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.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Jim's column 1.12.2018

Kenny Hibbitt only spent two seasons at Coventry City towards the end of his playing career and was much more closely linked with Wolves where he made over 500 appearances. He has recently published his autobiography in conjuction with Tim Nash, a Wolverhampton-based journalist. Kenny sent me a copy and although there is only one chapter covering the Highfield Road spell the book makes fascinating reading.

He started his career as an apprentice at Bradford Park Avenue but soon caught the eye of numerous scouts and signed for Wolves as a 18-year-old, spending two years in the reserves before becoming a regular in the first team from 1970 until 1984. He played in two winning League Cup finals and won a solitary England under 23 cap in an era when you had to be outstanding to play in the national team.

Wolves and City, of course, were massive local rivals in the late 60s and 70s and players like Kenny, John Richards and Derek Dougan were thorns in City's sides of that era with honours probably even between the Midland rivals in that period. The most memorable clash came in 1973 in the FA Cup sixth round tie at Molineux. City, rejuvenated by the signings of Tommy Hutchison and Colin Stein, were confident of a result but in front of 53,000 Richards and Dougan exposed the frailties of Bobby Parker and won 2-0. Wolves went on to lose unluckily to Don Revie's Leeds in the semi-final, a result that haunts Hibbitt to this day.

Relegation battles under first Bobby Gould and later Don Mackay, dominated his two seasons at Coventry (1984-86) but he writes fondly of this spell of his career. After hanging up his boots he managed Walsall and Cardiff and in the book highlights the issues of managing in the lower divisions, namely, lack of money, covering a multitude of roles and the 24/7 dedication required. There are lots of funny stories and big name characters who crossed his path in a dazzling career. The book, 'Seasons of My Life' wonderfully describes the golden era of playing in the early 1970s and the depressing side of managing in the lower divisions of the 1980s.

Last week I wrote about two City outfield players who went in goal in emergencies, David Speedie and Roy Kirk and promised to mention a few more this week. The last was Stephen Hughes who took over the goalkeeping jersey in a home game with Stoke City in 2005 after the City goalkeeper Ian Bennett was shown a red card in the 41st minute. Hughes repelled all Stoke's efforts to score and the game ended 0-0. Prior to that you have to go back to 1977 when Jim Blyth was injured in a home game with West Ham. Bobby McDonald went in goal for the last half hour but couldn't prevent 'Pop' Robson from scoring a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw. The previous season, at Maine Road, 'keeper Bryan King was dazed in a challenge early in the game but stoically continued until the hour mark by which time City were 3-0 down. John Craven took over in goal and kept Man City's formidable attack out until the final minute when Dennis Tueart made the final score 4-2.

In the 1960s there was only one incidence of an outfield player going in goal – again at Maine Road, in 1965, when Bill Glazier was stretchered off after 41 minutes with a broken leg following a clash with Glyn Pardoe. With City losing 1-0 and things looking bleak Ronnie Rees went in goal. Three minutes later Ken Hale equalised for City and Rees and City's brave defenders kept the home side out to earn a famous 1-1 draw.

If any readers remember any other City outfield players going in goal please let me know.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Jim's column 24.11.2018

Coventry City have a history of developing young talent and blooding them in the first team that stretches back to before World War Two. Harry Storer, City's legendary manager in the 1930s gave Second Division debuts to teenagers such as Ted Roberts, Plum Warner, Ellis Lager and George Mason. In the 1960s Jimmy Hill had faith in youngsters like Bobby Gould, Ronnie Rees and Mick Coop before a glut of kids came through under Noel Cantwell - the team that reached the 1970 Youth Cup final spawned eight first teamers, all of them making their debuts as teenagers. It has continued almost non-stop ever since with few barren periods where the club had to rely on the transfer market. Last week Mark Robins put out a first team at Cheltenham in the Football League Trophy that was the youngest starting XI in the club's history. The average age of the team that took the field was 21 years and 33 days, 25 days less than the previous record set at Maine Road in 1980.

The team comprised of: O'Brien (26), Grimmer (24), Mason (21), Eccles (18), Williams (19), Thompson (19), Jones (21), Bayliss (19), Bakayoko (22), Ngandu (17), Shipley (21). When the first substitute Sam McCallum (18) came on the average age dropped to 20 years 301 days and when Jack Burroughs (17) came on for Tom Bayliss it dropped even further, to 20 years 236 days. The final substitution – Jak Hickman (18) for Johnny Ngandu – pushed the average up a shade. Some people will argue that it was a meaningless game in a fairly meaningless competition but it still qualifies as a competitive first team game. Congo-born Ngandu meanwhile became the sixth youngest player to start a first team game. He was only 19 days past his seventeenth birthday and slots into the top ten.

  1. Brian Hill (April 1958) 16 years 273 days
  2. Isaac Osbourne (April 2003) 16 years 308 days
  3. Perry Suckling (August 1982) 16 years 320 days
  4. George Curtis (April 1956) 16 years 351 days
  5. Dietmar Bruck (April 1961) 17 years 9 days
  6. Johnny Ngandu (November 2018) 17 years 19 days
  7. Colin Holder (April 1962) 17 years 73 days
  8. Conor Thomas (Jan 2011) 17 years 92 days
  9. Lol Harvey (Nov 1951)  17 years 101 days
  10. Bobby Parker (March 1970) 17 years 137 days
                                                                 Johnny Ngandu 

Going back to 1980, Gordon Milne was reaping the benefit of many years of the club investing in youth and luring some of the country's best talent to Coventry. The young team would go on to reach the League Cup semi final and only lose out on a trip to Wembley by virtue of a late West Ham goal in the semi final second leg. The team that Milne put out at Maine Road was: Les Sealey (23), Steve Jacobs (19), Brian Roberts (25), Andy Blair (20), Paul Dyson (20), Gary Gillespie (20), Peter Bodak (19), Garry Thompson (21), Mark Hateley (19), Danny Thomas (19), Steve Hunt (24). Nine homegrown players plus Gillespie who was signed as a 17-year old.

