In the past couple of decades, Coventry City have found themselves languishing in the depths of the lower tiers of English football. But that was not always the story for The Sky Blues. In fact, they were a fixture of the Premier League for the entire first decade of its existence. Even if they only ever managed a best of 11th in the top flight, Coventry provided a stern test for even the best teams in the country. So let’s take a trip back and see who were the best Coventry players in the Premier League era?
There were few defenders that often matched the physicality and skill of Phil Babb. The Ireland international was anything but a pushover using his strength to win one on one duels as well as dominate in the air. These skills certainly impressed many at Highfield Rod as it saw Babb named the 1993/94 Player of the Year for his efforts. These skills also weren’t missed by some of the larger clubs in England and Liverpool would swoop in and sign Babb in 1994 bringing his time in The Midlands to a close.
There are fewer faces at Coventry who are as fondly remembered as Brian Borrows. Borrows spent the majority of his career at Highfield Road and was hugely influential in his 12-year spell with the club. As a full back, Borrows was able to use his speed and passing to drive attacks forward and thwart attacks by charging down the flanks. This versatile skillset saw him earn the captain’s armband for Coventry’s first few seasons in the Premier League. It was a just reward for someone who also earned the club’s Player of the Year award in the 1994/95 season for his efforts. After leaving for Swindon Town in 1997 after 400 games, the club honoured Borrows after his retirement inducting him into the club’s Hall of Fame. A perfect memento for a loyal servant.
Coventry were never known for having players with “style” but Mustapha Hadji was one who bucked that trend. The Moroccan midfielder injected a real sense of swagger when he stepped onto the pitch – shining through stunning strikes and mesmerising passes. He was never shy of taking on opponents and his 12 goals in 62 games showcased his ability to get the job done when it mattered. Hadji was made captain of the club in 2000 although he would leave just one season later when the side were relegated from the top flight. This saw local rivals Aston Villa sign Hadji and continue his presence in The Midlands for several seasons to come.
There was never a player who was quite like Gary McCallister. The Scotsman could play anywhere – as a defensive or attacking midfielder as well as filling in when short on defenders. McCallister’s drive and energy never waned over 90 minutes with his passion driving him throughout every match. His ability on the ball was overlooked as he had no real weaknesses – in passing, tackling and even finishing. This was proven in the 1999/2000 season where he notched up 13 goals for the campaign – leading the club’s scoring charts and the Player of the Year award. He would leave in 2000 to join Liverpool having taken the club as far as he could under his leadership and 5 year stint at Highfield Road.
It’s crazy to think how underrated Dion Dublin was in his prime. Dublin’s speed and strength when dribbling saw him shake off defenders without any real issue. This was just a bonus as he was one of the best finishers in England during the 1990s. he proved this by notching up double-figure goal tallies every year with the club. His best form came in the 1997/98 season where Dublin scored 23 goals – claiming the Premier League Golden Boot award that season. This, matched with 2 Player of the Year awards, saw him become a cult icon with Coventry. This led to Dublin being inducted into the Coventry Hall of Fame and ensured that he remains one of Coventry’s most iconic Premier League players of all time.