Saturday, 26 December 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 19.12.09

After a run of ten games without a win stretching back to September, the Sky Blues managed to gain all three points against Peterborough United last Saturday but it was a close run thing. When Posh scored their equalising goal things looked bleak for Chris Coleman and it was hard not to imagine a loud anti-Coleman protest if Freddy Eastwood had not completed his hat-trick and clinched the points for the Sky Blues. The bad run came to an end but it was hardly convincing. It was, by the way, City’s first home win on a Saturday since the 1-0 win over Doncaster in March!
Freddy was the star of the show and rightly got all the plaudits in the press.

Coventry City hat-tricks are as rare as an MP’s honest expense claim. Unbelievably it was the first City league hat-trick for almost eight years – since Lee Hughes scored three at Crewe in a 6-1 romp in early 2002. You have to go back even further to find the last home league hat-trick, that was Darren Huckerby in a 4-0 win over Nottm. Forest in 1999. In fact it is only the third home hat-trick in twenty years and the last ten league hat-tricks for the Sky Blues are:

1.10.88 David Speedie v Middlesbrough (h) lost 3-4
2.1.89 David Speedie v Sheffield Wed (h) won 5-0
14.8.93 Mick Quinn v Arsenal (a) won 3-0
14.3.95 Peter Ndlovu v Liverpool (a) won 3-2
4.12.95 Dion Dublin v Sheffield Wed (a) lost 3-4
9.8.97 Dion Dublin v Chelsea (h) won 3-2
25.4.98 Darren Huckerby v Leeds (a) draw 3-3
9.1.99 Darren Huckerby v Nottm Forest (h) won 4-0
9.2.2002 Lee Hughes v Crewe (a) won 6-1
12.12.2009 Freddy Eastwood v Peterborough (h) won 3-2

During the period Kevin Gallacher, Huckerby, John Aloisi & Gary McSheffrey have all scored hat-tricks in cup games with McSheffrey’s the last against Rushden & Diamonds in 2002.

We can only imagine what fun it was watching Coventry City in 1931-32, that season the immortal Clarrie Bourton scored seven hat-tricks in his haul of 49 league goals. That is more than City players have managed in the last 14 years.
Since Hughes’ three goal strike at Crewe in 2002, two players have scored league hat-tricks against the Sky Blues. In 2004-05 QPR’s Jamie Cureton scored three in the 4-1 victory at Loftus Road and in 2005-06 Vincent Pericard of Plymouth netted all three in Argyle’s 3-1 win.

Talking of Argyle, City travel there today in a vital game trying to end their Home Park bogey. Since Plymouth came into the Championship in 2004 City have lost four out of the five games there, drawing the first one. This is one record that needs breaking today!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 12.12.09

Peterborough United play the Sky Blues this afternoon in their first league visit to the city for 46 years. The two clubs have not been in the same division since Coventry City won the Third Division championship in 1964 and ‘Posh’ almost stymied the Sky Blues celebrations by beating them at London Road in the penultimate game.

Back in the days when there was no automatic promotion into the Football League, Peterborough were one of the premier non-league clubs for several years – winning the Midland League in five successive seasons and losing only one home game during that time. In 1960 they were finally elected into the league at the fourteenth attempt, replacing Gateshead and they took the Fourth Division by storm, scoring 134 goals (with Terry Bly netting 52 of them) on their way to the championship.

In 1961-62 they looked set to go straight through to Division Two, especially after they thumped City 3-1 at Highfield Road in September in the first ever meeting of the clubs. The following February City, now under the management of Jimmy Hill, got revenge by winning 3-2 at London Road thanks to goals by Ken Satchwell (2) and Albert McCann. Posh generally had a big away following and the game at Coventry attracted the biggest crowd of the season, almost 20,000. Posh eventually finished fifth, comfortably ahead of City in 14th.

In 1962-63 the fixture planners gave the two clubs a Christmas double-header. City travelled to London Road on Boxing Day in ninth position to face the league’s pace setters, six points better off in top place. The Sky Blues, who had only won once on their travels, outclassed Posh on a frozen surface to win 3-0 with ex-Posh star Bly netting two. Three days later in the return game on a snowbound pitch City came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 in front of over 25,000. At one stage it looked like Posh, managed by former City boss Jack Fairbrother, and the Sky Blues would be promoted but both teams ran out of steam and Northampton and Swindon went up.

In 1963-64 City were irrepressible but in November Posh came to Highfield Road and went two up in twenty minutes, only for Hill’s men to bounce back and win 3-2. A 29,663 crowd paid record receipts of almost £5,000. The Peterborough bubble seemed to have burst but when 12,000 City fans trekked across to London Road for that vital penultimate game Posh put City on the rack and won 2-0 in front of over 26,000. Fortunately City were able to clinch promotion (and the championship) on the final day by virtue of victory over Colchester and results going their way elsewhere.
Posh’s best days were over and it took almost 30 years before they reached level two of the league. Now they are back again but who knows for how long.

Wednesday night’s defeat to Newcastle means that City are without a win in ten league games going into today’s game. That is the club’s second worst run since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2001, bettered (if that is the right word!) only by the disastrous run under Gary McAllister in 2003. Gary’s team failed to win any of their last 12 games in the 2002-03 season and the first four games of the 2003-04 season, making a total of 16 league games without a win. The club’ worst ever run was back in 1919 when, after joining the Football League they failed to win any of their first 19 games.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 5.12.09

Another pic of Steve Mokone taken with Charles Buchan soon after Kalamazoo arrived from South Africa. Love the suit.

At the start of the season I pointed out that there were seven away grounds in the Championship where City have never won a league game: Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, Preston, Cardiff’s new stadium, Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park, Middlesborough’s Riverside Stadium and Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. I predicted that if City failed to win at all of these grounds then the chances were they would not be in the play-off mix. Tomorrow City play at Scunthorpe having already failed to win at Doncaster, Preston and Cardiff and the game is arguably the easiest of the seven. However whilst Scunthorpe are below the Sky Blues in the table and have a poor away record (seven defeats in nine), they are no slouches at home and have defeated Newcastle and Sheffield United at Glanford. This is a game City cannot afford to lose, especially with in-form Newcastle in town next week. Whilst last Saturday’s draw at QPR was a good result, it is now eight games without a win, the sort of poor run that gets managers sacked, and games against lower half teams have to be won.

