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.