Sunday, 23 October 2016

Jim's column 22.10.2016

The sad news of the passing of Peter Denton and my tribute last week prompted several emails. Long standing fan Kevin Ring remembered Peter as a very quick winger who but for the consistency of Ronnie Rees, Willie Humphries and Dave Clements who have been a regular first team player. Kevin pointed out that if more subs had been allowed in those days he would have probably had more chances of first team football.

Fellow City historian Paul O'Connor was also in touch to tell me that in July 1966 Middlesbrough offered £12,000 for him but he rejected the move and later whilst in the reserves Watford were interested in him. Paul also told me that whilst playing at Margate Peter broke his nose and even though things didn’t go well on the pitch following his move to Luton, he made an impression because he moved into coaching there in November 1969 but Paul was unaware of how long he was there in that capacity.

Alan Ludford remembers being at college with Peter in the 1960s when they were both on an accountancy course and remembers him as a 'very quiet lad who didn’t brag about being  on City’s books, he just got on with his work'.

John Docker, a former colleague of Denton's in the youth and reserve teams also contacted me. John, a Caludon Castle schoolboy, was a highly rated player who scored goals for fun at schoolboy level. He played in the 6-4 Youth Cup defeat to West Brom in 1963 and scored a goal direct from a corner as City came from 6-1 to give a strong Albion side, which included Tony 'Bomber' Brown, a shock. John was only just 16 at the time and went on to have two further seasons in the youth team and reminded me that the 1965-66 team was very strong and included Mick Coop, Pat Morrissey and a very young Willie Carr. John remembers a 3-1 victory over a Leicester City youth team with Peter Shilton in goal, with John netting one of the goals. This was when Jimmy Hill's labours in setting up a strong youth policy began to bear fruit, a policy which has generated so many players for the first team and continues to this day.
                                                     Coventry City youth team 1963-64
John signed full professional forms in 1965 and was a regular in the reserves but in 1967 he was loaned out to Torquay where he picked up a knee injury which would ultimately end his career. In 1968 he joined Irish champions Waterford on loan along with other Coventry youngsters Peter Thomas and John Matthews but his knee was a severe handicap. Following his return from Ireland he was released by City and after a brief spell with Rugby Town he began playing for Binley Woods but suffered a broken leg. He has lived & worked in Coventry for all of his life and occasionally goes to City games.

Other former playing colleagues Dudley Roberts and Dennis Oakes also sent their condolences and remembered Peter with fondness.

Regular reader Keith Ballantyne was in touch following last weekend's defeat at Charlton:

The Charlton scoreline replicates that of my first and only visit to the Valley, in October 1964. My father and I were seated in the ground's wooden stand and had taken an old - style 'klaxon' car horn with us. The most vivid recollection of this game I have was the amount of fireworks being let off in and around the ground in the run-up to November 5th. The game itself was nothing to write home about, Charlton scored early as I recall and had Mike Bailey playing for them. The only goal I can remember was scored after Bill Glazier had ended up on his backside and flailed an arm helplessly at the ball as it went in over him.  Please can you tell me the goal times.

The game that Keith refers to was on 31st October 1964 and Charlton did win 3-0 with goals from Eddie Firmani (12 mins), Roy Matthews (72) and Jack Kennedy (83). Glazier had recently been signed from Crystal Palace for a world record fee for a goalkeeper of £35,000 and England manager Alf Ramsey was at the Valley to watch Mike Bailey and Bill. The goal that Keith remembers was the first, when Firmani's shot struck Ron Farmer's leg and was diverted past the City keeper. Bill went on to make several good saves, averting a heavy defeat and Ramsey selected Glazier for his first Under 23 cap a week later. Looking at the newspapers for that weekend I noticed that league champions Liverpool had lost 0-2 to Manchester United and lay 19th in Division One. In the modern game I wonder if manager Bill Shankly would have survived that poor start to the 1964-65 season.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Peter Denton 1.3.1946 - 7.10.2016

Everyone at Coventry City and the Former Players Association were saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Denton last week.