Tottenham’s recent 9-1 victory over Wigan Athletic (with ex-City keeper Chris Kirkland between the sticks for the Latics) prompted Dave Long to ask whatever happened to Alan Miller, City’s goalkeeper on that fateful day at Stamford Bridge in City’s relegation season. Kirkland, playing only his second league game, was sent off after 20 minutes for bringing down Jimmy Floyd Hassailbank and on-loan keeper Alan Miller had to go on and immediately face a penalty kick. Hassailbank scored from the spot and went on to hit another three goals with Tore Andre Flo and Zola also netting before Cedric Roussel scored an 88th minute consolation goal to make the final score 6-1.

It was the only appearance in a City shirt for Miller who was on loan from Blackburn Rovers at the time due to injuries to Magnus Hedman and Morten Hyldegaard. He sat on the City bench a few more times before returning to Ewood Park. The following season Miller was loaned out to St Johnstone where he made 15 appearances before a back injury ended his career. That career had started as a 14-year old at Arsenal and in 1988 he was in the Gunners’ FA Youth Cup winning team. Despite winning four England under 21 caps his opportunities were limited by the form of John Lukic and later David Seaman. His debut came in 1992 when he was the very first Arsenal substitute goalkeeper and he made nine appearances over the next two years as well as loan spells with Birmingham and West Brom. In 1994 he joined Middlesbrough for £500,000 and made 60 or so appearances before a move to Hawthorns where for the first time he became a regular first teamer.

Pat Morris wanted to know if a Mike Briscoe played for City in the 1930s. I could confirm that he never played for the first team (nor any other league team) but fellow historian Mike Young was able to tell us that he was listed in a December 1935-6 programme as a reserve playing in the London Combination (a right half I believe). He is showing as having played five games and scoring one goal. He isn't in the team lists in programmes from February 1936 on so probably left the club in early 1936.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 28.11.09

Local footballers from the 1960s may remember John Keating. He e-mailed from South Africa last week after reading my article about Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone. John was born and grew up in Coventry and lived at Roman Road, Holbrooks where he tells me there was a house owned by the club. He remembers Norman Lockhart and Eddie Johnson living there in the early 1950s.

John went to Ullathorne School and served an apprenticeship at the Dunlop from 1960-65. He recalls that in the drawing office at that time was George Cole the famous scrum half in the legendary Coventry Rugby Side at that time.

It sounds like John had some soccer talent and he played for Dunlop in the Coventry and North Warwickshire league 1960-64 and during that period he appeared a couple of times for City’s A team at Shilton alongside Dietmar Bruck and Albert McCann.
In I964-65 he played for Bermuda WMC who won everything including the Telegraph Cup under the captainship of Harold Fenn. In 1966 he was signed by Burton Albion manager Peter Taylor, the former City goalkeeper who soon afterwards left to join Brian Clough at Hartlepool and later won the League Championships with Derby and Forest. During his period at Burton he also spent a summer in Canada playing for Hamilton Primos in the Canadian League.

In 1969 he emigrated to South Africa and played professionally for several years for Powerlines and later in Durban in the amateur league. He always followed the Sky Blues and in 1987 flew back for the Cup final and was outside the Council house the next day.

He is now 65 and works as a Mining Consultant in Johannesburg and is preparing for semi retirement. He is looking forward to next year’s World Cup and advises all England fans not to be nervous about South Africa as he thinks the bad publicity is exaggerated.

He wanted reminding of the famous game against San Lorenzo at Highfield Road in 1956. San Lorenzo, four times the champions of Argentina from Buenos Aires, were on a tour of Europe, and played several matches in England. The previous Saturday 32,000 Wolves fans had watched their team beat San Lorenzo 5-1, but not before the Wolves players had to give protection to Mervyn Griffiths, the Welsh referee, after Argentinian players had threatened him when he awarded Wolves a penalty.
Another leading referee, Arthur Ellis, later to earn fame on It’s A Knockout, was appointed to take charge of the match at Coventry. On a cold January night the game was approaching half-time when the trouble started. Ken McPherson had given City the lead after half an hour, only for Guttierez to equalise a minute later.

Just before half-time City’s Dennis Uphill hit a post and, with the goalkeeper out of position, he was about to score when he was pushed off the ball by two defenders. Ellis immediately awarded Coventry a penalty, which the whole San Lorenzo team disputed. Sanfilippo, the inside left, went further and kicked Ellis in a temperamental outburst. Ellis ordered him off and there followed five minutes of mayhem.

According to newspaper reports of the evening’s events, “police were called on to the pitch to give Ellis protection and the 19-year old Sanfilippo was dragged from the pitch by his team’s reserve players and trainer, kicking and struggling like a wild tiger cat”. Ellis, meanwhile, had walked off the pitch and told officials of both clubs he was abandoning the game as he refused to continue under “impossible conditions”.

“The player kicked at my legs and I collared him, although all the Argentine players mingled in so that I could not get at the offender. I told him to get off but he refused to leave the field,” Ellis said.

After half an hour of appealing to Ellis to continue the game, the Coventry chairman, Erle Shanks, told the crowd of 17,357 the game had ended as Ellis refused to continue and under FA rules a substitute referee was not allowed. The crowd, which previously had been whistling and slow hand-clapping, received the decision well and quickly dispersed from the ground.

After the game, Coventry officials and players mingled with their visitors in the boardroom and chairman Shanks presented the chairman of San Lorenzo, Luis Traverso, with a plaque. Traverso, through an interpreter, expressed his deep regret for the incident. He said that Sanfilippo would be sent back to Argentina on the first available plane as his punishment and that the rest of the team would be severely censured.

