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.