Monday, 13 May 2019

Stats review of 2018-19

After promotion from League Two in 2017-18 this was a season of consolidation for the Sky Blues and everyone can feel satisfied with an eighth place finish. With a little more consistency, especially at home, it could have been better however. In true Sky Blue fashion the team saved their best performances for the big teams, taking four points off Barnsley (and ending their unbeaten start), Peterborough and Sunderland, and six off Charlton. The outstanding away performances at Luton and Portsmouth were worthy of a higher placed team. On the flip side, relegated Scunthorpe did the double over City who also failed to beat AFC Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers home or away as well as losing the away games at three of the four relegated clubs. Whilst a number of the poorer sides raised their games at the Ricoh, City were often guilty of failing to break down stubborn defences.

Many of the promotion side adapted to the higher division but several slipped out of contention through the season, most notably Michael Doyle who left for Notts County in January. The newcomers, a combination of young loan signings and permanent purchases generally performed well. Loanees Thomas, Sterling and Enobakhere were outstanding and the recruitment department requires praise for these. Of the permanent buys, one, Ogogo, failed to impress whilst Junior Brown could not hold his place against young challengers, especially Mason. Of the new forwards Hiwula got amongst the goals but the jury is still out on Bakayoko and Chaplin who were both inconsistent.

More youngsters forced their way into the manager's thoughts without any one cementing a place like Bayliss and Shipley had done in the previous campaign. The signs are that young players like Sam McCallum, Morgan Williams, Jordon Thompson, Zain Westbrooke and others from the successful under 23 squad will be knocking on the first team door next season. There was great progress from Dom Hyam and Liam Kelly this season. Hyam deservedly swept the majority of the Player of the Year awards and Kelly, who came tentatively back from injury, blossomed in the New Year after being given the captaincy and ended the season impressively.

Finally, we shouldn't forget long term injury victims Jodi Jones and Max Biamou. To use a well-trodden cliché, having them back will be like signing two new players. Both have a lot to prove at League One level.

Games: Coventry City played 51 competitive games, 46 league, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup and 3 Football League Trophy (Checkatrade Trophy).

Points: The Sky Blues gathered 65 league points during the season – ten points less than 2017-18 but still the third best haul in the last 17 years.

Home Form: 9 wins, 7 draws, 7 losses. After last season's 13 home wins this was a disappointing home campaign with only 34 points gained. The form against lower placed clubs was poor with Scunthorpe, Rochdale, Oxford, Blackpool and Burton all winning at the Ricoh in addition to the high-flying Portsmouth and Luton. Only one team – Blackpool – won by more than one goal, the Seasiders winning 2-0.

Away Form: 9 wins, 5 draws, 10 losses. Another great season on the road and the third highest total of away wins in the club's history. Three bogeys ended – the first ever win at Rochdale, first victory at Bradford since 1959 and a first win at Sunderland since 1977. The team went six games unbeaten between the Plymouth loss in January until the defeat at Portsmouth at Easter, four wins and two draws.

Wins: In total therefore, 18 league victories were recorded – the third highest in the last 17 seasons.

Biggest win: The biggest league win of the season was the 3-0 home win over Walsall in February.

Biggest defeat: The 0-3 defeat at Fleetwood was the heaviest league defeat of the season. Arsenal's under 21 team won by the same score at the Ricoh in the EFL Trophy.

Goals for: The goals for total of 54 was 10 less than the previous season. The best run of consecutive scoring league goals was eight and came in City's excellent run in February and March. The team never went more than one league game without scoring in league games. A neutral goal difference was recorded for only the second time in the club's history (i.e. Goals scored equals goals conceded)

Goals against: City conceded 54 league goals, seven more than in 2017-18 but still the third lowest since the club left the Premiership in 2001. The team kept eleven clean sheets in the league. Lee Burge kept seven clean sheets, David Stockdale two and Liam O'Brien two.

Final position: The final position of 8th meant that for the first time City have finished in the top eight in successive seasons since the 1960s. Despite threatening to finish in the top six in the final weeks of the season City were never in the top six places at any time during the season.

Leading scorers: Jordy Hiwula was leading scorer with 13 goals, 12 in the league , and one in the EFL Trophy. After McNulty's goal glut last season it sounds a poor return but he would have led the scoring charts in all of the six seasons between 2006-12. Conor Chaplin with eight goals (all in the league) was runner up. Thirteen different City players were on the score-sheet during the season. Michael Doyle managed one goal (against Accrington) before leaving for Notts County and at the age of 37 years 119 days became the third oldest City scorer of all time behind Gary McAllister and Dennis Wise.

