By Tony Leighton
Coventry City captain Kevin Kilbane is urging collective responsibility among the npower League 1 club's playing squad as they look to bounce back from a relegation that has been followed by the early season sacking of manager Andy Thorn.
As the Sky Blues prepare to entertain unbeaten Stevenage on Sunday, the experienced Kilbane - signed in the summer from Hull City and made captain by Thorn at the start of the season - is taking little consolation from the fact that his team have won three Cup ties while failing to record a single victory in their four League games to date.
The 35-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder, who has 110 international caps to his name and has played much of his career in the top flight, told football-league.co.uk: "We've just not been good enough in the League so far and that has to change.
"As captain and one of the most experienced players at the club I have a role to play and I fully accept that, but everyone has their roles and responsibilities and has to stand up and be counted if we're going to get our season on track.
"Because of the amount of games that I've played during my career players perhaps look up to me, and if a lad's having a bad patch - which every player has at some stage - he might look to me to try and help him through.
"I'll do whatever I can to help in those circumstances, but as a group we are all accountable for the club's plight at the moment and we have to turn things round."
Coventry's current plight sees them with just three points from four games, while Stevenage have eight points from their four-match undefeated start.
The two clubs have got vastly different histories, Stevenage becoming a Football League club for the first time two seasons ago, while Coventry's illustrious past included 33 consecutive years in the top flight before they fell into the Championship and then, in May, into the third tier of the League system for the first time in 48 years.
A League match between Coventry and Stevenage would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but Kilbane strongly dismisses any thoughts of superiority.
"I've played in every division and no matter what the size or stature of any club I come up against I give them my full respect," said the former Preston North End, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Everton and Wigan Athletic midfielder.
"Stevenage have done really well over the last few years," he added. "They've come up from non-league and quickly established themselves as a Football League club, so they're a real success story and they'll definitely be difficult opponents for us.
"But we've got to expect to be winning our home matches. On the road we should be expecting to do that as well, but especially at home. So that has to be our expectation on Sunday, and if we play to the maximum of our capabilities I'm sure we can do it."
A tensely awaited first League win of the campaign would ease the pressure at the Ricoh Arena as the hunt goes on to replace Thorn, with caretaker boss Richard Shaw among the candidates to take over and hopefully kick-start a run to promotion.
Kilbane said: "Whoever takes over will have the full support of the players, but we have to be better than we were in the League games under Andy Thorn this season.
"His last game in charge [a 2-2 home draw with Bury] reflected our season so far - we were unbelievably good in the first half and unbelievably bad in the second.
"Off the back of that the manager lost his job. Ultimately it's the manager's head that's on the block, but players have to be accountable as well.
"We have to look forward as a group now, shrug off all thoughts of negativity and get on with it for the sake of the club and the supporters."
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