Peter joined City straight from school in 1962 – soon after Jimmy Hill had arrived as manager. A diminutive right winger with a great turn of speed and a deadly shot, Peter hailed from Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and arrived in Coventry with his good friend Graham Saunders.

Peter was an apprentice on the groundstaff, cleaning boots, sweeping the terraces and getting 'A' & 'B' team football on a Saturday, normally against local works or village teams and playing home games at City's training ground at Shilton. In his first season he played for the club's youth team in the FA Youth Cup alongside Bobby Gould, Dennis Oakes & John Burckitt. Sadly the young Sky Blues got a 5-0 home thumping from Port Vale in the First Round.

Dennis Oakes spoke fondly of Peter: 'As I remember he came to the club from Gorleston with Graham Saunders and they both went into digs with Alan Turner. Peter was a quiet lad and kept himself to himself. He kept his head down and was really the ideal young professional. They both joined as apprentices alongside myself, Bobby Gould, Dudley Roberts, Pat Morrissey,  Dave & John Matthews. He was a lively right winger who had an eye for a goal. He never changed, was a gentleman at 18/19 years of age and remained so the last time we met'.

The following season (1963-64) there was a stronger youth team with Dudley Roberts, Pat Morrissey and local teenage prodigy John Docker joining Peter and Bobby in the team. In the first round City's kids gave First Division West Brom a big shock, coming from 4-0 down, before losing 6-4 with Peter scoring one of the goals.

His performances were good enough to earn him a professional contract on his 18th birthday in March 1964 and the following season he was a regular in the successful reserve team. In front of crowds averaging over 6,000 the Sky Blues' reserves won promotion to Football Combination's First Division, thrilling the fans with 96 goals in 34 games.

Winning a first team call-up was hard – the number 7 shirt belonged to the consistent and influential Welsh winger Ronnie Rees. In early October 1965 City played Stoke in a friendly game and with Rees on international duty Peter was given his chance and scored in a 5-1 victory over the First Division side. A month later, following the 6-1 League Cup defeat at West Brom, Jimmy Hill made changes including switching Rees to the left wing and gave Peter his chance against Ipswich at Highfield Road. It was one of the youngest forward lines in the club's history – Denton (19), Dudley Roberts (20), Bobby Gould (19), Ernie Machin (21) and Rees (21). Within five minutes the pint-sized winger won a penalty and overall he made an impressive debut in the 3-1 victory with Roberts, Gould and Ronnie Farmer (penalty) scoring the goals.

Peter kept his place for the next three games, a 1-0 win at Birmingham and draws against Leyton Orient & Middlesbrough before returning to reserve team duty. Later that season he was back in the team as City's promotion push continued. He stood in for the injured Rees in a 4-1 FA Cup replay win over Crewe, starred in a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace and two weeks later scored his only senior goal in a 3-1 home win over Cardiff. It came after three minutes of the game when his fiercely driven cross from the by-line swerved freakishly and Dilwyn John in the Cardiff goal could only help the ball into the net. Ten minutes later it was 2-0 as Peter was tripped in the area & Farmer netted the penalty.
A week later he played in the 2-2 home draw with Bolton but appeared on the losing side for the first time on Easter Saturday at Portsmouth. His final appearance that season was a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough in the last home game of the season.

His form dropped in the 1966-67 Division 2 championship season and with Rees and Dave Clements performing consistently well and another right-winger John Key in the squad, Peter had to be content with reserve team football. In August 1967 he played his last first team game in a 3-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest. In total he had made 11 first team appearances and scored one goal.