Doubles: City achieved four doubles- over Charlton, Southend, Bradford City and (for the second season running) Wycombe. Four teams beat City home and away: Scunthorpe, Portsmouth, Burton and Blackpool. City have lost their last six games against Scunthorpe – we're glad to see the back of them!

Appearances: For the eighth season running no outfield player was an ever present in the league – the last to do so was Richard Keogh in 2010-11. Loanee Luke Thomas started the most (41) and also came off the bench twice. He was followed by Lee Burge (40), Tom Bayliss (37+1 sub), Dujon Sterling (37+1), Dominic Hyam (37+1) and Jordan Willis (36+2). When all competitive games are included Thomas (42+2) pips Jordy Hiwula (39+4).

Players used: 32 players were used in league games (three more than 2017-18) and further seven appeared only in cup games (a club record, reflecting the trend to use weakened sides in the EFL Trophy and League Cup). Of the 39 players, 22 made their debuts during the season and four made only one appearance (in the EFL Trophy games). Five players only appeared as substitues, Charlie Wakefield, Jordan Ponticelli, Jack Burroughs, Billy Stedman and Dexter Walters. Five loan players were used. In addition to the 32 players used, three more, Corey Addai, Declan Drysdale and David Bremang, sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used. Addai has now sat on the bench 50 times without making a first team appearance, more than any other player. At Cheltenham Johnny Ngandu (aged 17 years 19 days) became the sixth youngest City player to start a competitive game.

In the 18 seasons since falling out of the top flight 333 players have made their City debut at an average of more than 18 per season. Compare that with 313 players making their City debut in the previous 41 years from 1960 to 2001 at an average of 7 per season.

In August Junior Brown became the 1000th player to have represented the club in competitive games since the club joined the league in 1919 and the last debutant, loannee goalkeeper, David Stockdale became the 1016th.

Home-grown players: Of the 39 players used 16 of them were home grown products of the Academy. It is now more than eight years that a City team did not include a home-grown player.

Records: Michael Doyle left the club in January and his 24 appearances took his total appearances for City to 373, seventh in the all-time appearances chart and one of only 10 players to play more than 350 games for the club. Jordan Willis with 208 games is now 44th on the club's list, one behind Dave Bennett. Doyle and Willis are the only two players to have reached 200 games outside the Premiership since we were relegated in 2001. Lee Burge is the only other player who has topped 100 appearances. He has now made 160 appearances and is 75th on the all-time chart, level with 1930s goalkeeper Bill Morgan and 1970s full-back Wilf Smith, and ninth in the goalkeeper's list having overtaken 'keepers such as Joe Murphy, Magnus Hedman, Kieran Westwood and Bob Wesson this season.

Substitutes: Amadou Bakayoko made the most substitute appearances (13 all in the league). Jordy Hiwula and Luke Thomas were the most substituted players (16 times each). Six goals were scored by substitutes: Bakayoko two at Charlton, Jones at Southend, Clarke-Harris at Wycombe, Shipley at Luton and Chaplin at Sunderland . Bakayoko is only the seventh City substitute to score two in a game.

Average attendance: Home 12,362 (2017-18 9,255), up 33% and the fifth highest in League One. Away 9,025 (2017-18 5,211), up 72%, the sixth highest in the division. If away fans are stripped out, City's average home following was 11,161 up 32% from 8,434.

Highest home attendance: The biggest official league crowd was 26,741 for the Gillingham Community game in February but the actual attendance was more like 18,000 with many free tickets not being used. The Gillingham game apart the top three attendances were – 16,407 v Sunderland, 14,044 v Oxford and 13,549 v Shrewsbury, with the latter having the highest number of home supporters (12,366) of any home game.

Lowest home attendance: The lowest league crowd of the season was 9,220 for the Fleetwood evening game in March -one of only three sub 10,000 league crowds. In the EFL Trophy there were two low attendances including 1,341 for the game with Forest Green – only three more than the record low for a home game in the competition.

Away followings: For league games City’s away following averaged 1,315 (2016/17 1,268), an increase of 3%. The best league following of the season was 2,683 at Sunderland, one of the longest away trips of the season. In the FA Cup City took almost 2,665 to Walsall. The smallest was 421 for the evening game at Fleetwood in November. Sunderland brought the most fans (4,897) to the Ricoh in September – the biggest away following since 2012. At the other extreme, Fleetwood brought only 62 fans to the league game whilst Arsenal (183) and Forest Green (85) bought miniscule followings in the EFL Trophy.

Highest away attendance: The biggest away league crowd was 36,134 at Sunderland , the largest league crowd to watch the Sky Blues since 2010 when over 39,000 watched them at St James' Park, Newcastle.

Lowest away attendance: The smallest away league crowd was 2,570 at Fleetwood. There were three further crowds under 4,000, at Blackpool, Rochdale and Accrington. The meaningless EFL trophy game at Cheltenham was watched by 1,296.

