Sunday, 28 August 2016

Jim's column 27.8.2016

It was a bad week for the Sky Blues. On Saturday at Bradford they collapsed after Jordan Turnbull's debut red card and ended up losing 3-1 and then on Tuesday evening they suffered their biggest League Cup loss since the Arsenal tie in 2012 whilst exiting the competition at Carrow Road.

The silver lining of the defeats is that there were lots of interesting stats. For instance at Bradford, Turnbull was only the second City player to see red on his debut – the first was David Thompson who was sent off on the opening day of the 2000-01 season in a 3-1 defeat to Middlesbrough.

City's goal famine ended with new loan signing Daniel Agyei netted 12 minutes into his debut. It was faster than Adam Armstrong's debut goal against Wigan last season and the fastest since Frank Nouble scored in the 'return to the Ricoh' game against Gillingham two years ago. The fastest debut goals for the club are all under one minute with Wayne Andrews leading the way against Barnsley in 2006-07 with 26 seconds. Laurent Delorge scored within a minute after coming on for his league debut against Sheffield United in 2001 and Ron Newman scored within a minute of his debut against Southampton in 1955-56 – no detailed timing is available for these goals neither for pre-war goals.

At Norwich on Tuesday night the heavy defeat equalled the club's worst away loss in the competition's 56-year history. On two previous occasions City have suffered 6-1 away defeats – at West Brom in 1965-66 and at Arsenal in 2012-13. The former game was a replay after the clubs had drawn 1-1 at Highfield Road in front of over 38,000 (at the time the second highest crowd ever in the competition). 32,000 were at the Hawthorns a week later to see Jeff Astle net a hat-trick as the Baggies ran amok. Doug Fraser (2) and Tony Brown netted the other goals with Ernie Machin scoring for the Sky Blues. Albion went on to win the competition that season, the last time that the final was a two-legged affair before it moved to Wembley.

At Arsenal in 2012 the third round tie was Mark Robins' second game in charge following the departure of Andy Thorn. City put up a brave fight and although trailing by a single goal at half-time ran out of steam in the final quarter and goals from Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin, Walcott (2) and Miguel sealed the win. Callum Ball did manage to score a late superb goal for the Sky Blues.

The club's biggest ever defeat in the competition came at Highfield Road in 1964 when Leicester hammered the Sky Blues 8-1. It was before the days when substitutes were allowed and George Curtis suffered an injury which necessitated him leaving the pitch. The 10-man Sky Blues were totalled overwhelmed by a superb Leicester team who showed City no mercy.

One good bit of news from Norwich was that Devon Kelly-Evans came on as substitute in the second half and joined his twin brother, Dion. The Coventry-born brothers are only the second set of twins to play first team football for the club and the first to be on the pitch at the same time. Dion, who made his debut as a substitute at Oldham at the end of last season, has now made five first-team appearances. Nuneaton-born midfielders Craig and Lee Middleton both made a handful of appearances between 1989-1992 but never in the same team.

The Cobblers are in town today for the first time in 49 years. The last meeting between the sides who were massive rivals in Divisions 4, 3 and 2 in the 1950s and 1960s took place at Highfield Road in late March 1967. The clubs had met at Northampton's County Ground seventeen days previously and a full-house 20,100 had witnessed a tight 0-0 draw. By the time of the return game City were 17 games unbeaten and edging towards promotion having secured a vital 1-0 at Blackburn days earlier. Over 38,500 watched City dominate their relegation-threatened opponents but fail to score until just after the hour Ernie Machin netted before Bobby Gould secured the two points near the end. City were subsequently promoted, the Cobblers were relegated (for the second successive season) and the club's paths have not crossed since apart from cup games.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Jim's column 20.8.2016

Coventry City's disappointing start to the league campaign has seen them glean only two points from their opening three games and also fail to find the net. It is the first time in the club's League history dating back to 1919 that the team has failed to score a single goal in its first three matches. There have been numerous occasions of the opening two games failing to yield a goal but not three. The last such instance was in 2011-12 (ominously the relegation season from the Championship) when Andy Thorn's team suffered single-goal defeats to Leicester (home) and Birmingham (away) before opening their account with a Lukas Jutkiewicz effort in a 1-2 defeat at Crystal Palace. The 1958-59 season offers some crumbs of comfort however – Billy Frith's side had a dreadful start to their first season in Division Four, drawing 0-0 at home to Darlington before defeats at Oldham (0-2) and Shrewsbury (1-4) left them 23rd in the table. The side recovered to have a remarkable season, scoring 84 goals and winning promotion at the end of the season. More recently, in 1999-2000, Gordon Strachan's team failed to net in two opening defeats (Southampton home and Leicester away) but the signing of Robbie Keane in time for the third game (Derby home) sparked a remarkable home season with the Sky Blues described by TV pundits as the Entertainers.

The start is, in some ways, hardly surprising, with the departure of last season's golden duo, Armstrong and Murphy, but the team did score 67 goals last season, the second highest haul in almost 40 years. Let's hope Tony Mowbray can pull a couple of deadly strikers out of the hat before the end of the month.

The last time City failed to score in three consecutive games was only last April (Colchester, Wigan & Gillingham) but I guess it feels so much worse because it is the first three of the season. The last time the team failed to score in more than three was in 2003 when Gary McAllister's team failed to net in any of the last five games of the 2002-03 campaign and then drew 0-0 with Walsall on the opening day of the next season, making it six without a goal. Michael Doyle ended the drought the following Saturday in a 1-1 draw at Ipswich. In total the team went 527 minutes without a league goal.