In early 1968 he joined Luton Town but things didn't work out for him at Kenilworth Road & he moved into non-league football playing for Canterbury City and Margate. He settled in the Luton area and worked for many years at Vauxhall Motors in the town whilst doing some part-time coaching. His son-in-law Wayne Shanley tells me that in the last ten years or so Peter has been a part-time waiter at the Green Man at Offley in Hertfordshire and latterly the Beefeater in Luton where he was very popular. He leaves behind Margaret, his wife of 46 years, three daughters and three grandchilden. He remained a Sky Blues fan and always looked out for their results. He was a member of the Former Players Association and earlier this year travelled up to Jimmy Hill's celebration service in the cathedral and attended Legends Day the following day.
                                                  Peter pictured at the JH service in February

His funeral will take place on Friday 28th October at 11.15 at the Vale, Stopsley, Luton and afterwards at the Jolly Topers pub in Round Green, Luton.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Jim's column 8.10.2016

Back-to-back wins in four days this week have lifted spirits amongst Sky Blues' fans. The league run of 10 without a win was finally ended at Port Vale and this was followed by a second victory in the Football League Trophy, Northampton becoming the latest victims.The victory in the Potteries was very welcome and ensures the club record of 19 without a win from the start of the season, set in 1919, stays intact.

Tuesday night's attendance was another pathetically low 2,085, six less than the West Ham game in the same competition, and therefore the lowest since that infamous game v Millwall in 1985. Since writing about that game a few weeks ago I have been doing some more research and discovered from the club's attendance books, that the crowd, reported as 1,086 at the time, was later revised slightly to 1,111. With the Sky Blues now through to round two, one can only hope that crowds will pick up.

It was an exciting start to the match on Tuesday with two goals in the first ninety seconds. Dan Agyei netted with a brilliant solo effort initially-timed at 24 seconds before Marc Richards equalised after 60 seconds. Several City fans have pointed out that Agyei's goal was scored after 20 seconds and having watched the clip on Sky Blue Player I have concluded that it hit the net 19.5 seconds after the kick-off. Many fans were wondering if Agyei's effort was the fastest goal by a City player but sadly this is not the case. It was however the fastest goal at the Ricoh since the move there in 2005 – beating the 27-second goal by Reading's Grzegorz Rasiak in the Royals 3-1 victory in 2009. The previous fastest by a City player at the ground was Clinton Morrison 37-second effort in a 2-2 draw with Ipswich in 2008. It was also the fastest by a Sky Blue man for fourteen years – since Gary McSheffrey netted after 12 seconds against Colchester United in a League Cup tie at Highfield Road.

Goal-times in pre-war games are notoriously dubious and the fastest City goals that I have recorded are:

Eddie Brown
12 secs
Gary McSheffrey
Colchester (LC)
12 secs
Youssef Chippo
13 secs
Mark Hateley
14 secs
Jimmy Whitehouse
Lincoln (FAC)
15 secs
Mick Ferguson
25 secs
Gerry Daly
27 secs
Steve Livingstone
28 secs
Peter Murphy
30 secs
Gordon Nutt
30 secs

My recent piece about the 1967 game at Highfield Road against West Ham for the Winston Churchill Trophy generated a lot of interest and David Whitlock emailed to say he has the programme and was at the game as a 13-year old. Paul Richardson also emailed to point out that he and several of his school friends went to the Friday night game specifically to watch the three West Ham World Cup stars. In those days there were few opportunities to see the real stars of British football – BBC's Match of the Day only featured one game and ITV's Star Soccer focused on Midland clubs – and there was no wall to wall coverage of domestic football. For Coventrians this was one of the first chances to see Messrs Moore, Hurst and Peters (although Peters was ruled out of the game with injury) since the 1966 World Cup final. Paul became a City fan that night and remains one to this day. I've had no responses to my question: 'What happened to the trophy?' although West Ham contacts have confirmed that it isn't in their trophy cabinet. I have to conclude that Coventry City kept the trophy after the West Ham game and it was destroyed in the Main Stand fire twelve months later.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Jim's column 1.10.2016

In another tumultuous week for the Sky Blues Tony Mowbray became the 25th Coventry City manager to leave the club in the forty nine years since Jimmy Hill stepped down to join ITV in 1967. Rarely do Sky Blues' managers resign without a job to go to – of the seven managers in the SISU reign, only Mark Robins wasn't sacked and he went to a more lucrative position.

