Tuesday, 21 December 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 18.12.10

The Sky Blues kept another clean sheet in the 0-0 draw at Reading last week, making it four in a row, the best run since 2002. It is now 398 minutes since they last conceded a goal, the Darren Ambrose penalty early in the second half at Crystal Palace last month. The run in 2002 was four games in December that month, which incidentally was enough to earn Gary McAllister his manager of the month award. In all the team went 487 minutes without goalkeeper Morten Hyldegaard conceding a goal. The man who ended the run was Crystal Palace’s Ade Akinbiyi. Amazingly City’s form slumped immediately and they won only one of their remaining 20 games. The games were:-

14 December 2002 Wolves (a) 2-0
21 December 2002 Derby (h) 3-0
26 December 2002 Reading (h) 2-0
28 December 2002 Sheffield U (a) 0-0

The last time City kept five clean sheets in a row was the previous season, in October 2001, when Roland Nilsson’s team were on an 11-game unbeaten run. The fifth clean sheet was a 2-0 home win that briefly lifted them to first place in the league. That run lasted 491 minutes and was finally broken by Preston’s Richard Cresswell, a striker who has haunted the Sky Blues for many years.

There was also a run of five clean sheets during the Don Howe era in 1992. In one of the most boring periods of the club’s history the run consisted of a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace followed by four 0-0 draws (Liverpool (h), Southampton (a), Man United (h) and Norwich (h). In the following game an 83rd minute goal by Sheffield Wednesday’s Viv Anderson meant Steve Ogrizovic had gone 572 minutes without conceding.

The club record for successive clean sheets was set in 1934 when the Bantams, a Division Three (South) team, were more renowned for their goalscoring feats than their defensive abilities. In the five seasons between 1931 and 1936 the team scored 502 league goals with the legendary Clarrie Bourton notching 164 of them. The first of the six clean sheets (which were spread over two seasons) came at Highfield Road as City recorded their record league victory, 9-0 over Bristol City, a week later in the final game of the 1933-34 season there was a 0-0 draw at Clapton Orient. The next season started:

Northampton (h) 2-0
Clapton (a) 1-0
Bournemouth (a) 2-0
Clapton (h) 4-0

In those days goal times are notoriously difficult to rely upon but my estimate is that the team went 649 minutes without conceding before Watford’s Jimmy Poxton put one past City’s keeper Horace Pearson.

At last week’s excellent Diamond Club lunch I bumped into City fan Dennis Cox who reminded me that I had not answered a question he posed some months ago. It concerns former City players Brian Nicholas and Lol Harvey and their arguments over the years about when they faced each other in City v QPR clashes. Brian played for QPR for six years but only once did he come face to face with Lol during that time. It was 29 January 1955 at Loftus Road and Rangers ran out 3-2 winners with goals from Smith, Cameron and Kerrins with Tommy Capel netting twice for City. Lol always reminds me of how he was in the team that 4-0 at Loftus Road in 1952 but unfortunately Brian wasn’t in the QPR side that day. On the subject of Brian it is great to see him back watching games at the Ricoh. He was very poorly earlier in the season but last week he looked back to his best. He won’t thank me for putting this picture from 1951 in the newspaper!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 11.12.10

Another home win last Saturday over struggling Middlesbrough took Coventry City to 33 points, a rare feat in the wilderness years since the club were relegated from the Premier League. In fact that total has been bettered only once in that time, the first season down in 2001-02 when the management partnership of Roland Nilsson and Richard Money looked set to take City straight back or at least get into the top six for a crack at the play-offs. That dream was shattered with a disastrous run of six defeats out of seven in April 2002. At this stage (20 games gone) in 2001 City had reached 34 points and the table shows the record in subsequent years with the manager responsible.

2001-02 (Nilsson) 34 points
2002-03 (McAllister) 27
2003-04 (McAllister) 25
2004-05 (Reid) 25
2005-06 (Adams) 18
2006-07 (Adams) 29
2007-08 (Dowie ) 28
2008-09 (Coleman) 24
2009-10 (Coleman) 19

Strangely the season with the lowest points at this stage, 2005-06, saw City achieve their best finish in those nine seasons by virtue of the influence of Dennis Wise and Don Hutchison. Their introduction to the side, around this time of the year, saw the final 26 games yield 45 points. Now if Aidy Boothroyd’s team could get 45 points from here that would give them a final total of 78 and a virtual shoo-in to the play-offs. One can but dream!

Aron Gunnarsson, assuming he plays at Reading today will become only the seventh overseas player to reach the 100 league game milestone for the club. Aron, now in his third season with the Sky Blues has some illustrious names ahead of him:

1 Peter Ndlovu (Zimbabwe) 177
2 Dele Adebola (Nigeria) 163
3 Arthur Lightening (South Africa) 150
4 Mo Konjic (Bosnia) 138
5 Magnus Hedman (Sweden) 134
6 Youssef Chippo (Morocco) 122

(I have not included any naturalised overseas players e.g. Cyrille Regis)

Talking of overseas players, Geoff Moore who keeps immaculate records of who has played at the Ricoh since it was opened in 2005 tells me that 76 different nations have been represented at the stadium in five years. On Saturday Boro’s striker Tarmo Kink would have been the first Estonian but sadly stayed on the bench. Earlier this season we saw the first Uruguayan at the Ricoh; Barnsley’s Diego Arismendi who is on loan from Stoke. Until Geoff mentioned Arismendi to me I was unaware of him yet Stoke paid almost £3 million for him in 2009 and he has only played one half of a League Cup tie for them. He has apparently won two caps for his country but it does make you wonder how these people get work permits.

Since the move to the Ricoh in 2005 only four penalties have been missed by opponents and on Saturday Boro’s Leroy Lita became the first player to miss two. Westwood saved his spot-kick as did Stephen Bywater did in September 2005 when Lita played for Reading in a 1-1 draw. The other two misses were also both Westwood saves, from Wolves’ Ebanks-Blake in 2009 and Scunthorpe’s Gary Hooper last season. Over the same period four City players have missed spot-kicks: Michael Doyle, Elliott Ward, Sammy Clingan and Leon Best.

Monday, 6 December 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 4.12.10

Last Saturday’s win at Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park was not only City’s first victory at the Irons’ new ground but also the first in the town. City had never played a league game there until 2008 but had lost on their two visits prior to Saturday as well as losing an FA Cup tie in 1935 when Scunthorpe were a Midland League side.

Even accounting for the freezing weather the attendance on Saturday was a pitifully low 4,397, making it the smallest league crowd to watch City since 2,077 were at Selhurst Park in 2002 to see City beat Wimbledon 1-0 with a Gary McAllister penalty. It was also the lowest crowd to watch any game in the Championship since 2006 when 4247 watched Colchester v Barnsley.

I have been reading Bobby Gould’s autobiography recently and if you want a Christmas present for a Coventry City fan I can certainly recommend it. His story is amusing and fascinating and takes you from Gould’s Coventry roots through a playing career that spanned 19 years and a management career that was even longer. To use an old cliché Bobby had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus and rarely stayed at any football club for very long.

By virtue of the fact that he had almost six years at Highfield Road as a player and two spells as a manager, the Coventry coverage in the book is quite substantial. Before Jimmy Hill signed him as an apprentice in 1962, Bobby had been ‘heartbroken’ to be told by Billy Frith that he wouldn’t make the grade with the team he supported. When Hill reversed that decision Bobby vowed to ‘run through a brickwall’ for JH and City supporters of a certain age will readily confirm that he did. His first team career did not start well and in 1966 he was given the unenviable task of replacing the ‘King’ of Coventry City, George Hudson, who had been controversially sold by Hill. The immensely skilful Hudson, in the fans’ eyes, could do no wrong whilst Gould for all his running and physical approach could never wear the mantle of Hudson. A year later however City were promoted and Gould had proved the doubting Thomas’s wrong by netting 24 goals.

There are some amusing stories of his time as a City player and he sheds new light on one of the more controversial days in the club’s history, the day Hill lost it with Ian Gibson. ‘Gibbo’, a club record signing in 1966, had not been too impressive in his first couple of months at the club and things came to a head at an away game at Carlisle. It is known that JH let rip at Gibson at half-time at Brunton Park and that the player came close to leaving City as a result but Gould reveals that Hill’s patience had been stretched by Gibbo’s antics on the long train journey north when in Bobby’s words: ‘he demonstrated a flatulence habit by using a naked cigarette lighter flame as a prop’. Gibson was left in the cold for six weeks before Hill buried the hatchet and recalled Gibson and City went on a 25-game unbeaten run that clinched promotion.

In 1983 Gould, a rookie manager with less than two years experience, was handed the City manager’s job for the first time. He walked into a dressing-room full of players angry at the treatment of previous manager Dave Sexton and in the main determined to leave the club. Gould’s career is littered with instances where he didn’t stay anywhere where he wasn’t wanted and when he arrived at Coventry he was determined not to try and keep any player who didn’t want to play for the club. As a result a whole generation of homegrown players were allowed to leave, many for less than their true worth but Bobby replaced them with a squad of players who would not only fight to the death but would also form the nucleus of the 1987 Cup winning team. Peake, Gynn, Bennett, Kilcline, Ogrizovic and Regis were all signed by Gould during this time. One funny story of that period concerns Les Sealey and the Coventry club car that he failed to return. Chief Executive George Curtis went with a chauffer and dozens of spare keys to Luton’s ground (Sealey had joined the Hatters) and emptied Les’s belongings onto the ground in his parking space before driving the recovered car back to Coventry.

Bobby admits that after a dream first six months he ‘lost it’ and City were lucky not to be relegated. He lasted less than 18 months in the job but in 1992 he returned for a second spell, an older and wiser man, having led Wimbledon to their 1988 FA Cup win in the meantime. Again things went well for a while and his wheeling and dealing made City a stronger outfit. Then Bryan Richardson became chairman and things went downhill fast. My one disappointment about the book is that it sheds little new light on their relationship and the reasons for Bobby’s resignation in the Loftus Road toilets after a 5-1 defeat. Many people involved with City during the Richardson era have remained silent over the man’s antics because of a so-called confidentiality clause in his severance agreement and maybe Bobby sensibly wants to avoid a libel case. Either way we will have to wait longer for the real reasons for his departure to come to light.