Won from behind: (1) In league games City only came from behind to win once, at Charlton. On six occasions the team came from behind to get a draw: Sunderland (h), Accrington (h), Peterborough (h), AFC Wimbledon (h) Luton (a) and Barnsley (a). At Barnsley they twice came from behind to draw, the first time a Coventry team have done this since 2013. Nine points were won from losing positions, three less than last season.

Lost from in front: (4) City lost four games after scoring first – Scunthorpe (h), Walsall (a), Plymouth (a) and Portsmouth (a). On four occasions City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws (twice against Gillingham). Fifteen points were lost from leading positions compared to 4 the previous campaign.

Best run: The Sky Blues best run was six unbeaten in October and November. Following defeat at Portsmouth they won five games and drew one. They also recorded five consecutive league victories – the first time a Coventry side has achieved that since 1998.

Worst run: The best run turned into the worst run with November and December seeing the Sky Blues go seven league games without a win. The run of five defeats and two draws was ended with a win over Charlton on Boxing Day. That was the worst run since 2016-17. When Cup games are included the run was nine games.

Hat-tricks: (0) No hat-tricks were recorded for the Sky Blues with Bakayoko (at Charlton) recording the only brace.

Opposing hat-tricks: (0) No opposing player scored a hat-trick but three scored braces: O'Connor (Bradford a), Leahy (Walsall a) and Ruben Lameiras (Plymouth a).

Former Players: This season two former players scored against City. Nathan Delfouneso for Blackpool (h) and Lameiras who was the first former player to score two against City since Leon Clarke for Bury in 2016 and only the sixth of all-time.

Own goals: For City: (1) John Mousinho of Oxford was credited with an own goal in the away league game.

Own goals: By City: (1) Tom Bayliss was credited with an own goal at Burton.

Penalties: For City: (6) Five scored, one missed. Bakayoko, Chaplin (2), Clarke-Harris and Enobakhere were successful but Chaplin missed at Fleetwood.

Penalties: Against City: (3) Three opposition players netted from the spot - Taylor (Charlton a), Leahy (Walsall a) and Eaves (Gillingham h). No penalties were missed by opponents.

Fastest Goal scored: Jonson Clarke-Harris scored in the second minute at Bradford in October.

Fastest Goal conceded: Jake Jervis of AFC Wimbledon scored after 80 seconds in the home game in January.

Red cards: Coventry: (1): Bright Enobakhere was the only Coventry player to receive a red card (for two yellows) in the home game with Burton.

Red cards: Opponents: (4) Jamie Ness (Plymouth h), Simon Cox (Southend a), George Miller (Bradford a) and Nat Knight-Percival (Bradford h). All were dismissed for two yellow cards.

FA Cup: After the FA Cup heroics of 2017-18 City fell at the first hurdle for the third time in five years, losing at Walsall.

Bookings: Luke Thomas won the award for most bookings, 8. In a very good season disciplinary-wise, no player was suspended for racking up bookings. Tom Davies was suspended at the start of the season for a red card offence in the play-offs and Enobakhere was suspended for his red card.

Television: There were four live televised games for the club, Oxford (a), Sunderland (h, Luton (a) and Portsmouth (a). The defeat against Pompey was City's first on live television since December 2016 – a run of nine games without defeat.

Youngest team: At Cheltenham in the EFL Trophy the club put out their youngest ever team with an average age of 21 years & 33 days and after two of the three substitutions the average age fell below 21. In the league City regularly put out the youngest team in the division and in January against Wimbledon the starting XI had an average age of 22 years 158 days and was the youngest for a league game since November 1982 when the average age of Dave Sexton's starting XI at Liverpool was 22 years & 33 days. The youngest league starting XI was 21 years and 58 days at Manchester City in 1980.

Captains: City had six different captains during the season which I believe is a club record. Michael Doyle, Liam Kelly and David Meyler took the armband in league games with Meyler becoming the first loan player to captain the club. Tom Davies was skipper at Oxford in the League Cup tie. In addition Abu Ogogo and Morgan Williams captained the team in EFL games with Williams becoming the first player to captain the team before he had appeared in a league game as well as the youngest captain in the club's history.

Game of the season: The 5-4 win at Sunderland has to be the game of the season. It was the sixth time City have been on the winning side in a 5-4 game and the first away from home. The Sky Blues ended Sunderland's 23 game unbeaten run and inflicted the Black Cats first home defeat of the season. On top of that it was the first time that Sunderland had conceded five in a home game since 1981 when on Bryan Robson’s debut Manchester United had won 5-1 with a young Nick Pickering in the Black Cats team. It was also City's first win at Sunderland since January 1977.