The worst ever run by the club was 1048 minutes over 11 games in that infamous first season in the league in 1919-20. After Tommy Lowes had scored in 1-2 home defeat to Leicester on 4th October the team went 11 whole games without scoring until Christmas Day when Billy Walker netted a penalty in the club's first ever league win (3-2) over Stoke. Somehow I don't think that record will be challenged this season.

Keith Ballantyne always comes up with interesting questions and this week he asked if Sam Allardyce is the first former City player to manage England or did Stuart Pearce hold the post for a short time. Sam, who played 32 games for the Sky Blues under Bobby Gould in the 1983-84 season, is the first former player to hold the permanent position, but Pearce was caretaker for one match in 2012 after Fabio Capello resigned in protest at John Terry being stripped of the captaincy. Pearce was in the post for just one match, a 3-2 Wembley defeat to Holland, before Roy Hodgson was appointed. It is just over four years ago but looking at England's starting line up that night makes interesting reading. Only four of the starters made Roy Hodgson's squad at this summer's Euros (Hart, Welbeck, Smalling and Cahill) whilst the likes of Scott Parker (captain that night), Micah Richards, Adam Johnson and Frazier Campbell have virtually disappeared from the scene.
                                                                 Stuart Pearce

Pearce was signed from non-league Wealdstone for the Sky Blues also by Bobby Gould (what an eye Gouldy had for talent) and was a virtual ever-present alongside Big Sam in City's defence in an exciting campaign.

It has been mentioned before but Sam's appointment means that all four home nations are currently managed by former players or managers of Coventry City with Gordon Strachan in charge of Scotland, Michael O'Neill (Northern Ireland) and Chris Coleman (Wales). Congratulations are due to the the latter two whose teams exceeded all expectations at the Euros.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Jim's column 13.8.2016

The new season is up and running and the Sky Blues again failed to break the Swindon hoodoo in the opening league game last Saturday. For the fifth year running at the County Ground City conceded a late goal and it was decisive. There can be few City fans around who saw the team last win a league game there back in 1960.

On Tuesday evening, by beating Portsmouth 3-2 after extra time, the team won a League Cup tie for the first time in four years after successive first round exits to Leyton Orient, Cardiff City and Rochdale. It was also the first time that manager Tony Mowbray had won a Cup tie of any sort since he became manager of the club eighteen months ago. Last season he saw the Sky Blues bow out in the first round of all three competitions. That last League Cup victory, over Birmingham City in 2012 was also a 3-2 win after extra time. The Sky Blues no face Norwich City away in the second round in what will be the club's first meeting in the competition since its inauguration in 1960. There have been nine FA Cup meetings between the club with honours even with three wins each and three drawn ties. The clubs also met in the now extinct Full Members Cup in 1986-87 when the Canaries, with home advantage won 2-1 with Kevin Drinkell netting both Norwich goals after David Phillips had scored a penalty. Coincidentally both scorers later joined the other club.

The attendance at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday was a disappointing 4,976 and was the lowest for a competitive game at the stadium – the previous lowest was 5,437 for the Burton Albion Football League Trophy game in 2012. It was not however the club's smallest home crowd in the competition, that was recorded at Sixfields two years ago when 1,352 watched City lose to Cardiff City. There have been quite a number of sub-5,000 crowds for City away ties in the League Cup with the smallest as follows:

1,904 v Dagenham & Redbridge (2012-13)
1,986 v Rochdale (2015-16)
2,288 v Rochdale (1991-92)
2,633 v Scarborough (1992-93)
2,871 v Leyton Orient (2013-14)

The League Cup attendances crowds were poor all around the country with under 3,000 at Walsall and Shrewsbury on a night that saw 10 Championship sides defeated by clubs from a lower division and a number of fancied League One sides (including Sheffield United, Bolton and Charlton) also exit the competition.

Steve Bell communicates with me regularly about the club's games against overseas clubs. During the summer he asked me about City's game against Brazilian club Santos which took place during the club's 1972 tour of South East Asia. The game was the final one of a five-game, three-week trip that included two games in South Korea and two in Japan. I was able to provide him with some facts about the game. It was played on 13 June 1972 in Bangkok and the result was a 2-2 draw. Quintin Young and Alan Green scored for City with the famous Pele (with a penalty) and Edu netting for Santos in front of a 32,000 crowd. I don't have the line ups for either club nor any other information. If anybody can provide more details please let me know and I will pass them on to Steve.
                                                       Coventry City party in Japan 1972


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Jim's column 6.8.2016

A new season is upon us today and it just seems like yesterday that I was watching City's final games, the FA Cup final and the Champions League final. I know I say it every year but the close season is too short. Mind you 50 years ago last weekend England were winning the World Cup and just seven days later the Sky Blues played their first pre-season friendly!

A trip to Swindon is not one City fans will relish today, especially when you consider the last four visits. In each of those games City looked set for victories only to be pegged back. Last season they had two-goal lead with Reice Charles-Cook breaking Oggy's post-war shutout record and looking impregnable only to concede twice in the final seven minutes to turn a victory into a draw. It was a similar story in the 1-1 the previous season with a late home goal cancelling McQuoid's opener and in 2013-14 two home goals in the final 14 minutes turned victory into defeat. Two goals from David McGoldrick in 2012-13 looked to have sealed a victory with 13 minutes remaining but the Robins pulled two goals out of the hat to foil the Sky Blues. You have to go back to December 1960 for City's last league win at the County Ground when goals from Billy Myerscough and Ray Straw gave City a 2-1 win in a Division Three game. The picture at home against the Robins is little better – Swindon have won three of their last four visits to the Ricoh and the Sky Blues last win was in 1964 – 3-2 with goals from Machin, Hudson and Hale. So my message to City fans today is, be patient and don't expect too much.