Tony's record in his nineteen months as boss is very good compared to many of his predecessors. Of the 25 managers post-JH only four, Mark Robins, Eric Black, Roland Nilsson and Iain Dowie, have a better win percentage, and only Robins, Black & Nilsson have a higher points percentage.

Mowbray joined the club in early March 2015 after Steven Pressley had been sacked and Neil McFarlane and Dave Hockaday had been in temporary charge for two games. City were 20th in League One with only one win in nine games and a crowd of under 7,000 had watched Pressley's last home game in charge – the relegation clouds were hovering. With no transfers allowed Tony was only able to bring in Tottenham's Grant Ward on an emergency loan and just had to get the best out of the squad he had inherited. He failed to lift the Sky Blues' home form, winning just one of seven at the Ricoh but six unbeaten away games including four wins steered the Sky Blues to safety even though there were some nail-biting moments on the final day at Crawley.

2015-16 was undoubtedly the best season the club has enjoyed in over a decade with an unbeaten home record until mid-January, goals galore from loanees Armstrong and Murphy and some outstanding team performances. City fans will reminisce about the 3-2 comeback against Peterborough and the 4-1 victory over Gillingham that took us to the top of the table. But after the 6-0 win over Bury, the biggest win for over 50 years, the wheels fell off and a run of ten games with one win saw City slip out of the play-off places.

Four wins out of five at the back end of the season ensured an eighth place finish, the best for many years, and raised hopes that with some shrewd trading in the close season that this campaign would see City making an even more serious challenge for promotion. Sadly the summer activity left City with a weaker squad and to date the loanees have not made the impact that Armstrong, Murphy and Kent made last year. After the worst start to a season for almost 100 years, something had to give and Tony, being an honourable man, decided to step down.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tony on several occasions and about a year ago I offered to give him a presentation on the club's history at Ryton. The slide show would normally take about 45 minutes but his interest was so great that after 2 ½ hours we were still chatting about football in general and Coventry City in particular. Having met most of his predecessors over the years, Tony is the nicest and most approachable – he is a true gentleman in a sport where there are many disreputable characters and his insistence on not receiving a severance package is testament to this. He is a football fanatic as well as a football purist and the latter probably contributed to his ultimate failure at the club. The majority of the clubs in League One play what I would describe as Caveman football with teams of giants and a football philosophy to stop their opponents at all costs. Mowbray's team always tried to play football but as we saw after Christmas opposition teams could easily frustrate us, especially if we weren't totally on top of our game.

The search is underway for Mowbray's replacement and there are scores of ex-managers looking for work. With revenue at an all-time low, the restrictions of Financial Fair Play not to mention the fact that a large swathe of fans are unhappy, means that it could be a poison chalice to take the job. The state of things off the pitch may put off some candidates but others will be out to rebuild their managerial career and break the hoodoo that has seemed to afflict so many Coventry City managers (before and since SISU bought the club).

