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'David Moyes told me what was best for me and I know I'll get the truth from him'

The West Ham boss has been up front with Conor Coventry about his club future as the Ireland Under-21 captain eyes history on two fronts this week.

Republic of Ireland Under-21 captain Conor Coventry.
Republic of Ireland Under-21 captain Conor Coventry.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CONOR COVENTRY HAS already held one meeting with West Ham United manager David Moyes about what the future holds in his club career.

Turned out the chat was a lot like the conversation he had prior to pre-season last summer, although the 22-year-old at least has far more experience under his belt after 34 appearances across the Championship and League One following loan spells with Peterborough and MK Dons respectively.

“He is a very straight talker,” the Republic of Ireland Under-21 captain says. “You know what he wants from you on and off the pitch. I spoke to him at a similar time last year.

“After I’d had a good pre-season, he said ‘you can stay’, other players were telling me to stay. He said ‘you can stay but it’d be better for you to go and play for a year and come back to me’. He was straight with me there.

“Other managers might have kept me around, had me sitting on the bench, but he told me what was best for me, I was appreciative of that. I know I’ll get the truth from him.

“I was back in and I spoke to him [recently], we spoke a bit a bit my time there [with MK Dons] and the play-off games, he knows that I know I need to come in and work my socks off, see where it takes me. Hopefully I will be in contact in pre-season but I know what I need to do.

“I went on loan to play games, to become a better player and a better person, I did that on both counts, it can only help me, I feel closer to the [West Ham] team than I was a year ago, so it can only help me. The position I’m in is a better position.”

west-ham-united-training-and-press-conference-rush-green-wednesday-april-27th Source: PA

Coventry’s experiences during his two loan spells have also helped bring home some harsh realisations about the difficulty in forging a career. The first half of the Championship campaign was a slog with struggling Peterborough, who were eventually relegated.

After starting his first two games, the 22-year-old was dropped and made only two more starts during a total of 12 games.

That arrangement came to an end in January, when the midfielder became a key figure in the MK Dons side pushing for promotion from League One. Their efforts were undone

“In a squad of 25, nobody is going to have the same personality or habits. You’re looking after yourself at times really. There were times when I wasn’t playing at Peterborough that I had to do the right things for myself and my career,” he explains.

“Thinking about how hard I worked at that time, I needed to go play well in the second half of the season. Maybe if I’d acted a certain way when I wasn’t playing, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

I learnt a lot more about the game, that it’s not always easy and things don’t come your way. It was the toughest part of my career.”

And while it is undoubtedly a promising one, it is still very much in its infancy compared to someone like Mark Noble, now a former West Ham teammate following his retirement at the end of the season just completed.

A photograph of him sweeping the dressing room floor that went viral online was not just for show, Coventry insists, explaining how it was just one aspect of how he set an example for people throughout the club.

“Everyone has seen that recently but he has been doing that for a while, it’s not like he was posing for that, he has been doing it without recognition and that’s a testament to him and the type of leadership he shows.

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“To see him doing it, me as a young lad I’m not going to leave him doing it. When I was playing Under 23s, I was the one doing the sweeping up. He’s a great example for everybody.

“When some get to the top and go a certain way, people don’t like that. That’s not the way I want to be. You’re a team, not just a player or staff. Why should he sweep up and not me?”

northampton-town-v-west-ham-united-pre-season-friendly-sixfields-stadium Coventry (centre) with Jarrod Bowen (20) on pre-season last summer. Source: PA

Setting an example is important to Coventry, which is why he takes even greater pride in being on the verge of becoming the most capped Ireland player at Under-21 level since former Arsenal youngster Graham Barrett.

He will take the outright lead on 25 appearances when, as expected, he leads his side out in the European Championship qualifiers with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro on Friday and Monday respectively.

With a game in hand on second place Sweden, and trailing by just one point after beating them back-to-back last time out, six points is a must to try and nail down the play-off spot before the final group game away to Italy on 14 June.

“It’s something I am proud of and it just shows, any time there is a game I am available to play. It’s something that I want, for people to know me as someone who is always available for the team, always ready.

“It will mean more to me to get two wins over the next two games but it’s something I am really proud of. I see playing for your country as the most important thing. I know that if I’m available and fit, I’ve always come in and give it my all.”

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