Moving on to Tuesday evening and the first home game, a League Cup tie with League Two Portsmouth. It is the first League Cup tie at the Ricoh for four years with City having played Cardiff at Sixfields, sandwiched between away exits from the competition at Leyton Orient and Rochdale. That last tie was a thrilling 3-2 victory over Championship side Birmingham City just two days after manager Andy Thorn was sacked. Richard Shaw was caretaker boss and guided the Sky Blues to a famous victory with goals from Cody McDonald, Kevin Kilbane and an extra-time winner from Carl Baker.

Pompey are managed by former City player Paul Cook, a talented midfielder who was left in the cold after the arrival of Ron Atkinson in 1995. In his team he is likely to have former City players Michael Doyle and Carl Baker and I'm sure they will get good receptions from City fans. The clubs have met three times in the competition previously with Pompey winning twice at home in the 1960s and Coventry progressing in 1968 with a 2-0 win at Highfield Road. The first meeting was in the inaugural season of the competition in 1960-61 when after defeating Barrow 4-2 at home, City lost 0-2 at Fratton Park in front of a miniscule crowd of 4,533. Two years later Jimmy Hill rested a couple of players and was undone by Albert McCann, a player he had released a few months earlier. Big Ron Saunders scored a couple in a 5-1 thrashing.

The Highfield Road game in 1968 reminds me of the great form the late Ian Gibson was in at the time. He scored one and set up the other goal for Ernie Hunt in front of a crowd of 20,946 – what would the club give for a gate like that on Tuesday night.

Talking of 'Gibbo' reminds me sadly that two fine former players passed away this summer. Gibbo died at the age of 73 at the end of May and six weeks later his former team-mate John O'Rourke passed away, aged 71. 'Gibbo' is best remembered for the massive role he played in the Second Division Championship season of 1966-67 and some of his outrageous goals and tricks but he and O'Rourke were key players in City's most successful top flight season, 1969-70, when Noel Cantwell's team qualified for Europe by virtue of finishing sixth in Division One. Gibbo was sold the following summer and never played for the Sky Blues in Europe but O'Rourke left his mark by snatching a hat-trick in the club's opening game in the Fairs Cup in a 4-1 away win against Trakia Plovdiv.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

John O'Rourke 11.2.1945 - 7.7.2016


Everyone at Coventry City and the Former Players Association were saddened to hear of the passing of John O'Rourke last week.

Noel Cantwell signed John from Ipswich Town in November 1969 for £80,000, seeing him as the ideal strike partner for his star centre-forward Neil Martin. John had an excellent scoring record in the lower divisions before arriving at Highfield Road and although his scoring record didn't match the heights he had achieved at Luton and Middlesbrough he is remembered for his efforts and goals in the 1969-70 season which saw the Sky Blues qualify for European football for the first time.

At the start of that momentous season the Sky Blues were the bookies' favourites for relegation, having escaped by the skin of their teeth in the previous two campaigns. Manager Cantwell however was to prove the experts wrong. A five-game unbeaten start and away wins at Arsenal and Derby in early October pushed the team amazingly into the top six but three successive defeats and a dearth of goals in early November saw them slip back to 12th place. Chairman Derrick Robins, afraid that his dream of seeing his team in Europe was slipping away, urged Cantwell to strengthen the team. In came centre-half Roy Barry, destined to become a Sky Blue legend, to replace the long-serving captain George Curtis, and two weeks later O'Rourke arrived from Ipswich. John's debut, at home to Newcastle, saw him partnered with emergency striker Maurice Setters as Martin was injured, and the mini-slump was arrested by a late Ernie Hunt penalty. O'Rourke was paired with Martin in the next game, a 3-2 home win over Tottenham, and scored the second goal in a 3-2 victory which was more emphatic than the score suggests.

Martin and O'Rourke hit it off immediately and the team won eight out of nine league games with John netting a brace, both headers, in a thumping 3-0 home win over Manchester City as City's unlikely challenge for top six place became a reality. Despite being under six foot tall he was superb in the air & many of his goals came from headers. John scored 11 goals in 20 league games that memorable season as the Sky Blues galloped towards a European place. As the season reached its climax Cantwell knew that two wins from their final three games (all away) would be enough to guarantee sixth place and European football. City travelled to Nottingham Forest and O'Rourke grabbed a hat-trick in the 4-1 victory. Three days later sixth place was confirmed with a 1-0 win at Molineux.
                                                     O'Rourke scores one of his three at Forest

The following season another hat trick, at Trakia Plovdiv, launched the club’s European Fairs Cup campaign with a 4-1 win and he scored the winning goal in the home leg against the mighty Bayern Munich. John was a predatory striker and many of his goals were from close range but in the League Cup victory over West Ham he hit a screamer from 35 yards. However goals in the league were harder to come by and he managed only five in 28 games to add to the six in Cup-ties.

