SHEFFIELD UNITED: Players keeping out of Ricoh rent row

Scoring form: City skipper Carl Baker is in confident mood ahead of tonight's JPT clash
Scoring form: City skipper Carl Baker is in confident mood ahead of tonight's JPT clash

COVENTRY City’s players will not allow an increasingly acrimonious row between the club’s board of directors and its landlords to overshadow performances on the pitch, captain Carl Baker has insisted.

City chief executive Tim Fisher escalated his war of words with ACL, which runs the Ricoh Arena, before last weekend’s FA Cup tie with Morecambe by alleging the company could be heading for administration.

That prompted one local councillor, Deputy Conservative Group Leader John Blundell, to respond that ACL could be left with no choice but to issue winding-up proceedings against City over rent arrears estimated to total around £1 million.

But Baker, who is expected to feature for Mark Robins’ side against Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this evening, said: “We’ve been well protected from it all - it doesn’t really filter down to our level, which is a good thing because you want to concentrate on the football, getting results, and you don’t need distractions.

“We obviously hope that the people above us sort out what needs sorting out but our job is to train hard and put in performances on the pitch.”

The row between City and ACL, in which Coventry Council owns a half stake, stems from the football club’s desire to renegotiate its rental payments.

Reports claim that City are presently required to pay around £1.2m per annum to stage matches at the Ricoh.

Although ACL is believed to have offered to halve this amount, City are understood to argue £200,000 would be more in line with market rates.

Despite there being turmoil behind the scenes, Robins has managed to keep United’s Northern Area quarter-final opponents on an even sporting keel since taking charge in September.

The former Rotherham and Barnsley chief has won nine and drawn three of his 17 matches at the helm so far, including a 4-0 victory over York in the previous round.

Wilson, whose team progressed courtesy of a 4-1 triumph at Notts County, acknowledged: “Coventry are completely different team and a completely different test to when we drew with them in the league earlier this season.

“It’s a big game between two big clubs and a good venue to play football at - a match with what you’ll call a good traditional club.”

“I don’t know Mark personally away from football,” Wilson added. “But we have pitted our wits against each other on a few occasions in the past and I followed his career when he was in our area, of course.”

Coventry entertain United having scored 11 goals in four outings, with Baker, previously of Stockport and Southport, responsible for three.

“The gaffer is on our backs all the time telling us we need to be really positive, make more runs into the box and create more chances,” he said.

“If you haven’t been scoring the pressure is right on you from the start but I’ve scored two or three goals recently.”