Sunday, 28 November 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 27.11.10

Since the formation of the Former Players Association in 2007 many ex-Coventry players have been tracked down and brought back to Coventry for a game or a function but a few have been very elusive and virtually impossible to find. Until recently one of those hard to find players was Alan Dugdale. Then, a few weeks ago I received an email from his brother Dave Dugdale who had found the FPA website ( whilst looking for memories of his brother on the internet. It transpired that Alan was making a rare visit from his home in the USA and we managed to get him from his brother’s home on Merseyside for the Leeds game. It was his first visit to Coventry for over 35 years and he was able to meet up with former colleagues Alan Green, Donal Murphy, Jimmy Holmes as well as former Physio Norman Pilgrim who treated Alan when he broke his ankle in 1972.

Whilst Alan was in the country I was able to interview him and I put the following questions to him:

Alan, how did you come to join Coventry City in 1969?

I was playing for Kirkby Schoolboys on Merseyside and Coventry’s Lancashire scout Alf Walton encouraged me to come down for a trial. I played at centre-half and they offered me apprentice terms with another Kirkby lad called Dennis Hogg, but Dennis never made the grade. I think Alf was responsible for finding Dennis Mortimer, Mick McGuire and Ivan Crossley, we all came from his patch (Jim: he also discovered Ernie Machin).

You were a member of arguably City’s finest youth team in 1970. What are your memories of the team?

It was a great bunch of lads who lived and played together. I remember the Youth Cup final with Spurs. They had a strong team which was quite physical with Graeme Souness , Steve Perryman and a good ‘keeper in Barry Daines. We drew over two legs and we drew a replay at Highfield Road before Spurs won the fourth game at Tottenham. I remember big crowds at Highfield Road and the matches were all hard-fought and there was little between the sides.

The following year you were in the England side that won the Little World Cup. What was that like?

There were three Coventry players, myself, Bobby Parker and Mick McGuire in the England team. I played out of position at right-back and the tournament was in Czechoslovakia. There was so much talent in the England squad with Trevor Francis, Peter Eastoe, Steve Daley and Martyn Busby. Most of the team were already regulars in their club’s first team. We beat Portugal in the final, 3-0 I think and Eastoe got a couple of goals. I think the former Wolves player Bill Shorthouse was the coach.

You made your first team debut against Chelsea at Highfield Road in 1972. Who was in the team at the time?

Joe Mercer and Gordon Milne had not long been there and I got picked at left back but I got carried off when Bill Glazier landed on my left ankle and it broke! Willie Carr, Dennis, Chris Cattlin, Mick Coop, Ernie Hunt were all at the club and Colin Stein and Tommy Hutchison arrived soon after and they brought a real buzz to the club. I was out injured for a few months but didn’t get a regular place until about a year later.

You were a regular first team player until 1977. Which City players did you really rate?

Tommy Hutch was the most skilful, Mick Ferguson was a great target man who could hold the ball up well and Barry Powell and Dennis were very skilful midfielders. The best defender, and I played alongside a lot in my time there, was John Craven. He and I just clicked when he arrived in 1973. My best friend was Alan Green – we used to room together on away trips.

In that time you played against all of the top British strikers. Who did you rate?

Malcom Macdonald and Trevor Francis were very hard to play against. Supermac was so strong and you couldn’t give him an inch, else he would unleash one. Franny Lee of Man City was difficult to play but the best was undoubtedly Kevin Keegan – he was so quick and you could never relax against him.

What happened after you left Coventry City?

I joined Charlton in 1977 but wish I had stayed to fight for my place at Coventry. Everything went wrong at Charlton. I didn’t get on with the manager Andy Nelson and I broke my leg playing for the reserves. I only played 30-odd games before I had a loan spell with Barnsley. In 1980 I went to play in USA with Tulsa Roughnecks. We had a good team with Alan Woodward (ex-Sheff United), Billy Caskey (ex-Derby) and Steve Earle (ex-Fulham). It was funny because one of my worst tackles (and there were a few!) was against Woodward at Highfield Road. My brother found it on youtube and we couldn’t believe I wasn’t sent off. We had some great times. After I finished playing I worked as a salesman for Pepsi Cola and Budweiser and have lived in the Tulsa area ever since. These days I live with my American wife in a mall town called Peggs about 50 miles from Tulsa. We have nine acres and we keep horse, they have become my passion in life. My health isn’t great but I love the outdoor life and cannot see myself returning to England.

The passing of City’s oldest former player Norman Smith was covered earlier in the week. Norman was the last living player to play for the club before the Second World War (he made three appearances in the 1938-39 season). His death means that the oldest living player is now 90-year old Eric Dobbs who made is first appearance in April 1947.

Norman’s funeral takes place at Holy Trinity church on December the 8th at 12.30pm followed by a short cremation service at Canley crematorium at 1.30pm. It will be family flowers only and any donations if desired, will be going to the Help for Heroes charity via the funeral directors which are Grimmett and Timms, 118 Albany Rd, Coventry.

Geoff Moore tells me that Jack Cork’s appearance for Burnley at the Ricoh Arena last week means he has appeared for five different clubs at the stadium, all on loan. It’s a pretty amazing feat considering he is only just 21-years old. In addition to Coventry and Burnley he has played for Southampton, Watford and Scunthorpe. Several players have played for four different clubs including Chris Iwelumo, Wayne Brown and Jon Stead.

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