In March 1971 his partner Neil Martin, who had also lost his goal touch, was sold to Nottingham Forest and by the end of the season John had been displaced by a strike force of Billy Rafferty and Ernie Hunt. At the start of 1971-72 season John was briefly back in favour but Cantwell had his eyes on Hull City's Chris Chilton. Although John scored in his last league start in a City shirt, a classic 3-3 draw at Chelsea, Chilton signed the following week and soon afterwards John was on his way to Second Division QPR for £70,000. In total he made 66 appearances and scored 23 goals for Coventry.

John O’Rourke was born in Northampton in 1945 after his family were evacuated out of London during World War Two but they moved back to Dagenham after the war. As a schoolboy at Campbell School and Bifrons Secondary School in Barking, John was selected to play for Barking Schools and in 1960 was the star of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the English Schools Trophy. In the fifth round they defeated Hackney Schools who boasted future stars Rodney Marsh and Ron 'Chopper' Harris and in round six John scored the only goal in the defeat of Swindon before losing to Stockton. His schoolboy exploits earned him an England trial game which resulted in him winning a schoolboy 'cap' against Scotland at Aberdeen

In his teens he was on the books of both Arsenal and Chelsea and although he made one League Cup appearance for the Blues in September 1963 he was behind the likes of Peter Osgood, Barry Bridges and Bobby Tambling in the Chelsea pecking order and found it impossible to break into the league side.

In December 1963 he was released by Chelsea joining Luton Town and he made an instant impact at Kenilworth Road scoring 22 goals in 23 games including four in a 6-2 win at Brentford and both goals in Luton's victory over Watford that ensured the Sky Blues won promotion that season. Sadly Luton were a team on the decline and the following season were relegated to Division Four with John, despite injuries, scoring 10 goals in 21 games. In 1965-66 he netted 32 goals and in the summer of 1966 a move to a higher status was on the cards. Middlesbrough, newly relegated to Division Three, signed John for £20,000 as a replacement for Ian Gibson, recently sold to the Sky Blues. John flourished in a powerful 'Boro team and netted 30 goals including a hat-trick in the crucial game with Oxford that clinched promotion. Former 'Boro skipper remembers his influence: 'John was a great goalscorer. He wasn’t the sort who would run around all over the place, but he was very quick and had an eye for goal. In the box he was absolutely deadly, forming a great partnership with John Hickton and Arthur Horsfield.'

In the summer of 1967 Alf Ramsey selected John for the England Under 23 tour and in his only game he scored in a 3-0 victory over Turkey playing alongside future stars such as Allan Clarke, Ralph Coates and Colin Harvey.

In Division Two the following season he continued to score, averaging a goal every other game, before another move, to Ipswich Town for £30,000, in early 1968. He had a dream start at Portman Road, scoring six goals in his first four games and Bill McGarry's team remained unbeaten for 15 games to clinch the Second Division title. The Tractor Boys did well in the First Division, finishing 12th and John netted 16 goals but after McGarry left to manage Wolves there were problems. New manager Bobby Robson and John didn't see eye to eye and John was transfer-listed and suspended by the club for allegedly refusing to train. The resolution was a move and when Cantwell offered £80,000 for O'Rourke Robson saw an opportunity to fund a rebuilding job on his squad.

After leaving City he had an early rush of goals in a strong QPR side featuring Rodney Marsh and a young Gerry Francis but lost his place to Stan Bowles and in early 1974 he moved to Bournemouth. John struggled in a poor Bournemouth side that included Harry Redknapp and was relegated to Division Four. After 21 games in two seasons he was released and at the age of 29 his league career was over. He played for Johannesburg Rangers in South Africa briefly in 1975 before playing non-league football with Poole Town and later Weymouth and Dorchester Town. He settled on the South Coast and ran a newsagent's in Highcliffe, Christchurch for several years before working at Bournemouth Airport.
                                          John receives his CCFPA tie from the late Bob Bromage in 2011

In his twelve year professional career he made 366 appearances and scored 178 goals – an exceptional scoring record.

With thanks to Barking & District Historical Society and the English National Football Archive (www.enfa.co.uk)

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Ian Gibson (30.3.1943 - 26.5.2016)

For Coventry City fans of a certain vintage two players captured their hearts in the 1960s. George Hudson was as good a goalscorer that the club has had since the halcyon days of Clarrie Bourton whilst Ian Gibson or 'Gibbo' as the fans called him, was the supreme play-maker, a magician with the ball and undoubtedly one of the most talented players ever to wear a Coventry City shirt. Sadly 'Gibbo' passed away this week at the age of 73.

With his shirt flapping outside his shorts and his unorthodox running style, Gibbo was City's maverick & the supporters adored him. He frustrated both his managers at Highfield Road, almost fatally in the case of Jimmy Hill, but he was instrumental in promotion to Division One in 1967 and qualification for Europe in 1970.

Born in Newton Stewart in southern Scotland in 1943, Ian Stewart Gibson was a schoolboy prodigy, and played at Wembley for Scotland Schoolboys against England in 1958 whilst on the books of local club Stranraer. In July 1958 he moved south to join Third Division Accrington Stanley – a 15-year old boy thrown into a high testosterin dressing room – and he quickly grew up in a world of snooker halls and pubs. Within months he was given his league debut against Norwich City, a week before his 16th birthday, one of the youngest league debutants and three days later netted his first league goal.

Bradford Park Avenue had spotted him & cash-strapped Accrington had to sell him to the Yorkshire club. In his second season at BPA they won promotion from Division Four under the tough Scots manager Jimmy Scoular - Gibbo was almost ever-present and netted seven goals. In March 1962 Second Division Middlesbrough, then managed by Bob Dennison, later to be chief scout at Highfield Road, paid a club record £20,000 for the diminutive Scot. He was an instant hit at Ayresome Park, netting twice on his home debut against Bristol Rovers.