Sanfilippo did not fly home until the team got to Paris a few days later. He went on to become a San Lorenzo legend, scoring 200 goals — a club record that stands today — and won 29 caps for Argentina, scoring 21 goals.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 21.11.09

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the dearth of ex-City players playing in the top flight of English football but this week Nick Cook alerted me to one playing in the French top flight who captained his country to the World Cup finals this week. In 2003 French-born Algerian Yazid Mansouri impressed City’s manager Gary McAllister during a trial and signed on a year-long loan from French club Le Havre. His lack of experience of the English game was exposed at first but he worked hard and won a place in central-midfield alongside Moroccan Youssef Safri. Just as he began to look a reasonable player his decision to feature for Algeria in the African Nations Cup in the New Year upset the club and his loan contract was terminated. He now plays for Lorient in France’s Ligue 1 and has been a big factor in the small town club’s survival against the odds in the top division in the last three seasons. On Wednesday Algeria clinched their place in South Africa with a famous 1-0 win over arch rivals Egypt in a play-off game in Sudan.

Martin Ross wanted to know the team line ups and match details of the away game at Stoke in 1985 when City were left to get nine points from three games to overhaul Norwich and avoid relegation. A flu epidemic at Easter had caused City to postpone several games and they had to rearrange three games after the official end of the season. The first of the three games was played on the eve of the FA Cup final, at Stoke’s Victoria Ground. The teams lined up as follows:-
City: Ogrizovic: Butterworth, Pearce, Hibbitt, Kilcline, Peake, Bennett, McGrath, Regis, Gibson, Adams. sub Gynn (for Hibbitt)

Stoke: Fox: Bould, Hemming, Maskery, Dyson, Berry, Heath, McIlroy, Painter, Saunders, Beeston sub Chamberlain (M) (for Saunders)

Stoke were already relegated having won only three games and gained a record low 17 points. As a result the crowd was a pitiful 6,930, with almost half of that number following the Sky Blues. The game was of a very low standard and riddled with mistakes and a goal from either side looked unlikely until Cyrille Regis’ header hit George Berry’s arm after 66 minutes. Stuart Pearce smashed the spot-kick home to send City’s fans delirious but six minutes from time the referee evened things up by awarding the home side a penalty after Regis was adjudged to have fouled Paul Dyson. Up stepped Ian Painter to strike his penalty on to the underside of the bar and away to safety. City’s 1-0 victory was the first of the three crucial results that ensured safety. The team went on to beat Luton 1-0 and Everton, the newly crowned champions 4-1.

Alex Auchterlonie from Bristol wanted some information for a City-supporting work colleague who retired last week, presumably for a speech. His specific question was: who was City’s leading scorer in the 1969-70 season? The answer is Neil Martin who, during that momentous season that saw the Sky Blues finish sixth in the old First Division and qualify for European football, scored 14 league goals and 1 in the FA Cup, John O’Rourke was second with 11 goals and Ernie Hunt third with nine. In the 12 league games that Martin scored City never lost.

Someone from Galower Builders sent me an email asking the question: which Coventry City players played for England in the 1970s? The answer is none. Only four Coventry City players have represented England at full level whilst playing for the club.

Reg Matthews (5 caps in 1956), Danny Thomas (2 caps in 1983), Cyrille Regis (1 cap in 1988) and Dion Dublin (3 caps in 1998).

Monday, 16 November 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 14.11.09

Gregor Rasiak’s fast goal at the Ricoh Arena for Reading two weeks ago prompted several people to ask if it was the fastest goal in a City game at the new stadium since the move in 2005. Rasiak’s goal was timed at 27 seconds and beats the record held by Clinton Morrison by 10 seconds. Clinton scored in 37 seconds against Ipswich last season and other players who have netted fast goals are:-

Scott Dann (City) 58 seconds v Birmingham (2008-09)
Paul Peschisolido (Derby) 64 seconds v City (2005-06)
Elliott Ward (City) 75 seconds v Nottm Forest (2008-09)

The fastest ever goal by a visiting player is believed to be Dwight Yorke’s 13 second effort for Aston Villa at Highfield Road in September 1995 (Villa won 3-0). The record for the fastest ever goal by a City player at home is held jointly by Eddie Brown and Gary McSheffrey. Brown’s 12- second effort against Reading in 1954, was equalled by Gary in a League Cup game against Colchester in 2002. One second outside the record is Youssef Chippo’s 13-second stunner against Barnsley in 2002.

Next Saturday Crystal Palace come to the Ricoh and will attempt to win at the ground for the fifth successive season. Their four visits to the ground have resulted in victories (4-1, 4-2, 2-0 and 2-0) and their former player Chris Coleman will be doing everything in his power to stop this dreadful run. Checking the history books I believe Palace would have to win this season and next to equal the all-time record set by Aston Villa. Villa won six consecutive games at Highfield Road between 1993 and 1999, beating the record held by Manchester United (five wins between 1992 and 1997) and West Ham (five wins between 1982-87). City overcame all three hoodoos before they left the Premiership in 2001.

Kevin Ring enjoyed the articles about the late Terry Bly and reminisced about the famous City game at Peterborough in 1964 (Terry had left City by this time). The Monday night game at London Road was the penultimate game of the Third Division championship season and the two promotion places were still in the balance. A win for City was almost essential for them to stay in contention but despite being roared on by 12,000 followers they lost 0-2. Kevin recalls arriving at the ground with his father only to find the gates locked. His recollection was that City fans broke down one of the gates and piled in, as he and his dad did. City have only played at Posh once since, on the night of 11 September 2001, the day of the attacks on New York’s twin towers. It was Roland Nilsson's first game in charge, and Kevin got talking to a steward who had been on duty that night in 1964 and was still working. He told Kevin that the police had instructed that the gate be opened to avoid ugly scenes and he got to see the game. Kevin thinks that the crowd that night (26,307) is still Posh’s record crowd. Sorry to disappoint you Kevin but Posh had several larger crowds in the early sixties when ground capacities were so much larger (terraces, less segregation and no police limits). They were a renowned FA Cup side back then and had 28,000 plus crowds against Aston Villa and Sheffield United and then 30,000 plus v Arsenal and Swansea in 1965. However I am fairly confident that the City game in 1964 is still a record league crowd at the ground and, of course, will never be bettered now that the capacity is down to around 14,000.