The other record was that it was the first time in a Coventry game where there were nine different scorers, equalling a Football League record. It has been done on forty or so previous occasions but never in a Sky Blues game. Our record was eight which happened in 1950 in a 5-4 defeat at Southampton and in the 5-4 home win over Norwich in 1977. The last time five different City players scored in a game was quite recent - in 2016 in the 6-0 over Bury when Stokes, Cargill, Maddison, Fleck and Armstrong (2) were on target.

Hoodoos: In addition to the ending of the Sunderland hoodoo, the Sky Blues also recorded their first ever win at Rochdale – at the 10th attempt. Bradford's Valley Parade hasn't been a happy ground for City over the years and the 4-2 win in October was the first win there since 1959 whilst City won at Southend for first time since 2006.

With many thanks to Paul O'Connor and Geoff Moore.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Jim's column 27.4.2019

Colin Collindridge (15.11.1920- 14.4.2019)

Former Coventry City winger Colin Collindridge sadly passed away two weeks ago, aged 98. By the time he arrived at Coventry in 1954 he was somewhat of a veteran and played only 35 games for the Bantams. Sadly City's oldest former player and CCFPA's oldest member didn't quite manage the century.

Colin was born into a Barnsley mining family in 1920 and, as with a number of other players of the time, professional football provided a route out of the pits. After being spotted playing for local side Wombwell Athletic and signing briefly for Rotherham United in 1937 Colin made the significant step up to the big time with Sheffield United signing him in January 1939 months before the outbreak of World War Two. Colin couldn't break into the first team in that last season before the hostilities as the Blades won promotion to Division One, pipping Coventry to the post.

A pacey and direct forward (mainly at outside left but sometimes as centre forward) Colin became a Bramall Lane regular in the first two seasons of unofficial wartime football before joining the war effort in the RAF. He had the unenviable and dangerous job of loading ammunitions on Wellington bombers around the country and his forthright and uncompromising views to the top brass he claimed prevented his progression through the ranks! During the war as he moved around the country he was also able to appear as a guest for the likes of Chesterfield, Notts County, Lincoln City and Oldham Athletic. 

In 1945 the Blades took up where they had left off in 1939, winning the Football League North (in an intermediate season before league football recommenced in 1946). Colin, playing centre-forward, notched 12 goals in 19 league games and four FA Cup goals including a hat-trick against Stoke in front of a capacity 50,000 crowd at Bramall Lane.
Colin was a regular in the Blades side over the first four post-war seasons and top scorer in the first three, playing over 150 first team games and scoring 58 goals before being transferred to Nottingham Forest in August 1950. Colin was idolised at Bramall Lane (and that is probably where his footballing heart really lay).

When Colin joined Forest they were in the old Division Three South and in his first season his 16 goals and many assists helped them to promotion to Division Two and made him a favourite at the City Ground. In four seasons he made 156 first team appearances, scoring 47 goals and forged an effective left wing partnership with Tommy Capel as Forest came close to promotion to Division One. 

In June 1954 Coventry manager Jack Fairbrother signed the pair for Coventry City, allegedly for a £20,000 fee despite both being well into their thirties. The pair made their debut in a 1-0 home win over Bournemouth in front of 19,000. Things started well as 'the team that Jack built' won six of their first seven games with the left-wing pair in starring roles but then star centre-forward Eddie Brown was sold to Birmingham and the wheels fell off, Fairbrother resigned, Colin got injured and City slid down the table. He returned from his injury after Christmas and made 24 appearances scoring three goals in a Bantams side that finished ninth in Division Three South.

Jesse Carver took over as manager in the summer of 1955 and the 34-year-old Collindridge struggled to get a place playing 11 games, scoring three goals. His final game for the Bantams was a 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace in March 1956 and in July of that year he joined Southern League Bath City. Later he gained management experience with Arnold St Mary’s in Nottingham from 1959 in a successful period for that club.

In retirement Colin lived with his wife in Newark near Nottingham and was visited by CCFPA committee member Mike Young who found him 'sprightly, engaging, sociable and forthright in his advancing years'. Often difficult to ‘get a word in edgeways’ when Colin reminisced about his long life and playing career before memory lapses took a hold he would hold forth on City personalities of his day such as Tommy Capel, Martin McDonnell, Iain Jamieson, Jack Fairbrother, Noel Simpson and Charlie Elliott. Sadly his physical limitations meant he was never able to attend a game at the Ricoh.

Colin Collindridge's debut for Coventry v Bournemouth 21-08-1954 (Colin is far right in front row)

In recent times Colin has been a well loved resident of a Nottinghamshire Care Home where his fragile health was nursed until his death and we include a photo off him earlier this year sent to us by his good friend and former neighbour John Marum who has kept CCFPA in touch with Colin’s progress recently. 