                   games    w      d       l           F   -  A        GD   Pts   Win % Pts %
Mark Robins 25 13 5 7 45 27 18 44 52.00% 58.67%
Eric Black 23 11 3 9 38 24 14 36 47.83% 52.17%
Roland Nilsson 40 19 5 16 56 48 8 62 47.50% 51.67%
Tony Mowbray 59 24 16 19 82 64 18 88 40.68% 49.72%
Iain Dowie 43 16 9 18 49 63 -14 57 37.21% 44.19%
Micky Adams 90 31 24 35 113 124 -11 117 34.44% 43.33%
John Sillett 128 44 37 47 143 169 -26 169 34.38% 44.01%
Gordon Milne 336 110 99 127 426 496 -70 429 32.74% 42.56%
Terry Butcher 49 16 11 22 56 60 -4 59 32.65% 40.14%
Don Mackay 60 19 11 30 72 93 -21 68 31.67% 37.78%
Phil Neal 58 18 18 22 56 74 -18 72 31.03% 41.38%
Peter Reid 29 9 8 12 36 45 -9 35 31.03% 40.23%
Noel Cantwell 187 58 56 73 206 243 -37 230 31.02% 41.00%
Dave Sexton 84 26 20 38 104 121 -17 98 30.95% 38.89%
Joe Mercer 42 13 9 20 40 55 -15 48 30.95% 38.10%
Aidy Bothroyd 36 11 8 17 38 46 -8 41 30.56% 37.96%
Steven Pressley 87 26 28 33 115 135 -20 106 29.89% 40.61%
Bobby Gould II 54 16 19 19 66 73 -7 67 29.63% 41.36%
Bobby Gould I 63 18 15 30 62 78 -16 69 28.57% 36.51%
Gordon Strachan 183 52 52 79 203 262 -59 208 28.42% 37.89%
Chris Coleman 107 30 35 42 112 140 -28 125 28.04% 38.94%
Gary McAllister 68 17 25 26 73 91 -18 76 25.00% 37.25%
Ron Atkinson 64 14 24 26 64 92 -28 66 21.88% 34.38%
Andy Thorn 59 12 21 26 61 81 -20 57 20.34% 32.20%
Don Howe 19 3 8 8 10 18 -8 17 15.79% 29.82%

(league games only)

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Jim's column 24.9.2016

City's poor start continued last weekend with a goalless draw with Oldham, making it eight league games without a win. It is the worst run since 2014 when Steven Pressley's side failed to win any of their last seven games and then lost at Bradford City on the opening day of 2014-15. You only have to go back to 2012 for the last time there was a longer run – 14 games without win - the last six in the Championship and the first eight games of the 2012-13 season. That bad start in 2012-13 was when Andy Thorn was relieved of his duties after three draws and Richard Shaw took over temporarily until Mark Robins arrived and ended the slump.

Lots of readers wanted to know if the current bad start is the worst by a Coventry City side. The most horrendous start was in City's inaugural Football League campaign of 1919-20 when the Bantams went 19 games without recording a single victory. With 14 defeats and just five points on the board, City were bottom of Division Two, five points adrift of the 21st placed team. Finally, on Christmas Day, Stoke were defeated 3-2 for the first victory. The team's form picked up after Christmas but they only avoided re-election (there were only two divisions at the time) by bribing Bury to lose the final game of the season.

Since 1919 the club has failed to gain a victory in its first eight games on three occasions – this season, the afore-mentioned 2012-13 and 1974-75. On 21 September 1974 City were bottom of Division One having drawn three home games, and lost one and drawn one and lost three away games. On paper the Sky Blues had a strong team with Dennis Mortimer, Tommy Hutchison, Colin Stein and David Cross all regulars but things didn't gel. Game nine saw City entertain Luton Town, the only other team without a win, and the knives were being sharpened against Milne. One of the lowest crowds at Highfield Road since promotion seven years previously, under 16,000, saw City gain their first victory, 2-1 with goals from Stein and Cross. The win sparked a six-game unbeaten run that lifted them well up the table and they finished the season comfortably in 13th place and Milne went on to manage City for a further six years.

I'm always looking out for some positives and although the team haven't won a league game yet they are now unbeaten in nine home league and cup games. They won the last three home games last season and two cup-ties this season plus the four home draws. It may be clutching at straws but it's home defeats that gets me down the most!

