which time Coventry have dropped from the Championship to the relegation places in League One.

During this time, the club also spent more than a year playing home games at Northampton’s Sixfields ground, after a reported dispute between Sisu and the owners of the Ricoh Arena.

Fans have been campaigning for Sisu, the hedge fund which owns the club, to sell up. A fan-led takeover approach for Coventry – a model similar to that now at Portsmouth – was blocked by Sisu in October, who said the club wasn’t for sale. Many fans are staying away, with fewer than 9,000 inside the 32,000-capacity stadium for the Sheffield United game. Albion fans are all too aware of protests against owners and would support opposition fans whose club are in a difficult situation – just like at Charlton last season.

Unfortunately, that was not the case from a number of Sheffield United fans, who chanted pro-Sisu songs. Banter or not, in my opinion that wasn’t the time nor place for it. Just imagine the impact it would have had on live television if football fans together – Coventry and Sheffield United supporters – joined forces to support the Sky Blues.

I’ll always remember the ‘Fans United, we’ll never be defeated’ chant when Brighton needed support the most.

Fans from all over the country attended Albion’s Fans United fixture at home to Hartlepool in February 1997, when Albion were at their lowest ebb.

Bottom of the Football League and with the Goldstone Ground sold, the future looked bleak for Albion at the time. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened if the Seagulls had failed to stay up at Hereford at the end of that season.

For Coventry and Charlton fans, hopefully better times are around the corner as Albion are a case in point of how things can change for the better in a decade or two.

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