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.