At the Diamond Club lunch this week (which I unfortunately couldn't attend) another great servant of the club, Willie Carr was the guest of honour. In preparation for the lunch Diamond Club chairman Alan Ludford
asked me where Willie stood in the all-time list of midfield goalscorers for the club. The top 10 all-time list is:

1. Peter Hill 78
2. Ronnie Farmer 52 (including 21 penalties)
3. Micky Gynn 45
4. Ernie Machin 39
5. Gary McAllister 38 (including 16 penalties)
6. Willie Carr 37
7. Steve Hunt 34
8. Don Dorman 31
9. Dave Clements 30
10= Barry Powell 28
10= Carl Baker 28

Some of these players were, in the old days, better known as wingers but it is interesting to compare goals to games ratios. Most of the above played 250 or more games including Hill who made over 300 appearances. The best ratio (0.32) was Dorman who scored 31 in 94 games between 1951-54, although some fans may argue he was a forward not a midfield player. He and Peter Hill (0.25) played in an era where there were a lot more goals. The best ratio for the modern era from the top ten is a close run thing between Steve Hunt and Barry Powell (0.16), closely followed by Micky Gynn and Carl Baker (0.15). Gerry Daly doesn't qualify for the top ten but managed 22 goals in 101 games, a ratio of 0.22!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Jim's column 17.9.2016

This week I am going back almost 50 years in response to a request from West Ham historian Roger Hillier. He contacted me in the summer asking about the Sir Winston Churchill Remembrance Trophy game between the Sky Blues and the Hammers in March 1967. The Sky Blues were flying high at the top of Division Two whilst the Hammers were mid-table in Division One. On the first weekend of March both teams had a free weekend (it was the first Wembley League Cup final on the Saturday and many clubs rearranged fixtures) and Jimmy Hill wanted to test his side against top-flight opposition. The trophy had been played for two years earlier when Fulham beat the Sky Blues at Highfield Road. West Ham, with their trio of World Cup winners, Moore, Hurst and Peters, were the ideal opponents for another game for the impressive cup.

Hill put out his first choice team whilst West Ham boss Ron Greenwood, a former playing colleague of JH's at Brentford, rested several first teamers but included World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. The third member of the illustrious trio, Martin Peters, was ruled out with an injury. A higher than expected crowd of 18,524 watched a thrilling drawn game, topped off by a novel penalty shoot-out that West Ham won.

City started the stronger side and Ian Gibson ripped open the visitors defence twice in the early exchanges. First, Gibbo broke the West Ham offside trap, running on to a Machin pass to dribble around goalkeeper Alan Dickie before planting the ball into the net. Then less than a minute later he split the defence to find Bobby Gould who chipped the ball perfectly for Machin to head what was described by Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph as 'a goal of sheer poetry'.

Former England winger Peter Brabrook hit the foot of a post before cracking home a Hurst pass on 30 minutes as the Hammers fought back. At half-time young Coventry-born goalkeeper Martin Clamp replaced Bill Glazier and John Tudor came on for Dietmar Bruck and Clamp was immediately in the firing line. A Brabrook 'banana' shot deceived the young 'keeper and went in off a post on 48 minutes and nine minutes later a Hurst shot took a deflection that left Clamp stranded to make it 3-2.

On 72 minutes City were level after a terrific melee in the West Ham penalty area. Dickie pushed a Machin header on to the post, Rees had a return effort blocked and Machin finally drove the ball home.

By mutual agreement a penalty shoot-out decided the destination of the cup and in a best of 11 shots contest, West Ham won 9-7. Mrs J Leese, the wife of the editor of the Coventry Telegraph presented the trophy to Bobby Moore as hundreds of milling youngsters engulfed both sets of players.

Roger's request for information set me wondering what happened to the trophy. Did West Ham take it back to London and keep it or perhaps it stayed in the Highfield Road trophy cabinet and was one of those destroyed in the fire a year later. If anyone knows any more about the trophy please let me know.

Roger contributes articles to an excellent West Ham website that can be found at

Earlier this year I wrote about Margaret Crabtree's search for the 1968 Bantams Ladies football team and published a photo of the team. I'm pleased to say that Margaret has informed me that she has tracked down 12 of the team and they have held a reunion this summer. They are in touch via social media and sharing stories from their playing days. She sent me this photograph of the former players she has tracked down:

Team:- Back: (Left to right) Ann Stevens, Lesley Gibson, Reg Berry (Manager), Margaret Crabtree, Joy Black;
           Middle: (Left to right) Janet Kennedy, Ann Law;
           Front: (Left to right) Avril Parham, Liz Stevens, Terri Beales, June Hart, Maureen Tizick.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Jim's column 10.9.2016

After the small crowds at the Ricoh Arena for the League Cup and Football League Trophy games several people have asked me for more details about the game which attracted the lowest ever crowd for a City game in 1985 - a Full Members Cup tie against Millwall that attracted only 1,086 fans to Highfield Road.

