By Tony Leighton
Johnstone's Paint Trophy fan Mark Robins is looking forward with relish to his team's Northern Section quarter-final against Sheffield United, the biggest tie of the round bringing together two npower League 1 clubs who in recent decades have been used to playing in the higher echelons of English football.
This season is indeed the first in which the Sky Blues have been involved in the Trophy, having spent the last 48 years at either the Premier League or Championship level while the Football League knock-out competition for teams in the lower two divisions was inaugurated in 1983.
Robins and his players were celebrating on Sunday when they were drawn away to Premier League Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup after Saturday's second round win against Morecambe, but now all eyes are on Tuesday's evening's Trophy tie against the promotion chasing Blades at the Ricoh Arena.
Manager Robins, who has revived Coventry's fortunes since taking over in mid-September, told football-league.co.uk: "We're enjoying Cup competitions at the moment and we're certainly looking forward to the Sheffield United game, which will probably give us a bigger crowd than we got for Saturday's FA Cup tie.
"The pair of us are clubs who have been used to playing at a higher level and it's always a good encounter with Sheffield United, so this is a good draw for us. We played them here in the League earlier this season, before I came in, and got a 1-1 draw so the teams have already had a good look at each other.
"It's going to be a difficult game for us, but we want to progress as far as we can and if we do that it will bode well. The Johnstone's Paint Trophy is a good competition with a great reward at the end, and if we can get through this round then we can start thinking seriously about a real opportunity to progress all the way through."
Former Rotherham United and Barnsley manager Robins has never taken a team to Wembley, but after going close in 2008/09 he would love the chance to lead the Sky Blues out at the national stadium for next April's Trophy final. "The farthest I've been in the competition," he recalled, "was the Area final with Rotherham.
"Scunthorpe beat us over two legs fairly comfortably, which was disappointing after we'd come so far. The Trophy is an interesting competition that gets more interesting the closer you get to Wembley. It ignites the passion in supporters and the players start to look at Wembley, which is a great place to go and play."
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