Colin will be deeply missed, a genuine one-off with an ebullient personality from a very different era in football’s history. RIP Colin!

Colin's funeral will take place on Friday 10th May, 2:20pm at Wilford Hill Crematorium, Loughborough Road, Nottingham, NG2 7FE. Many thanks to Mike Young for his assistance in this tribute.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Jim's column 20.4.2019

Saturday’s amazing 5-4 victory at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light was a gift for me in more ways than one. It generated a good number of statistical facts as well as giving me a very warm glow that will last for some weeks. I didn’t go to the North East but did watch the game on ifollow and could barely believe the drama being played out 200 miles away. In my opinion it was one of their finest away performances since they left the Premiership and I'm not going to apologise for concentrating on the game this week.
5-4 is a very rare scoreline and prior to Saturday City had only been on the winning side of this score on five occasions, all at home:
1962-63 v Halifax Town
(George Hudson’s hat-trick debut)

1964-65 v Newcastle United
(City hanging on after leading 5-1)

1977-78 v Norwich City
(Ian Wallace’s overhead kick, Graydon’s late winner before Jim Blyth saved a penalty which would have made it 5-5)

1990-91 v Nottingham Forest
(A League Cup thriller with City 4-0 ahead only to be pegged back to 4-4 before Livingstone’s winner)

2013-14 v Bristol City
(First game at Sixfields. City pegged back after leading 3-0 before Billy Daniels grabbed the winner)

The win was City's first ever 5-4 victory away from home. There have been only 74 occurrences of a 5-4 away win in League history, the last in 2017 when Fulham won 5-4 at Bramall Lane.

It was the first League defeat Sunderland had suffered since before Christmas and their first home defeat of the season. On top of that it was the first time that the club had conceded five in a home game since 1981 when on Bryan Robson’s debut Manchester United had won 5-1 with a young Nick Pickering in the Black Cats team.
The other record was that it was the first time in a Coventry City game where there were nine different scorers, equalling a Football League record. It has been done on forty or so previous occasions but never in a Sky Blues game. Our record was eight which happened in 1950 in a 5-4 defeat at Southampton and in the aforementioned Norwich game in 1977. That day City’s scorers were Barry Powell, Ian Wallace, Ray Golding, Bobby McDonald and Ray Graydon with John Ryan, Kevin Reeves (2) and Martin Peters for the Canaries. The last time five different City players scored in a game was quite recent - in 2016 in the 6-0 over Bury when Stokes, Cargill, Maddison, Fleck and Armstrong (2) were on target.
The crowd at the Stadium of Light was 36,134 and the second highest league crowd that the Sky Blues have played in front of since they were relegated from the Premier League in 2001, topped only by the 39,334 at St James’s Park, Newcastle in 2010 to see the Magpies win 4-1.
The victory was only City’s second at Sunderland in 19 visits, stretching back to an FA Cup tie in 1951. The only other win was in January 1977 when a Donal Murphy goal gave City the points on a treacherous icy pitch. City’s five goal haul was one more than the total they’d scored in those 18 previous encounters.
City have now won nine away games,equalling last season’s total and the the third highest in the club’s history. The record, set in Mark Robins’ previous spell as manager 2012-13, is 11, with the 1969-70 haul of ten under Noel Cantwell a close second. Mark Robins’ away record as City manager is phenomenal- he has 26 wins from 60 matches, 43% win ratio. This is easily the best of any City manager in history and Jimmy Hill’s away win ratio was a measly 27%.

I was sad to hear of the death of 1950s Coventry winger Colin Collindridge, who at 98 was the oldest living former City player. I will write more about him next week.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Jim's column 13.4.2019

I thought I would catch up with some of the outstanding questions I have had from readers in recent months.

First, Andy Webster, a keen collector of Coventry City programmes, wanted to know what type of programme the club issued in 1985-86 season for the Full Members Cup game against Millwall. The game was virtually a dead rubber after the earlier games in the three-team group had seen Stoke City beat the Sky Blues 3-0 and draw 2-2 with Millwall. This meant that City couldn't top the group and Millwall had to win by four clear goals to overhaul Stoke and go through to the Southern semi-finals. A low crowd was expected and the club decided to do what they did for reserve games in those days and produce an A4 photocopied sheet. The game ended 1-1 with Terry Gibson setting a post-war record by scoring in seven consecutive games but Nicky Chatterton equalised five minutes from time. The attendance was 1,086 with policeman outnumbering Millwall fans in the visitor's enclosure.

