Sunday, 17 February 2019

Jim's column 16.2.2019

                                                               Steve Murcott 

The sad news of the passing of England’s 1966 World Cup goalkeeper Gordon Banks was met with deserved universal praise from the football world. Gordon was the best goalkeeper in the world in the golden years at the end of the 1960s and had a major influence on Leicester City and Stoke City as well as the England national team.

Gordon had some memorable matches against the Sky Blues playing for both Midland clubs and also played at Highfield Road in Bill Glazier’s testimonial game, two years after his tragic car accident in 1972.

By the time of his first appearance at Highfield Road in December 1964 Gordon was a veteran of over 200 games for Leicester including two losing FA Cup final appearances. He had won his first England cap in 1963 and had immediately established himself as England’s number 1. The League Cup quarter final draw had paired the Foxes with the Sky Blues and although Coventry were fresh out of Division Three they fancied their chances of causing a shock against their mid-table First Division rivals.

Banks had a relatively quiet night as his forwards took advantage of George Curtis’s early injury to hammer Jimmy Hill’s team 8-1, the club’s biggest post war defeat. The only shot that got past him was a George Hudson overhead kick for a consolation goal.

Two months earlier City had paid a world goalkeeper record fee of £35,000 for Bill Glazier but Bob Wesson was the unfortunate ‘keeper that night, standing in for the cup tied Glazier. Glazier was already in England manager Alf Ramsey’s thoughts having made his Under 23 debut a week before the Leicester game. By the spring of 1965 the impressive Glazier was being tipped to be part of Alf’s 1966 World Cup squad after three clean sheets for the Under 23s. Tragedy struck at Maine Road on Easter Saturday when Bill broke his leg in a clash with Manchester City’s Glyn Pardoe. The serious break kept him out for a year and his World Cup hopes were dashed.

I’m not suggesting that Glazier would have taken Banks’s place in the 1966 tournament but he would have made a valuable number two to Gordon.

By the time City were promoted to Division One in 1967 Gordon had left Leicester for Stoke and the Sky Blues had the Indian sign over the Potters for two seasons with Gordon letting in three goals in successive seasons at the Victoria Ground. In the 1968-69 season he was in goal for Stoke as City, inspired for once by the twin strikers Tony Hateley and Neil Martin, recorded a 3-0 victory.

That defeat apart Gordon generally looked the top class ‘keeper he was when facing the Sky Blues and usually had good protection from some fearsome defenders such as Dennis Smith, Alan Bloor and Eric Skeels. One exception was the game at Highfield Road in December 1970. A dour game was decided by a weak John O’Rourke header which slipped embarrassingly past Gordon’s left leg. Coming months after his wonder save from Pele’s header in Guadalajara six months earlier it was a stunner for everyone.

After the car accident in 1972 that cost Gordon the sight in one eye he never played competitive football in England again. However he did turn out in Glazier’s testimonial in 1974 alongside eight others from the 1966 final with only Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles not appearing. The ever so friendly game ended 6-6 with Glazier emerging from goal for the last 10 minutes to score two goals but no one cared about the result. Despite letting in six goals City fans had seen the finest English goalkeeper of all time make a final bow.

Talking of goalkeepers I have to mention David Stockdale’s appearance as an emergency loan at Rochdale last week. He put in an impressive performance as the Sky Blues finally recorded a victory at Spotland at the tenth attempt in almost 100 years not least with his superb save from Henderson in the second half. Unless Lee Burge is unable to return from injury today against Walsall Stockdale will join the ‘one game heroes club’ joining Steve Murcott and Mick Harford. Murcott was the youth team goalkeeper who, in 1979, was called out of the stands when Jim Blyth ricked his back in the warm up prior to the home game with Norwich. He kept a clean sheet as City won 2-0 but never played for the first team again. Harford, the current manager of runaway leaders Luton, was signed by Bobby Gould in 1993 and came on for his debut as a substitute in a home game with Newcastle with 16 minutes remaining. He scored the winning goal five minutes from time with a looping header but a back injury meant he never played in a Sky Blue shirt again.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Jim's column 9.2.2019

