The Sky Blues left-back has lifted the lid on his 2015 which ended on a positive note back in the first-team...
When a left-back from Conference side Forest Green Rovers turned up at Ryton, Ryan Haynes probably thought he had nothing to worry about.
Little did he know, but Chris Stokes would go to play in all but two games for the rest of 2015, before and after the summer break.
Haynes, who still only 20-years old, has had to be patient for his opportunity due to Stokes’ form and he admitted it’s been frustrating to be behind ‘good friend’ Stokes.
“It has been frustrating, of course. Every player wants to play and I’m no different. Chris has come in and played really well, but I haven’t had a look in over the past year really,” Haynes reflects.
“I get along with Chris really well, he’s a good friend and it’s good to see him doing so well but you want to be playing every week so it’s been difficult.
“We’re two different types of left-backs. I might be slightly better getting forward but he’s definitely better defensively and that’s a side of the game I really need to improve on. After training, I’ll work with him in passing drills and heading, so I have learnt off him.
“When he plays, he plays with everything on the line and with a lot of aggression. I look at that side of his game and I know that is something I need to add to my game.
“I’ve been watching that aggression and how he plays in defensive positions so hopefully I can pick that up and add to it as you’ve always got to improve.”
City manager Tony Mowbray has made no secret of the demands he puts on his defensive players this season, being a former ‘old-fashioned’ centre-half himself.
Haynes has definitely responded to that, noticeably bigger through extra gym work, and made his first league start of the season in the 1-1 draw against Chesterfield.
Mowbray singled out the left-back at the end of the Chesterfield game noting, ‘I now know Ryan Haynes is someone who can play in our first-team and do well’ and Haynes was delighted to be back.
“Well, it shows the power of being patient and waiting for your chance really. And when it comes along, you’ve got to take it so it’s been good for me,” he commented.
“I think I’ve been doing well and I’m just happy to be playing to be honest. It’s a great feeling to be back involved. I get nervous before any game really, even when I was playing week-in, week-out last season.
“There was a bit more pressure coming into the side this time as I haven’t played for the first team in such a long time and I wanted to show what I’m about.”
Perhaps rather strangely for Haynes, it was the first time he had started in the League for a Coventry side which is now fighting battles at the right end of the table.
The Sky Blues are having a remarkable season after recent years of avoiding relegation in League One, and being relegated from the Championship.
Having never dropped out of the top six and only lost four league games all season, the confidence is noticeable in Mowbray’s side and Haynes felt that new confidence on the pitch.
“It’s easier coming into a team which isn’t fighting at the bottom. It’s much more relaxed. Last season, it was difficult as we were fighting at the bottom and it could get quite tense,” Haynes remarks.
“It was a lot of pressure. But, coming into the team this season, it’s a lot more enjoyable as there is more of a confidence in the team.
“When you’re standing in a team which has James Maddison, Joe Cole, Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong in it, it gives you plenty of confidence as there are goals in every one of them.”
And Haynes isn’t surprised by the performances or results with the amount of quality on display. The City manager has built a squad which has plenty of depth in all areas, which definitely helped over the Christmas period.
But it isn’t just the quality of players. The atmosphere change has been noticeable according to the left-back, who has credited the manager with the confidence in the dressing room.
“The dressing room is great. With players like Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong coming in to add to the players who’ve been here a while like John Fleck and Jim O’Brien, it’s created a really nice atmosphere in the place,” Haynes said.
“I like the depth of the squad as well. If we’ve got to rotate the squad because of Saturday to Tuesday games, it doesn’t make a huge impact when in other seasons it has.
“The gaffer has come in and changed everything. It’s completely different to other years as it’s just a lot more positive and people enjoying their work.
“Last couple of years, it’s been quite negative with everything going on at the club. But this year, and you can see it on the pitch, has been so much more positive.
“There is a real belief in the dressing room that we can achieve something this year and it’s a great thing to be part of. I’ve really enjoyed training this year as well because there is something different every day but you can also have a laugh and enjoy it more.”
So, back to Ryan. Cast your mind back to the 2012/13 season on a wonderful April day against Brentford, Haynes made his debut for the Sky Blues wearing the No. 37 shirt.
Despite suffering a bit of nervous sickness on the pitch in the early stages, Haynes turned in a fantastic performance which he continued to follow up with several eye-catching performances. No more so than the return to the Ricoh Arena against Gillingham last season where he was Man of the Match in front of over 27,000 City fans.
To ride that crest of a wave but then lose your place in the team and play in the Under-21s for the vast majority of last season must be difficult for any young player…
“It’s weird when someone calls me a young player. I feel like I’ve been around for five years or something,” he added.
“When you get in the first-team as a young player is a great thing so when you get dropped, it was really difficult. I had to mentally rebuild after that.
“It was a big change for me as it feels like a big step from the Under-21s to the first-team so it was hard but something I had to learn to deal with.
“I could have just sat around and kept my head down but I’ve worked hard on my game this season and done well for the Under-21s.
“I think it’s helped me become a stronger person because of the past year as it has been a big disappointment not playing first-team football. “
If there has been one positive of the recent Under-21s stint for Haynes is that he has been able to play in the left-midfield position.
And as the Daventry-born defender says, it definitely helped with his confidence and develop the attacking side to his game.
“I like the left-midfield position so I enjoyed playing there. As I’ve said before, the stronger point of my game is the attacking side so I get to use it more when I play there,” he continued.
“You can forward and get at people as well. It helped me get used to taking players on again and it’s really good for the confidence when that happens.
“I still feel more comfortable at left-back though. When I’m playing left-midfield and come inside the pitch, to attack and link play, I still as though it is a bit foreign to me.
“I’m still fully focused on the left-back position and I’ve just got to work on the defensive side to my game to make sure I make that position mine.”
Finally, despite his recent stint out of the side, the City fans definitely hadn’t forgot about the City Academy graduate with his very own chant in the second-half of the Chesterfield game being heard from the huge travelling support.
Haynes was quick to thank the fans for the support and says it’s nice not to be forgotten.
“I did hear it and it was great. It’s weird really as I saw an article or post last season called ‘Where is Ryan Haynes?’ or ‘Where has Ryan Haynes gone?’” He recalled.
“I was like, I’m still here, don’t forget about me. But it’s great to end the year on such a positive note and the support over the two games was incredible. I’ve just got to make sure they don’t forget about me and keeping going in 2016 as there’s plenty more to come from me.”