Don’t be overawed by Wembley, says Liam Kelly as Coventry aim for Premier League

·3-min read

Liam Kelly insists “sleeping giant” Coventry must avoid letting the occasion of a Wembley play-off final ruin their Premier League dream.

Coventry, one of the Premier League’s founder members in 1992, will end a 22-year exile from the top flight if they overcome Luton in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final on Saturday.

Victory would cap a remarkable journey for Coventry and Kelly as the veteran midfielder was part of the Sky Blues team which beat Exeter in the League Two play-off final at Wembley in 2018.

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Middlesbrough v Coventry City – Sky Bet Championship – Play Off – Semi Final – Second Leg – Riverside Stadium
Coventry players celebrate their Championship play-off semi-final victory over Middlesbrough and are now one game from reaching the Premier League (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“The attention surrounding this game is more (than 2018), but on a personal level it’s just the same for me,” said skipper Kelly.

“We were expected to be promoted from League Two and League One, but at the start of the season I don’t think anyone expected us to be in this position.

“When I came here I don’t think many people envisioned where the club would be now. It’s been a great journey.

“It’s a big club and it’s been a sleeping giant for a while, but we’ve seen the support the last few years.”

Coventry took 42,500 fans to Wembley when they beat Oxford to win the EFL Trophy in 2017.

This time the Sky Blues have sold their allocation of 36,237 tickets for a game described as one for the romantics given Luton’s rise from non-league football over the past decade.

Luton ended the campaign two places higher and with 10 points more than Mark Robins’ Coventry, but their two games in the regular season were both drawn.

Kelly said: “Luton finished third and are one of the best teams in the Championship.

Coventry City v Exeter City – Sky Bet League Two – Final – Wembley Stadium
Coventry have become used to having huge support at Wembley in recent years (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It’s going to be a fantastic day but at the same time you can’t let the occasion get the best of you.

“You’ve got to realise what’s at stake and use that energy from the crowd to achieve what we want to.

“I remember it (2018 play-off final) went really quickly, but you’ve got to go out and be on it rather than be overawed by it.

“We just have to go with the momentum and not overthink it, realise where our form has taken us and give everything to try to win this game.

Mark Robins file photo
Manager Mark Robins has guided Coventry from League Two to within 90 minutes of the Premier League (Richard Sellers/PA)

“Sometimes the best way to get into the play-offs is to creep into it in the last couple of weeks, which we’ve managed to do, and we can take confidence from that.”

Kelly has made 160 appearances for Coventry after being relegated out of the English Football League as a Leyton Orient player in 2017.

But the 33-year-old could be playing his final game at Wembley as he is coming to the end of his contract and facing an uncertain future.

He said: “I won’t pay too much attention to that. I just want to concentrate on this final and we can sort everything out at the end of the season.

“I just want to get that winner’s medal round my neck.”