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.