A virtual ever-present for the next four years, Gibbo made 184 appearances and scored 47 goals and won two Scottish under 23 caps alongside starlets such as Charlie Cooke, Neil Martin & Billy Bremner. 'Boro went close to promotion in 1963 but finished in mid-table in the two subsequent seasons and were relegated in 1966. That season, in their penultimate game Boro, desperate for points, lost 2-1 to the Sky Blues at Highfield Road & Gibbo scored & caught the eye of Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph: 'Without the wiles of chunky Ian Gibson, their skipper - one of the best inside-forwards we have seen on the ground this term - they would have been sadly adrift. Time and time again, he was in the centre of the picture trying to rally his men.' No doubt Hill was impressed that day.

Jimmy had been under pressure after selling George Hudson to Northampton in March 1966 with some fans blaming Hill for costing the club promotion. JH needed a 'marquee signing' and despite interest from First Division clubs 'Gibbo' chose City. By City's standards the fee of £57,500 was enormous and only possible because of the sale of Alan Harris to Chelsea. Within weeks however Hill & Gibson had a bust up in the dressing room at Carlisle. Hill thought Gibson wasn't pulling his weight & ignoring his instructions. The following day 'Gibbo' demanded a move and he was put on the transfer list. Hill left him out of the team and stories linked the Scot with a move to First Division Newcastle and a swap deal with Alan Suddick was under serious consideration.

In 'Gibbo's absence City’s promotion chances stuttered and the team suffered an embarrassing home League Cup exit to lowly Brighton. Hill & Gibson settled their differences and the inside forward was recalled for a home game with Cardiff and given a freer role in the team. Gibbo was unstoppable and he scored twice in a 3-2 victory. A week later he inspired a famous victory at Molineux and a third win in a row – 5-0 at home to league leaders Ipswich – saw them jump to second place in the table. Bobby Gould took the plaudits from the latter game with his hat-trick but 'Gibbo' was the architect of the win & scored the goal of the night, chipping the ball over half a dozen defenders into the top corner.

It was the start of an amazing run of 25 unbeaten games with Gibson’s scheming role one of the major reasons for the revival. The run took them to the Second Division championship with the crowning glory a 3-1 victory over Wolves, their biggest rivals, in front of a record 51,452 crowd at Highfield Road. City trailed at half-time but 'Gibbo' took charge after the break. He set up Ernie Machin for the equaliser and then scored the audacious second goal when, despite being boxed in by defenders he skilfully pivoted and sent a curling shot past Phil Parkes in the Wolves goal. Ronnie Rees' third goal near the end also had 'Gibbo's' fingerprints all over it as City won the game described by JH as 'the Midlands Match of the Century'.

The wee Scot was a marked man in the top division and injuries restricted his appearances in the first two seasons in the top flight, but enough was seen of him to realise that, had he been fully fit, the club might not have struggled so badly. He was one of the traditional Scottish ball players who seemed capable of keeping possession of the ball for minutes on end as well as spraying 40-yard pinpoint passes to his team-mates. In another era he would have undoubtedly won full honours for Scotland but their was stiff competition from a host of midfield stars including Charlie Cooke, Jim Baxter & Billy Bremner. Noel Cantwell had taken over from JH but the signs were that the new boss was frustrated by the tiny Scot.

At the start of the 1968-69 season Gibson's time at Highfield Road looked to be over with Cantwell preferring Willie Carr to 'Gibbo' who caused a stir when he suggested it might be in everyone’s interests if he moved on. But Gibson returned with a bang for the home game with West Brom, being the architect of the thrilling 4-2 victory, setting up all three Ernie Hunt goals. By the end the West End were chanting: 'If Gibbo goes, so do we'. Cantwell afterwards raved about Gibson’s display, declaring it to be ‘as good an inside-forward performance as I have ever seen. No club in the country would want to sell a man playing like this.’ His good form continued into the autumn before a crunching tackle from Ipswich's Bill Baxter ended his season prematurely.
                                                 Gibbo scores against Newcastle (Sept 1968)

In 1969-70, despite another knee problem in mid-season he managed 30 appearances and was a strong influence in the City side that qualified for Europe. He had slowed down a shade and relied on Carr to do his running but his football brain was as fertile as ever and his telepathic understanding with Hunt extended to time-wasting tactics which saw the cheeky pair taking the ball into the corners & retaining possession.

In the summer of 1970 he was surprisingly sold to Second Division Cardiff City for £35,000 where he hooked up with his former Bradford manager Jimmy Scoular. The feeling in Coventry was that Cantwell was fed up with his off-field antics. His first season at Ninian Park was a dream, the team led Division Two for a long period - they finished third and missed out on promotion – and reached the European Cup Winners Cup quarter-finals where they faced Real Madrid. A 1-0 victory at Ninian Park was overturned by Real with a 2-0 second leg victory but 'Gibbo' always talked about the experience of playing in the Bernabeu.

Two seasons at Cardiff was followed by a year at Bournemouth but injuries had taken their toll on his legs, specifically his knees, and at the age of only 30 his league career ended. 'Gibbo' loved the game however and played briefly in South Africa for Highlands Park before less salubrious teams such as Gateshead United and Whitby Town.