Bobby Gould is signing copies of his book 24 Carat Gould in Waterstones (Smithfield Way) next Wednesday (8th December) at 5pm.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 27.11.10

Since the formation of the Former Players Association in 2007 many ex-Coventry players have been tracked down and brought back to Coventry for a game or a function but a few have been very elusive and virtually impossible to find. Until recently one of those hard to find players was Alan Dugdale. Then, a few weeks ago I received an email from his brother Dave Dugdale who had found the FPA website (www.ccfpa.co.uk) whilst looking for memories of his brother on the internet. It transpired that Alan was making a rare visit from his home in the USA and we managed to get him from his brother’s home on Merseyside for the Leeds game. It was his first visit to Coventry for over 35 years and he was able to meet up with former colleagues Alan Green, Donal Murphy, Jimmy Holmes as well as former Physio Norman Pilgrim who treated Alan when he broke his ankle in 1972.

Whilst Alan was in the country I was able to interview him and I put the following questions to him:

Alan, how did you come to join Coventry City in 1969?

I was playing for Kirkby Schoolboys on Merseyside and Coventry’s Lancashire scout Alf Walton encouraged me to come down for a trial. I played at centre-half and they offered me apprentice terms with another Kirkby lad called Dennis Hogg, but Dennis never made the grade. I think Alf was responsible for finding Dennis Mortimer, Mick McGuire and Ivan Crossley, we all came from his patch (Jim: he also discovered Ernie Machin).

You were a member of arguably City’s finest youth team in 1970. What are your memories of the team?

It was a great bunch of lads who lived and played together. I remember the Youth Cup final with Spurs. They had a strong team which was quite physical with Graeme Souness , Steve Perryman and a good ‘keeper in Barry Daines. We drew over two legs and we drew a replay at Highfield Road before Spurs won the fourth game at Tottenham. I remember big crowds at Highfield Road and the matches were all hard-fought and there was little between the sides.

The following year you were in the England side that won the Little World Cup. What was that like?

There were three Coventry players, myself, Bobby Parker and Mick McGuire in the England team. I played out of position at right-back and the tournament was in Czechoslovakia. There was so much talent in the England squad with Trevor Francis, Peter Eastoe, Steve Daley and Martyn Busby. Most of the team were already regulars in their club’s first team. We beat Portugal in the final, 3-0 I think and Eastoe got a couple of goals. I think the former Wolves player Bill Shorthouse was the coach.

You made your first team debut against Chelsea at Highfield Road in 1972. Who was in the team at the time?

Joe Mercer and Gordon Milne had not long been there and I got picked at left back but I got carried off when Bill Glazier landed on my left ankle and it broke! Willie Carr, Dennis, Chris Cattlin, Mick Coop, Ernie Hunt were all at the club and Colin Stein and Tommy Hutchison arrived soon after and they brought a real buzz to the club. I was out injured for a few months but didn’t get a regular place until about a year later.

You were a regular first team player until 1977. Which City players did you really rate?

Tommy Hutch was the most skilful, Mick Ferguson was a great target man who could hold the ball up well and Barry Powell and Dennis were very skilful midfielders. The best defender, and I played alongside a lot in my time there, was John Craven. He and I just clicked when he arrived in 1973. My best friend was Alan Green – we used to room together on away trips.

In that time you played against all of the top British strikers. Who did you rate?

Malcom Macdonald and Trevor Francis were very hard to play against. Supermac was so strong and you couldn’t give him an inch, else he would unleash one. Franny Lee of Man City was difficult to play but the best was undoubtedly Kevin Keegan – he was so quick and you could never relax against him.

What happened after you left Coventry City?

I joined Charlton in 1977 but wish I had stayed to fight for my place at Coventry. Everything went wrong at Charlton. I didn’t get on with the manager Andy Nelson and I broke my leg playing for the reserves. I only played 30-odd games before I had a loan spell with Barnsley. In 1980 I went to play in USA with Tulsa Roughnecks. We had a good team with Alan Woodward (ex-Sheff United), Billy Caskey (ex-Derby) and Steve Earle (ex-Fulham). It was funny because one of my worst tackles (and there were a few!) was against Woodward at Highfield Road. My brother found it on youtube and we couldn’t believe I wasn’t sent off. We had some great times. After I finished playing I worked as a salesman for Pepsi Cola and Budweiser and have lived in the Tulsa area ever since. These days I live with my American wife in a mall town called Peggs about 50 miles from Tulsa. We have nine acres and we keep horse, they have become my passion in life. My health isn’t great but I love the outdoor life and cannot see myself returning to England.

The passing of City’s oldest former player Norman Smith was covered earlier in the week. Norman was the last living player to play for the club before the Second World War (he made three appearances in the 1938-39 season). His death means that the oldest living player is now 90-year old Eric Dobbs who made is first appearance in April 1947.

Norman’s funeral takes place at Holy Trinity church on December the 8th at 12.30pm followed by a short cremation service at Canley crematorium at 1.30pm. It will be family flowers only and any donations if desired, will be going to the Help for Heroes charity via the funeral directors which are Grimmett and Timms, 118 Albany Rd, Coventry.

Geoff Moore tells me that Jack Cork’s appearance for Burnley at the Ricoh Arena last week means he has appeared for five different clubs at the stadium, all on loan. It’s a pretty amazing feat considering he is only just 21-years old. In addition to Coventry and Burnley he has played for Southampton, Watford and Scunthorpe. Several players have played for four different clubs including Chris Iwelumo, Wayne Brown and Jon Stead.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 20.11.10

Watching England lose 1-2 to a rebuilt French side at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night, Nick Cook pointed out that the game ended with three former Coventry City players on the pitch in an England shirt.

2009 loanee Jordan Henderson made his England debut in midfield but was unable to make much impression in a game bossed by a strong French midfield. Henderson made ten appearances for the Sky Blues and looked impressive at the time but it is a sad indictment on the state of the national team that someone with so little experience in the Premier League (he had started only 23 games before this season) is thrown into the national team. One can only hope that the lad doesn’t let his mediocre display hinder his progress in the game.

Jay Bothroyd was also given his first cap as a second-half substitute and almost scored. At 28, Jay has far less time than Henderson to make his mark but his call-up is a testimony to his consistent performances over the last couple of years at Cardiff, where this season he has already notched 15 goals. Jay, who I believe is out of contract next summer, will undoubtedly go to the Premiership either with a Bosman move or with the Bluebirds. People say his time at Coventry was not a happy one but he is arguably one of the most skilful players seen in a Sky Blue shirt in the last ten years and he scored 17 goals in a side that thought they had the divine right to go straight back up after relegation. He scored some superb goals including a brace at Stoke in 2002 and a delightful chip at Crystal Palace the same year. He was on the England radar back in 2001 when he scored for England under 21s with a stunning overhead kick at Filbert Street. Nine years later he gets his chance.

The third ex-City man was Stephen Warnock who had an impressive season-long loan from Liverpool in 2003-04 and is the only loanee to be voted City’s player of the year by the fans. Arguably the best City loanee of all time, Stephen turned down a permanent move to Coventry believing he could make it at Anfield. Finally he had to move to Blackburn and then to Villa to further his career and on Wednesday won his second full cap.

To add even more local interest to the French game Leamington-born former Racing Warwick goalkeeper Ben Foster, won his fifth cap for his country. Ben is the first Leamington-born full England international since George Green of Sheffield United won eight caps in the 1920s.

Mark Stickings wanted to know who scored City’s goals at Crystal Palace in 1980-81 season. On 17 February 1981 City won the game 3-0 (against a very poor Palace side heading for relegation) and Gary Bannister and Tommy English (2) were City's goalscorers, all in the first half.

Dean Nelson tells me that he spotted that former City forward Eddie Johnson has signed for Portland Timbers who will be playing in the MLS for the first time next year. Johnson, who played for City in 2004-05, on a season-long loan from Manchester United, was the USSF Division Two’s joint leading scorer last season with 15 goals playing for Austin Aztecs, managed by former City assistant boss Adrian Heath. Eddie scored on his debut against Sunderland but managed only five goals in 26 league appearances and was given few opportunities following Peter Reid’s departure and Micky Adams’ arrival.

I have become aware of a new website for reading and recording memories of Coventry. Launched by the Transport Museum anyone can leave their memories, however brief, about the city generally, the Football Club and other sports teams or just their life in Coventry. The site, www.coventrymemories.co.uk is very quickly getting populated with memories and images and I noticed lots of great memories of the 1987 Cup Final including several from players at the time.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 13.11.10

Coventry City teams seem to have an aversion to large crowds at the Ricoh Arena. Last Saturday in front of the biggest league crowd since the move from Highfield Road in 2005, 28,184, admittedly boosted by over 6,000 Leeds fans, the Sky Blues came a cropper. It was the tenth occasion that over 25,000 have been at the stadium in its five-year life and the ninth time that the team have failed to win. The solitary victory came in January 2006 when high-flying Wolves were defeated 2-0.

The 25,000-plus crowds at the ground are as follows:-

31,407 Chelsea (FA Cup) 2009 lost 0-2
28,184 Leeds 2010 lost 2-3
28,163 West Brom (FA Cup) 2008 lost 0-5
28,120 Middlesbrough (FA Cup) 2006 drew 1-1
27,997 Wolves 2008 drew 1-1
27,212 Birmingham 2006 lost 0-1
26,856 Wolves 2006 won 2-0
26,723 Leicester 2006 drew 1-1
26,643 Leeds 2006 drew 1-1
26,343 West Brom 2007 lost 0-1

Even accounting for the large contingent of Leeds fans last week, I was staggered by the size of the crowd. I believed that it would take a lot more consistency from the team to bring the missing fans back to the Ricoh and that it would be a gradual thing. One parallel was in 1986-87 season when, after three years of surviving relegation on the last day of the season, John Sillett and George Curtis got the team playing attractive, winning football. The crowds that season, apart from a juicy League Cup tie with Liverpool and that epic Christmas game with Tottenham, only slowly increased from the 11,000 that watched the first game of the season against Arsenal to around the 13-14,000 level. The week before the quarter-final tie at Hillsborough under 13,000 were at Highfield Road to watch City play Wednesday in a league game. Two weeks later, admittedly with vouchers for semi-final tickets available almost 24,000 turned up for a league game with Oxford United.

Last week the crowd was 93% higher than the Barnsley crowd two weeks earlier and prompted Rod Dean to pose the question: when was the last time the City attendance doubled from one game to another?

I think the answer is 1993 when a home game with Southampton (2-0, Quinn and John Williams) was watched by 10,455. Nine days later 24,410 watched City lose 0-1 to championship chasing Manchester United, an increase of 133%. The post war record leap in gates was in 1962-63 season. On the first Saturday of December 1962 a crowd of 8,876 watched City beat Carlisle 3-2, at City’s next home game on 29 December there were 25,399 to see a 3-3 draw with Third Division leaders Peterborough. Christmas games back then traditionally attracted higher than normal crowds and three days earlier Jimmy Hill’s team had won 3-0 at Posh plus the fact that on the day of the Carlisle game heavy rain fell in the city, affecting the gate.