I wrote a few weeks ago that City's recent record on live television was excellent with no defeats in the last nine games televised following the 1-1 draw at Luton. The last defeat was in December 2016 when a last minute goal by Billy Sharp gave Sheffield United the points at the Ricoh. John Baker recalls City having a long period without an away win on television a few years ago and asked me for the details. City won 1-0 at St Andrews in November 2008, courtesy of a Clinton Morrison goal. Then they failed to win in the next eight televised away games before ending the run with a 2-1 win at Burton in September 2015 with goals from Marcus Tudgay and Roman Vincelot. Almost seven years without an away win 'on the box'.

The games were as follows:

2008-09 Reading lost 1-3
2009-19 Derby lost 1-2
2009-10 Scunthorpe lost 0-1
2009-10 Leicester drew 2-2
2010-11 QPR lost 1-2
2011-12 Ipswich lost 0-3
2011-12 Southampton lost 0-4
2013-14 Bradford C drew 3-3

In the same seven-year period City's home form on television was much better with seven wins and four defeats in eleven appearances.

Several readers have asked me about City's away following this season and how it compares with other years. 1,853 City fans travelled to Barnsley two weeks ago, the fourth highest of the season, bringing the average for the season (league games only) to 1,247. Today's following at Sunderland is expected to be over 2,000 and will take the average over last season's final average of 1,268.

Away followings have only been accurately recorded since 2006 and the best season was in 2013-14 when an average of 1,603 followed City in the season they played home games at Northampton. One of the most interesting aspects of the figures are that in the six seasons spent in the Championship (2006-12), the average was never over 1,000 but since relegation in 2012 the numbers have only once dipped below 1,000 – in the League One relegation campaign in 2016-17. If the followings for the three final league games are over 2,000 (and there is a good chance of that) then the final average for this season will be the second highest since records were kept.
The averages for the last 12 seasons are as follows:

2006-07 935
2007-08 958
2008-09 852
2009-10 805
2010-11 786
2011-12 918
2012-13 1,150
2013-14 1,603
2014-15 1,002
2015-16 1,339
2016-17 806
2017-18 1,268

Anyone who thinks our away followings are somehow special should reflect on the fact that the average away followings of teams visiting the Ricoh is 1,231, just 16 short of City's average. That average includes some pitifully small number of fans by clubs such as Fleetwood (62), Rochdale (302) and Accrington (303). Sunderland brought almost 5,000 fans and three clubs brought over 2,000 (Luton, Oxford and Bristol Rovers).

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Jim's column 30.3.2019

Two weeks ago I wrote about the sad passing of former Coventry City player Graham Newton and former director Micky French. Since then I have had communication from several people that I would like to share with you.

First, Graham's widow Christine informed me that Graham's funeral will take place on Tuesday 9th April (1.30) at Telford Crematorium and afterwards at Patshull Park Hotel near Wolverhampton. All are welcome.

Then I spoke to Micky's son, Simon French, who was kind enough to send me a couple of cuttings from Micky's scrapbook. Micky was on City's books as a 17-year-old and made his debut for City's reserve team at Tottenham in September 1947 on the left wing. City included their goal machine George Lowrie who had lost form after two hatricks in the opening three games for the first team. Before the end of the season, the Welsh international centre-forward was sold to Newcastle for what was in those days a massive £18,000 fee. City's goalkeeper was a young Peter Taylor, later to become Brian Clough's right-hand man at Derby and Forest and the Murphy was Peter who later became a top player and joined Spurs for a big fee in the early 1950s before playing in the 1956 FA Cup final for Birmingham City. City's reserves lost 7-1 to a Spurs team containing seven players with first team experience. 

Finally, I had a nice obituary on Micky from Leamington FC historian Paul Vanes:

