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 www.dickkerrladies.com
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.