In 1983 he was spotted in the Falkands after the war, as a labourer, and had spells on the North Sea oil-rigs. In later years he was a regular at Ibrox to watch his beloved Rangers but travelled from his home in Redcar to Coventry on several occasions to attend Former Players Association functions. In 2007 he attended a 40th anniversary reunion of the 1967 team and he was at his impish, mischievous best, cracking the jokes & having great fun with his former mates. When Jimmy Hill entered the room he spotted the Scot, made a bee-line for him and the two hugged like long lost lovers. Jimmy has gone, now 'Gibbo' has passed - my boyhood heroes are disappearing fast.

Coventry City record


League
goals
Cup
goals
Total games
Total goals
1966-67
31
8
3
1
34
9
1967-68
14+1
0
3
0
17+1
0
1968-69
17+1
3
4
1
21+1
4
1969-70
28+1
2
1
0
29+1
2
Total
90+3
13
11
2
101+3
15




Monday, 16 May 2016

Statistical review of the 2015-16 season

When assessing Coventry City's season one has to remember the state of the club a year ago – having to come from behind to win at Crawley to retain League One status after a season which was miserable even by Sky Blue standards, with only six home wins. The first-half of this season was remarkable and City were top of the pile after 20 games. Expectations rocketed but a miserable March with four consecutive defeats cost City dearly. The highlights of the campaign were Armstrong's scoring exploits and the autumn form of Murphy, Charles-Cook's record-breaking run and a host of classic matches at home (Peterborough, Gillingham & Bury) and away (Millwall & Crewe). The goals flowed & the defence was so much tighter & the form brought the fans back with crowds up 34%. There is lots of optimism that next season could see a host of records beaten – let's hope so!

Games: Coventry City played 49 competitive games this season, 46 league, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup & 1 Football League Trophy (Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) .

Points: The Sky Blues gathered 69 league points during the season. This was fourteen more than in 2014-15 and the highest total since three points were introduced for a win in 1981. The club have the unenviable record of being the only FL club not to have reached 70 points in a season since that rule change. The previous best was 66 when the club finished 11th in 2001-02.

Home Form: The home record was much improved: won 12, drew 6, lost 5. Twelve wins equals the club's best for a season since 1986-87 when there were 14 victories. On four occasions since 1987 they have won twelve, the last time being the first season at the Ricoh in 2005-06. Only five defeats were suffered at home, the lowest for a home season since 2005-06 (four). One of those defeats was to Steven Pressley's Fleetwood. Pressley was the first former City manager to return & win in Coventry since Harry Storer with Birmingham in 1947. It was the first time the team have won more than 50% of home games since that debut season at the Ricoh.

Away Form: The away record: won 7, drew 6, lost 10, earned 27 points, one short on the previous season. City won at Millwall for the first time in 17 visits since their last victory there in 1955. The victory at Blackpool was the first there since 1925. There was no luck however at Swindon (last league win there since 1960), or Rochdale (where City have never won in nine visits now).

Biggest win: The biggest win of the season was the 6-0 home victory over Bury in February which was the biggest league win since the 8-1 thrashing of Shrewsbury in 1963 and the first 'six' at home since Derby were defeated 6-1 in 2005-06. The 5-0 win at Crewe was the biggest away win for three years – since they won by the same score at Hartlepool.

Biggest defeat: The 0-3 defeat at Southend in January was the biggest defeat and the heaviest home league defeat was a 0-2 loss to Burton. No team scored more than three goals against the Sky Blues – the first instance of this since 1997-98.

Goals for: The goals for total of 67 was a big improvement on 2014-15's 49. On only two occasions in the last 49 years has that total been bettered (1977-78 (75) and 2013-14 (74). 41 of those goals came at home, and looked to be the best in the division until Peterborough's goal rush against Blackpool on the final day. It equalled the total home goals at Sixfields in 2013-14 and is the best haul since 1977-78. City, amazingly, failed to score in fourteen league games (the same as last season) but scored more than two goals on ten occasions in the league compared to only two in 2014-15.

Goals against: Despite criticism from some quarters City conceded only 49 goals – 11 less than last season and 28 less than 2013-14. It is the lowest number conceded since 1997-98 (44) and the lowest in a 46-game season since 1958-59 (43). The away goals conceded was impressive – just 25 in 23 games and the lowest since 1988-89 (19 in 19 games). The team kept sixteen clean sheets in the league, only two short of the club record of 18 set in 1938-39 and 1958-59. Reice Charles-Cook kept Thirteen and Lee Burge three.

Amazing first-halves: On three occasions the Sky Blues scored four goals without reply in the first-half: Gillingham (h), Crewe (a) & Bury (h). This had only happened twice in the last 50 years (v Derby in the last game at Highfield Road in 2005 and v Preston a year earlier).


Final position: The final position of 8th was nine places higher than 2014-15 and the first top half finish since 2005-06 when they also finished 8th. They are the only club, bar long-serving Premiership clubs and recent promotees from the Conference, not to have been promoted or reached the play-offs since the play-offs were introduced in 1987 nor to finish in the top six of a division. The club did top the League One table for three weeks in November and December – the first time they had headed any division, other than early season, since November 2001.

Leading scorers: Adam Armstrong was leading scorer with 20 goals, all in the league. Jacob Murphy was runner up with 10 goals (9 league, 1 cup). Armstrong is only the third player in the last 49 years to score 20 or more league goals, following in the footsteps of Ian Wallace (21 in 1977-78) and Callum Wilson (21 in 2013-14). Eighteen different players were on the score-sheet during the season equalling the club high set in 2003-04.

