Coventry City came within a penalty shootout away from returning to the Premier League last season, but just five years ago the club were playing League Two football, but Where are the squad now?
The game we are going to focus on is the 2017/18 League Two play-off final between Coventry City and Exeter City at Wembley Stadium, in a game that the Sky Blues won 3-1 to clinch their first piece of silverware since their famous 1987 FA Cup triumph.
Despite being a first-division/Premier League side for over 40 years, the 2000s have been a difficult time for the club, following a series of poor ownership, relegations, administrations, ground-shares and much more, but following the arrival of Mark Robins in March 2017, the sinking ship has been completely restored and upgraded.
Following the club’s relegation in 2017, Coventry City were preparing for their first fourth tier season in over 40 years with Mark Robins at the helm. Robins signed several high-profiled players as well as bringing some of the club’s academy stars into the side and they managed to reach the top seven, which was the first time they’d done that in nearly 50 years.
In the play-offs, Coventry City faced a difficult tie against Notts County, with the Sky Blues drawing the opening leg 1-1 after converting a late penalty. However, in the second leg the Sky Blues were unleashed, winning 4-1 away from home to clinch their return to Wembley after a one-year absence.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the 2017/18 play-off final winning squad and where each player is now…
Goalkeeper: Lee Burge
Goalkeeper Lee Burge had a fairly quiet play-off final, following on from his heroics in the previous season’s EFL Trophy final. The Sky Blues academy graduate was named in the League Two team of the season and remained with the side for a further season before leaving in 2019 to join Sunderland. He spent three years at the Stadium Of Light, before signing for Northampton Town in July 2022. Burge has since won a promotion medal with the Cobblers and is still at Sixfields, although he’s currently sidelined through injury.
Right-Back: Jack Grimmer
Full-back Jack Grimmer scored the club’s third goal of the play-off final and was a firm fans favourite at the Ricoh Arena. The Scottish defender remained with the Sky Blues until June 2019, but left after falling out of favour to Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling. Upon his release, Grimmer signed for League One side Wycombe Wanderers, playing a key role in their promotion to the Championship and has recently signed a new contract at Adams Park but is also out on the sidelines through injury.
Centre-Back: Jordan Willis
Another product of the Sky Blues academy, Jordan Willis scored Coventry’s opening goal in the play-off final with an excellent effort from outside of the penalty area. Willis captained the club to EFL Trophy success in the 2016/17 campaign and played another key role in the final. He made over 180 first-team appearances before joining Sunderland in 2019. Despite showing early promise, Willis suffered a very serious knee injury and missed almost three years of action. He finished last season with Wycombe Wanderers in League One but has since become a free agent.
Centre-Back: Dominic Hyam
Upon joining the Sky Blues, Dominic Hyam was originally meant for the clubs U21s but quickly became a first-team figure. Hyam was crucial to the club’s rise from League Two into the Championship as well as knocking on the door of the Scottish national team. However, last summer Hyam was sold to Blackburn Rovers due to financial issues regarding a pitch issue, making the club a profit of £3 million. He is currently the heart of Blackburn’s defence and has also made his Scottish national team debut, during a EURO 2024 qualifier against Norway in June.
Left-Back: Chris Stokes
Left-back Chris Stokes was another popular figure during his time with the Sky Blues, having joined from Forest Green Rovers in 2015. The defender made over 90 appearances for the club but the play-off final was his final match for the club. A few weeks later, Stokes completed a permanent switch to Bury helping them to win the league title. He’s since had spells with Stevenage, Kilmarnock and a return to Forest Green Rovers but now plays for League Two side Morecambe.
Right-Midfield: Tom Bayliss
Kicking off the midfield we have the third Sky Blues academy graduate in the form of playmaker Tom Bayliss. The midfielder broke onto the scene in December 2017, scoring on his debut against Cheltenham Town and remained with the Sky Blues until August 2019 when he was sold to Championship side Preston North End, becoming their record signing. However, his time with the club didn’t work out and he instead won a league title with Wigan Athletic on loan before joining Shrewsbury on a free transfer last summer, where he remains to this day.
Central-Midfield: Liam Kelly
The first-half of the iconic midfield duo is Liam Kelly, who is the only member of the squad that is still with the Sky Blues to this day. Kelly arrived on a free transfer from Leyton Orient in May 2017 and quickly became a huge hit with fans and the manager. The Scottish midfielder was made captain in January 2019 and has since overseen their promotion into the Championship as well as leading the side out at Wembley Stadium in last season’s play-off final, even scoring during the penalty shoot-out.
Central-Midfield: Michael Doyle (C)
Completing the iconic midfield duo was Irish midfielder Michael Doyle who was the Sky Blues captain during the League Two play-off final. Doyle remained with the club until January 2019, completing his wish of earning promotion with the club, before he left to join Notts County in a bid to try and keep them in the football league. Unfortunately, his efforts were unsuccessful and after several matches in the following season, Doyle retired to become a coach at Notts County and Forest Green Rovers but now works as a youth coach at Portsmouth.
