Mark Robins says Sky Blues must return to Coventry as soon as possible

Coventry City will leave the Ricoh Arena to spend the 2019-20 season 22 miles away in Small Heath at St Andrew's, home of Birmingham City
Coventry City will leave the Ricoh Arena to spend the 2019-20 season 22 miles away in Small Heath at St Andrew's, home of Birmingham City (below)

Coventry City manager Mark Robins has reluctantly accepted being forced to spend the 2019-20 season groundsharing with Birmingham City.

But, although Coventry's owners have failed to agree a new tenancy deal with Ricoh Arena owners Wasps, Robins stressed the long-term need to return.

"We have to put this hideous debacle to the confines of history," he told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.

"The club has to have its own stadium and be in control of its own destiny."

In the first statement from the League One outfit since the news broke of the Sky Blues' season-long rental agreement at St Andrew's, Robins told the club website: "It is a complete and utter disgrace that the Ricoh Arena which was built as the home of Coventry City Football Club, is owned by a rugby club that has its roots in Buckinghamshire. How can that happen?

"Coventry is 'City of Sport' in 2019 - this is an absolute joke."

Former Manchester United, Norwich City, Leicester City and Rotherham United striker Robins, 49, then spoke to BBC Coventry & Warwickshire to reiterate the full strength of his feelings.

"That stadium was built for Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena and we've been forced out of it," he added. "We have to get back in there and get back into Coventry as soon as possible."

'I feel desperately sorry for the fans'

When Robins first became manager in September 2012, newly relegated Coventry were bottom of League One.

He then transformed his team into play-off contenders before being tempted to join Huddersfield Town when they offered him the job in February 2013.

Even in five months, he had already become disillusioned at the long-running saga between the Sky Blues and the Ricoh Arena's owners, Arena Coventry Limited, which was half-owned by Coventry City Council.

He therefore just missed City's 14 months groundsharing with Northampton Town at Sixfields from July 2013. But, after his time at Huddersfield and then Scunthorpe United ended, Robins pretty much knew what he was returning to when he rejoined City in March 2017.

Mark Robins returned to Coventry to start his second spell as Sky Blues manager in March 2017
Mark Robins' Coventry City finished eighth in League One in 2018-19

And he insists that the key now is for the players and supporters to show solidarity - and is hopeful that crowds will not plunge from last season's average of 12,363 for home games in 2018-19 to the sort of gates of little over 2,000 that they for the most part played in front of at Northampton.

"The biggest thing is how we respond to what happens in adversity," said Robins. "There was always a real chance that this could happen from the moment I came back to the club.

"I've likened the situation to Brexit for a long time. It's very similar to that. Once you get that certainty, you can manage it.

"I feel desperately sorry for the supporters. They're the people that suffer the most.

"A lot will come and follow but we all have our own minds and they must do what's right for them.

"But I have got every faith that we will get decent crowds and that people are buying season tickets already."

Mark Robins was talking to BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Clive Eakin.

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