Many thanks to Geoff Moore for his statistical help.

Keith Ballantyne regularly asks interesting questions and was recently struck by the somewhat unusual occurrence of a player scoring, and then finding himself in goal a couple of minutes later - the game in question being Ipswich v Preston, and the player being Paul Gallagher after the Preston goalkeeper received a red card, all substitutes having been used.

He wanted to know whether this unique honour has ever fallen to a City player. He recalled David Speedie going in goal for Oggy during a 4-1 defeat at Millwall in 1989, but it was David Smith who scored for City on that occasion. With the advent of multiple substitutions and the almost universal inclusion of goalkeeping substitutes it is very uncommon these days to find an outfield player going 'between the sticks'. I was able to tell him that no City player has scored a goal and then donned the goalkeeper's jersey. The nearest incident to this occurred in 1958 in a home game with Aldershot. City goalkeeper Jim Sanders broke his leg and full-back and captain Roy Kirk went into goal for the last half an hour. With six minutes left and City winning 7-1 they were awarded a penalty. Kirk raced from his goal to the other end to take the penalty but blasted it over the bar.

Next week I'll tell you about other outfield players who went in goal for City.

Keith's other question is regarding goalkeepers who have scored for and against City. He remembers, only too well that Oggy scored against Martin Hodge and Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-2 draw at Hillsborough in 1986 as he was at that game but he seems to remember that another keeper did the same to Oggy some years later, and Watford came to his mind as the offending side, but he's not really sure.

It was Watford Keith and a goalkeeper called Steve Sherwood. In January 1984 City entertained the Hornets, then managed by Graham Taylor. It was a very windy day at Highfield Road and Sherwood's long punt bounced on the edge of the City penalty area. City's goalkeeper, Raddy Avramovic and Watford's Nigel Callaghan challenged for the ball but the Yugoslav 'keeper missed his punch and the ball ended up in the City net. Watford went on to win 2-1. I'm not aware of any other goals scored by goalkeepers in City games.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Jim's Column 10.11.2018

Coventry City's five-game winning run, their best in the league since 1998, came to end at the Ricoh on Saturday when the team had to settle for a point against a very efficient Accrington side, whose league position doesn't flatter them. The Lancashire club, who ran away with the League Two title last term, close sides down and make it very difficult to find space and their goal came from a typical piece of pressing in City's midfield. Michael Doyle earned City a point with his first goal of the season when he was on hand to score from close range when the Accrington goalkeeper, the son of former Middlesbrough and Blackburn winger, spilled Jodi Jones' low shot.

Doyle has never been a prolific scorer but that goal won him a place in City's history books. He is now the third oldest City player to score a senior goal behind Dennis Wise and Gary McAllister. Doyle was aged 37 years and 119 days on Saturday and is over two years younger than Dennis Wise when he scored the last of his six goals for the Sky Blues on 30th April 2006. 'Wisey' was substitute that day and came off the bench to score in the 90th minute as City recorded a 3-1 victory over Cardiff City. The game turned out to be Dennis' final appearance of a 24-year career. Coincidentally McAllister's final goal in football was also in his final game, for the Sky Blues in a 1-1 home draw with Sunderland in December 2003. Gary stood down temporarily as City's player-manager after the game and a few weeks later resigned to look after his sick wife.

The top ten oldest goalscorers for the club are as follows:

Player Last goal
1 Dennis Wise 30/4/2006
39 years 135 days
2 Gary McAllister 8/12/2003
38 years 348 days
3 Michael Doyle 3/11/2018
37 years 119 days
4 Danny Shea 15/11/1924
37 years 9 days
5 Dick Lindley 24/9/1921
36 years 285 days
6 Danny Shone 5/1/1929
36 years 253 days
7 George Mason 27/12/1949
36 years 113 days
8 Steve Staunton 2/4/2005
36 years 73 days
9 Joey Jones 25/12/1922
35 years 359 days
10 Alex McClure 10/12/1927
35 years 250 days

Five of them played their football in the 1920s and were all largely 'over the hill' when they came to Coventry. More recently George Mason was a defender who went on to play for another two seasons for City's first team without scoring again. Other over 35s who scored for City include Richard Shaw, Charlie Timmins and Kevin Kilbane.

I have to thank the statisticians at for their help in discovering the facts on this one. They pointed out that Stanley Matthews was over 48 when he scored his final league goal for Stoke City in 1963 and Billy Meredith was 50 years and 6 months old when he netted an FA Cup goal for Manchester City in 1925 (almost four years after his last league goal).

'Doyler' also becomes the first City player to score at three different levels of the Football League having netted in the Championship during his first spell with the club, then last season in League Two. In the 1960s Mick Kearns, Brian Hill, George Curtis, Ronnie Farmer, Dietmar Bruck and Ernie Machin all scored in three different divisions. Dietmar only managed seven league goals in almost 200 games for the club but managed to score in Divisions Three, Two and One.

Ben Lipman posed that question and also wanted to know if Doyle holds the record for the timespan between his first and last goals for the club. Michael's first goal for City was in August 2003 in a 1-1 draw at Ipswich, over 15 years ago. My calculations show that he set the record last season, overtaking Ted Roberts who scored his first goal (on his debut) in a 4-0 home win over Bradford Park Avenue in March 1937. His career was severely interrupted by the war but he returned to the club and scored the last of his 85 goals on Boxing Day 1951 in a 3-0 home win over Bury – a span of over 14 years.
                                                                       Ted Roberts