Michael Doyle left the club on transfer deadline day to join League Two Notts County on an 18-month contract. There are mixed feelings about his departure but I think Mark Robins’ comments about Doyle’s wanting to play football and there being no guarantee of that at the Ricoh is probably accurate. There are no mixed feelings about Doyle’s contribution to the club in his two spells spanning almost 16 years. He arrived from Celtic as a raw boned midfielder with a delicious left foot. In his first spell he played under six different full-time managers in six and a half seasons (with a season on loan at Leeds) before joining Sheffield United and subsequently Portsmouth.  I think his high wages were an issue when he was allowed to join the Blades in 2011 but would the Sky Blues have been relegated from the Championship if the feisty Dubliner had still been at the club. I'm sure all City fans wish Michael all the best with Notts and hope he can help pull them from the abyss to the Conference.
He was the captain and a major force for Portsmouth in their League Two promotion in 2017 and repeated the feat with the Sky Blues last season. He leaves having made 373 first team appearances for the club and scoring 26 goals. That makes him the seventh highest appearance maker for the club and easily the highest in the 21st century. The six players to play more games are Steve Ogrizovic (601), George Curtis (543), Mick Coop (499), Brian Borrows (488), Bill Glazier (402) and Mick Kearns (385).
His full season-by-season record is as follows:

Season League FA Cup L Cup Other Total Lge goals Cup goals
2003-04 38+2 3 2 - 43+2 5 -
2004-05 43+1 2 3 - 48+1 2 1
2005-06 44 3 2 - 49 - -
2006-07 40 2 - - 42 3 -
2007-08 42 3 4 - 49 7 -
2008-09 34+3 5 0+2 - 39+5 2 1
2010-11 15+3 1 - - 16+3 1 -
2017-18 44 4 - 4 52 3 -
2018-19 21+2 1 - - 22+2 1 -
Totals 321+11 24 11+2 4 360+13 24 2

It was a surprise last Saturday to see new boy David Meyler lead out the team. He is the first loanee to captain the club and the sixth starting captain of the season after Doyle, Kelly, Tom Davies, Abu Ogogo and Morgan Williams. Ogogo and Williams captained the team in Checkatrade EFL trophy games.
Several people on Twitter bemoaned the lack of headed goals from City this season and I had to remind them that we have actually scored eight headed goals, three from set pieces. The eight are: Clarke-Harris v Gillingham (a), Bradford (a), Hiwula v Charlton (h), Chaplin v Wycombe (h), Scunthorpe (a), Willis v Barnsley (h), Hyam v Bristol R (a), Bakayoko v Charlton (a). There was a ninth as well, Tom Davies’ header at Southend was clearly over the line but not given!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Jim's column 26.1.2019

Coventry City had a fruitless trip to Devon last week, losing, after dominating for long periods, to a pretty average Plymouth team. The man who made the difference was former City man Ruben Lameiras who scored both Argyle goals and is in the form of his life at Home Park. He struggled to win a regular place with Plymouth last season following his move from City but has now scored six goals in his last four games. His career at Coventry was hardly dazzling, although he did score some good goals.

The obvious comment on Saturday from many City fans was 'our former players always come back to haunt us and score'. I have written about this in the past arguing that we only notice the former players who score against us and ignore those that don't and I haven't altered my view. Ruben's goals are the first by a former City player this season and we have faced quite a few ex's. I did some research into last season and only two ex-players netted against the Sky Blues, Daniel Agyei for Walsall in a FLT game and Dominic Samuel for Blackburn in the League Cup game. Both of these were loanees and you have to go back to early 2017 for the last occurrence of a non-loanee to have been on the score-sheet, at Sheffield United when both John Fleck and Leon Clarke scored in the 2-0 loss. I calculated that there were 29 instances of former City players facing the Sky Blues in all competitions last season. Of course a number were defenders and one, Reice Charles-Cook was a goalkeeper, but the evidence doesn't support the theory that ex-players are always netting against us.