The record leap in home crowds however occurred in 1925 when on a wet Thursday afternoon in February an estimated 3,000 watched City beat Portsmouth 2-1 in a Second Division match. Nine days later for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday there was a crowd of 14,242, an increase of 350% on the previous game. Before the introduction of floodlights in the 1950s rearranged games were often played on midweek afternoons and drew low crowds.

City are at Crystal Palace today and should beware Spaniard Pablo Counago. Currently on loan at Selhurst Park from Ipswich, Pablo has an amazing record against the Sky Blues with seven goals in eight appearances for Ipswich. Last season he came off the bench to score the winning goal at Portman Road – lets hope Messrs Wood and McPake have learned their lesson.

Aidy Boothroyd was forced to change his starting line-up on Tuesday night after playing the same starting eleven for five games running. This is an extremely rare occurrence and last happened in December 1996 when Gordon Strachan was able to select this line up for five games in a row:

Ogrizovic: Telfer, Shaw, Paul Williams, Daish, Dublin, Richardson, McAllister, Huckerby, Whelan, Salako.

In those five games City won four and drew one game. The wins were at home to Newcastle (2-1), Leicester (a) (2-0), Leeds (a) (3-1), Middlesbrough (h) (3-0) and Sunderland (h) (2-2). The club record for number of games unchanged to my knowledge is seven. This occurred at the start of the 1954-55 (six wins and one draw), 1964-65 season (five straight wins and two defeats) and at the start of the 1973-74 season (four wins out of seven). It is not a coincidence that an unchanged side usually means good results.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 6.11.10

Cyrille Regis is a legend amongst Coventry City fans. Not only was he a member of the 1987 FA Cup winning team but he earned his place in City fan’s hearts with his skill, industry and above all the memorable goals which helped keep City in the old First Division before 1987 and made City such a strong outfit under John Sillett over the subsequent 3-4 years.

His autobiography, Cyrille Regis – My Story, was published last month and he is at today’s game with Leeds United signing copies of the book in the club shop immediately after the game. Cyrille played for Coventry City for seven seasons but freely admits that he didn’t really want to come to Coventry from West Brom in 1984 – he thought a big club was going to come in for him but the Sky Blues were the only interested party. His first two seasons at Highfield Road were a non-event and again he admits that he was not emotionally committed to Coventry until John Sillett and George Curtis took the reins in 1986. Bobby Gould signed Cyrille for £250,000 and was sacked two months later and Gould’s successor, Don Mackay, never played to Regis’ strengths but one story in the book surprised me. Apparently during Mackay’s reign City, supposedly desperate for cash, tried to sell Cyrille to Second Division Wolves for £40,000. Thankfully the City board had second thoughts and within twelve months Cyrille and City were a whole different proposition.

Cyrille speaks highly of Sillett’s role in rejuvenating his struggling career and the way Sillett changed the emphasis of the team’s game from using Regis as a target man to giving him the ball at his feet was a major factor in the club’s remarkable 1986-87 season. That season (and the FA Cup win especially) quite rightly get a lot of coverage in the book as does the post-Wembley celebrations which make modern-day footballers look like choirboys.

One major change in Cyrille’s life whilst he was at Coventry was his conversion to Christianity and the chapter dealing with his reasons sees Cyrille talk candidly about the emotional torment he went through.

The book reminded me of the phenomenal impact that Cyrille had when he arrived on the football scene with West Brom in 1977. City had a golden year but Cyrille’s emergence at the Hawthorns took the limelight away from Ian Wallace and Mick Ferguson’s goalscoring feats. The two teams vied to be the top West Midlands side that season and Albion, managed by Ron Atkinson, pipped City by one place, finishing sixth. Cyrille started the season as an unknown and finished as a First Division regular. His first appearance against the Sky Blues resulted in a 2-1 win for Albion but my notes of the game record that Regis, who had scored five goals in his first five games for the Baggies, was well shackled by Jim Holton. A year later ‘Big C’ was on the score-sheet twice as Albion hit City for seven at the Hawthorns but his finest goal against the Sky Blues was undoubtedly the sizzling 25-yarder in the 1982 FA Cup degeat at the Hawthorns, a goal not dissimilar to the one for City at Hillsborough in the quarter final tie in 1987.

He scored many other fine goals for the Sky Blues too including the winner when City won at Anfield for the first time in 1989 and one of the goals that ended the 51-year Villa hoodoo in 1988.

I have met Cyrille on a number of occasions and he is a charming man who talks knowledgeably about the game he loves. He is also a great supporter of the Former Players Association. His book is a down to earth honest assessment of his career and life, warts and all, and deserves to be a success.

Unlike many fans and media correspondents I refuse to get too excited about City’s elevation to fourth place last Saturday following the victory at Bramall Lane. There is a long way to go this season and I remind friends that the last time City were in such an exalted position, in April 2002, they managed to lose six of their last seven games, miss out on the play-offs and snatch disaster out of the jaws of success.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 30.10.10

Last Saturday was one of those days when everything in the Sky Blue garden looked rosy. A convincing 3-0 home win over Barnsley and a memorable celebration of the 40th anniversary of the club’s one and only European campaign.

Eleven former Coventry City players from 1970 returned for the day and the non-appearance of Ernie Machin and Ian Gibson (through health issues) did not mar a wonderful occasion. A number of the squad, for example Willie Carr, Roy Barry, Chris Cattlin and Mick Coop, have become regular visitors since the Former Players Association was formed almost four years ago, but Ernie Hannigan made his first visit to a City game for over 30 years during what was a flying visit to the UK from his home in Western Australia. The former flying winger, Noel Cantwell’s first signing as a manager in 1967, has retained his broad Scottish accent and had the party in stitches with his stories.

Noel Cantwell’s daughter, Kate, who was born in Coventry in 1970, represented her late father and was accompanied by Noel’s two grandsons. Her father finally received some recognition in Coventry after his death in 2005 was ignored by the club. Saturday’s occasion sadly coincided with the death of one of Noel’s closest friends in football, Malcolm Allison. Allison, who with Joe Mercer, guided Manchester City to so much glory in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was offered the Coventry manager’s job in 1967 but leaked the news to the press forcing chairman Derrick Robins to withdraw the offer and hand the job to Cantwell.

The star of Saturday’s show however was Bulgarian legend Dinko Dermendjiev. The man who played for Trakia Plovdiv in both games against City in 1970 flew in from Bulgaria with his interpreter Nicky Dafovsky. Nicky, it transpired, has been a City fan since the 1980s and speaks fluent English. Dinko, we discovered is revered in Bulgaria and considered to be the finest player ever produced by the country. He was a charming man and was overwhelmed with emotion for the reception he received from the former players and Coventry fans. Reminiscing about the games in 1970 he told me that in Bulgaria Trakia had been strong favourites to beat Coventry but the Sky Blues were one of the best organised foreign sides ever to play in Plovdiv and outclassed Trakia and the fans still talk about the games 40 years later. As he left Coventry an emotional Dinko said that Coventry would always be in his heart and vowed to return soon.

After the game the whole party was introduced on the stage at the G-Casino and the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Dinko, who very quickly learned the words to the Sky Blue Song and joined in a vociferous rendition of the club song. Later in the evening Dinko talked to Willie Carr for half an hour and despite neither being able to speak each other’s language managed to communicate through the global language of football. The atmosphere in the casino was absolutely electric and thanks go to Quintin Korsma Of the G-Casino for his wonderful support. Additional thanks go to Jason and the lads the Jade Studios for sponsoring Dinko’s trip and the CCFPA patrons and club’s Associate Directors, especially John Clarke, for their financial support for the event.

There are some excellent photographs of the day’s events at the FPA website www.ccfpa.co.uk

On the field City recorded their biggest win for over two years, since the 4-1 home victory over Southampton in October 2008. The most common question I was asked in the casino on Saturday evening was regarding City’s goalscorers against Barnsley. Carl Baker and Jordan Clarke both scored after coming off the bench, the first time this has ever happened in a league game. There was one occurrence in an FA Cup tie in 1999 when Cedric Roussel and John Eustace came off the bench to score in a 3-0 win at Norwich.

It was also a rare occurrence for two Coventry-born players (McSheffrey and Clarke) to score in the same game. The only other occurrence in the club’s league history was in January 2002 at Selhurst Park when McSheffrey and Marcus Hall netted in a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.

Finally, the win lifted the Sky Blues into the top six of the Championship, the first time they have been as high in the table (other than very early in the season) since January 2003. Perhaps at last there is a glimmer of hope for City’s long-suffering fans. A note of caution however, back in 2003 Gary McAllister’s team won only once in 20 games and slumped from sixth to end the season in 20th place.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

1970 reunion a massive hit

What a fantastic day at the Ricoh Arena yesterday as 10 members of Coventry City's 1970 squad who qualified the club for European competition for the one and only time were reunited. They were presented on the pitch at the half time and entertained after the match well into the night at the G-Casino next door. The atmosphere in the casino was electric as all the players were presented on the stage and then a rendition of the Sky Blue Song rocked the rafters. Also present was Bulgarian legend Dinko Dermendjiev who flew over for the weekend and was overcome with emotion by the fantatsic ovation he got at the game and at the evening's entertainment.

JIM'S COLUMN 23.10.10

Today is another opportunity for the fans of Coventry City to honour past heroes of the club as the club celebrate the 40th anniversary of the club’s one and only European football campaign. The Former Players Association have worked tirelessly to reunite the Coventry City players from 1970 to celebrate the outstanding achievement of that year’s team.

The team achieved the highest ever final position in the club’s history, finishing sixth in the old First Division and qualifying for the European Fairs Cup.

Around a dozen players from the first team squad of that year will be here today and will be presented to the crowd at half-time. In addition there is a special guest. ‘Dinko’ Dermendjiev was a star player for City’s first ever European opponents, Bulgarian side Trakia Plovdiv, and he has flown to England today to take part in the celebrations and meet up with his Sky Blue opponents from September 1970.

Also on the guest list is Kate Cantwell, the daughter of Noel Cantwell, City’s manager in 1970. Kate, who was born in Coventry in that memorable year, will be making her first visit to the Ricoh Arena and will be accompanied by Noel’s two grandsons.

Finally half a dozen of the 30-odd City fans who travelled to Plovdiv for that first tie in September 1970 will be attending the match as guests of the Former Players Association and will make an appearance at half-time.

Amongst the group will be Alex Broomfield who tells me he went to Plovdiv after winning the trip in a Coventry Telegraph competition where he came up with a winning caption. Alex will be bringing some mementoes of the trip to the game. Another Plovdiv ‘veteran’ Paul Howard of Courthouse Green sent me some lovely memories of the trip. He tells me that after the match the City fans were invited to the banquet held for the two teams and were bought champagne by City chairman Derrick Robins. Later that night whilst a large group were enjoying a few beers in a hotel room there was a knock at the door and several members of the City team were there asking if they could join the party. Somehow I can’t see that happening in the modern day.