The Former Players Association goes from strength to strength and now has 152 members, the latest being Sean Flynn who played for the Sky Blues between 1991-95 and now runs a caravan park in Cornwall. The Association is planning to revamp its website ( and is seeking a volunteer to advise it on the optios available and help update it on a regular basis. Anyone with a suitable background interested in helping the Association out should contact me via email.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 7.11.09

Steve Mokone pictured with George Raynor, City's manager in 1956.

James Hunt wrote to me last week wanting to know more about Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone, Coventry City’s first ever black player in the 1950s. Not only was he the first black South African to play first-class football in England but also the first to play outside his native country. Although he only played five games for City his story is an amazing one that has been the subject of two books and a film.

There was a real buzz in 1956 when Mokone arrived at Highfield Road. He hailed from Doornfontein and played for Home Stars FC, also appearing for the Natal Province XI and the South African Bantu XI- the highest honour at the time for a non-European in the country. He wrote to City for a trial after seeing their name in his local paper and Charles Buchan, the legendary Sunderland, Arsenal and England player, put up £100 for his fare. It took the South African authorities almost a year to issue Steve with his passport. ‘Kalamazoo’ as he was nicknamed had wonderful dribbling skills and devastating pace. His touch and trickery was something rarely seen in Division Three and sadly were not appreciated by the club’s management at the time. He played just four first team games and one friendly for City, scoring one goal before a disagreement over the long-ball tactics with manager Harry Warren saw him given a free-transfer. I have heard stories of how, after training at Highfield Road, Mokone would lay bets with Reg Matthews, City’s England international goalkeeper, that he could score penalties against him, and usually won handsomely.

He joined Dutch club Heracles of Almelo, a small town near the German border, and in the 1957-58 season he helped them win the championship of Division 3 B and was voted player of the season by the fans. He played for Heracles for two seasons becoming a local legend, even appearing in a friendly game against Santos of Brazil for whom Pele appeared. There is a street named after Mokone in Almelo and one of the stands in Heracles’ Polman Stadion is also named after him.

In 1959 he tried his luck in the Football League again and joined Cardiff City, then a Second Division side. He played only two games for the Welsh side, including a 3-2 win over Liverpool when he scored the opening goal. The club tried to force him to play through an ankle injury and Mokone refused; he was not selected for the first team again. Next stop was Barcelona who loaned him out to Marseille. He never appeared for either club but in the south of France he ran a small factory manufacturing ‘Mokone’ football boots. In 1961 in a spell with Barnsley, he made a solitary appearance.

He married South African Joyce Maaga in 1961 and after a year in Rhodesia they moved to Italy where he had a brief period with Torino. In one match he scored four goals against Verona and was hailed as the new Eusebio (then the top African player in the world).

In the mid 1960s he moved to the USA and became a mature student, ultimately gaining three degrees and qualifying as a Doctor of Psychology. Mokone was arrested - and reportedly brutalised - by police in 1977 on a charge of credit card fraud which Mokone says was fabricated. A day after his release, police arrested him and charged him with assaulting his wife. Mokone was found guilty and served nine years in jail. He has maintained his innocence all along. Journalist Tom Egbers later discovered evidence that South African authorities had asked the American CIA to bring Mokone, who had been increasingly political in the US, to heel. After leaving prison – where he ran the library and the football team – he took up his psychology again before retiring with heart trouble in 1992. Now aged 78 he lives in Virginia, USA and is on the waiting list for a heart transplant. In 2006 he was inducted into the South African Sports Hall of Fame.

My statistics on the number of players Coventry City have used since they were relegated in 2001 caused fellow historian Paul O’Connor to point out the number of debutants in each of the nine seasons.



















He says: ‘With an average of over 17 per season (excluding this season as I expect more yet!) it truly demonstrates what a revolving door we have had. What is most compelling is that 2002-03 and 2003-04 (the truly awful McAllister seasons) saw the two highest seasons for debuts apart from 1919-20 (when City started from scratch and were thrown in at the deep end). To throw in the likes of Mackey, Noon and Bates and hope they swim was awful and thankfully Isaac Osbourne lived to tell the tale.’

Paul continues: ‘To put it in context, across City’s Football League history since 1919 there is an average of 10 debutants per season, so there has not been a single season below that average since relegation. It is not surprising that we have performed so badly.’

JIM'S COLUMN 31.10.09

With the arrival of the two new loan signings, Gary Madine from Carlisle and Chris Hussey from AFC Wimbledon, the discussion in the pub before last week’s game was about the number of players City have used since they left the Premier League. It’s a perennial discussion and with eleven debutants in League and Cup already this season any thoughts that the revolving doors at the Ricoh would seize up with lack of use have been forgotten.

I was tasked with coming up with the number of players used, the number of loan players used and how many of the players used since 2001 are still in League football.

In the eight and a bit seasons since the drop to the second tier in 2001, City have used 173 different players, an average of almost 20 new faces a season. Of those 57 have been loan players but that excludes players who subsequently signed a contract. The numbers of loanees has dropped appreciably in the last five seasons from a peak of 11 in 2004-05 (the Peter Reid/Micky Adams season) to seven the following season, five in 2006-07, then two in each of the next two seasons and this season’s four. If as is expected Hussey and Madine are signed on permanent deals in January this season’s total could drop to two. As the quantity has dropped the quality, it could be argued, has risen with the last six loan players, before the new pair, being Jack Cork, Patrick Van Aanholt, Jordan Henderson, Lee Sawyer, Zavon Hines and Kasper Schmeichel. Of these six only Sawyer has been a bad loan, although he got little chance to show us what he could do.