In 2012 when Stern John scored for Ipswich against us I made the point that it was his first goal in six appearances against City since he had left in 2007 and that there had been only four other former City players who had scored against us in the last five seasons: Dele Adebola, Jay Bothroyd, Andy Morrell and Calum Davenport. 

Ruben joins an elite group of former players to score two goals in a game against City. Leon Clarke did it for Bury in 2016, the first since 1983 when Steve Whitton of West Ham scored a pair in a 5-2 hammering at Upton Park. Before that Bobby Gould scored both Bristol City goals in a 2-2 draw in a League Cup game at Ashton Gate in 1973 and John Tudor netted two for Newcastle in a 4-2 win over the Sky Blues in early 1972.
The best ever effort by an 'ex' though was probably the famous England test cricketer Patsy Hendren. He left City in 1911 after a brief career but came back to haunt us fifteen years later as a veteran of 37 playing for Brentford. In a 7-3 thumping at Griffin Park Patsy helped himself to four goals in what was his final season as a player.

My good friend Geoff Moore is always coming up with interesting stats and this week he came up trumps again. He tells me that since Lee Burge made his debut for the club in August 2014, in a League Cup game versus Cardiff at Sixfields, a further 100 players have made their debut. Only five of these 100 players have played the equivalent of fifty games for the club (i.e. 4500 minutes game time): Chris Stokes, Charles Reice-Cook, Jack Grimmer, Sam Ricketts and Tom Bayliss. It illustrates the transient nature of football in the lower divisions and the strong reliance on loan players. 31 of those hundred were loans but the trend is that the club is using less. Ten loanees appeared for the club in 2016-17 but there have been only six in the last eighteen months.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Jim's column 12.1.2019

Regular reader Steve Pittam has been a City fan for many years and was one of the 50 or so supporters to make the trip to Plovdiv in City's only European campaign in 1970. He has spent many years out of the country, mainly working in the Middle East but gets back for a few games each season. He emailed me recently after the Fleetwood game (which he attended) to say that
on the drive home he was thinking about all the Coventry matches he had been to in the North west and reckons we have a pretty awful record up there. He asked if I could do the stats to confirm whether our record in the North West was worse than our overall away record.

Steve is correct about our away trips to Lancashire and the North West. Most City fans know we have never won a league game at Preston in umpteen trips and that we have never won at Rochdale. Older fans will remember the disastrous FA Cup defeats at Tranmere (1968), Rochdale (1971 & 2005) and Blackburn (1980) and League Cup losses at the same grounds over the years. The table below includes all City's trips to the area since they left the Premiership in 2001 (including Cup games). I have included Cheshire clubs Crewe Alexandra and Stockport County also.

Overall they have won only 17 of 72 away games, an average of 23%, compared to a total away win percentage of 26%. They have gained 65 points in those games, an average of 0.90 point per game. This compares with an overall away average for the same period of 1.03 points. The statistics certainly bear out Steve's theory!

I hadn't realised how bad our records are at Wigan, Bury, Morecambe and Tranmere (where the Sky Blues have not won in seven visits stretching back to 1938. I thought we had a better record at Burnley but have won only twice in 10 visits. Hope that helps you Steve.

Played Won Drawn Lost Last win
Accrington 1 0 0 1 -
Blackburn 2 1 1 0 Jan 2008
Blackpool 7 2 1 4 March 2016
Bolton 1 0 0 1 Jan 1998
Burnley 10 2 4 4 May 2007
Bury 4 1 0 3 Feb 2013
Crewe 10 5 0 5 Mar 2018
Fleetwood 4 2 0 2 Oct 2015
Man United 1 1 0 0 Sep 2007
Morecambe 3 0 1 2 -
Oldham 5 2 1 2 May 2016
Preston 13 0 4 9 Sep 2000
Rochdale 5 0 2 3 -
Stockport 1 1 0 0 Aug 2001
Tranmere 2 0 0 2 Dec 1938
Wigan 3 0 0 3 Jan 1991