After today’s match celebrations will continue in the G-Casino where fans will be able to mingle with City’s former stars and all are welcome.

The players hoped to be present today include Roy Barry, Jeff Blockley, Dietmar Bruck, Willie Carr, Mick Coop, Chris Cattlin, Ian Gibson, Bill Glazier, Ian Goodwin, Trevor Gould, Ernie Hannigan, Ernie Machin, Dennis Mortimer and Billy Rafferty. Dermendjiev, nicknamed ‘Chiko’, played for Trakia against the Sky Blues in both games. Dinko holds the Trakia record for appearances, playing 447 games and scoring 194 goals in a twenty-year career at the club and I am sure City fans will give him a warm reception.

Former City defender Kirk Stephens has played a key role as President of the Former Players Association since its formation and it is sad to report the recent death of his father Bill. The FPA sends its condolences to Kirk and his family at this sad time.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 16.10.10

Arthur Lightening was a larger than life Coventry City goalkeeper between 1959-1962 who was a hero to many young City fans in that era. A couple of weeks ago I had an email from a lady called Elna Hosier asking for some information about Arthur’s whereabouts. Sadly I had to tell her that Arthur died over 10 years ago in his native South Africa.

Elna said that Arthur used to spend time at her house during summer vacations in the 1950s and I am trying to ascertain where Elna was living at the time. It may have been South Africa or possibly Coventry but I have asked Elna to elaborate a bit.

Arthur joined Coventry in 1959 from Nottingham Forest where he had been the regular goalkeeper for the reserve team. He played 160 games for City before joining Middlesborough early in the 1962-63 season when the Teeside club, a division higher than the Sky Blues at the time, paid a substantial fee for him.

With a surname of Lightening, Arthur was a dream for football headline writers and they had a field day after his debut for ‘Boro, a 6-1 defeat at Newcastle. “Lightening thunder struck," was the headline in the Daily Mirror the following morning.

Lightening made just 14 more Football League appearances for Boro, interrupted by a Quarter Sessions appearance for receiving stolen beer, wine and spirits at his room in the Royal Hotel, Redcar.
Though found guilty, he was given an absolute discharge after the judge described him as "honest, truthful and manly."
Lightening, the court heard, earned £25 a week with an extra fiver for first team appearance money.
In May 1963, he was given permission by the club to attend his brother’s wedding in South Africa, sailed off and never returned. "I though it strange that he only booked a single ticket," the travel agent told the Northern Echo's investigating reporter.

Arthur lived for many years in the Glenwood area of Durban and was closely involved with local side Stella F.C. Bob Weeks, famous for tracking down former City players communicated with Arthur up until his death and discovered that Arthur lost a number of toes on his left foot as a result of a boating accident. He did tell Bob that he always looked for City’s results and had fond memories of his time at Highfield Road.

Planning for next weekend’s 40th anniversary reunion of the Coventry City team that qualified for and played in European competition is well advanced. Around 12-13 former players are expected to attend the Barnsley home game for an event organised by the Former Players Association. Amongst those expected to attend are Willie Carr, Bill Glazier, Ernie Hannigan, Mick Coop, Chris Cattlin, Jeff Blockley, Ian Gibson, Dennis Mortimer, Ernie Machin, Trevor Gould and Ian Goodwin. Neil Martin sadly can’t be with us, he has just had a hip operation and not fit to travel down from Scotland. Nor can new FPA member Brian Joicey. Brian, who would have loved to meet his old colleagues as well as see two of his former teams play (he played for Barnsley after leaving City), cannot get time off work. John O’Rourke and Ernie Hunt are also possibles to attend. Whilst the former players will be entertained in the corporate areas at the game there will be an opportunity for fans to mingle with their former heroes after the game at the G-Casino and all are welcome to attend. A good day is in store!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Jim's column 9.10.10

With a break from league action this weekend I thought I would catch up with a few questions I have received from readers over the last few weeks.

Roger Maddison has been watching the Sky Blues for 46 years and remembers a game between City and the Japan National XI at Highfield Road. Unfortunately none of his friends can remember it and he is questioning his own memory. City did play Japan in a pre-season friendly on 14 August 1978 and won 2-0 with goals from Terry Yorath and Mick Ferguson. A crowd of 5,232 and City’s line up was as follows:

Sealey: Osgood, McDonald, Yorath, Holton, Gillespie, Nardiello,

Wallace, Ferguson, Powell, Hutchison

Natalie Jones recalls a match at Highfield Road in which Spurs were the visitors and had to play in Coventry’s change strip. The game in question was on 27 December 1986 and the story goes that Spurs didn’t realise they would need to change their normal kit as there seemed to be no clash with the Sky Blues blue and white striped shirts and white shorts. In fact Spurs rarely changed their kit at Highfield Road prior to this incident. The referee disagreed and made Spurs wear City’s change kit of yellow shirts with their normal navy blue shorts with the shirts displaying City’s sponsors Granada on the shirts. City won a thrilling game 4-3 with Cyrille Regis netting the winning goal in the dying seconds. Strangely when the clubs met later that season in the FA Cup final at Wembley Spurs wore their normal white shirts with white shorts whilst City wore their normal shirts but with navy blue shorts. However there was more controversey with Spurs’ kit in the final as several players played with shirts without the name of the team’s lager-making sponsors Holsten.

Dave Terry asked me to confirm that Coventry City are the only club to have played in seven different English divisions. The fact is correct Dave, City have played in Divisions 1-4 plus Division Three North and South plus, of course the Premier League. City only spent one season in Division Four (1958-59) and one season in Division Three North (1925-26). The latter season was because of an imbalance of Northern teams in Division Three North (City were the most southerly of the 22 sides) but the following season they were switched to Division Three South. A number of clubs have appeared in six different divisions including Hull City, Grimsby, Watford and Crystal Palace.

It is only two weeks to go before the 40th anniversary reunion of the Coventry City team that played in Europe organised by the Former Players Association. The latest former City player to indicate his attendance is Brian Joicey who just last week joined the FPA after being tracked down in Sheffield where he has lived since playing for Sheffield Wednesday in the early 1970s. Brian scored one of City’s goals in the 2-0 home win over Trakia Plovdiv in the first round second leg game at Highfield Road and is looking forward to meeting up with some of his old teammates from City on 23 October. Just a reminder that any fans who travelled to watch City in Bulgaria forty years ago should contact me as they will invited to attend the celebrations.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Jim's column 2.10.10

What a mixed week for the Sky Blues. Saturday’s 1-2 defeat to Preston was a travesty after all the pressure exerted on the visitors’ goal but then on Tuesday night Doncaster went home rightly aggrieved that they had not won a game they dominated for long periods.

Donny’s boss Sean O’Driscoll has built an excellent side capable of playing lovely passing football and in John Oster he had the man of the match. Oster covered every blade of grass, made Billy Sharp’s goal with a delicious through-ball and showed why back in the 1990s he was a £1.5 million player. In the last 10 years John has played for nine different clubs and rarely spent more than one season in the same club.

Gary McSheffrey scored City’s winning goal with a superb diving header – the first of his second spell at the club. This was the 54th senior goal for the club and he is now 15th in the all-time leading scorers chart, with only Mick Ferguson (58), George Lowrie (59), Ian Wallace (60), Cyrille Regis (62), Jock Lauderdale (65) standing in the way of his entry to the all-time top ten.

Championship pacemakers QPR’s first goalless game (a 0-0 draw with Millwall) means that City are the only side in the division to score in every league game this season. This is City’s best start to a season in this respect since 1954-55 when Jack Fairbrother’s team scored in every one of its first eleven games. The club record was set in 1932-33 when with Clarrie Bourton in his pomp the Bantams netted in the first 16 games with Bourton netting 13 of the team’s 37 goals.

Coventry City have long had a reputation for having good cricketers on their books with a number being good enough to play county cricket including Don Bennett (Middlesex), Freddie Gardner (Warwickshire), Charlie Elliott (Derbyshire), John Mitten and Jack Lee (Leicestershire), Patsy Hendren (Middlesex & England) not to mention legendary manager Harry Storer who played cricket for Derbyshire. I didn’t realise till this week that there is a new entrant in this exclusive club. In August former City goalkeeper Gary Montgomery made his county cricket debut for Lancashire, a year following a switch in codes after being released by Grimsby Town. In all he appeared in three Clydesdale 40 games for Lancashire.

Gary made his debut for the Sky Blues against Chelsea in a League Cup tie in 2001 and played a further eight league games the following season but was never on the winning side for the club and joined Rotherham in 2003. Leamington-born Gary, who is still only 28 years old, was the first boy from my old school, Warwick, to play for City and the first for many years to play county cricket.

Plans for the 40th anniversary of City’s 1970 European campaign on 23 October at the Barnsley home game are well advanced and after last week’s revelation that former Coventry MP, the late Bill Wilson, was on that first trip to Bulgaria, two of his fellow travellers have been in touch with me. Rod Dean and Steve Pittam were among the 37 fans who travelled out to Bulgaria for the first leg of the first round European Fairs Cup tie with Trakia Plovdiv. The Former Players Association would welcome any of that select band who are still around to join the celebrations in the Casino after the game on the 23 October and meet City’s players from 1970 and Plovdiv legend Dinko Dermendjiev. If you were on that long trip to Plovdiv please contact me.

Monday, 27 September 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 25.9.10

Last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Ashton Gate was a welcome result after three games without a victory and, as has been widely reported, was City’s first league victory at Ashton Gate since 1963. Having said that, City have only played nine league games there in the intervening period, and have drawn four of those nine. In addition there have been three cup ties at Ashton Gate resulting in two draws and one win - a Mick Ferguson goal in 1976 gave the Sky Blues a victory in a League Cup tie.

Back in 1963 it was a solitary Ken Hale goal that earned the points in an evening game and took City four points clear at the top of Division Three. Ken’s goal, after only four minutes, was a shot that deflected of a defender’s leg and flew over Mike Gibson the Bristol keeper. Gibson had a much busier night than his opposite number Bob Wesson, who had little to do on his 23rd birthday.

I have said before that if City are going to be serious challengers for a top six place then a number of their bogey grounds will have to be more productive. City have failed at Millwall and Swansea but the win at Ashton Gate gives City fans some hope that other bogeys, such as Leicester, Cardiff and Preston may be exorcised.