On to the interesting part. Of the 173 players who have appeared in the nine seasons, 30 are still on the club’s books (or like Michael Doyle on loan). Of the remaining 143 who have left the club in that period, 89 (or 62%) are either retired or no longer playing league football. The full analysis is as follows:-
Premier League 9
Championship 17
Leagues 1 & 2 21
Scottish League 7
No longer playing 30
Total 143

More detailed analysis reveals that a number of the players ‘still playing’ have appeared very infrequently and could never be classed as regulars. For example the Premier league nine are (Chris Kirkland, Stephen Warnock, Scott Dann, Henderson, Hines, Gary McSheffrey, Calum Davenport, Marton Fulop and Andy Marshall). Only the first two have been regulars although Henderson and Scott Dann look set to become regulars and four of the nine were loanees at City.
Amongst the 17 playing in the Championship there are some outstanding players who hold down a regular place in a good team, for example Jay Bothroyd, Louis Carey, Stephen Bywater and the perennial Dele Adebola. But conversely there are a number who rarely get a game for various reasons like David McNamee at Plymouth, Leon McKenzie at Charlton, Stern John at Crystal Palace and Ian Bennett at Sheffield United. The conclusions to be drawn from these statistics are that footballer’s careers generally go downhill after playing for the Sky Blues and that the club’s recruitment policy over the last nine seasons has been based on short term objectives, often it can be said, for valid reasons. The large turnover of players is not unique to Coventry City and many other clubs have seen swathes of new players every season. Short termism is so prevalent in the modern game and the huge turnover of managers, who want to ring the changes after arriving at a new club, does not help matters.
A new book out soon unearths new information about the early days of the football club we know today as Coventry City. One of my fellow Coventry City historians, Lionel Bird, had painstakingly researched the early days of organised football in the city and the formation of Singers FC, the works team that ultimately became CCFC. Following his revelation that Willie Stanley, a Wolverhampton man, was a driving force behind Singers football team, Lionel has documented the development of that team into Coventry’s premier football team between 1883 and 1898. I am looking forward to receiving my copy and I am sure it will fill a previously under-researched gap in the history of our great football club.
The book, entitled ‘The Vocalists after the club’s first nickname, is published shortly and all proceeds will go to the Sky Blues Youth Academy.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 24.10.09

Following my recent obituary of former Coventry City striker Terry Bly, City fan Tony Genower wrote asking me to recall an incident involving Bly. According to Tony, the prolific scorer blasted the ball over the bar from a position only a couple of feet from the goal line when it looked impossible for him not to score. He also recalls that the Bishop of Coventry, the Reverend Cuthbert Bardsley, a keen City fan and later President of the club, was present and when Bly missed the open goal City’s fans let fly with a stream of abuse and invective at Terry's dreadful miss, the Bishop was heard to exclaim "Oh.......... folly, ............folly".
I think the game in question was a 1-1 home draw with Northampton in October 1962. Northampton were top of the Third Division but in a similar situation to the present state of affairs in the Championship, City were in 14th position but only five points behind the Cobblers. The game had generated a great deal of interest in Northampton and there was a large contingent from the shoe town to boost the crowd. Alec Ashworth had given the visitors an early lead and Bly had equalised just before the hour. Then three minutes from the end came Bly’s miss. Nemo reported it at the time thus:
‘Northampton’s defence had been split and (goalkeeper) Chic Brodie was stranded yards out of his charge by a cunning Hugh Barr shot that deserved to be a goal, but curled slightly in the last couple of feet to hit the base of the upright.
Out it came to Bly’s feet, but with time to trap it and sidefoot it into the gaping goal, he blasted it over the crossbar. He held his head in disbelief, the 21,985 spectators uttered a mixture of anguish and nervous relief, and the bewildered Cobblers’ players looked as if they just didn’t believe their luck.’
I can’t confirm the reaction of the Bishop of Coventry but from what I have heard it was the sort of thing he would have said. The miss didn’t put Terry off either; his goal sparked a run of 11 goals in 10 league games, including a run of seven consecutive games in which he netted, something City had only seen before from Ray Straw and Clarrie Bourton.
I answered a question for David Kite on his first ever City game recently. He has asked if I could list the City team who lost 0-3 to Burnley on 28 December 1946. The team was: Alf Wood, Charlie Elliott, Lol Coen, Jack Snape, George Mason, Harry Barratt, Norman Smith, Fred Bett, George Lowrie, Peter Murphy, Emilio Aldecoa. The attendance was 26,944, the second highest of the season.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Jim's Column 17.10.09

I’ve had a glut of emails in the last week or so and I will try and deal with most of the queries over the next few weeks.

Ken Foster of Coventry wanted to know what happened to Gary Collier, a centre-half signed by Gordon Milne in the late 1970s. Collier was the first British player to move clubs through the freedom of contract in 1979 and cost City £325,000. The big centre-half was expected to take over from Jim Holton but after a disastrous defeat at Stoke on his debut Collier was dropped in favour of Gary Gillespie and played only one more game (a 0-4 defeat at Liverpool). His move followed a long career as a dependable stopper at Ashton Gate, which ended with a fall-out with manager Alan Dicks. Seven months after arriving at Coventry the club somehow made a profit on him as he moved to US club Portland Timbers for £365,000. In two seasons Collier played over 80 games for the Timbers before joining San Diego Sockers. He has remained in the United States and was coach of San Diego Surf for 14 years.

With Sven Goran Eriksson’s arrival at Notts County, Ken also wanted more information about County’s stay in the old First Division in the 1980s. He thought that they had been in the top flight for one season and had thumped City 5-1 at Highfield Road. You are half right Ken but amazingly County spent four seasons in the top flight between 1981 and 1985 under the stewardship of the wily manager Jimmy Sirrell. In that first season City did succumb to a 5-1 home defeat with goals from Goodwin, Harkouk, Mair, Christie and John Chiedozie. Chiedozie, a Nigerian winger, was probably the most well known of the scorers, and went on to play for Spurs. County’s defensive stars that night were Brian Kilcline, who later moved to Coventry and captained the Sky Blues to victory at Wembley in 1987, and goalkeeper Raddy Avramovic, another player later signed by Bobby Gould but jettisoned by the same manager months later in disgraceful circumstances.