Doubles: City achieved the double over two sides, Millwall & Crewe. . On the other hand only Scunthorpe did the double over City .

Appearances: Romain Vincelot celebrated his first season at Coventry by starting the most league games. He played in 45 out of 46, only missing the Port Vale away game through suspension. The Frenchman started the League Cup tie at Rochdale but was omitted from the other two cup games. Sam Ricketts also started 46 in total (43 league and 3 cup). John Fleck started 43 games in total (40 league & 3 cup). It was the third season running that Fleck has made over 40 league appearances and he was only missing through injury & suspension. For the fifth season running no outfield player was an ever present in the league – the last to do so was Richard Keogh in 2010-11 – but Vincelot made more appearances than any outfield player since Keogh.

Players used: Thirty-nine players were used in league and cup games - two more than in 2014-15 and five short of the club record of 44 in 2002-03. Of the 39, 24 players made their debuts during the season and three, Ivor Lawton, Lateef Elford-Alliyu and Bassala Sambou, only appeared in cup games. Ten loan players were used. In addition to the 39 players used, four more, Ben Stevenson, Danny Swanson, Adam Jackson and Corey Addai sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used.

Home-grown players: Of the 39 players used 14 of them (including loanees Ben Turner & Gael Bigirimana) were home grown products of the Academy. It is now more than six years that a City team did not include a home-grown player.

Records: John Fleck took his total appearances to 182 & is now 54th on the club's all-time appearance chart, level with Greg Downs, David Smith, Dele Adebola and Carl Baker. Only one other player, Conor Thomas, has reached the 100 appearance milestone – he has now played 117 games.

Goalkeeping record: In his first season Reice Charles-Cook broke Steve Ogrizovic's post-war shut-out record. First he became the first City goalkeeper to not concede a goal in his first four league games and then at Swindon he overtook Oggy's record and went on to keep a clean sheet for a total of 580 minutes before two late Swindon goals. He finished just 28 minutes short of Horace Pearson's record, set in 1934.

Substitutes: Marcus Tudgay made the most substitute appearances (19 league) – whilst Ruben Lameiras was the most substituted player (16 times). Seven substitutes came off the bench and scored: Tudgay did it three times (Swindon a, Fleetwood h, Millwall h), the others were Maddison (Port Vale h), Murphy (Walsall a), Rose (Bradford h) and Lameiras (Sheff.United h). Tudgay is the first City player to score three from the bench since Patrick Suffo in 2004-05 (one league, two League Cup) and no City player has scored four from the bench in a season. In the home game with Doncaster City did not use a substitute for only the second time in almost four years. Rose's goal against Bradford was timed at 35 seconds after he entered the pitch & is probably the second fastest by a substitute (after Wayne Andrews' goal at Barnsley in 2006).

Average attendance: Home 12,570 (2014-15 9,332), up 34.7% & the third highest in League One, behind Sheffield United & Bradford City. Away 7,665 (2014-15 7,397), up 3.6% & the third highest in the division, behind Wigan & Sheffield United. If away fans are stripped out of the attendances, the average home following was 11,633 up 38% from 8,431.

Highest home attendance: The biggest league crowd was 17,779 for the Boxing Day game against Port Vale. Apart from last season's game with Gillingham this was the highest City league crowd for four years, since Easter 2012 when over 18,000 watched Peterborough play. There was only one home cup-tie – Northampton in the FA Cup – but a large contingent of Cobblers' fans boosted the crowd to 9,124, the highest home crowd in the competition since Chelsea came in 2009.


Lowest home attendance: The lowest league crowd of the season was 9,942 for the Rochdale game in March. This compares well with the lowest Ricoh crowd in 2014-15 - only 6,885 watched a midweek game versus Scunthorpe.

Away followings:
For league games City’s away following averaged 1,339 (2014-15 1,002), an increase of 33.6% The best following of the season was 2,883 to Blackpool, closely followed by 2,636 to Chesterfield at Christmas. The smallest was 535 for the midweek trip to Barnsley, although only 400 City fans attended the cup games at Rochdale & Yeovil. Swindon brought 2,432 fans to the Ricoh in March, the largest league away following but Northampton's Cup following of 2,509 topped that. At the other extreme, Fleetwood brought only 111 fans in February, ten less than the previous season and the lowest following since the Ricoh opened in 2005.

Highest away attendance: The biggest away league crowd was at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane (18,074).

Lowest away attendance: The smallest away crowd was 2,495 at Rochdale in October. This was the smallest away league crowd for a City game since 2,077 watched City play Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in 2002 and the third lowest away league crowd since the war. At Yeovil in the Football League Trophy (JPT) there were only 1,605 present and 400 of them came from Coventry. It was the lowest crowd to watch the Sky Blues in that competition.

Won from behind: (4) City came from behind to win on four occasions versus Peterborough (h) (for the third season running), Burton (a), Colchester (a) & Millwall (h).. For the second season running City came from two goals down to beat Posh after 29 years since the last league two goal comeback. On three occasions the team came from behind to get a draw Southend (h), Chesterfield (a) & Rochdale LC (a) but in the latter game lost on penalties. 15 points were won from losing positions, one more than last season.

Lost from in front: (1) The only game City lost after being in front was at Shrewsbury. In six games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws. At Swindon City threw away a two goal lead to draw – the fourth season running that a lead has been thrown away & resulting in a total of nine points dropped. . 13 points were lost from leading positions which was a massive improvement on last season's 26 lost points.