This month is the 40th anniversary of City’s first ever European cup tie. In September 1970 City travelled to deepest Bulgaria to face Trakia Plovdiv in the first leg of their first round European Fairs Cup tie with Trakia Plovdiv. City won the away leg 4-1 with a hat-trick from John O’Rourke and a Neil Martin goal and then beat the Bulgarians 2-0 in the second leg with goals from Brian Joicey and Jeff Blockley.

The Former Players Association are planning a reunion of the 1970 City squad at the home game with Barnsley at the end of October and have organised for Trakia’s star player of 1970, Dinko Dermendjiev, to travel to Coventry for the reunion. With the sponsorship of Jason Dickens of The Jade Studio, the graphic designers, Dinko and an interpreter will be flying in from Bulgaria to attend the match and meet City’s players from 1970.

40 years ago a small band of around 50 City supporters travelled out with the team to Bulgaria and one of them, Rod Dean, informs me that another of the group was Bill Wilson, MP for Coventry South at the time. Rod also told me that Bill had passed away last month aged 97, a fact that had passed me by. Bill was not only an avid City supporter having been born and bred in the city, but also an outspoken shareholder whose objectivity would have been useful in the club’s boardroom at some periods over the last 50 years. Unlike other MPs who have jumped on the football bandwagon since the game attracted large amounts of money in the Premier League era, Bill had followed City’s fortunes since the 1920s and could wax lyrically about the golden era of the 1930s.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 18.9.10

There is an interesting match in the Conference Premier today when the Holdsworth brothers, David and Dean, become the first ever twins to face each other as managers. David is manager of Mansfield Town who travel to South Wales to face Newport County, managed by former City player Dean.

Dean, a striker in his playing days, had a brief spell at Coventry City in 2002-03 season making 17 league appearances and three cup appearances but managing just one goal in arguably City’s worst side of the last forty years. His sole goal however was a stunning curling shot against Cardiff in an FA Cup replay, City’s only home victory between Boxing Day and the end of the season in a slump that almost resulted in relegation. In March 2003 with City’s bankers on the doorstep demanding cost reductions Dean was released and joined Rushden & Diamonds.

Prior to joining the Sky Blues Dean had had a good career after starting as an apprentice at Graham Taylor’s Watford in the mid-1980s. In 1986, along with goalkeeper David James, Tim Sherwood and his twin David, he was part of an outstanding Watford youth team beaten in the FA Youth Cup by an even better City youth team who went on to reach the semi final, a year before they lifted the trophy. His first team chances were limited at Watford however and he went down the leagues to join Brentford where he was a success.

Dean had five years at Wimbledon followed by a similar period at Bolton and scored a good amount of goals for both clubs and after his spell at City he played for MK Dons, one of the few players to appear for the two Dons’ clubs. Later he became chairman of the PFA and has been boss at Newport since 2007. Last season he led his club to the championship of the Conference South with a record 103 points.

Unlike Dean, David, a central defender, did make the grade at Watford and made over 250 appearances for the Hornets between 1986-96 before shorter spells at Sheffield United and Birmingham City. He played his part in the Sky Blues history when in 1998 he scored the very late equaliser for the Blades in the FA Cup sixth round replay at Bramall Lane. The goal took the game to extra-time and ultimately a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out which ended City’s hopes of a semi-final appearance that their performances that spring probably deserved.

David managed Ilkeston Town prior to arriving at Mansfield’s Field Mill in 2008 and his team have made a good start in their third season in the Conference. I will be looking out for the result of this unique game with interest.

There have been a lot of negative comments from City supporters since last weekend and I find it hard to join the chorus of criticism. City have picked up just one point from their last three league games, a home draw sandwiched by away defeats at Millwall and Swansea. Let’s put those results in context. Millwall are unbeaten at home in over 20 games stretching back to last November and are always difficult to beat on their own patch. When Carl Baker was sent off City were holding their own at 1-1 and with 11 men would have got a result. Swansea too are a hard nut on their own ground, losing only three games at the Liberty Stadium in the whole of last season. After a woeful first half City had chances to level the game with a much improved second half performance. The Leicester performance was dire but in mitigation it was a local derby and they are rarely thrillers. Paolo Sousa has got Leicester playing the passing game and they keep possession well making it hard for opponents to get the ball and play themselves. For all the visitor’s possession however City defended well (something they often failed to do last year) and got a valuable point. Leicester showed that the early form was deceptive with a good victory over Cardiff in midweek. Some fans are saying that we are worse off than last season but after six league games last season we had lost our home record (to Swansea) and got a terrible thumping at Blackpool. I think City fans should be patient and judge progress when the season is more advanced than now.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 11.9.10

Today is the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 disaster in New York when over 3,000 people lost their lives when terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers in Manhattan.

Geoff Wakelin tells me he is giving away his sister-in-law at her wedding today. He and the groom are both ardent City fans - Geoff watched my first City game 53 years ago when Ray Straw scored the winning goal – but he doesn’t say which game!

He was preparing his speech for the wedding reception and wanted to know whether City have ever played and won in any year on September 11th.

They have played 18 league games on that fateful day plus two League Cup ties, one of which, at Peterborough, was on the evening of the awful events in 2001. I remember that night very well – everyone was numb from watching the tragedy unfold in Manhattan on television and the game seemed very insignificant after the goings-on across the Atlantic. Gordon Strachan had been sacked two days earlier and Roland Nilsson and Richard Money were in charge of a City team desperate for a result for the new management team. The game sparked into life in the last two minutes of the ninety minutes when first Magnus Hedman punched a corner into his own net to make it 2-1 to Posh, then with 10 seconds left on the clock Lee Carsley hit a right-foot drive from just inside the penalty area to level the scores and take the tie to extra time. There were no further goals in the extra thirty minutes and the game went to a penalty shoot-out. City won the shoot-out 4-2 but not before Hedman crowned a miserable night by failing to score City’s fourth penalty to clinch the tie. His weak shot straight into the goalkeeper’s hands meant Lee Carsley had to send the Posh keeper the wrong way to secure the victory.

Looking at the list of previous games on this day, it is 34 years since City last won on 11 September. They beat Norwich 2-0 with goals from Mick Ferguson (his fourth in four games) and a Duncan Forbes own-goal. A disappointing game was watched by only 12,948, City’s smallest home gate for over 10 years.

A more memorable game was in 1999 when a strong Leeds side came from behind twice to win 4-3 at Highfield Road. Proving what famous football writer Brian Glanville calls the immutable law of the ex, Gary McAllister scored a penalty for City against his former club before Darren Huckerby netted for Leeds. Huckerby had left City just weeks earlier for £6m but would be a flop at Elland Road scoring just two goals in 40 appearances. John Aloisi and Youssef Chippo were City’s other scorers whilst Lee Bowyer, Ian Harte (penalty) and Michael Bridges netted for Leeds.

Sep 11 1919 h Leeds C L 0-4 1919-20 League
Sep 11 1920 a Blackpool L 0-4 1920-21 League
Sep 11 1926 h Charlton Ath W 1-0 1926-27 League
Sep 11 1937 a Bury W 2-0 1937-38 League
Sep 11 1946 a Newcastle U L 1-3 1946-47 League
Sep 11 1948 h Bradford PA W 2-0 1948-49 League
Sep 11 1950 h Birmingham W 3-1 1950-51 League
Sep 11 1952 a Northampton L 1-3 1952-53 League
Sep 11 1954 a Torquay U W 2-1 1954-55 League
Sep 11 1962 a Watford L 1-6 1962-63 League
Sep 11 1965 a Bristol City D 1-1 1965-66 League
Sep 11 1971 h Nottm Forest D 1-1 1971-72 League
Sep 11 1973 h Man. City W 2-1 1973-74 League
Sep 11 1976 h Norwich C W 2-0 1976-77 League
Sep 11 1982 h Arsenal L 0-2 1982-83 League
Sep 11 1993 a Aston Villa D 0-0 1993-94 League
Sep 11 1999 h Leeds U L 3-4 1999-00 League
Sep 11 2001 a Peterborough W 2-2* 2001-02 League Cup
Sep 11 2002 h Colchester U W 3-0 2002-03 League Cup
Sep 11 2004 a Leeds U L 0-3 2004-05 League

* City won 4-2 on penalties, after extra time.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


After City’s defeat at the New Den last week manager Aidy Boothroyd described City as ‘soft’ and any fan knows that soft sides do not get results at Millwall. The defeat means it is 55 years since City’s last victory in Docklands – 15 league and cup games. Most City fans know what Aidy means and have watched too many ‘soft’ capitulations by the Sky Blues over recent seasons. If City want to be serious promotion contenders they will have to toughen up and grind out results at places like Millwall. The last Coventry City team to win promotion, Jimmy Hill’s 1967 team, were past masters at picking up points when playing poorly. Mind you the 1967 team failed to win at Millwall, losing an early season game 1-0.

Last week I commented on the small crowd at the Ricoh Arena for the home game with Derby County – the smallest crowd to watch a City home game since 2005 – and last Saturday I noted the dip in attendances across the Championship as a whole.

Of the 12 games played last weekend only two were watched by a crowd higher than last season’s average crowd. At Millwall just over 11,000 watched City’s defeat compared to last season’s average of 10,834 and at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium a similar crowd watched the Yorkshire derby with Hull City. All other 10 games were watched by smaller than last season’s average crowds including Sheffield United 19,000 (last season’s average 25,000), Derby 25,000 (29,000) and Leicester 19,000 (24,000). Whilst all three of the clubs above have had mediocre starts to the season I know that they all have less season ticket holders than last campaign. In addition the gates at Ipswich, Forest, Scunthorpe and Swansea confirm the downward trend in this league.

So Coventry City are not the only club affected by falling attendances and I suspect it is a result of the economic situation the country finds itself in combined with England’s poor showing in this summer’s World Cup.

Dean Nelson sent me a picture of an old programme (see image) recently asking if I could provide more information about it. In February/March 1989 the Bermuda Football Association invited the Sky Blues and Middlesbrough to their island for a series of friendly games. City were lying in fourth place in the old First Division when they left the cold English winter for a warm break in the sun, one place behind Millwall where they had lost 1-0 the previous Saturday. The opening game saw City facing Boulevard Community Club, a team of Rastafarian amateurs who were one of Bermuda’s top club sides. Goals from Gary Bannister, Dean Emerson, Cyrille Regis and Dave Bennett gave City a 4-0 victory. City ended their brief sojourn on the sunny Atlantic island with a 2-1 victory over ‘Boro with goals from Regis and a late winner from substitute Howard Clark. City’s players described the rock hard pitch at the PHC Stadium where all the games were played, as ‘disgraceful’. Manager John Sillett was a little more diplomatic, calling it ‘a little bumpy’.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 28.8.10

Last Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Derby County lifted the Sky Blues to fourth place in the Championship after three games. It meant that the team had won its first two home games for the first time since moving to the Ricoh Arena in 2005 - in fact it was the first time since 2002 when Gary McAllister’s team beat Sheffield United and Crystal Palace in their first two home games.