In the four seasons that County played Coventry the Sky Blues failed to gain a single point at Meadow Lane and lost 1-5 there in 1982-83. County returned to the top division in 1991 but this time lasted a solitary season. City however failed again at Meadow Lane, losing 1-0 thanks to a Kenny Sanson own goal. County however did the Sky Blues a massive favour on the final day of the season. With City losing 2-0 at Villa Park and with little hope of getting the result they needed to avoid relegation, County, already doomed to the drop, came from behind to beat Luton and send the Hatters down and hand a reprieve to City.

My piece about the famous Dick, Kerr’s Ladies Football Team last week caused some comments including an email from Ben Pearson. He was surprised to read that ladies football was so popular in the 1920s and went on to say: ‘I have no reason to doubt any of the facts presented, although I did check that today wasn’t 1 April when I enunciated the name of the ladies team – “Dick, Kerr”’. I was able to reassure Ben that it wasn’t a prank, in fact there is an excellent book been published telling the full story of the team entitled 'In a League of Their Own!' by Gail J Newsham and there is also a website

Mrs Jess Clark of Windsor left Coventry many years ago but has fond childhood memories of watching City play. She remembers as a child being let in free at Highfield Road when the gates were opened 20-30 minutes before the final whistle. The kids would patiently wait outside the Kop gates and then rush on to the terraces to glimpse their heroes and watch the final stages of the match. The game she asked to be reminded of was when that great centre-forward George Lowrie burst the ball. It was in October 1947 in a 0-0 draw with Bury. It came near the end of the game and the Coventry Telegraph reported it thus: 'Lockhart..centered perfectly for Lowrie. The centre-forward tried a volley shot, there was a loud report and the wobbling ball case flopped over the corner line.'

Finally it is a rare event for a Coventry City player to be chosen as the Championship player of the month and Leon Best fully deserves the honour. His goals and general all round play has been outstanding this season and as several people have mentioned his form seems to have risen since Giovanni Trappatoni called him into the Republic of Ireland squad. It is fourteen years since Phil Babb made a similar late bid to be part of Jack Charlton's Irish squad for the 1994 World Cup. Babb won a place in the team and returned to Coventry with a massively inflated value and earned a £3.6 million move to Liverpool. If Best were to emulate Babb then sadly City would not be able to cash in as Leon looks certain to be a free agent come next July.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 10.10.09

What a great result at Watford last week. The Sky Blues came from behind to win at Vicarage Road, their first victory there since Micky Adams’ team won there in 2004-05. Admittedly the Hornets had a weakened side following a flu bug and were seriously put to the sword by Cardiff four days later but it was still good to see us win at a bogey ground. Before this season Watford had done the double over City in four of the last seven seasons they have met including the last two seasons. An interesting point to note is that like many of the sides in the Championship this season, Watford have very few players who cost a fee and a lot of homegrown youngsters either on the bench or in the squad. Reality is biting hard this season in the championship and I believe that the three teams relegated from the Premiership will have to shoot themselves in the foot not to go straight back up.

City don’t often come from behind to win a game (only once in the whole of last season at home to Blackpool) and the Watford victory was the first time on the road since the 5-1 win at Colchester in April 2008 when relegation to League One loomed at half-time with City a goal down at Layer Road.

Colin Heys duly celebrated the 40th anniversary of his first Coventry City game last weekend. He posed a few questions for me including the following:

In 1969-70 what sort of season did City have? : Considering they had avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in the previous two seasons Noel Cantwell performed miracles to take City to sixth place and qualify for the Fairs Cup. The success was built on a solid defence and an incredible away record – they won 10 away games, only bettered by champions Everton.

During the 40 years I have been watching them, how many league games, FA Cup games and League Cup games have Coventry won, drawn and lost? :

League : Played: 1672 won: 531 drawn: 466 lost: 675

FA Cup: Played: 110 won: 47 drawn: 24 lost: 39

League Cup: Played: 128 won: 67 drawn: 17 lost: 44

In addition to watching Coventry City in almost 1700 games he has also seen over 300 non-Coventry games including a World Cup final (1990), a European Championships final (1988), a European Cup final (1991), a European Cup Winners Cup final (1995), a UEFA Cup final (1984), a League Cup final (1983) and of course an FA Cup final in 1987. He has seen all the greats of the era including Maradona, Platini, Cruyff and Zidane. His all-time favourite City player is Tommy Hutchison.

Ian Evans of Willenhall sent me a very interesting photograph taken at Highfield Road in 1921. It is of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies Football Team who that year played St Helens Ladies on the ground.

Dick, Kerr, were a firm of tram makers from Preston and their ladies team made headlines after the First World War with their exciting brand of football. The undefeated ladies champions of England hired League grounds and staged matches for charitable causes. The biggest ever crowd recorded for a women's game in England took place at Goodison Park on Boxing Day 1920 when 53,000 people watched Dick, Kerr's Ladies beat their closest rivals, St Helen's Ladies, 4-0.

On 26 February the same teams played at Highfield Road in aid of the Mayor’s Fund for the Relief of Distress, a local charity for the benefit of poor families. Advance publicity stirred the interest, and a crowd approaching 25,000 was reported in attendance. If that figure is accurate it would have constituted a new ground record, but in 1929 when discussing record crowds at the stadium the gate was confirmed as 22,920, 600 short of the record. The team from Preston were again too strong and ran out 8-1 winners.

In October 1921 the Football Association banned women from playing on Football League grounds. The main reason given was that: ‘Complaints have been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged’. Though ladies football continued to take place there was a considerable decrease in interest. The FA ban lasted until 1971.

