Coventry City’s promotion to the Championship came amid a backdrop of global uncertainty. With the League One season on hold amid the Covid-19 pandemic, players endured what seemed like an endless wait as clubs jostled to determine how the standings would be decided.
Matty Godden, a summer arrival from Peterborough United, was one such player. Since starting his career with Scunthorpe United in 2009, Godden – a centre forward by trade – has featured for ten clubs across 13 spells in English football.
Following word that the Sky Blues had been crowned League One champions – and would, therefore, be a Championship club next season, Godden spoke to The Boar Sport about his career, time spent under Mark Robins and life under lockdown as a professional footballer.
Something clicked for Godden upon his Ebbsfleet return in 2014
Godden’s role in City’s promotion to the Championship is fitting given the converging paths followed by player and club. Since being released from by Scunthorpe in 2014, Godden has always had his mind set on returning to the upper rungs of the English football pyramid.
“It was a case of trying to prove myself and to get back up to that level,” Godden told The Boar Sport before adding: “I spoke to the manager at Scunny and we agreed that I would leave on a free transfer, the club didn’t ask for compensation from Ebbsfleet [United].”
In his words, “something clicked” for Godden upon his Ebbsfleet return in 2014. While a loanee at the club in 2012 and 2013, Godden scored five goals in ten appearances for the ‘Fleet in what was then the Conference Premier.
Godden, a Kent native, burst onto the scene once his Ebbsfleet move was made permanent. In his remaining 70 matches for the club, Godden notched 35 goals in the sixth tier. Godden’s form for the south-eastern side earned him a move back into the Football League, where he starred for Stevenage Town before moving to Peterborough United in 2018.
Godden’s time in non-league has proven integral to his development
Godden – Coventry’s top scorer in the recently-curtailed 2019/20 season – revelled upon his Football League return. Leaping two divisions in the space of one preseason, Godden adapted to his new surroundings like a duck to water. The difference in quality between steps six and four is marked, but Godden’s time in non-league has proven integral to his development.
“I want to play for as long as I can at the highest level,” Godden told The Boar Sport while reflecting upon his spells outside of the Football League.
After a positive season with Peterborough in League One, Godden’s departure from the Posh was inevitable following the arrival of Mohamed Eisa last summer. “The writing was on the wall,” said Godden, “when the club signed another striker for big money.
“I was placed onto the transfer list for a while and was then called into Barry Fry’s office on Friday. He said that Coventry had made an offer and asked if I would be interested in going. By the Monday the deal had been agreed.”
Coventry weren’t considered favourites at the start of the campaign
Peterborough’s loss has proven to be Coventry’s gain. “I arrived quite late in the summer, so it was hard to break into the team at first. Moving into a newly-assembled squad is always difficult, but I soon settled in,” said Godden.
“This has been a hugely successful season for Coventry,” we noted, before asking: “at what point in the year did you realise that the team could potentially win promotion?”
As The Boar Sport’s phoneline crackled, Godden took a moment to consider his response. The Sky Blues weren’t always considered promotion favourites at the start of the campaign, not with the likes of Sunderland, Ipswich Town and Portsmouth in the division.
“The 3-3 draw with Portsmouth,” Godden answered, albeit with an air of uncertainty in his voice. “I think that’s when we realised. Most teams lose would lose 5-1 if they went down to nine men at Fratton Park, we drew.”
The twinge of doubt in Godden’s answer is a result of the other turning point in Coventry’s season, an emphatic 4-1 win over Tranmere Rovers on a News Years’ Day. With the Sky Blues flying high in the standings, Godden notched back-to-back hattricks at the turn of the year, earning the Coventry forward a place in the EFL’s Team of the Week.
League One was suspended during a crucial run of fixtures
“It’s my job to put the ball in the back of the net,” Godden told The Boar Sport. In the second half of the season, City’s summer signing became exceedingly good at his job. When asked about which factors helped him to succeed in front of goal in 2020, Godden immediately heaped praise on his teammates, manager and system that allowed him to thrive.
“The gaffer likes to play with one forward and two creative players in behind,” Godden explained. Amid a flurry of support for his teammates, Callum O’Hare, Jordan Shipley and Fankaty Dabo were noted as being especially influential members of the team, providing ample flair and defensive solidity to Robins’ side.
League One was suspended during a crucial run of fixtures for the West Midlands club. In the hunt for a place in the Championship for the first time since 2012, Godden scored the winning, or game-tying goal in each of Coventry’s final four matches of the season.
“Yeah, lockdown came at the worst time for me personally. At the time, I felt like I was going to score every game,” Godden admitted when asked about life under lockdown. “It was really strange; we were at the training ground on the day of the Shrewsbury match when the gaffer told us all to go home.”
The decision meant that Coventry would be promoted to the Championship
As pressure mounted on the government to implement measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, sport around the world ground to a sudden halt. Despite the Football League being placed on hold, players across England continued to train, uncertain of if they would be able to return before the end of the season.
As lockdown was imposed across the country, “it felt like we were running for the sake of running, it was clear that football probably wouldn’t be able to return,” Godden told The Boar Sport. “The wait was the worst part of it. We knew that there were clubs that would go bust if they were forced to play matches without fans.”
The possibility that League One could return behind-closed-doors remained on the table until 9 June, when clubs from the third and fourth-tiers agreed to curtail the season. The decision meant that Coventry would be promoted to the Championship as champions, marking the club’s return to the second division.
Championship defenders should be on notice, the Sky Blues are back
Godden’s last Championship appearance came in 2011; he was still a youngster at Scunthorpe at the time. “I don’t really set myself expectations like that,” Gooden insisted when asked about his aims ahead of next term.
After his best season yet, Godden would be forgiven for looking ahead to his Championship return with rose-tinted glasses. Instead, City’s top scorer remains exceedingly focussed. Matty Godden is at his best when scoring goals is foremost on his agenda. Championship defenders should be on notice, the Sky Blues are back.