Sadly the attendance was a pitifully low 13,139 - the lowest home league crowd ever at the Ricoh and the lowest since February 2005 when 12,148 were at Highfield Road for a 1-2 defeat to Wigan. No doubt the poor weather and the Sky live television coverage had an impact last week but the prices charged to ‘walk-up’ supporters is undoubtedly a big factor in these economically trying times. Even more worryingly about Saturday’s gate is that it is almost two thousand lower than the previous lowest Saturday home gate, set against Barnsley last January. Perhaps the low crowd will persuade Ray Ranson and his team to review their policy in this area.

Lowest gates at the Ricoh 2005-10

1. 13,139 v Derby Co. (2010-11)*
2. 14,036 v Scunthorpe (2007-08)
3. 14,326 v Sheffield United (2009-10)
4. 14,621 v Burnley (2008-09)
5. 14,992 v Cardiff (2008-09)
6. 15,031 v Barnsley (2009-10)*
7. 15,035 v Barnsley (2008-09)
8. 15,149 v Swansea (2008-09)
9. 15,165 v Reading (2009-10)*
10. 15,190 v Peterborough (2009-10)*
* Saturday home games

Who would bet on a City victory at Millwall this afternoon? It is the Sky Blues’ first visit to the New Den for five years and history and form is against them. City have not won at Millwall (Old or New Den) in 14 league and cup games stretching back to their last win on Boxing Day 1955. Millwall have a tradition for strong home form and hold a Football League record of 59 unbeaten home games between 1964 and 1966. They are currently unbeaten at home in 19 league and cup games, the last defeat being by Wycombe Wanderers last November.

Alan Wainwright asked me about a great goal of the past. He wanted to know at which end of Highfield Road did George Hudson score his memorable goal against Southampton. After checking with my fellow City historian Rod Dean I was able to confirm that ‘The Hud’s’ classic goal was scored at the Covered End (the City end) in September 1965.

George scored many great goals for the club but this was arguably his most memorable goal when, with his back to goal he flicked the ball over Southampton centre-half Tony Knapp's head, turned, then casually headed past a startled keeper. City won the Tuesday evening game 5-1, having lost 1-0 to the Saints at the Dell a week earlier. At the end of that season the Saints pipped the Sky Blues to promotion by one point.

Kevin Ring tells me that former City youngster Craig Faulconbridge is still playing professional football at the age of 32. The Nuneaton-born striker was on City’s books for several years as a teenager and got close to a first team call-up after a couple of substitute appearances in pre-season friendlies in 1996 before a broken leg hampered his progress. Manager Gordon Strachan let him go on loan to Dunfermline in 1998 and he scored a memorable goal for the Pars which effectively wrecked Celtic’s title hopes and handed the league to Rangers. Competition for striking places at Coventry was fierce with Dublin, Huckerby and Whelan in great form and a further loan to Dunfermline and another to Hull City preceded Craig’s release from City in 1999. Craig joined Wrexham and played over 100 games in three years at the Racecourse Ground before another three years at Wycombe Wanderers. After spells at Oxford City and Carshalton he joined Woking last season and helped them reach the Blue Square South play-offs and Kevin tells me that this season he is a fixture in Woking’s first team.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Jim's column 21.8.10

Coventry City’s woes with goalkeepers continued at Watford last Saturday with Everton loanee Iain Turner lasting only 18 minutes before succumbing to injury but allowing promising youngster Michael Quirke to have his day in the limelight. Michael is three weeks short of his nineteenth birthday and he is the youngest goalkeeper to play first team football for the club since Perry Suckling made his debut in 1982 as a sixteen year old.

Quirke became the fourth goalkeeper used by City in three matches this season which I am confident is a record for the club. I have been enquiring with other football statisticians and discovered that in 1968 Nottingham Forest used four different keepers in four consecutive games. City rarely use more than two keepers in a season but in 2001-02 (the first after relegation from the Premiership) they used five keepers. Chris Kirkland played in the opening game at Stockport. Chris was sold to Liverpool days later and Magnus Hedman took over. Then the big Swede was injured and Andy Goram came in on loan, making seven appearances. Goram was however cup-tied and could not play against Chelsea in the League Cup and reserve Gary Montgomery stepped in for his debut, just a day after his 19th birthday. After Christmas Hedman had more injury problems and Tim Flowers came on loan to make it five ‘keepers in one season.

In 2004-05 four different players donned the ‘keeper’s jersey. Scott Shearer, Luke Steele and Ian Bennett all started games and Stephen Hughes pulled on the jersey when loanee Bennett was sent off against Stoke City at Highfield Road.

Paul Walker asked me to settle an argument regarding former England international full-back Mick Mills. Paul believed that Mills’ only involvement was as assistant manager to Terry Butcher in the early 1990s but his friend argued that Mills had joined City as a player and appeared for the first team. Paul is correct Mills, who had managerial experience with Stoke City and Colchester, was appointed by Butcher soon after the former England captain took over as manager in October 1990. A year later however the new regime (including chairman Peter Robins and director Bryan Richardson) forced Butcher to jettison Mills for cost-cutting reasons, and replace him with Don Howe. Weeks later Butcher was relieved of his duties and replaced by Howe in a caretaker role. Mills, a right-back in his playing days, was a key member of Bobby Robson’s outstanding Ipswich team of the 1970s and had many memorable head to head duels with Tommy Hutchison.

Dave Perkins asked me to publish City’s all-time record against Manchester United which is:-

League Pl W D L for agst
Home 37 13 8 16 44 52
Away 37 6 8 23 26 72

Total 74 19 16 39 70 124

In addition there have been nine Cup meetings of which City have won four, drawn one and lost four. City have won their last two Cup meetings at Old Trafford (1987 and 2007).

Derek Paterson, a City fan based in New Zealand, sent me an email recently giving me news of former City goalkeeper Jonathan Gould. Gould, now aged 41, is the assistant coach (and goalkeeping coach) for the New Zealand-based Wellington Phoenix, the only NZ team playing in the A-League (the Australian professional league).

Derek tells me that last season Gould had to sit on the bench as substitute goalkeeper on five occasions because of an injury crisis at the club but fortunately was not called upon. The Phoenix became the first NZ team to reach the A-League play-offs by virtue of finishing fourth in the league season. They failed to reach the play-off finals but hugely improved the image of New Zealand football.

Jonathan, the son of former City player and manager Bobby Gould, played 25 games for the Sky Blues between 1992-96 before a successful career with Celtic and Preston. He also won two international caps for Scotland, despite being born in London.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Jim's column 14.8.10

After the promising opening-day victory over financially troubled Portsmouth last Saturday the League Cup hoodoo struck again at Morecambe on Tuesday evening but at least it was a night for records. The Sky Blues became the first team to play at The Globe Arena, the Shrimps’ new stadium, in what was their first ever meeting with Morecambe who had never been in the Football League until two years ago.

With just over 20 minutes of the game remaining manager Aidy Boothroyd used his second substitute of the evening, bringing on Leicester youngster Jonson Clarke-Harris for David Bell. The Academy youngster, just 20 days past his 16th birthday, became City’s youngest ever first team player, breaking Ben Mackey’s record set in 2003 by almost six months.

The ten youngest City debutants are now:-

1. Jonson Clarke-Harris (Aug 2010) 16 years 20 days
2. Ben Mackey (Apr 2003) 16 years 167 days
3. Gary McSheffrey (Apr 1999) 16 years 198 days
4. Brian Hill (Apr 1958) 16 years 273 days
5. Isaac Osbourne (Apr 2003) 16 years 308 days
6. Perry Suckling (Aug 1982) 16 years 320 days
7. George Curtis (Apr 1956) 16 years 351 days
8. Dietmar Bruck (Apr 1961) 17 years 9 days
9 Colin Holder (Mar 1961) 17 years 73 days
10. Lol Harvey (Nov 1951) 17 years 101 days

Coventry City seem to have a problem with trips to West Lancashire, perhaps it is the cool breezes off the Irish Sea. City have failed to win at Blackpool since the 1920s and have been thumped at Bloomfield Road heavily in recent years. A few miles down the road at Preston they fare no better and have never won a league game in almost 20 visits stretching back to 1949 - although they did win a League Cup tie at Deepdale in 2000. Even Southport was an unhappy hunting ground for City with an FA Cup defeat to the then non-league side in the 1920s. This week City’s first visit to Morecambe ended in an embarrassing defeat for a strong ‘reserve’ team containing many of last season’s first team regulars including Wood, McPake, McIndoe and Bell.

Goalkeeper Colin Doyle’s stay at Coventry City will probably go down as the shortest career in the club’s history. He arrived on loan from Birmingham on Tuesday morning, played in the discomforting defeat at Globe Arena, and on Wednesday morning was recalled to St Andrews owing to Ben Foster’s injury. Sadly he will bracketed with the Italian goalkeeper Rafaele Nuzzo whose only first team appearance was in the 5-1 League Cup defeat at Tranmere in 1999.

Last but not least it is sad to report the death last week of former Coventry City Commercial Manager Arthur Pepper. Arthur was a larger than life man who played his part in the Sky Blue’s history and always had a smile on his face. I remember his happy and jovial personality cheering up City’s long-faced fans on the flight back from Munich following City’s hammering in 1970.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Jim's column 7.8.10

The new football season opens today, far too early for my liking. Many football fans are still on holiday (myself included) and will be unable to make the opening game at the Ricoh against Portsmouth. Starting the season on the first Saturday in August is a relatively new phenomenon; a hundred years ago the League had an agreement with the Cricket authorities not to start the season until the first of September and for many decades the football campaign did not commence until the third Saturday in August. To start the season this early in the 1950s and 60s would have been crazy when the majority of Coventry’s factories closed down during the first two weeks of August and the city resembled a ghost town with the majority of families leaving town for the seaside or sunnier climes.