Monday, 5 October 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 3.10.09

Former City centre-forward Terry Bly sadly passed away last week. Terry had an awesome reputation in the lower divisions in the early 1960s - a reputation built on his goalscoring exploits with first Norwich City in their famous FA Cup run of 1959, then with Peterborough United. Having joined the Canaries, then a Third Division side, from Bury Town in 1956 Bly got few chances in the first team until January 1959 when after scoring his first senior goal the previous week he was retained in the number nine shirt for the Third Round visit of Manchester United. On a snowbound pitch Bly became a Carrow Road legend that afternoon, his two goals helping defeat the Reds 3-0 in a major shock. Another brace followed in round four as First Division Cardiff were defeated 3-2 and in all Bly scored seven goals as City reached the semi-final only to lose to Luton Town in a replay. In a golden four months Terry also scored 22 goals in 23 league games. The following season he was less prolific scoring only seven goals in 25 games but the Canaries romped to promotion to Division Two. That summer however Terry was allowed to move to Peterborough, newly admitted to the Football League. He scored in the club's first ever Football League match, a 3-0 home win over Wrexham, and never stopped scoring in the next eight months notching a Fourth Division record 52 goals. He bagged five hat-tricks and twice scored four goals in a game in that one season as Posh raced to promotion.

Bly slowed down the following season in Division Three when he managed a mere 29 goals, plus four in the cups and in the summer of 1962, to the dismay of the club's fans, Posh accepted an offer of £10,000 from City manager Jimmy Hill.

One of five forwards signed by Hill in the summer of 1962, Terry was an immediate success with a goal on his debut in a 2-0 home win over Notts County. City’s early season form was patchy but in Mid-October the team hit a purple patch and inspired by Terry’s 17 goals in 16 games the Sky Blues remained unbeaten in 23 league and cup games until Manchester United inflicted a 3-1 defeat in the FA Cup sixth round tie at the end of March. Much of his scoring success was down to the service he received from two of the best wingers in City’s history, willie Humphries and Ronnie Rees. Both were capable of going past their full-back with ease and sending pinpoint crosses on to the head of Bly.

The United game proved to be Bly’s final game at Highfield Road and it was a momentous one for him. He put City ahead in five minutes with a diving header and then later, with City trailing 1-2, he hit the underside of the bar and was involved in a controversial incident as he set up a ‘goal’ for Willie Humphries. The referee ruled that Terry had handled the ball when it was clear to virtually everyone that the ball had hit him in the face.

Four days later Hill signed George Hudson from Peterborough for £21,000 - the Hud and Bly had played together for Posh - and Hill made it clear that Hudson would lead the attack in place of Bly. On the Saturday Hudson scored a hat-trick on his debut and Terry played only one more game for City. Rumours circulated about the reasons for Hill’s actions, ranging from a punch-up with Willie Humphries to an affair with a team-mate’s wife. According to Ronnie Farmer who played in the side alongside Bly, none of the rumours were true. He told me last week that Bly was a ‘great bloke’ and a natural goalscorer but Jimmy often criticised him in the dressing room for not working hard enough when he didn’t have the ball. The irony was that Hill replaced him with Hudson, who worked even less!

As City’s faint promotion hopes slipped away during April the fans blamed Hill and argued that Bly would have got them promotion. Hill however was adamant and told Bly and the media that unless there was an injury, Bly would not feature for his team again. Arguably this was the first example of Hill’s talent for knowing when to sell a player and a few years ago Jimmy told me that he had a sixth sense that Terry had lost something and was not going to continue to score prolifically. It was wonderful foresight – Bly was sold to Notts County for £13,000 and scored only four goals the following season as County were relegated to Division Four. Just over a year after leaving Coventry Terry was playing for non-league Grantham United.

Grantham became his home-town and he was player and then manager in a 15-year association with the club as well as running a sports shop in the town until just a few years ago.

This weekend Colin Heys celebrates the 40th anniversary of his first Coventry City game. Colin, one of the founder members of the London Supporters Club in 1976, attended his first game with his father on 4 October 1969 and watched City beat Arsenal 1-0 at Highbury. He tells me that this will be his 1694th Coventry City game – I make that an average of more than 42 games a season – a phenomenal record. He rarely misses a game home or away even though he lives in Kent and does not drive a car!

The line ups that day make interesting reading: City: Glazier, Coop, Bruck, Setters, Curtis, Blockley, Hunt, Gibson, Martin, Carr, Clements. Arsenal: Barnett, Storey, McNab, McLintock, Roberts, Simpson, Robertson, Sammels, Court, Graham, Gould.

Ernie Hunt’s 30th minute goal clinched what was City’s first ever victory at Highbury in front of 28,977. City were in 7th place in the league and went on to qualify for Europe by virtue of a final sixth position. Space does not allow me to answer several questions that Colin posed for me but I will deal with them next week.

Congratulations Colin and long may you continue to follow the Sky Blues.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 26.9.09

I helped settle a bet between father and son Sky Blue fans David and Matthew Kite last week. David, who saw his first game in 1946, bet his son Matthew that City played QPR on a plastic pitch in the 1980s. He was right to a point but for some reason he thought they had played at the White City, the old athletics stadium in West London. I think he was getting confused with a game in 1963 when QPR moved from Loftus Road to the athletics stadium for one season, and City won the final game of the season 3-1 in front of a sparse 3,245 crowd with goals from Ronnie Rees, Ken Hale (pen) and John Sillett. The season had been a financial disaster for QPR and they returned to Loftus Road that summer. They had also played at White City for two seasons between 1931-33 and that was a similar failure, although they did attract a record 41,000 crowd there for an FA Cup tie with Leeds in 1932.

QPR had a plastic pitch at Loftus Road from 1981 to 1988 and City played on it five times, winning twice, 2-0 in 1985-86 (Terry Gibson and John Byrne (og)) and 2-1 in 1987-88 (Regis and Houchen), coming from behind with very late goals. I remember the pitch at the latter game; the ‘carpet’ was literally coming apart at the seams. During the 1980s three other league teams had artificial surfaces, Luton Town, Preston and Oldham, and City played six times on Kenilworth Road’s artificial pitches (they had two) between 1985 and 1990, winning twice.

David reminded me that his first game at Highfield Road was against Burnley at Christmas 1946. He stood with two uncles in front of the main stand on the left hand side and recalls the game: ‘There was a bounce up between City’s hard wing-half Jack Snape and Burnley’s Harry Potts. Jack was a little early in the tackle (as he was some times) and Harry was carried off! Jack followed him as he was sent off! I think City won 2 0.’ (your memory is letting you down David, Burnley actually won 3-0 to inflict City’s only home defeat of the season, and they went on to win promotion. David continued ‘Some years later when I started playing in local football for Whoberley prior to joining Coventry Amateurs, I played against Jack when he was landlord of a public house in Longford. I felt totally in awe and well padded!!’

