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.