And there we have it. After two spells, spanning 15 years, 247 appearances and 63 goals – Mr McSheffrey has left Coventry for what is surely the last time.

His wages will have ultimately been the strongest case for his release, following our acquisition of him from a Premiership contract in 2010. But there’s little denying that his relationship with the same fans who once proclaimed him “Better than Henry” had become fractured – tainted to the point where his continued presence in the first team probably wouldn’t have done either party any good.

While I don’t dispute the reasons for release, especially given the trickiness of our current position, I can’t help but think that his demise as a player, or at least the noisy perception of one, has been exaggerated somewhat. Now, that’s not to say that his performances didn’t drop, but the vocal reaction to this drop in quality and lack of tolerance towards his mistakes is what leaves me most disappointed about the circumstances around his departure.

Arguably the strongest contributing factor to the lack of tolerance McSheffrey received over the last 12-18 months stems from when he was in his prime for us – he was simply too good. That season we finished 8th under Micky Adams and he ripped apart every defence he encountered. That style and authority became a benchmark for the level of performance we felt we could expect from Gary, so as the years wore on, and he returned for a second go at things, we struggled to accept that he was unable to reproduce what we all thought he’d still be capable of.

In many ways, I think Gary struggled with that expectation too – both from the crowd, but also in how it impacted on his sense of control over what he could still contribute.

He resisted taking on people in the manner we’d become accustomed, I guess because he eventually realised he didn’t possess the speed anymore. He lacked the same level of conviction and clinical nature in the attacking portion of the pitch, possibly due to a reluctance/or reduction in strikers instinct that had served him so well in his formative years. And finally, he had this strange habit of making decisions very early, and being seemingly unable/unwilling to adjust if circumstances required a change in strategy. If the ball was rolling to him on the wing and he fancied a first time cross – a cross was what you’d get, regardless of how things changed as the ball came into his possession.

I know these are all criticisms of the man, but let me be clear; none of these ever drew me to a level of frustration where I’d feel compelled to verbally abuse him. He definitely lost something as the years wore on – physically and in his head – but the idea that he’d lost it completely, well this felt like a myth.

If you ask me, the only thing he really lost was the trust of the fans who once adored him, and the confidence which allowed him to perform at the level that had always made him such a threat previously.

That was his biggest crime – I guess it was also his punishment.

I just hope he’s able to find a second wind and release the baggage which so clearly hampered his performances come the end of his time with us. It’s been a sorry conclusion for the bloke, that’s for sure, but I won’t remember him solely for this all-too-natural decline of a footballer, or the booing he so needlessly endured over the last 18 months.

To me he’ll just be Gary McSheffrey; the deep-voiced Cov kid who for a long time rode solo as pretty much the only Sky Blues player whose quality we could be proud of, while also being one of the only ones who himself seemed to be proud of us.

I won’t let a potentially exaggerated perception of his final performances colour what has otherwise been a credit-worthy, committed and often brilliant career at our club. He’s had a good stretch – far longer than most players managed nowadays – and his efforts were definitely appreciated.

In the end, it was just his time to leave, but he does so with my fond regards, and some cracking memories.

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4 comments

  1. Another well constructed post. I agree with two things – thanks for the first part of your career with us, and there was never any need to be subjected to being booed by your own fans. However, I can only suggest he brought this on himself through a lack of application in mind and body over the past three to five years. Never has one player so vividly epitomized a club’s decline as Gary McSheffrey, which is I suppose a fitting role for this “CovKid”. It wasn’t just the loss of pace that started to be irksome, it was his general air of taking the cash; cash that we could ill afford to be paying him for such a minimal contribution. Rather than rise to the challenge of being the home grown veteran, he had the air of hiding behind it. A lack of footballing brain that you highlight is one thing (I can’t think of many players with such a lack of awareness of what is going on around him); a lack of desire is another. I lost count of how many goals we conceded in the last few years by a marauding full back whom he couldn’t be arsed to track back, or clumsy and ill thought through challenges to give away penalties and free kicks when he did. It’s interesting that we talk about him as being at the end of his career when he’s actually only 31. Look at Frank Lampard. Talent may be nature, but you can get a lot more mileage if you nuture it right. Too many stories of a lifestyle that didn’t dedicate itself to being the best you could be on the pitch (I am not saying these are true, but there are so many you have to ask, including recent tweets about all day Sunday drinking sessions “like the good old days” which don’t help dispell the rumours). It’s very telling that the managers who favoured and indulged him are called Adams, Boothroyd and Thorne and the ones that didn’t like the cut of his jib are called Robins and Pressley. Whose judgement would you back? And that he was the last of the bomb squad to settle and nobody has come in for him, not one of 92 professional clubs feeling he was either up to it or worth the wage bill. It’s a shame, but it’s the story of a lack of dedication to the cause, of playing the local boy card when it suited, but a reality that is much harsher and much sadder. As I say, the living embodiment of the decline of the Sky Blues in the last half decade. Thanks for first decade Gary, but let’s leave it at that and pretend the last five never happened.

  2. All I can add is that I spent last season wishing from afar that he’d catch fire and spark our rush up the League One table. That he’d become the goalscoring star of our unlikely play-off push. I wanted it to be him rather than anyone else. Now, I don’t go to games so have little view on players’ performances except what I read online and hear on The Nii Lampteys’ weekly revue. It became clear that he wasn’t going to do what I hoped for, but I was still upset that he wasn’t given a second / third / fourth / whatever chance this summer by Pressley.

    On a related subject, I was always a fervent believer in Andy Ducros as well.

  3. and now you’re all over, your song is so tame /
    you fed me, you bred me, I’ll remember your name

    Everyone will always disappoint you in the end. Every single time, it’s still as gutting as it was the very first.
    –R.

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