Following the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, English clubs were banned from European competitions and the Football League decided to introduce two new domestic competitions to help compensate clubs for the reduction in income. The Football League Super Cup was launched for the six sides who would have played in Europe and a subsidiary competition, the Full Members Cup (FMC) was inaugurated for the remaining First and Second Division sides.

By the time the draw was made only 21 out of 38 full member clubs indicated a desire to play in the FMC – City being just one of four top flight teams. The teams were separated into Northern & Southern sections and into four groups within each section. City were in the Southern half and their group of three also contained Stoke City and Millwall (both from the Second Division). Each team played the other two once, with one game at home and one away and the group winners would go through to a regional semi-final and final before a Wembley final between the regional winners. With so few top flight teams in the competition City fans fancied their team's chances of progressing to the knockout stages. City travelled to Stoke on 18th September for the opening game with just one change from the team that had drawn 1-1 at Villa Park in a league game four days earlier. They suffered a 3-0 defeat with goals from Keith Bertschin, Carl Saunders and Carl Beeston. A pitifully low crowd of 3,516 was a portend for the competition.

On 2nd October Stoke travelled to Millwall and watched by 1,741 snatched a late equaliser for a 2-2 draw. That result meant that Stoke had amassed four points and that the Sky Blues could not win the group to progress in the competition. Millwall could still qualify however, by winning by more than three clear goals in the final tie of the group. So on 15th October City and Millwall played out the final game in front of 1,086 (which included a small number of away fans). In an eerie atmosphere,Terry Gibson gave City the lead just before half-time but Nicky Chatterton grabbed a late equaliser to ensure Millwall finished second in the group and ahead of the Sky Blues. There was one thing to celebrate however as Gibson's goal meant he had netted in seven successive competitive games and set a club post-war record.

Stoke went on to lose to Oxford United (then a First Division side) in the regional semi-final. Oxford subsequently lost to Chelsea who progressed to the Wembley final against Manchester City where a David Speedie hat-trick helped the Londoners to a 5-4 victory in front of 69,000 fans.

The group stages were scrapped for the 1986-87 season and City fell at the first knockout hurdle, an away tie with Norwich. City's performances in the competition were disastrous. In all but one season they were knocked out in their first tie, the exception being 1988-89 when they reached the semi-final only to lose on penalties at Reading.

Somehow the pointless competition survived until 1991-92 with various sponsors (including Simod and Zenith Data Systems) when, with the Premier League about to commence and English clubs re-admitted to Europe, it was scrapped. Many of the competition's games were watched by four-figure crowds but all the finals attracted 60,000 plus crowds at Wembley.

During the summer I had numerous questions about the club's history and I will try and answer them in the coming weeks. First off is Jim Molloy who wrote seeking more information about former City player Eric Jones who was at college with his father-in-law.

Eric Jones, who was born in Dover in March 1938 was one of three Snowdown Colliery Welfare youngsters recommended to City by former player (then manager at Snowdown) Harry Barratt in 1955. Eric, George Curtis and goalkeeper Alf Bentley all signed for the club. A centre-half, Eric made his debut as an 18-year old in a home game with Brentford in November 1956 but was unable to get a regular first-team place because of the form of his friend Curtis and played only 16 first-team games in seven seasons. After being released in 1961 Eric was a teacher at Binley Park School. He didn't give up football however and captained Nuneaton Borough's Southern League side. He passed away in 1987.

                                              1960 City team with Eric Jones front row, far right.