Best run: The Sky Blues went unbeaten in eleven league games after losing at Bury in September before losing at Bramall Lane on 13 December. This was the club's best run since 2001 when Roland Nilsson's side went 11 without loss. If they had avoided defeat at Sheffield it would have been the best run since Jimmy Hill's promotion side's 25-game run in 1967. The season started with three wins which, when added to the victory at Crawley on the last day of 2014-15 meant a run of four successive victories for the first time since December 2002. The team were unbeaten in league games at home until January, a total of 13 home games – the best home start to a season since 1955 under Jesse Carver (15). The run was the best home run at the Ricoh and the best since 1978-79 when Gordon Milne's team were unbeaten for 15 home games.

Worst run: Up until January the team did not lose consecutive games then a three loss run followed a run of four successive defeats in 11 days at the start of March proved to be the definitive part of the season.It was the worst run of losses since the dark days of September 2012 when Richard Shaw was caretaker manager.

Hat-tricks: (2) After six years without a Sky Blue hat-trick we got two in two months. At home to Gillingham, Jacob Murphy scored the fastest post-war hat-trick (10 minutes) and the first first-half hat-trick since Kevin Gallacher in 1990. Then at Crewe Adam Armstrong became the youngest ever hat-trick scorer with his three in the 5-0 win breaking Tom English's 35-year record. It was also City's first away league hat-trick since Lee Hughes at the same ground in 2002. Prior to this Armstrong had netted five braces including the first debutant to score two goals on his first appearance at home since Robbie Keane in 1999.

Opposing hat-tricks: (0) No opposing player scored a hat-trick. Several managed two including Bury's Leon Clarke, Barnsley's Josh Scowen, Doncaster's Nathan Tyson and Southend's Tyrone Bennett. Walsall's Tom Bradshaw and Sheffield United's Billy Sharp scored home and away against the Sky Blues. Sharp has an outstanding record against City with six goals in eight games. This season only two former City players netted against City, former loanee Danny Philliskirk scored for Oldham and Clarke was the other. Last season six former players scored. Clarke was the first ex-player to score a brace against City since Steve Whitton for West Ham in 1983.

Own goals: For City: (1) Richard Wood (Fleetwood) was the first ex-City man to score an own goal since Jon Stead at Bristol City in 2012.

Own goals: By City: (2) Aaron Martin (Burton a) and Chris Stokes (Northampton FAC h)

Penalties: For City: (3) City's pitiful penalty record continued with three successes from six attempts. Armstrong (2) and Fortune were the scorers. O'Brien, Tudgay and Murphy the missers. City have scored just four from the last 13 spot-kicks. In addition City lost two penalty shoot-outs in cup competitions – at Rochdale in the League Cup (3-5) and at Yeovil in the FLT (JPT) (3-4).

Penalties: Against City: (6) Six opposition players netted from the spot - Mooney (Southend h), Clarke (Bury a), Scowen (Barnsley h), Barnett (Southend a), Henderson (Rochdale) & Sharp (Sheff.United). Two opponents missed penalties – Lee Burge saved Millwall's Gregory's penalty & Reice Charles-Cook saved Wigan's Grigg's penalty.

Fastest Goal scored: 2 minutes: Ryan Kent scored after two minutes of the home game with Barnsley.

Fastest Goal conceded: 5 minutes: Chris Stokes' own goal against Northampton was timed at five minutes.

Red cards: Coventry: (2): Ricketts (Sheff.United a) & Vincelot (Scunthorpe h) This is the highest number since 2010-11 but short of the record seven set in 2001-02 & 2002-03.

Red cards: Opponents: (4) Dieseruvwe (Chesterfield h), Deegan (Southend a), Williams (Millwall h) & Davies (Bradford h). Deegan was the first former City player to see red against the Sky Blues since Steve Hunt was ordered off playing for West Brom at Highfield Road in 1985.

FA Cup: For the second season running the Sky Blues lost at home in the first round to a lower status club, League Two Northampton.

Bookings: There was a battle royal between Fleck & Vincelot for the most yellow cards award but Fleck's booking in the final home game clinched the title for the Scot. It was his 13th yellow card with Vincelot on 12 and he earned the award for the third season running.

The Manager: Tony Mowbray has undoubtedly had a big impact on the club & it is interesting to note that of Coventry City managers that have been in charge for at least one whole season, he has the best win ratio of any since Jimmy Hill 50 years ago. His 40.7% win ratio in league games is bettered by only three managers in that time: Roland Nilsson, Eric Black & Mark Robins, none of whom stayed a whole seasoC cn.

Television: The Sky Blues appeared live on television on three occasions, at Burton, Sheffield United & Peterborough. The victory at Burton was the first City televised win since 2008 when a Clinton Morrison goal won the points at St Andrews. Between then and Burton City had failed to win in eight away games on the box.

New Grounds: City played at Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium for the first time & came away with three points, one of only two teams to win there this season.


Man of the Match: Two players shared top place in Andy Turner's Man of the Match awards. Jacob Murphy & John Fleck both won Andy's vote on seven occasions. Reice Charles-Cook was third with five awards and Adam Armstrong and Sam Ricketts each won four. Although he started 12 games, Reda Johnson won only one Man of the Match award. Once again the team's record when he played was amazing- the side only lost three of those 12 games. Over the two seasons he was at the club he started 32 league games and the team's record in those games was won 15, drew 11, lost 6. What a pity he suffered key injuries in both terms.



With many thanks to Paul O’Connor.