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.