Tuesday, 26 January 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 23.1.10

I tempted providence last week when I pointed out that the Sky Blues were the only side in the Championship not to concede a goal in the last five minutes this season. Sure enough Ipswich pop up and score in added time to break that impressive record. Admittedly Pompey had done it twice in the cup replay but the league record stood firm until Pablo Counago’s strike.

Talking of Counago his record against the Sky Blues is impressive. The Spanish striker has been playing for Ipswich against City since 2002 but had three seasons away in the middle of the decade. In that time he has played against City on eight occasions (three of which were as a substitute) and scored seven goals, six of them at Portman Road. I think he needs special attention if we come up against him again.

Another Ipswich scorer was our old friend Stern John. After the match a lot of fans were saying that it was so predictable him scoring against his old club under what famous football writer Brian Glanville called the immutable law of the ex, that is a player scoring against his old club. The law doesn’t really work for Stern, that was his first goal in six appearances against City since he left in 2007 (and his first goal anywhere for 32 games!). There have been just four other former City scorers in the last five seasons: Dele Adebola, Jay Bothroyd, Andy Morrell and Calum Davenport. Incidentally it was the fourth different club John has played for against us in those six games and he has now appeared against City for six different clubs.

The football stars of the 1950s are today largely forgotten by the media. Many of them survive on a meagre pension after earning less in a career than today’s Premiership stars earn in a week. It was still however a surprise to learn last week that former 1950s Coventry City star Tommy Capel passed away last October. His death was reported at the time by the Nottingham papers (Forest were his major club and he lived in the city) but didn’t appear on my radar until reported in the Soccer History publication.

Manchester-born Capel played as a teenager for local works team Goslings and then Droylesden before joining Manchester City in 1941. Military service in Burma with the Marines meant he made only a handful of senior games for City in war-time football. In 1947 he joined Chesterfield and later was briefly at Birmingham City before a move to Nottingham Forest in 1949. The dashing inside-forward was a regular scorer and played his best football at the City Ground scoring 72 goals in five seasons including 23 in Forest’s Second Division promotion campaign of 1950-51. Coventry City boss Jack Fairbrother pulled off a major coup signing Capel and his Forest colleague Colin Collindridge in 1954. In his first season at Highfield Road Capel, a ‘bustling’ inside-forward was top scorer with 22 league and cup goals including a brace in the surprise 3-3 FA Cup draw at First Division Huddersfield. The following season under Jesse Carver he was dropped after the first two games and sold to Halifax soon afterwards. After leaving senior football he worked as a travelling salesman for Trent Concrete and played non-league football with Heanor Town in the Midland League. Tommy continued to play for Padstow in the Nottingham Spartan League until past his 50th birthday.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 16.1.10

This year’s FA Cup run came to a shuddering halt at a freezing Ricoh Arena on Tuesday night with Portsmouth gaining revenge for the defeats of 1910 and 1963 with their late goals. With City’s excellent record in league games this season (they are the only Championship side who haven’t conceded a goal in the last five minutes) I was contemplating a fourth round tie with Sunderland when Stephen Wright headed into his own net, then Pompey did it again in added time at the end of extra-time with Mokoena heading home unmarked.

The gate was a pitifully low 7,097 – the lowest home FA Cup crowd since 1909. Apart from visits from Middlesbrough and Chelsea, City’s crowds in the competition have slumped in the last few years and the last FA Cup game at Highfield Road in 2005 attracted only 7,628 was the lowest for almost a century. On Tuesday the cold weather and the fact that the game was televised had a big impact and the other games on the night also had low crowds with under 10,000 at St.Andrews and barely more than 7,000 at Derby and Bristol City, and under 6,000 at QPR. The last time a crowd as small watched City at home in the competition was for a Qualifying round tie against Wrexham in October 1909.

My comments about the Portsmouth games in 1963 prompted some correspondence including a long email from Dave Walker of Allesley Park. He was at the first replay at Highfield Road but didn’t expect to see the second replay. He takes up the story:

At the time, I was an apprentice at Coventry Gauge and Tool Co., (£3 7s 6d a week), and out of the blue, one of my mates, John Taylor, came round to my machine and said, ‘If we can swing it with the management, would you be interested in us getting a coach party to go to Tottenham for the replay’, which was on a Tuesday night. What a question?

In double quick time, we got permission from the company, to knock off early, to travel to London, with the proviso that we put in unpaid overtime to make up the lost time, for which we had no objection at all, booked the coach, which I seem to remember cost about ten bob a head and we set out, full of hope for Tottenham.
The game was a cracker and as you can imagine the Sky Blue song was belted out by all concerned on the way back.