It has been another summer of change at Coventry City with new manager Aidy Boothroyd making adjustments to his squad. Gone are Marcus Hall (without a fan’s farewell), Clinton Morrison (not surprising but his going leaves a gap to be filled) and Stephen Wright (no tears spilled). A slew of new players have arrived including two players who return for a second spell with the club. Both Lee Carsley and Gary McSheffrey appeared for City in both the Premiership and the Championship before leaving to improve their career elsewhere. Carsley has had a long career in the Premiership and now aged 36 is presumably seen as the experienced defensive midfielder that helps get you out of this desperate division. In my opinion City have not had an effective ‘tackling’ defensive midfield player since Youssef Safri and in the interim period have had to see numerous ineffective players in this role. Sammy Clingan showed glimpses last season of filling the role but before him Stephen Hughes, Michael Doyle, Guillaume Beuzelin, Tim Sherwood and numerous others failed to understand the role that is crucial in English league football and , as we saw to England’s cost in South Africa, the World game. All of the best teams in the World Cup had at least one of these players, some , like Brazil, had two. The archetypal player in this role was Nobby Stiles, who could win the ball in the tackle (as well as man-marking the opposition’s top player) and feed it to the players who could make things happen. Similarly Coventry City’s Lloyd McGrath did the job to a tee, going about his job in a quiet and efficient way, rarely getting into the opposition’s penalty area, let alone scoring.

I’m hoping Carsley can play an important role in City’s team but note that he played only nine games for Birmingham City last term. His age however means that we will be relying more on his experienced football brain than his aging legs.

Several readers have asked me about other players like Carsley and McSheffrey, who returned to the club for second spells and there are several including Marcus Hall, Gary Bannister, Gary McAllister, Roland Nilsson and 20-odd years ago Mick Ferguson and Les Sealey returned for brief loan spells. Roy O’Donovan, of course, also rejoins for a second spell, having played for the youth team ten years ago without ever appearing for the first team and Colin Hawkins trod the same path a few years ago. In 1952 manager Harry Storer, seeking goals desperately to keep City in the Second Division, turned to former City legend George Lowrie for salvation. Lowrie had scored 50-odd goals in three seasons for City in the late 1940s before a big money move to Newcastle but his return to Coventry was not a success, he was over the hill and failed to save City from relegation.

Monday, 10 May 2010

JIM's End of Season review

Another disappointing season came to miserable end last Sunday with an embarrassing home defeat to Watford. The defeat was the final act of the Chris Coleman era and the likeable Welshman was summarily relieved of his duties on Tuesday morning. Strangely it was the biggest home defeat of his time in charge and the biggest since the game preceding his arrival in February 2008, a 0-5 FA Cup thumping from West Brom.

They say one week is a long time in politics but seven weeks is a very long time in football. On 16 March a win over Cardiff would have lifted Coleman’s men into the top six in the Championship with a reasonable chance of a play-off place if they could maintain their impressive post-Christmas run. Eleven games later and with only five points out of a possible 33 the club are, like Gary McAllister’s team in 2003, fortunate that the season didn’t go on to 48 games. Like 2003 City were never going to pull out of their dreadful slump which took them from 8th place to 19th.

Coleman’s record (a league win ratio of 28%) is worse than all his seven predecessors in this division, bar McAllister. The quality of the football was poor too but in my opinion he has left City a better legacy than his predecessor Iain Dowie and on the whole the quality of his signings was far superior. A new manager will have good players at this level such as Keiren Westwood, James McPake, Martin Cranie, Richard Wood and Carl Baker. Under Coleman however there have been far fewer highlights than in the Dowie era. Last season there were superb wins over the two promoted clubs Wolves and Birmingham plus a memorable Cup replay win over Blackburn and the visit of the mighty Chelsea. This season it is hard to come up with a real highlight other than the hard-fought victory over high-flying Nottm Forest.

Points: The team collected 54 points, exactly the same as last season’s total. 49 of those points came before 10 March in 35 games, the remaining five came from the 11 games since 10 March. This is almost a replica of last season.

Home Form: The home record was won 8, drew 9, lost 6, almost identical to last season. Goals scored were one more at 27 and 29 were conceded, three more than in 2008-09. Between the Newcastle defeat in December and the Cardiff game in early March the team went eight unbeaten at home and then failed to win any of the final six home games. In early March the home form was quite impressive and only Newcastle and Swansea had lost less home games, then the wheels fell off!

Wins: City won only thirteen league games, the same number as last season. Only the three relegated teams won less games. In December they did however win three in a row for the first time since October 2007.

Away Form: Five away games were won, the same number as last year. All five wins were against teams who finished in the bottom third (Plymouth, Peterborough, Crystal Palace, Barnsley & Watford). They failed to win at the seven grounds they have never won at (Leicester, Swansea, Cardiff, Preston, Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Middlesbrough).

Biggest win: The biggest victory was a 3-1 home win over Barnsley, only one of two occasions that the side won by two clear goals, the other was at Barnsley. For only the second time since the side were relegated from the Premiership they failed to score more than three goals in a game.

Biggest defeat: The 0-4 defeat to Watford last weekend was the heaviest defeat.

Goals: Once again goals were hard to come by with only 47 goals scored, only one more than in 2002-03, the worst season since relegation from the Premier League. Only three teams scored less (Plymouth, Peterborough and Swansea).

Final position: The final position of 19th means that the Sky Blues have finished in the top ten only once in eight years of second tier football. But for Crystal Palace’s ten point deduction City would have finished 20th. They are the only club, bar long-serving Premiership clubs and recent promotees from the Conference, not to have been promoted or reached the play-offs since the play-offs were introduced in 1987. City are now the second longest serving Championship club, after Preston. During the same period Preston have reached the play-offs on four occasions.

Leading scorers: Clinton Morrison was top scorer with 11 goals (all league). Leon Best netted 10 before his move to Newcastle in January and Freddy Eastwood scored eight.

Doubles: City did the double over two sides – Barnsley and Peterborough. Four clubs, Reading, Derby, Cardiff and Newcastle achieved the feat against City.

Appearances: For the second season running Keiren Westwood started the most games, missing just two league games and one League Cup game. Clinton Morrison however appeared in all 46 league games and all three Cup games, coming off the bench in eight league games. In his two seasons at the club Clinton has only missed one game out of 102 – an impressive record. Four players failed to start a league game but made substitute appearances (Gary Madine, Shaun Jeffers, Ashley Cain and Leon McKenzie) although Cain & Jeffers did start the League Cup game. Nathan Cameron and Callum Wilson appeared as subs in the League Cup but did not start a game.

Players used: Thirty one players were used in league games. In addition Adam Walker, Cameron & Wilson made one League Cup appearance. Of the 34, 17 players made their debuts during the season, six of them loan players. In addition to the 34 players used, five more, Danny Ireland, Curtis Wynter, Michael Quirke, Conor Grogan and Jacob Blackwell all sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used.

Records: At the end of his final season Marcus Hall reached 308 first team appearances for the club, leaving him in 15th place in the club’s all-time appearance chart. With Marcus leaving and Elliott Ward likely to follow shortly the leading appearance makers remaining at the club are Michael Doyle (278) and Isaac Osbourne (135). It remains to be seen whether Doyle will be with us next season.

Substitutes: Freddy Eastwood made the most substitute appearances (16). Loanee Gary Madine made nine appearances from the bench without starting a game, a club record. Three City substitutes scored goals: Morrison (twice) and David Bell.

Average attendance: Home 17,305 (2008-09 17,411). Away 17,426 (2008-09 17,592). The home average attendance fell by less than 1%.

Highest home attendance: The biggest league crowd was 22,207 for the visit of Leicester City in October.

Lowest home attendance: 14,326 v Sheffield United. (the lowest ever at the Ricoh was v Scunthorpe in 2007-08 – 14,036). The Barnsley ‘gate’ of 15,031 was the lowest for a Saturday home game since the stadium opened in 2005. The Hartlepool League Cup crowd of 6,055 was the lowest for any first team game at the Ricoh. The Portsmouth FA Cup crowd was the lowest at home in the competition since before City joined the Football League – you have to go back to 1909 when City were in the Southern League for a lower ‘gate’.

Highest away attendance: The biggest league crowd was 39,334 at Newcastle in February – the largest to watch City in a league game since 39,761 watched their final Premiership away game at Villa Park in 2001.

Lowest away attendance: 5,013 v Scunthorpe. The lowest to watch a City away league game since September 2002 when 2,077 watched them play Wimbledon at Selhurst Park.

Won from behind: (1) Watford (a). 1-2 down and won 3-2. The best comeback however was from 0-2 down at home to Middlesbrough to draw 2-2, the first time they have achieved that at home in 14 years.

Lost from in front: (6) Preston (a), Derby (a), Ipswich (a), Newcastle (a), Cardiff (h) & Portsmouth FAC (h). Three of those defeats came from goals in added time. In a further five games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws. Six defeats from in front equalled the worst season in the last 43 years.

Firsts: City won at Plymouth for the first time since 1965 and at Watford for the first time in six visits and beat Scunthorpe for the first time ever in a league game. There was still no win at Blackpool and Bloomfield Road is becoming a bogey ground. Preston’s Deepdale also remains a bogey ground – City have now played 14 league games there and failed to win.

Hat-tricks: (1) Freddy Eastwood notched City’s first league hat-trick since 2002 against Peterborough.

Opposing hat-tricks: (0) None. However Grzegorz Rasiak of Reading scored three goals in his sides two wins over City and has now scored seven goals in seven appearances against the Sky Blues including every game he has started. Ipswich’s Pablo Counago and Sheffield United’s Richard Cresswell scored their eighth goals against City this season.

Own goals: For City: (1) Baptiste (Blackpool)

Own goals: By City: (1) Wright (v Portsmouth FAC (h))

Penalties: For City: (1) Morrison (Doncaster h). Two were missed: Clingan (Swansea h) and Best (Doncaster h).

Penalties: Against City: (7) Adam (Blackpool a), Clarke (Sheff Wed a), Whittingham (Cardiff a), Lovenkrands (Newcastle a), Church (Reading a), Davidson (Preston h), Graham (Watford h). In addition Konstantapoulos saved Hulse of Derby’s penalty in the game at Pride Park and Westwood saved Gary Hooper’s against Scunthorpe at home.

Fastest Goal scored: 3 minutes: Morrison (Ipswich a).

Fastest Goal conceded: 1 minute : Rasiak (Reading h).

Red cards: Coventry: (4) Jordan Clarke (Derby a), Stephen Wright (QPR a), Leon Barnett (Newcastle a) & (Scunthorpe h)

Red cards: Opponents: (2) Kozluk (Barnsley a), Ormerod (Blackpool h)

Television: City appeared on live television five times, three times on Sky, once on ITV4 (Portsmouth h) and once on BBC1 (Leicester a). Of the three Sky games City won one (Ipswich (h)) but lost at Derby and Scunthorpe.

Cup form: City were unable to beat Premiership opposition in the FA Cup for the third year running. Despite a good draw at Fratton Park Pompey, the eventual finalists, beat the Sky Blues in the replay with an extra-time goal. In the League Cup Chris Coleman gave little respect to the competition by playing eight reserves or youth players against League One side Hartlepool and the Sky Blues were beaten at home at the first hurdle by a lower division side for the first time since 1984 when Walsall defeated them.