Michael, known to everybody as Micky, was born in London playing for London Schools before his school was evacuated to Oxford during the war. Association football was not on the curriculum of his adopted school and as Micky’s first love was soccer, he was not to be denied his game, so he played rugby on Saturday and soccer on Sunday.
When he left school Micky moved to Coventry and joined Stoke St. Michaels in the Minor League. His consistent displays for Stoke won him a place in the Birmingham County F.A. Youth Xl needless to say his performances soon attracted the League scouts and he signed amateur forms Coventry City for whose ‘A’ and Reserves teams he played.
Micky, like all young men, had to do his National Service and after two years in the R.A.F. was signed for the Brakes by ex-City player Les Latham who knew of his ability. As an amateur he played for the Birmingham County F.A. and then signed professional forms in 1952 going on to play two consecutive seasons for the Rest of The Birmingham Combination versus the champions.
Micky made his debut for Lockheed against Tamworth on 10th of February 1951 keeping his place throughout the rest of the season winning a medal beating Hereford United Reserves in the final of the Birmingham Senior cup replay at the Windmill in front of 3.500 fans. Another medal was collected when Brakes beat Bedworth Town 6-1 at the Oval in the final of the local Charity cup with Micky scoring one of the goals.
From a goal scoring point of view, Micky netted four times against Birch Coppice Colliery in a 6-1 home win on January 20th 1954 and recorded 11 for the season, the best of his Lockheed career. August 22nd 1955 saw Lockheed host Northampton Town in a joint benefit match for Micky French, Frank Grimwood and Albert Sneddon, Cobbles ran out winners by the odd goal in three watched by 1,445 fans and Brakes goal was scored by ………Micky French.
Many league clubs tried to poach Micky away from the semi-professional game but he resisted and in October 1955, he joined Rugby Town. He played over 170 games scoring 35 goals for Lockheed. By trade Micky was a chartered accountant joining Coventry City as a director in 1969 and resigned in 1992
His brother David, who pre-deceased him, was also a professional player with Lockheed in 1951/52 and 1952/53. I am sorry this obituary is belated but we did find out until last week Micky had passed away from dementia and cancer. Micky is now slinging over the corners and crosses for Bill Draper to head home on the green grass upstairs.
May we offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to wife June, son Simon, daughter Alison and her three children plus all the family and the friends of this very nice man on behalf of everyone at Leamington Football Club and the Brakes Trust. The funeral was at Oakley Woods last month.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Jim's column 16.3.2019

Graham Newton
22.12.1942 – 25.2.2019

It is sad to report the death of former Coventry City and Walsall player Graham Newton at the age of 76. He played a very small but important part in City's history, playing just eight games that helped the club over the line to the 1963-64 Third Division championship.

At the start of January 1964 City had an eight point lead at the top of the table and looked odds-on favourites for promotion. They had lost only three league games out of 27 and had no FA Cup commitments to hinder their charge to promotion. Then, inexplicably, the wheels fell off and they failed to win any of their next 11 games before finally getting back to winning ways on the last Saturday in March. Lots of theories were put forward for the slump – City had been rumbled by their opponents, the injured pair George Hudson and Ernie Machin were missed, the heavy pitches were blamed – and Jimmy Hill, under pressure for the first time as a manager, tried everything to turn the off-course ship back on course including considering a hypnotist to work on the players. JH wanted to strengthen the squad and bring some new blood in and in February he paid Walsall a small fee for their young inside forward Graham Newton, later spending over £20,000 on the more experienced pair of George Kirby and John Smith. Newton had impressed Hill playing for the Saddlers at Highfield Road in December.
                              1964 promotion team with Newton second from left in middle row.                                    

21-year-old Graham made his debut in a 2-2 home draw with Brentford and Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph described him as 'without question City's most persistent forward, and deserved a goal for his dogged work'. He was involved in the first goal, pressurising Brentford's Matt Crowe to deflect Ronnie Farmer's shot past his own keeper. A week later Graham netted his first City goal in a 1-1 draw at Wrexham as City's lead was cut down to one point and followed up with another goal a week later in a 2-2 home draw with Bournemouth as City put on their best performance since the New Year with 35 shots on goal. After another draw, the fourth in a row, 1-1 at Watford, City got the shock of their lives when Southend came to Highfield Road on Friday 13th March and ran out 5-2 victors despite the return of the talismanic George Hudson. With City knocked off top spot, Hill acted speedily and signed Kirby and Smith, and Graham was left out the following week but returned for the Oldham home game when the Sky Blues suddenly recovered form. George Kirby netted a hat-trick and Graham scored the other in a relief-inducing 4-1 win.

He appeared in two further games as City staggered to the end of the season before taking advantage of their rivals Crystal Palace and Watford losing on the final day, and beat Colchester 1-0 in front of 36,901, and clinched the title. Hudson was back from injury for the Colchester game and Graham watched from the sidelines as George scored the only goal.

The following season with Machin fit, Graham failed to break into the first team and made one appearance in a 4-1 League Cup win over Ipswich. In December 1964 he joined Third Division Bournemouth.