Totals 72 17 14 41

Up to and including 31.12.2018

Another hoodoo club for the Sky Blues is Scunthorpe and last Saturday's defeat there meant that the Iron have now won the last six league encounters between the clubs. Fellow historian Paul O'Connor pointed out that this equals City's current run of six successive league defeats by Manchester United. He also advised that the club's worst run of defeats against any club was nine against West Ham. The abysmal run started with the infamous defeat on the final day of the 1982-83 season in what was Dave Sexton's final game in charge on the day it was announced Bobby Gould was replacing hime, then the 5-2 defeat at Upton Park after leading 2-0. The run was ended in November 1987 with a 0-0 draw at Highfield Road.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Jim's column 5.1.2019

Santa Claus was good to Coventry City this year. After a poor run of results – four league defeats in a row and no wins in seven – the Sky Blues bounced back with three straight wins over the holiday season. Tight but deserved home victories over Charlton and Southend were followed by a comfortable win at Wycombe on New Years Day. Daniel Davenport asked the pertinent question : when did City last win all three Christmas games?

There have been some good Christmas's over the years but you have to go back to 1959 for the last time they recorded three victories – coincidentally the season after the club won promotion from the Fourth Division. The run started on Christmas morning – the last time City played on the 25th December – with a 5-3 victory over Wrexham with four goals from Ken Satchwell and another from Peter Hill watched by 17,500 at Highfield Road. The following day, as was the tradition back then, the two clubs met again at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground and Satchwell was on fire again, scoring two of the goals in City's 3-1 victory with Ray Straw netting the other.

In those days New Year's Day wasn't a bank holiday so there were no fixtures on the 1st January but the following day City entertained York City and Satchwell made it eight goals in three games scoring twice in a 5-2 home win with Peter Hill, Straw and an own goal also on target in front of 14,400. City did leave it late however with three goals in the last nine minutes.
                                                              Ken Satchwell                                

The run of three victories (six points not nine in those days) lifted City to third place in Division three, four points behind leaders Bury and three back from Southampton. City eventually finished fifth as Saints and Norwich won promotion.

This year's Christmas run coincided with victories over three of the teams they defeated in the excellent run in October and resulted in three doubles being recorded in a matter of seven days. I'm pretty confident that is a first for the club.

The win over Southend was particularly satisfying as it was the first home league win over the Shrimpers since 1960. Since then the Essex club have made six trips to Coventry and won three and drawn three. Older Sky Blue fans will remember the embarrassing 5-2 defeat inflicted by them in the 1963-64 promotion season. Jordy Hiwula therefore ended an awkward bogey record against Southend.

Several readers thought we had fielded our youngest ever side in the Southend game with Zain Westbrooke making his first start. Zain is actually older than the player he replaced, Luke Thomas, and therefore the starting XI v Charlton was younger. My age expert Geoff Moore ran the numbers for me and for the Charlton game the starting XI had an average age of 22 years & 250 days and is the youngest for a league game since September 1983 when the average age of Bobby Gould's starting XI at West Ham was 22 years & 248 days. That line up was as follows: Suckling (17), Hormantschuk (20), Roberts (27), Grimes (26), Peake (26), Jacobs (22), Butterworth (18), Withey (23), Platnauer (22), Gibson (20), Adams (21). The youngest team ever put out by Coventry City was at Cheltenham this season in the FL Trophy which had an average age of 21 years & 33 days, 25 days younger than the youngest ever league side which played at Manchester City in 1980.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Jim's column 22.12.2018

Benny Glover is not a name that immediately springs to mind when talking about Coventry City’s promotion squad of 1967 and although he had one of the shortest playing careers in the club’s history he did appear for the club in that momentous season. Sadly I discovered last week that he passed away earlier this year.

Fifty two years ago last weekend Benny Glover made his one and only appearance for the Sky Blues when he played the last thirty or so minutes as a substitute in City’s 3-2 victory over Cardiff City at Highfield Road. Five days later he celebrated his 20th birthday.

Born in Birmingham he was the eighth of 14 children and was pinched by the Sky Blues from under the noses of Aston Villa and Birmingham City. He came for a trial at Ryton in 1964 and agreed to play as an amateur. He played as a wing half in the club’s youth team that season, appearing in the same team as Mick Coop, John Burckitt, John Matthews and Pat Morrissey. By the summer of 1966 he had made sufficient advancement to be offered a professional contract and then made rapid progress after less than a dozen reserve appearances to be considered for the first team.

