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.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Cresswell prediction spot-on

Sheffield United's Richard Cresswell duly scored the winning goal at Bramall Lane as the Sky Blues made it eight games without a win. It was Cresswell's eighth goal against the Sky Blues since 2001, making him the leading scorer against City in that time.

JIM'S COLUMN 10.4.10

Two weeks ago I reported the sad passing away of former City goalkeeper Charlie Ashcroft. Dave Walker of Allesley Park remembers Charlie for one of the most bizarre own goals of all time. In what was only Charlie’s third game for the City he was a member of the team getting a going over at Northampton Town’s County Ground – not an unusual occurrence back in the 1950s. City were 2-0 down after 35 minutes to the Cobblers when as the Coventry Telegraph match report describes it: ‘With all the field in which to place a harmless clearance Ashcroft weakly kicked the ball against the back of the unsuspecting (Roy) Kirk’s head and had the mortification of seeing his effort rebound 14 yards into an empty net’. The Cobblers scored another goal just after half-time and ran out 4-0 winners.

I also reported the death of another player from the 1950s, Charlie Dutton. Terry Hough sent me a lovely email. As a good friend of Charlie when he first came to Coventry, he was shocked to read that Dutton had passed away. They became good friends in the Fitting Shop at Binley Colliery where Terry was working, and as Charlie had previously worked in a colliery in his native Staffordshire the club fixed up a job at Binley for him.

Terry was best man at Charlie’s wedding but they lost touch after Charlie left City and moved away from Coventry. Terry played football for the Binley Welfare team in the Coventry & North Warwickshire league in the early 60s and remembers playing against Bobby Gould, Dudley Roberts and Mick Coop when they played for Modern Machine Tools who were the Coventry City junior side in that league.

George Hudson’s reappearance at Legends Day and his appearance on BBC CWR prompted Keith Ballantyne to ask if George ever scored against the Sky Blues for Tranmere Rovers. He did Keith, in an FA Cup Fourth Round replay at Prenton Park in 1968. City were held to a draw by Rovers at Highfield Road and in the replay Hudson and fellow striker George Yardley scored first half goals to send the Third Division side through to a plum tie with Everton in round five. George played for Tranmere for almost three years before hanging up his boots.

Gareth Robinson asked who played in goal for the Sky Blues during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. City's goalkeepers for those two seasons were:

Ogrizovic 33 league games
Jonathan Gould 7
John Filan 2

Ogrizovic 25
Filan 13

Oggy’s appearance total was lower than usual owing to the broken leg he suffered in a friendly at Northampton in 1995. Gould and the Australian Filan filled the position until Oggy was fit to resume in the autumn of 1995.

Bob Weeks has obtained a picture of the Midland (Coventry) Telegraph Cup winners of 1908 but there is no mention of the name of the team. He was wondering if any readers know the winners of the competition for that year. Amongst the players featured are R W Arnold, E O Shanks, Joseph Tedds, T Garratt and trainer W Wright. Perhaps the current trophy has a list of winners inscribed on it.

Finally City must be glad to see the back of Reading striker Grzegorz Rasiak for another season. The Pole notched his seventh goal against the Sky Blues in the last four seasons. Since arriving at Derby in 2004 he has scored in all six games he has started against City for Derby (1), Southampton (2), Watford (1) and Reading (3). The only time he failed to net was when he came on as a substitute for Southampton. His seventh goal on Monday means he pulls level with Pablo Counago and Richard Cresswell as the highest scorers against Coventry since they left the Premiership in 2001. Today City are likely to face Cresswell at Bramall Lane – who would bet against Cresswell scoring!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Coventry City Former Players' Database now live

My Coventry City players' database is now live. Search for any player who has appeared for the first team since 1919 and discover the number of games played, goals scored, who they were signed from and sold to, where they were born and who they made their debut against and when.

It is hoped to add profiles and pictures over the coming months. Some are already there.

JIM'S COLUMN 3.4.10 Another successful Legends Day

Last Saturday’s Legend’s Day was another massive success but I’m sorry to say I was unable to attend due to some family issues. Mike Young, a fellow committee member has however given me a full report on a great day for our former heroes, and Tony Thomas our resident photographer has again produced some memorable images of the day.

Numbers were slightly down on last year but quality was in big supply with Tommy Hutch, Willie Carr, Roy Barry, Ian Wallace and Ernie Hunt leading the charge of top players from the 1970s. These guys really know how to enjoy themselves and you can begin to understand the problems that managers like Noel Cantwell and Gordon Milne had in controlling themselves. Barry and Wallace made the long trek from their homes in Scotland with ‘Wally’ struggling on crutches but both had a great time and are great ambassadors for the Former Players Association.

Tommy Hutch vied with the legendary George Hudson for the biggest cheer in the Eon lounge at lunchtime but by all accounts Tom got the biggest cheer on the pitch at half-time. ‘The Hud’ as many fans called him in his heyday, presented Joe Elliott with a signed 1960s City number 9 shirt on behalf of the committee for all the fantastic work Joe has done in supporting the association since its inception.

The oldest guest was Trevor Lewis who is 90 next January and made his debut for City back in 1948 and is very sprightly for his age. The youngest was 33-year old Claus Jorgensen who was still playing league football last season. In between those two, all eras were represented. Two new members made their first appearance at an FPA event, Graham Newton and Ian Goodwin. Neither of them were at the club too long but both were remembered by their former team mates and thoroughly enjoyed the reunion. Their appearance reminds us that all former first team players are welcome at games and events, whether they played one game or five hundred. They are all part of the football club’s fine history.

Mike tells me everything went like clockwork with the players receiving a rapturous reception from the crowd at half-time. A number of people have asked why they didn’t do a lap of honour and the reason is that last year the lap took so long that there were still former players on the perimeter when the second half kicked off and the club risked a fine if there had been a repeat. The fans however had their opportunity to meet and mingle with the former heroes after the game when they were guests of the key men at G-Casino, Quinton Korsma and Paul Davis. Quinton and Paul have been enormously supportive of the FPA this season and a post-match trip to the Casino has become a regular event for all guests at home games. A video clip of the goings-on in the casino and pictures of the day can be found on the association’s website

On a personal note I would like to thank the hard-working committee who put in many hours of work to make sure it all worked well on the day. Apparently Bob Eales excelled himself with his speech and Billy Bell kept everyone on their toes with his humour, although a little bird tells me he failed to turn up for breakfast at Roy Barry’s hotel – he forgot to put his clock forward!

All in all it was another successful Legends Day and ensures that the club’s glorious past is remembered through their former players.

One former player missing last Saturday was Charlie Timmins. The 87-year old former captain and full-back is quite poorly at the minute and he was sorely missed by his contemporaries. Birmingham-based Charlie has become a regular at the Ricoh since the association was formed and all his friends wish him well and are thinking of him.