Last month saw the shock announcement that current Premier League champions Manchester City will be banned from European competitions for two years due to breaking UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

For those in and around England’s European spots, the announcement gave hope, being it means a Champions League spot and consequently a further Europa League spot is now open to a team with little hope beforehand.

With that being said, two of St Helens’ finest defenders will battle it out for the final ten games as their respective clubs vie to secure European football next season.


Conor Coady

It is hard not to start with the accomplishments of Coady. Most notably, he is the captain of Wolves, who are not only establishing themselves as a British threat, but additionally a European one since their move up from the Championship two years ago.

Coady has been at the core of that success; playing centrally in a back three and captaining Nuno Espírito Santo’s side.

The Haydock-born defender sealed promotion to the Premier League after making 45 appearances in Wolves’ title winning season in 2017/18.

When he left Liverpool after making just one appearance in 2013, it was expected his career would fade to the lower leagues like many prior.

However, he built himself up to become a vital part of the Wolves team that finished 7th last season and have since progressed to the Europa League last 16 after beating Espanyol last week.

He has totalled 222 appearances for the Midlands club, playing all 38 games in last year’s Premier League season and all 28 so far in this year’s competition.

They currently sit in 6th position, just three points behind 4th place Chelsea and level with Manchester United who are seemingly holding the last of the Champions League spaces.

Wolves sailed through the Europa League’s Group K with 13 points in December and will travel to Olympiacos next week. They are 11/2 to win the entire competition, which could present them another way into Europe’s elite competition.

Optimism surrounds the future of Wolves and Coady is right at the heart of that.

He is somebody who was once deemed not good enough for the Premier League who returned to captain a side that look likely to establish themselves as European regulars.


Martin Kelly

There are large similarities between Coady and his fellow Liverpool academy graduate Martin Kelly. Much like Coady, it looked like his future would have been at the Merseyside club early on.

However, things didn’t go as he would have wanted, being that his days with Liverpool were cut short in 2014 after totalling 62 appearances for the Reds in all competitions.

The defender, from Newton-Le-Willows, has reinvented himself at Crystal Palace though and become a regular starter anywhere across the back line for Roy Hodgson’s side.

He has appeared in 19 of 28 games so far in the Premier League campaign. Palace sit in 12th and much like Wolves, they will be eyeing a European spot.

The London side have never graced a European competition since the Premier League era began, but with this season’s table differing from prior years, Palace finishing higher than expected is becoming more and more likely.

Although a Champions League spot most definitely alludes Palace, a place in the Europa League spots isn’t completely out of the realm of possibilities if they can continue on their current two-game winning streak.


Overall, the pair have certainly changed perceptions since they both left Liverpool six years ago.

They are now two of the area’s most well-known athletes and a battle between them could be about to ensue for a European spot.

Just six points separate Wolves and Crystal Palace. Although Wolves are expected to push on like last season, an admission into Europe by Crystal Palace could perhaps be the surprise of an ongoing unusual Premier League campaign.


Picture by Jon Candy under Creative Commons License