Next came the Sunderland match, which was something of a problem for me, in that I had been born in Sunderland (my mother’s home town) but lived in Coventry since 1952 which was my dad’s birthplace, but was, by now a confirmed City fan. I have heard some cheers in my time, in big stadiums, but when the ball went through Jim Montgomery’s hands into the net it was a wonder the Kop and old stand at Highfield Road didn’t collapse.

The next problem was getting tickets for the Manchester United tie, which I did, but only at the last minute. That game was a bit sad, in that there will, for all time, I suppose, be a debate as to whether Willie Humphries’ shot crossed the line of not, plus City being undone by an incredible goal from Bobby Charlton. A ‘nothing’ situation, with John Sillett marking him and a thunderbolt shot, totally out of the blue that nearly broke the net. Genius in action.

As I write this Gary Madine’s move to Coventry City from Carlisle is in doubt. Nevertheless he is approaching a Coventry City record as a substitute. The tall striker has now appeared on nine occasions as a substitute without ever starting a game. The club record of sub appearances before a full league debut is held by Gary McSheffrey who made 11 sub appearances before his first league start in April 2002, although he did start a couple of League Cup games before then. In second place is Wayne Andrews who made 10 sub appearances for the Sky Blues without ever starting a game.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


I am very surprised that no commentators have mentioned the coincidence in the fourth round FA Cup draw this week. A victory over Portsmouth in next week’s replay will mean an attractive game with Sunderland. The last time City beat Pompey in the competition (in 1963) they also earned a home tie with Sunderland. They went on to beat the Black Cats on one of the most emotional nights in the club’s history and reached the quarter- finals of the competition. They lost to the eventual winners, Manchester United but it was those memorable cup games that put Coventry City back on the football map after more than a decade in the doldrums.

Any City fans aged 55 or over will have the Sunderland game etched on their memories. If they were there they will remember the massive crushing crowd, officially counted at 40,487 but believed to be more like 50,000 after two gates were broken down. Then they will remember City trailing to a first half goal, before pummelling the Wearsiders, and finally breaking them with goals from Dietmar Bruck and George Curtis in the last ten minutes. Many of those older fans will argue that it was the finest City victory of the post-war era, better than Wolves in ’67 or Wembley in ’87, and they will wax lyrically about the stars of that team like Willie Humphries, Terry Bly, Ronnie Rees, etc.

The weather this week has reminded me of that dreadful winter of 1963 and Coventry City’s performances as the country came out of the freezer helped Sky Blue fans forget about the awful weather.

To earn the tie with Sunderland, City, a Third Division side, needed three games to dispose of Portsmouth, then a Second Division side. The first game ended 1-1 at Fratton Park on a wet Wednesday night. Ron Saunders, later famous for managing Aston Villa, scored an early goal for Pompey but a battling Sky Blues performance was rewarded with Ken Hale’s 85th minute equaliser. Three days later the sides fought out another draw at Highfield Road with the biggest crowd of the season, so far, 25,642 watched City squander a 2-0 half-time lead (two goals from Jimmy Whitehouse) with former City player Albie McCann and Saunders levelling the scores and extra-time throwing up no outright winners. In those days there were no penalty shoot-outs and replays continued until a winner emerged so a second replay was planned for the following Tuesday night at neutral White Hart Lane. This time the Jimmy Hill’s boys made no mistake, coming from a goal down (that man Saunders again) to win 2-1 through goals from Terry Bly and Whitehouse and the Sky Blue song echoed around Tottenham’s famous stadium.

The other omen in the FA Cup this year is that the Sky Blues and Pompey have only met in the FA Cup on two previous occasions and on both occasions City have progressed to the quarter-finals. Exactly 100 years ago the teams, both then playing in the Southern League, were drawn together in a second round tie (equivalent of today’s fourth round). City had pulled off the shock result of the first round by winning at First Division Preston. A goal from Freddie Chaplin was enough to sink Pompey at Fratton Park in front of 11,631. City went on to beat another First Division side Nottingham Forest in the third round before losing 0-2 to Everton in the quarter-finals. Wouldn’t it be nice for the Sky Blues to emulate that great team from 1910 which first put City’s name into the headlines of the national newspapers with their giant-killing exploits.

It is sad to report the death of former City player Ron Wykes who passed away on 27 December aged 90. Although he never appeared for the first team he was a very promising youngster when the war broke out in 1939 and one who we can honestly say ‘but for the war’. A wing-half, Ron returned to Highfield Road after the war and was a regular for the reserves for the 1946-47 season.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Best & Worst of the Decade

As the decade ends, it is time to look back on what has been the worst ten years in the club’s history and give you my nominations for the awards of the decade. When the decade started City were comfortably placed in mid-table in the Premiership fresh from a Christmas victory over Arsenal and were being described as ‘the entertainers’ by Sky TV pundits.

