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.

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