On a Friday afternoon in early November 1966 club captain George Curtis walked up to him in the corridor outside the dressing rooms at Highfield Road and asked, ‘Chicken or steak for lunch tomorrow, Benny?’

He had been called into City’s 13-man squad because of a doubt to Dietmar Bruck. If Bruck had failed a fitness test Glover would have been 12th man and substitute. As it turned out Bruck played and Benny had to wait a further three weeks for his big chance.

The Cardiff game was a memorable one for quite a few reasons. City’s record signing, Ian Gibson, was restored to the first team by Jimmy Hill after six games on the sidelines. Whilst the two had not patched up their differences – caused either by Hill refusing to pay Gibbo’s bonuses or by his tendency to play too deep, depending on who you believe – the Scot’s form over the next few weeks healed the rift.

With Bill Glazier injured, his deputy Coventry-born Peter Thomas made his debut in goal, it would be his only ever appearance too. Another league debutant was Leamington’s Mick Coop who had appeared as a substitute and played in a League Cup game. Mick went on to play over 400 games for the club.

The win was the start of a terrific run of 25 unbeaten games which extended from November through to the end of the season and many looked back on Hill’s decision to recall Gibson (largely forced on him because of injury) as a watershed in that great campaign.

In Ben Glover’s 30 minutes of fame against Cardiff he almost scored after being put clean through with only the goalkeeper to beat. He came on for the injured John Tudor and although he was substitute on two further occasions he failed to get on the pitch and had to be content with regular reserve team football for the next twelve months.

The competition for midfield places was tough at Highfield Road with Willie Carr and Pat Morrissey in direct competition and in February 1968 as Noel Cantwell started to thin down a big professional playing staff Benny was released. He joined Southern League Weymouth making over 230 appearances for the Dorset side over four years and in 1972 joined Salisbury City.
                                                           Benny receiving his award from Paul Fletcher in 2007 

In retirement Benny lived just outside Tewkesbury. He enjoyed a game of golf and one of his three children, daughter Mandy, represented Great Britain at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in the volleyball team and is still a major force in British volleyball. He returned to the club in 2007 when the Former Players Association organised a 40th anniversary reunion of the boys of 1967. He met former colleagues he had not seen for almost 40 years and received a memento from City chief executive Paul Fletcher.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Jim's column 15.12.2018

How many of the small crowd at Highfield Road on Saturday 14th November 1964 realised they were watching a future Italian international now described as 'one of Italy's finest goalscorers' and a legend at Lazio and New York Cosmos.

The game was a little-known friendly game that took place on a cold Saturday afternoon. City's first team had played at Bury the previous evening (losing 5-0) and the reserves had a free Saturday so Jimmy Hill arranged a game for the reserves against Swansea Town Reserves.

I don't know how many fans attended the game but they witnessed an impressive performance by City's stiffs who ran out 6-2 winners with goals from Pat Morrissey, Graham Newton (3), Dave Clements and Dennis Oakes. Several other players with first team experience played including Bob Wesson, Alan Turner and Hugh Barr. Many of those who played are at City's game with Luton Town today on the inaugural Jimmy Hill Day.

I recently came across the teamsheet for the game for the first time. It is interesting in that half a dozen of the Swansea players autographed the sheet including their right winger Giorgio Chinaglia, who scored one of the Swans consolation goals. The 17-year-old Italian had moved to Wales with his family in the early 1950s and he had made his Swansea first team debut the previous month. In 1966, frustrated at a lack of opportunities at Vetch Field (he started only four games) he moved back to Italy with his family and by 1969 was playing in Serie A for Lazio. In 1973-74 he was top scorer in Italy as Lazio won Serie A. Giorgio won 14 full caps for Italy and is recognised as one of the all-time top Italian strikers. In 1976 he joined New York Cosmos and over the next seven years he played over 400 games for them scoring more than a goal a game and was leading scorer in all seven seasons. Chinaglia died in 2012.