Gary McAllister and Mustapha Hadji were at the peak of their powers and creating chances galore for Robbie Keane. In the summer of 2000 the departing McAllister and Keane were not adequately replaced, and twelve months later the entertainers were relegated from the top flight after 34 years.

Team of the Decade : To compare the players who represented the club in the top flight with the 150 or so players who have passed through the City revolving doors since 2001 is impossible. Therefore I have selected a team to represent the post-Premiership era.
Keiren Westwood: Richard Shaw, Robert Page, Calum Davenport, Stephen Warnock: David Thompson, Gary McAllister, Dennis Wise, Gary McSheffrey: Dele Adebola, Michael Mifsud. Subs: Tabb, Best, Fulop, Dann, Safri, Gunnarsson, Konjic.

Readers may be surprised at the inclusion of Dennis Wise but his influence in early 2006 took City from relegation candidates to the verge of the play-offs. He may have only played 13 games but for once City fans had something to cheer. Mifsud’s presence may also be queried but few can deny the electrifying effect he had on City fans in the autumn and winter of 2007 before he went off the rails.

Performance of Decade: During the Dowie era City finally knocked a Premiership side out of a cup competition by beating Manchester United 2-0 in the League Cup, then did the same to Blackburn in the FA Cup, and in between was a classic 4-2 win at West Brom. However my favourite performance has to be the 4-3 home win over Manchester City in September 2001. Roland Nilsson had taken over from Strachan ten days earlier and the Swede inspired his side to a thrilling victory over Kevin Keegan’s star-studded team with David Thompson snatching the winner in the last minute.

Best Day of the Decade: There can only be one – the final day at Highfield Road in April 2005 when a packed house roared the team to a 6-2 win over Derby County, assisted by Derby’s former Sky Blue skipper Mo Konjic being unclear which side he was playing for.

Worst Day of the Decade: It has to be that depressing day at Villa Park in May 2001 when City lost their Premiership status. It couldn’t have happened at a worst ground! Close behind is that depressing day at the Valley in 2008 when with City fans resigned to defeat, they had to endure 86 minutes of hell and but for Stoke’s ‘keeper Carlo Nash, City would have been relegated to League One instead of Leicester.

Player of the decade: Richard Shaw may not have been the most skilful player of the decade but he always gave 100% and managed to survive under six different managers. He could play in any defensive position and finally got his first goal for the club at Gillingham in 2004.

Worst player of the decade: There have been countless dreadful players wearing the famous Sky Blue strip during the decade but three so-called ‘big names’ (all internationals) stand out as flops.

Tim Sherwood was so obviously crocked when he arrived that it was amazing that he managed to start ten games before retiring. Kevin Kyle was not injured but came with a reputation for mediocrity that everyone but the club’s management knew about.

The clear winner however was £1 million rated Keith O’Neill, who picked up his inflated wages for three years and made just seven starts.

Most popular player of the decade: Dele Adebola and Dennis Wise overcame the boo-boys and Freddy Eastwood often threatens to become a big favourite but none of them can match Mo Konjic for popularity, and his performance for the Rams in the final game at Highfield Road cemented his legendary status with City fans.

Least popular player of the decade: It seems a long time ago that Craig Bellamy was at City and he has had numerous big money moves since then. His performances for Coventry in the relegation season were nothing short of disgraceful and he compounded his unpopularity with his derogatory comments after leaving.

Manager of the decade: There have been eight managers during the last decade and none of them have been successful. The two with the best records in charge, Roland Nilsson and Eric Black, were both prematurely sacked. Nilsson had an amazing start with an 11-game unbeaten run and should have got into the play-offs. Black took over from McAllister in 2004 and brought the smile back to the fan’s faces with some bright, attacking play which brought results. I believe both men would have brought success to the club if given more time but on balance Black gets my vote.
Worst manager of the decade: In a large field one man stands head and shoulders above all others, Peter Reid. The wise fans were not fooled when Reid was brought in to replace Black. McGinnity was forced to eat humble pie seven months later after some of the most depressing performances for years. Reid was finally forced out following a massive crowd demonstration during the Leeds home game with what seemed like the whole ground chanting ‘Reid out’.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Christmas Quiz - Answers