Graham was born in Bilston in the Black Country and kept his trademark accent throughout his life. He was on Wolves' books as a teenager but was released in 1961 and was on Blackpool's books for a few months, playing in their Central League side. A move back to the Midlands and Walsall in 1962 was perfect and he broke into the Saddlers first team a month before his 20th birthday. Walsall were struggling in Division Two and league leaders Chelsea thumped them 5-1 to ruin Graham's big day. He kept his place for one more game but was then out of the team until Easter Monday by which time Walsall were rock bottom. His re-appearance sparked a mini revival as the Saddlers lost only two of nine games with Graham netting six goals. On the morning of the final game, at home to Charlton, they needed a single point to stay up and send Charlton and Luton down. It was a disastrous day with Graham playing on after breaking his ankle and goalkeeper Alan Boswell also injured and a 16,000 crowd watched Charlton win 2-1 and send the Saddlers down.
After leaving Highfield Road Graham had three seasons at Bournemouth making 30 odd appearances before taking up an offer to play in the USA with Atlanta Chiefs. One of the pioneers of US Soccer, Phil Woosnam, signed Graham and in the 1967 season he netted eight goals in 15 games. In 1968 playing alongside former British stars such as Peter McParland and Ray Bloomfield he netted 10 goals as Atlanta won the League title. Apart from a brief sojourn at Port Vale in 1968-69, Graham stayed in the states and in 1970 was a member of the Atlanta team that played the touring Coventry City side, the Sky Blues winning 2-1. He always talked about his time in the US and the great lifestyle he and his wife enjoyed.

In the early 1970s Graham was still playing non-league football in the West Midlands at clubs such as Hednesford, Worcester City and Stourbridge. He later returned to the USA, running very successful soccer schools.

In retirement he played golf enthusiastically and was captain at Patshull Park, his local golf club. I played with him on a number of occasions and he was great company as well as being very positive about life in general. He was a tireless fund raiser for the Teenage Cancer Trust, was a regular attendee at Former Players events at both Coventry and Walsall and was at the Jimmy Hill Celebration day at the Ricoh in December. He died whilst on holiday in Spain.

It was also sad to hear last week of the death of former Coventry City director Micky French at the age of 89. Micky was one of a rare breed to play for the club and join the board – he represented City Reserves as an amateur in the early 1950s (he was a nippy winger) before combining an accountancy career with turning out for Lockheed Leamington. A keen cricketer, he was brought on to the board by Derrick Robins in 1969 and was a director up until 1992 serving under various chairmen, including Peter Robins, Phil Mead and John Poynton. Poynton, City's chairman at the time of the 1987 FA Cup triumph described him as a hard-working director of the club and a massive City fan. 'He always had the club's interests in everything he did as a director and wholeheartedly supported me at all times'.
                                 City's directors in 1987 with French standing third from left.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Jim's column 2.3.2019

Following Jordan Willis' milestone of reaching 200 games for the Sky Blues at Luton on Sunday (and what a performance he gave) we have another milestone looming. Goalkeeper Lee Burge, castigated and praised for his performance at Kenilworth Road will all being well make his 150th appearance for the club. Like Willis, a product of the club's successful Academy, Hereford-born Lee made his first team bow in a League Cup tie against Cardiff City – the penultimate game at Sixfields. Two other home-grown players also made their debut that night, Jack Finch and James Maddison in a 2-1 defeat. Prior to that he had sat on the sub's bench almost 60 times and was soon back there with Ryan Allsop keeping him out of the team. Lee made his league debut in a 3-2 home win over Peterborough a couple of months later and within months was the first choice.

Lee becomes the eighty eighth Coventry City player to join the 150 club and the thirteenth goalkeeper and what an illustrious group of 'keepers he joins. At 150 he is just one game behind City's most capped player Swede Magnus Hedman and six behind his predecessor Joe Murphy and 60s giant Bob Wesson. The full list of City's top goalkeepers is:

601 games Steve Ogrizovic 1984-2000
402 Bill Glazier 1964-74
246 Alf Wood 1938-58
236 Jerry Best 1920-25
180 Les Sealey 1977-83
174 Jim Blyth 1975-80
165 Arthur Lightening 1958-62
163 Tommy Allen 1928-32
160 Bill Morgan 1932-39
156 Bob Wesson 1958-66
156 Joe Murphy 2011-14
151 Magnus Hedman 1997-2002

These 13 goalkeepers (including Burge) have kept goal in over 66% of Coventry City games since the club joined the league in 1919 and that doesn't include three other centurions including Keiren Westwood and our first England international, Reg Matthews. What a reputation the club has for fine goalkeepers.

City's fine draw at Luton was covered by Sky TV and was the ninth game running that the club have remained unbeaten in live televised games stretching back over two years. In reverse order the unbeaten games are:

February 2019 Luton (a) 1-1
September 2018 Sunderland (h) 1-1
September 2018 Oxford (a) 2-1
May 2018 Exeter (n) 3-1 (Play-off final)
May 2018 Notts County (a) 4-1 (Play-off semi final)
May 2018 Notts County (h) 1-1 (Play-off semi final)
October 2017 Barnet (a) 0-0
April 2017 Oxford (n) 2-1 (Checkatrade final)
February 2017 Wycombe (h) 2-1 (Checkatrade semi final)

The club's last defeat on TV was the home game with Sheffield United in December 2016 when Billy Sharp's added-time goal made it 2-1.