Man of the Match awards: The leaders in Andy Turner’s man of the match awards were: Eastwood (6), Baker (6), Clingan (5), Westwood (4), Morrison (4), Wood (4), Best (4).

Finally a first: In the home game with Nottingham Forest Amy Hearn, the substitute referee, became the first female to referee a Football League game.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Another season comes to close tomorrow and after the euphoria of early March it has to be said the season has finished with a whimper, again. It is forty years ago this month that the Sky Blues last finished in a top six position, a record second to none in the Football League. In April 1970 Noel Cantwell’s side qualified for European football by finishing sixth – above, believe it or not, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. The European place was clinched with a win at Molineux (the tenth away win of the season) on the Friday night before the FA Cup final between Leeds and Chelsea. An early Brian Joicey goal was enough to clinch the points and send a large Sky Blue following in the 23,000 crowd delirious. It was the second away win in four days – on the Tuesday night a John O’Rourke hat-trick earned a 4-1 win at Forest’s City Ground. In September the Former Players Association are planning to reunite the squad from 1970 at a City home game.

I am afraid the death of former City player Ken Watkins last November passed me by. Ken, who passed away on 26 November 2009, aged 86, lived on Hipswell Highway.

Ken was a right-half who played for Humber FC during World War 2 and was one of many promising young local players called in by City when the first teamers were away in the war. Ken never played in a peacetime game for the club, his 14 appearances coming in the wartime period 1943-1945, eight of them in the transitional 1945-46 season when City played in a Southern regional league with many First Division clubs. In August 1945 Ken played at right half in a 2-0 win over Arsenal (the first ever competitive game against the Gunners) in front of the biggest League crowd of the season, 20,943. Ken also made one guest appearance for Port Vale in 1946 and later played for Rugby Oakfield before coaching Humber after the war. He was also a talented cricketer and I believe he played the odd game for Warwickshire and was a top player for a number of years in the Coventry leagues.

Kieron Beaman emailed me recently. He is the Grandson of Joe Beaman, a City player and manager from before the First World War. Kieron read about Ken Satchwell’s appearance at the Legend’s Day and remembers ‘Satch the Snatch’ scoring four goals in a game for City – against Wrexham on Christmas Day 1959. He asked how many City players have scored four in a game.

The following have all scored four or more in a league game:

Clarrie Bourton (3 occasions)
George Lowrie (3)
Arthur Bacon (2)
Billy Lake (2)
Bill Paterson (1)
Jimmy Rogers (1)
George Stewart (1)
Ken Satchwell (1)
Mick Ferguson (1)

Two players achieved the feat in a League Cup game:
Cyrille Regis
Steve Livingstone

Lowrie had a golden period in 1947 scoring four goals on three separate occasions between April and November. In the same period he also netted three hat-tricks.

Mick Ferguson was the last City player to score four in a league game, in a 4-1 victory over Ipswich in December 1979.

Next week is my final column of the season when I will present my customary Review of the Season.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 24.4.10

Today Coventry City face their former manager Gordon Strachan for the first time in a competitive game since he left the club in September 2001. Strachan did bring his Celtic team to the Ricoh for Richard Shaw’s testimonial game in 2006 but the game at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium is a landmark. Some eagle-eyed folk did spot the wee man in the Ricoh stands at the fixture between City and Boro’ earlier in the season, some weeks before his predecessor Gareth Southgate was sacked and his subsequent selection as Southgate’s successor was not a big surprise. Gordon didn’t have a very good record against Boro’ whilst managing City, winning only two games out of eight. Many fans will remember the opening game of what turned out to be the relegation season in 2000 when an average Boro’ side won 3-1 at Highfield Road with debut boy Alan Boksic scoring twice and giving poor Colin Hendry the runaround. That day many City fans realised that City’s 34-year stay in the top flight was going to be seriously under threat.

The Riverside is one of several Championship grounds where City have never won. Opened in 1995, City had the honour of scoring the first opposing goal there (Isaias netting), but in five league visits they have picked up only one point, as well as losing two cup ties there.

Last August I highlighted that there were seven away grounds where City had never won a league game: Leicester’s Walker’s Stadium, Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park, Preston, Boro’s Riverside, Swansea’s Liberty Stadium and Cardiff’s new stadium. I said that if City failed to win at all of these grounds then the chances are they will not be in the play-off mix come next April. Here we are at the final away game of the season and barring a surprise win today City have not won at any of the seven grounds and are not in the play-offs.

I spoke to former City player Lol Harvey at last week’s game and he reminisced about the late Charlie Timmins who he played alongside in the 1950s. Lol was close to Charlie in his playing days but the pair had lost touch until I put them in touch about four years ago and they had re-established a fine friendship. One of the most interesting comments that a sad Lol made was regarding Charlie’s playing ability. He pointed out that unusually for a defender of that era, he wasn’t a great tackler but did have exceptional passing ability and was renowned for his runs into the opponent’s half of the pitch. Lol described how Charlie would advance over the halfway line and be looking for centre-forward Ted Roberts. He could deliver an excellent cross and would invariably find Ted with his deep crosses.

Graham Williams sent me an email recently reminding me that former City player Martin Jol is enjoying a successful first season as manager at Ajax Amsterdam. The British papers have concentrated on Steve McClaren’s rehabilitation at FC Twente but Jol has rebuilt his own career after being treated shabbily at Tottenham. With one league game remaining Ajax are a point behind Twente and any slip by McClaren’s team next weekend will hand the title to Ajax. Jol’s team are also in the Dutch Cup Final and will face Feyenoord in the first ever two-legged final. The games, with the first leg in Amsterdam tomorrow and the second in Rotterdam on 6 May, will be attended by home fans only in an effort to avoid crowd trouble.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 17.4.10 Charlie Timmins R I P

It is sad to report the death earlier this week of former Coventry City player Charlie Timmins (pictured above, right, with Gordon Nutt). Birmingham-born Charlie died on Tuesday 13 April, aged 87, after a fight with cancer.

After many years away from Coventry he had in recent years become a regular visitor at City home games with his son and grandson, Stephen, and brightened up the Legends Lounge with his impish sense of humour. He was a regular attendee at the Former Players’ Legends Day and loved mixing with his former City teammates.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie and his family when I gave them a tour of the new stadium. Charlie could hardly believe his eyes at the facilities available at the Ricoh and spent more than hour with me reminiscing about his tn happy years at Highfield Road from 1948-58.

Charlie’s memory that day was remarkable. We talked about a famous game in the 1950-51 season when City beat Blackburn 6-1 to go top of Division Two – and he was able to rattle off the names of nine of the City team. He also remembered the day Preston North End, then a top First Division side, including the legendary Tom Finney, came to Highfield Road. It was in January 1956 and with both teams out of the FA Cup a hastily arranged friendly took place. Finney was at the time one of the top players in Britain, if not Europe, and he gave Charlie a real chasing in the mud. Charlie described the experience: ‘Finney played on the right wing that day but his left foot was stronger and whilst I could get close to most wingers, he was unorthodox and so fast. I was puffed out at half-time and the manager George Raynor had to switch Frank Austin and I to give me a breather. At the end I didn’t have enough energy to shake his hand”.

Charlie did service in the Royal Engineers in the war and was playing for a Birmingham non-league side, Jack Moulds Athletic, when City spotted him. ‘I was 27-years old and working at the Morris in Birmingham with no thought of playing football professionally. One night there was a knock on the front door and a chap called Harry Storer was there, saying he wanted to sign me for Coventry City. I played a game for the reserves on the first day of the season in August 1949. We won and I was picked for the first team game at Luton four days later. We lost 0-2 but Storer was pleased with me.’

Charlie played 23 times that season, at either right or left back and helped the Bantams to an eight-game unbeaten end to the season, lifting any relegation worries. The next season he was a regular as the team set the pace at the top of the Second Division. Promotion looked a strong possibility until the New Year when the team stuttered and finished seventh. Charlie showed me his press cuttings and his outstanding performances that season prompted the media to tip him for international honours with a big money move to Newcastle mooted at one time.

A loss of form cost him his place the following season and with City’s ageing team suddenly looking tired the team were relegated to Division Three. Charlie played a total of 165 games for the club between 1949 and 1958 and scored five goals for City, four of them penalties. He played under six managers Storer, Jack Fairbrother, Jesse Carver, Raynor, Harry Warren and Billy Frith. His only outfield goal came on Christmas Eve 1955 in a 5-3 win over Norwich. His final game was a 0-0 home draw with Brentford in February 1958. He was released at the age of 36 and joined Lockheed Leamington, managed by former City colleague Les Latham.

Charlie remembers travelling to Coventry from Birmingham every day for training on the Midland Red 159 bus with other Brum-based players like George Mason, Martin McDonnell, Gordon Nutt and Don Dorman. ‘Very few players could afford a car in those days and we had great fun on the bus every day. When I joined Lockheed I used to cycle to Olton station and catch the train to Leamington, taking my bike with me. At Leamington I would cycle up Tachbrook Road to the Windmill Ground in time for the kick-off.’

After hanging up his boots he went back into the motor industry and joined Rover at Solihull in the Car despatch division where he spent 28 happy years before retiring in 1986 continuing to live in the Sparkhill district. Charlie was a great supporter of the Former Players Association from its inception three years ago and the Association committee and members have asked me to express their condolences to Charlie’s family.

In turn the Timmins family would be very happy to see any Coventry City fans at the funeral which takes place next Wednesday (21 April) at 11.30 at Yardley Crematorium, Yardley, Birmingham and afterwards at the Westley Arms in Acocks Green.

The Former Players Association is running transport to the funeral and anybody who would like a lift can contact Bob Eales on 07795 283955.

Last week’s appeal on behalf of Bob Weeks and the picture of the Midland (Coventry) Telegraph Cup winners of 1908 prompted a couple of replies. Gordon Rouse is vice-chairman of the Telegraph Cup committee and revealed that Great Heath were the winners of the trophy in 1908. Fellow historian Mike Young was able to provide me with some more information:

Foleshill Great Heath (as they were known) beat Leamington Town 4-3 in the 1907-08 Final of the Midland Daily Telegraph Cup after beating Exhall Colliery 4-1 in Round 1; Budbrooke 6-0 in Round 2; Nuneaton Wanderers in Round 3; and Lord Street 3-2 after extra time in the Semi Finals.

It was so predictable that I wish I had put money on Richard Cresswell to score for Sheffield United last Saturday at Bramall Lane. His eighth goal in 12 appearances against City since 2001 makes him the highest scorer against Coventry since they left the Premiership. Cresswell has a pretty good record in the Championship but it is interesting to note that in his one recent season in the top division, with Stoke last year, he failed to find the net in 29 appearances.