Mark Robins: Tatsuhiro Sakamoto now has the confidence to go with his ability

By Sports Desk January 01, 2024

Mark Robins is delighted to see Tatsuhiro Sakamoto now delivering on the promise he has shown since joining Coventry after continuing his rich recent scoring form with a brace in City’s 3-1 comeback win at Middlesbrough.

Sakamoto joined Coventry from Oostende last summer, but the Japanese winger failed to score in his first 13 matches for the club.

His performance levels were good though, and Robins always felt it was only a matter of time before things started clicking for the 27-year-old in front of goal.

Sure enough, Sakamoto has now netted five times in his last four matches, with his double at the Riverside helping to secure a win that lifted Coventry to within three points of the play-off places in the Sky Bet Championship.

Robins said: “He’s been really good, and the confidence is coming. We’ve been waiting for it. He’s got the ability, and now he’s got the confidence and belief too.

“That’s really good for us, and really good for him. He also creates. He’s technically outstanding, and to get through the games that he has done is a real credit to him.”

Sakamoto won two international caps in 2021, but was not named in the Japan squad for the upcoming Asian Cup, meaning he can continue to play for Coventry this month.

That is a relief to Robins, although if the winger continues to perform as he has in the last few weeks, an international recall could well be in the offing.

Robins said: “They’ve got some really good players. The Japanese are outstanding, you could see that in the World Cup last year.

“They’ve got some excellent players, and there’s more and more of them playing in Europe and the UK. Tatsu is a brilliant outlet for us, and you can see the connections that are being made and that he’s starting to form. That’s pleasing for us for the second half of the season.”

Middlesbrough were without 13 senior players because of injury or call-ups to either the Asian Cup or Africa Cup of Nations, and having established a first-half lead through Josh Coburn, Michael Carrick admitted his side ran out of steam as Coventry dominated in the second half.

Carrick said: “I think it’s understandable. It felt like the tank just emptied at the wrong time for us today, in terms of their energy.

“I can’t fault them. It’s such a small pool of players we’ve had to pick from a patch-up game to game over recent weeks. It probably just caught up with us at the wrong time today because first half I thought we were fantastic.

“I thought we played some fabulous football and should have, could have, been up at half-time. In the end, they are a good team, they’re dangerous and they’re on a good run as well.”

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