Section 1

1. Lee Hughes (Crewe (a) 2002)
2. City of Cardiff Stadium
3. Clinton Morrison
4. Paulo Sousa (Swansea)
5. Carlisle United
6. Gregor Rasiak (Reading) & Craig Mackail-Smith (Peterborough)
7. Dimi Konstantopoulos
8. Watford (away)
9. Sammy Clingan & Leon Best
10. AFC Wimbledon

Section 2

1. Clinton Morrison
2. James McPake
3. Stephen Wright
4. Sammy Clingan
5. Freddy Eastwood
6. David Bell
7. Leon Barnett
8. Elliott Ward
9. Jack Cork
10. Leon Best

Section 3

1. 1898
2. 1899
3. 1919
4. 1923
5. 1970
6. 1961
7. 1981
8. 2005
9. 1969
10. 1965

Section 4

1. Marton Fulop
2. Bobby Gould (son - Richard)
3. George Curtis (son - Michael)
4. Adam Walker (father - Ricky)
5. Leon McKenzie (uncle - Duke)
6. Harry Storer
7. Isaac Osbourne (brother – Isiah)
8. Jermaine Grandison (brother – Joel)
9. Jack Cork (father – Alan)
10. Ernie Machin (son – Stewart)

Section 5
1. Steve Staunton
2. Guillaume Beuzelin
3. Chris Kirkland
4. Lee Hughes
5. Micky Adams
6. Terry Gibson
7. Sam Allardyce
8. Stern John
9. Scott Shearer
10. Ernie Hannigan

Monday, 4 January 2010

Christmas Quiz 2009


1. Who was the last City player before Freddy Eastwood to score a league hat-trick for the club?
2. Which stadium did the Sky Blues visit for the first time earlier this season?
3. Which City player has appeared in every league game for the Sky Blues this season?
4. Which Championship manager’s first victory in charge was against City?
5. From which club did Gary Madine join Coventry in October?
6. Which two opposing players scored twice against the Sky Blues at the Ricoh this season?
7. In the 3-1 home defeat to Reading which City player made his first league start for over 18 months?
8. City have come from behind only once this season, against which team?
9. Which two City players have missed penalties at the Ricoh this season?
10. From which club did Chris Hussey join Coventry in October?


1. ..has the middle name of Hubert?

2. ..was born in the same Scottish town as Gary McAllister?
3. ..has a father who is the kitman at Liverpool?
4. ..started his career at Wolves but never appeared for the first team at Molineux?
5. ..has a daughter called Chardonnay?
6. ..played six games on loan for Leicester in 2008?
7. ..has an aunt Beverley who appeared in the final of X Factor in 2007?
8. ..played in the Championship play-off final for West Ham in 2005?
9. ..scored his first two league goals against the Sky Blues in the 2007-08 season?
10. ..has the middle name of Julian?


1. ..did Singers FC change their name to Coventry City?
2. ..did the football club move to Highfield Road?
3. ..did Coventry City join the Football League?
4. ..was the FA Cup final first played at Wembley?
5. ..did Coventry City last finish in the top six of any division?
6. ..did Jimmy Hill become the manager?
7. ..did the Sky Blues reach their first major Cup semi-final?
8. ..did the football club move to the Ricoh Arena?
9. ..did George Curtis play his final game for the club?
10. ..were substitutes first used in league games?


1. Which former City goalkeeper had a father who played the role of a Nazi centre-forward in the film Escape to Victory?
2. Which former City player and manager has a son who is the chief executive of Somerset county cricket club?
3. Which former City captain had a son who played rugby for Coventry RFC in the 1990s?
4. Which City youngster who has started one game this season has a father who was on City’s books in the 1970s?
5. Which former City striker has an uncle who was a World Boxing champion?
6. Which former City manager had a father who played cricket for England?
7. Which current City first team squad member has a brother playing on loan at Middlesbrough?
8. Which City defender has a younger brother on the club’s books?
9. Which current City player’s father was formerly a coach at the club?
10. Which former City player’s son is a commentator on Channel 4 racing?


1. ..is currently manager of Darlington?
2. ..from last season has appeared for Hamilton Academicals in the SPL this season?
3. ..let in nine goals against Tottenham earlier this season?
4. ..scored 18 goals for Oldham Athletic last season?
5. ..is the current manager of Port Vale?
6. ..works as a commentator on Sky’s Spanish football coverage?
7. ..currently manages in the Premiership?
8. ..appeared against the Sky Blues for Crystal Palace this season?
9. ..is first team goalkeeper at Wycombe Wanderers?
10. ..from the 1960s is in the Western Australia Football Hall of Fame?

Answers will be posted tomorrow