When Conor Coady left Liverpool for Huddersfield in 2014, not much was expected of the St Helen’s born midfielder. 6 years later, he is leading his Wolves side, deep into Europe.
Since returning from suspension, after a 15th minute red card away at Sheffield United on 27th September 2017, Conor Coady hasn’t missed a single league minute for the Midland’s club.
This is his journey, from the Liverpool academy, to Wolverhampton Wanderers club legend.
Coady joined the Red’s academy, aged just 12 in 2005. However, during his near 10-year stint at Anfield, he only managed a single first team start.
The current Wolves skipper played in a 1-0 defeat, away to Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League group stages on 8th November 2012.
Fun Fact – The Liverpool midfield that night was a trio of Coady, Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey.
Despite captaining Liverpool’s under 21’s and England from under 16 to under 20 – Coady’s career wasn’t going anywhere fast.
Seemingly unfancied by then Red’s boss Brendan Rodgers, Conor decided he needed to make the step up from youth football, to the full men’s game.
And with first team opportunities limited at Anfield, Coady turned down an opportunity to travel with the squad on a tour of Australia.
He instead completed a loan switch to League One Sheffield United in the search of first team minutes.
It was a successful loan spell. Conor was first team regular, in a Blade’s side which narrowly missed out on the playoffs – finishing 7th – and reached an FA Cup semi final.
In his first full season in the men’s game, Coady – then playing as a attack minded midfielder – managed 50 appearances, and six goals.
Coady returned to Merseyside that summer, but was ultimately deemed surplus to requirements by Rodgers.
The now Leicester City manager, sold the young midfielder for £500,000, to championship side, Huddersfield.
He quickly settled into life as a championship football, and even scored a spectacular long range strike on 1st October 2014 – ironically, at Molineux against Wolves.
He went on to score a further two goals that season, and made more appearances than any other play in the Huddersfield squad (48) – picking up player of the season for his efforts.
In the summer of 2015, Coady was on the move again.
The Wolves manager Kenny Jackett liked what he saw in the combative young midfielder, and the ‘Old Gold’ club, signed Coady from Huddersfield for what’s proved to be a bargain £2 million.
Life at Wolves wasn’t initially easy for Coady.
He started the season in the side, but a horror challenge, in the first half of a league match against Brighton in September was greeted with the red card it deserved, Coady struggled to regain his place in the side once his suspension was served.
The 2015/16 season came and went, and was his least successful in terms of first team football to this point.
That summer, Wolves were brought out by Chinese Ownership group, FOSUN international.
With FOSUN, arrived a host of foreign signings – mostly Portuguese, but not the good ones who remain at the club – and a new Italian head coach, Walter Zenga.
It remained to be seen whether the St Helen’s born midfielder would be part of Wolves new vision, but at the start of the season he was given a chance. A largely, he took it.
Wolves flattered to deceive under Zenga, playing tidy enough football but not doing a fat lot with it.
Coady largely played as a holding midfielder in a three, in a side that was nervously looking over its shoulder – more likely to get relegated than promoted.
Zenga was soon sacked, and replaced by Scotsman, Paul Lambert.
Lambert saw Coady as a crucial part of the squad, largely due to his leadership qualities, but wanted to switch to a midfield two.
Coady wasn’t deemed as technically gifted as the club’s big names – like Lee Evans, Dave Edwards and George Saville – so the scouser was shifted out to right-back, as to still get in the team.
Coady was steady at best for the remainder of that season, and it was clear to everyone he was uncomfortable in his new position.
Lacking pace, or any particular ability in the final third, right-back was always an unusual choice from Lambert for the now Wolves skipper…
The season ended with Wolves in mid-table, and the rumours among fans were that Coady wasn’t good enough for a Wolves side that wanted promotion in the next season.
With names like Ruben Neves on FOSUN’s shopping list, it looked likely that he may well be sold.
But then, Nuno arrived. And changed Coady’s career forever.
To my knowledge, Conor Coady has three key attributes. Leadership, composure, and long passing.
Nuno immediatly spotted this, and saw potential for Coady to be a sweeper.
The sweeper is a rarity in modern football. Associated historically with names like Hoddle and Beckenbauer, it is a specialist position.
A position, usually reserved for players who read the game like few others, and can spray the ball around the park with ease.
Coady took to the position like a duck to water.
Seemingly overnight, Nuno turned him from a combative defensive midfielder, into an elegant ball playing central centre back, in an impenetrable five man defence.
The Englishman played an integral part in Wolves Championship winning side, getting into the EFL team of the season.
He even got acknowledged by England manager, Gareth Southgate, ahead of the 2018 World Cup for his consistently excellent performances.
In his first season playing top flight football, Conor Coady and Wolves excelled in the Premier League.
Nuno’s side played attractive football, got to an FA cup semi-final and finished 7th in the league – not bad for a newly promoted side. And now club captain Coady, was key to it all.
Pulling the strings from his sweeper position, switching the play regularly, mopping up any danger – Coady looked every bit a Premier League footballer. And a good one at that.
5 years after making his first senior appearance in the competition with Liverpool, Conor has now lead his side out to Europa League victories over the likes of Besiktas and Espanyol, and Wolves remain in the competition – being second favourites to win the whole thing.
And along the way, Conor Coady hasn’t missed a minute of league football, since that aforementioned red card in September 2017.
102 League games without missing a second. Astonishing.
Equally astonishing is that he is yet to receive an England call up, while the likes of Mings, Tarkowski and Tomori have.
There are question marks whether he could play in a back four, but regardless, if Coady retires without a senior international cap it will be a great injustice.
Come June, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, that Coady could be lifting the Europa League trophy as Wolves club captain.
And I think a lot of Liverpool fans would like to see him do so. On and off the field, Coady comes off remarkably well.
He impressed alongside fellow Scouser Jamie Carragher, when he made his media debut on Monday Night Football earlier in the season, and will be fought over by broadcasting companies when his playing career comes to an end, no doubt.
At just 27 though, his career is far from over though and it remains to be seen what’s next in Coady’s career. Champions League football and international honours next, who knows?
While I’ll concede the Red’s are doing quite well without him – but even as a squad player now, Coady must be considered one that got away by the Liverpool hierarchy.
Pic by Catherine Kõrtsmik – Creative Commons License.