Left-Midfield: Jordan Shipley
The fourth academy graduate is also the scorer of the Sky Blues’ second goal. A boyhood Coventry fan, Shipley quickly established himself in League One and played a crucial role in taking the club to the Championship. However, he soon saw his game time reduce and despite scoring the club’s goal of the season during the 2021/22 season, Shipley opted to leave the club, following a bid from League One side Shrewsbury Town. Shipley has since linked up with former team-mate Tom Bayliss and the duo are starring for the League One side, although he is now out with a knee injury.
Striker: Marc McNulty
Kicking off the strikers, we have Coventry’s top-scorer from the 2017/18 season, who managed an impressive 28 league goals. McNulty had a slow start, but following Jodi Jones’ horrifying ACL injury, McNulty’s form picked up and he quickly established himself. McNulty was sold at the end of the season for £1.5 million to Reading but it didn’t work out. The Scottish forward has since had spells with Dundee United, Hibernian and Sunderland but after a year out, he now plays for American second-tier side Orange County SC.
Striker: Max Biamou
Completing the starting eleven is French forward Max Biamou, who became an instant fans favourite with the club. Biamou featured heavily in League One and scored five goals in his opening season in the Championship. However, Biamou was released in June 2021 and moved to Scottish side Dundee United, but unfortunately his spell was riddled with injuries. Upon his release in 2022, Biamou is yet to find another club and remains a free agent.
Sub 1 – Liam O’Brien
Substitute goalkeeper Liam O’Brien made a series of appearances for the club and remained at the Ricoh Arena until June 2019 when he was released due to a major reshuffle in the goalkeeping department at the club. O’Brien linked up with Yeovil Town in the National League for the 2019/20 campaign, before making a surprise drop into the Non-League scene with local side Stratford Town. He’s spent the last three years with Stratford Town, who currently play in the seventh tier of English football.
Sub 2 – Rod McDonald
Centre-back Rod McDonald arrived at the club from Northampton Town, becoming the first player the club had paid a fee for, since Jodi Jones’ arrival in 2016. McDonald began as one of the first names on the team-sheet but as the season progressed, he began to fall down the pecking order. At the end of the season, McDonald was sold to AFC Wimbledon, before having further spells with Carlisle United and Crewe Alexandra, before joining fellow League Two side Harrogate Town in June 2023.
Sub 3 – Jordan Maguire-Drew
Winger Jordan Maguire-Drew joined the Sky Blues on loan from Brighton Hove Albion, but after an early start he struggled with an abdominal injury and rarely featured after. After returning to Brighton, Maguire-Drew joined Wrexham on loan before signing for Leyton Orient. However, he has since had spells with Crawley Town (loan), Woking, Grimsby Town and Yeovil Town before joining the latter on a permanent deal, signing an 18-month deal with the National League South side.
Sub 4 – Jonson Clarke-Harris
Another academy graduate is forward Jonson Clarke-Harris, who came on in the 51st minute of the League Two play-off final. Clarke-Harris was originally on loan after returning to the club, before signing permanently from Rotherham. However, after six months Clarke-Harris joined Bristol Rovers on a free transfer, where he quickly became a firm fans favourite before eventually joining Peterborough United. He’s averaged almost a goal every other game but has since been transfer-listed and came within minutes of joining Bristol Rovers on deadline day earlier this month.
Sub 5 – Kyel Reid
Winger Kyel Reid was another late substitute in the game, but the final was also his final match for the club before he was released. Upon his release, Reid signed for Chesterfield and Sutton United, before opting to drop further into the Non-League scene with Billericay Town, Walton Casuals, Cray Wanderers and Beaconsfield Town. As of August 2023, Reid is currently playing for Non-League side Rayners Lane FC and grabbed his first goal of the season at the weekend, during a 7-1 victory.
Sub 6 – Jordan Ponticelli
Forward Jordan Ponticelli arrived with the clubs U18s, scoring over 30 goals in his debut season before breaking into the first-team fold during the 2017/18 season. This included a brace against Crawley and a strike against Notts County. However, he was sent out on loan with Macclesfield, Tranmere and Wrexham before being released in 2020. Upon his release, Ponticelli joined Wrexham on a permanent contract but after two years, he signed for Kings Lynn Town in the National League North and is currently one of the club’s best players.
Sub 7 – Jordon Thompson
The final player in the squad was another academy graduate in the form of defender Jordon Thompson. The defender had loan spells with Boreham Wood, Wrexham and Solihull Moors after the club’s promotion before being let go in 2021. Following his release, Thompson signed for Gloucester City before moving to Hereford for the entirety of the 2022/23 season. During the summer, Thompson became a free agent and subsequently joined Cheshunt FC who play in the seventh tier of English football after being relegated last season.
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