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.