Mike Versey wanted to know why City’s game against Oldham on Saturday 23 January 1993 kicked off at 5pm. The reason was that it was covered live by Sky. It was the first season of the Premier League and the game was that day's live match. The viewers got 20 minutes of scintillating action as City romped into a three goal lead in 19 minutes through Kevin Gallacher (2) and Peter Ndlovu. Then Gallacher limped off and City lost their way and the scoreline remained the same. The attendance was a paltry 10,515.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Coventry 2 Middlesbrough 2

A great climax yesterday with Leon Best scoring a 95th minute equaliser after City trailed 0-2 at half-time. It was the first time City had come from two goals down to get a result at the new stadium and the first time at home since 1995 when they came from 1-3 down to draw 3-3 with Wimbledon after Richard Shaw and Paul Williams were sent off.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Terry Bly R.I.P.

I've just heard that Terry died of a heart attack yesterday aged 73. His goalscoring exploits made him a legend at Norwich (especially in the great 1959 FA Cup run), Peterborough and Coventry (29 goals in 42 games). He was only at City for 12 months but the fans were up in arms when Jimmy Hill replaced him with George Hudson. Hill of course knew that Terry was going downhill and sold him for a healthy profit and was proved right.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Everton Memorabilia

I've just heard about the new website for Everton's memorabilia and it is impressive. Over 18,000 pieces of memorabilia have been logged and they are in the process of adding images (they have around 1000 so far). You can search by club also to find out what Everton programmes, pictures, etc they have with your club. They also have the Everton minute books on line from 1887 to 1964. I recommend a visit.

Sky Blue Rose with Jim

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

JIM’S COLUMN 19.9.09

Tuesday night’s excellent victory over Sheffield United saw City score more than two goals in a league game for the first time for almost a year. Last October they beat Southampton 4-1 and have failed to score more than two in the subsequent 41 games. It was City’s first victory over the Blades since 2006 when City beat Neil Warnock’s promotion-bound side 2-0 with goals from Dele Adebola and Gary McSheffrey. Sadly there was a sparse crowd at the Ricoh this week, only 14,326, the lowest home league gate since December 2007 when 14,036 watched the 1-0 win over Scunthorpe. The gate on Tuesday was the second lowest in the league since the move to the Ricoh in 2005.

The 50th Anniversary of City’s Fourth Division promotion celebrations went extremely well last week with eleven members of City’s playing staff from 1959 and relatives of five deceased players and the two children of the then manager Billy Frith. Many of the attendees had not seen each other for many years and there was a lot of reminiscing before, during and after the game with all vowing to get together again soon. One extra special guest also attended – Sky Blue Rose. Rose McNulty was famous for providing the recorded telephone messages that kept City fans in touch with news of the club during the Jimmy Hill era. She married City player Dudley Roberts (there on Saturday representing his late father Ted, who was coach of the ’59 team) and it was her first visit to Coventry City for many years. Special thanks go to the G-Casino who provided their facilities before and after the match – comedian Billy Bell has got a great post-match atmosphere going in the casino these days and it was great fun there on Saturday night.

The Former Players Association presented the guests with a specially designed limited edition lapel badge commemorating the 50th anniversary. Only 50 gold-plated versions were produced and a number will be auctioned at future events to raise funds for the Association. There are also 50 silver badges with the same design and these are available at £10 each. Anyone interested in acquiring one should contact me.

Dean Nelson e-mailed me asking for some information on a Youth game at Highfield Road in 1970. He had read that City’s Youth team had beaten Brentford 13-0 and wondered who had scored. I remember watching the game – it was the night before City made their European debut in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and presumably the first team management missed the goal avalanche.

The game was a Southern Junior Floodlit Cup tie and the scorers were Alan Green (5), Colin Randall (3), Trevor Smith (2), Glen Burdett, Jimmy Holmes and Bob Stockley. Green was the undoubted hero with his nap hand of goals and he also hit the woodwork twice and had two efforts cleared off the line. Incidentally the Brentford goalkeeper that night was Paul Priddy who despite the disastrous scoreline went on to play over 100 games in Brentford’s first team and is now goalkeeping coach at Aldershot. City’s youth team were outstanding that season with players such as Bobby Parker, Dennis Mortimer, Alan Dugdale and Mick McGuire. Dennis didn’t play against Brentford, he was in the squad in Plovdiv.

Several eagle-eyed readers spotted not one but two errors in last week’s column. I mentioned that I could find no record of George Curtis starting a game for City in the number 9 shirt. Several people reminded me of the opening game of the 1968-69 season at Hillsborough when with Neil Martin injured and Maurice Setters in top form in the number five shirt, George reluctantly played up front. According the CT match report he looked ‘acutely uncomfortable…and played as if he was doing it because of the exigencies of the situation but really disliking every moment.’ He also missed a gilt-edged chance to make it 1-1 early in the second half and Wednesday ran out 3-0 winners. Steve Coyne pointed out that George also played up front (in the number 8 shirt) in his first start after recovering from a broken leg at Nottingham Forest in City’s first season in the top flight in 1967. It was against Stoke at the Victoria Ground on Easter Tuesday 1968 and he picked up a knock and had to leave the field at half-time in the game which ended 3-3 after City lead 3-1 with 12 minutes left. Steve also reminded me that Maurice Setters, normally a centre-half, played in the number 9 shirt against Newcastle at home in November 1969, but like Curtis at Sheffield made little impression in City’s 1-0 win (Ernie Hunt penalty).

The other error was that Willie Humphries won 11 Northern Ireland caps whilst at Highfield Road, not 10 as I had stated. Willie, who is alive and well and living in his native Northern Ireland, won 14 caps in total, including one with Ards before he joined City and two with Swansea after leaving Coventry.