What a miserable ten days in Coventry City’s history. Before their trip to Loftus Road two weeks ago only Nottingham Forest in the earlier game at the City Ground, had come from behind to beat Aidy Boothroyd’s side. Then, like London buses, we get three in a row, culminating in Tuesday night’s capitulation against an average Forest side who didn’t look anything like as good as last year’s team that reached the play-offs.
At St Andrews I felt we were lucky to go two goals ahead (Blues had two great chances in the first ten minutes) and we know from recent Cup experiences (Man United and Blackburn (twice)) that for City to get a result against top flight opponents they need to be on top of their game for ninety minutes and the opposition need to be ‘off’ their game. There was evidence of neither on Saturday with City having a good 20 minutes in the first half but under the cosh to a strong-looking Birmingham for the majority of the game. David Bentley and Aleksandr Hleb are international-class players and proved a handful for City and although Conor Thomas battled manfully to keep a grip on Hleb the Belarussian was the most influential player on the park. Bentley, of course, was in the Blackburn side trounced 4-1 by City in 2008 and repeated his stunning goal that day with an unstoppable shot for Blues’ first goal.
Many fans asked me when we last lost after being two goals up and the facts are we have only done it twice in the last ten years. Two seasons ago Watford came from 0-2 to win 3-2 at the Ricoh Arena and in 2002-03 Ipswich came from 0-2 to win 4-2 against a very young and inexperienced City team that included players like Ben Mackey, Andy Whing, Gary Montgomery, Tom Bates and Craig Pead. City led 2-0 at the break but where overwhelmed with four goals in 17 second-half minutes with Marcus Bent and our nemesis Pablo Counago each getting a brace.
Prior to that City last lost from 2-0 away from home at Villa Park on that fateful day that saw us relegated from the Premiership in 2001. City, unfortunately don’t have a great record for coming from two down, although they got a draw at Watford this season and at home to Middlesbrough last season after being two down. The last time City won after being 0-2 was in a League Cup tie against Tottenham in 1995-96. City trailed to goals from Chris Armstrong and a David Busst own goal but bounced back to win with goals from Peter Ndlovu, Busst and John Salako. Before that you have to go back to 1986 to find a 0-2 scoreline turned into a win. On that occasion Southampton led 2-0 at half time but goals from Dave Bennett, Nick Pickering and Alan Brazil gave City a 3-2 win. I think there are only two other instances of City coming back from two down to win since they won promotion to the top flight in 1967. The famous League Cup semi final first leg against West Ham when City scored three second half goals to win 3-2 and the 4-3 win at Derby in September 1970 when the Sky Blues were two down after 13 minutes and won 4-3.
Talking of that famous semi final game in 1981 it is thirty years ago this month that City and West Ham battled for a Wembley place in what was Coventry’s first ever major semi-final. To celebrate the anniversary the Former Players Association are hosting a reunion at next Saturday’s home game with Crystal Palace. A number of the players who appeared for Gordon Milne’s dazzling young team, including Garry Thompson (the hero and villain of the first leg), Danny Thomas and Andy Blair, will be presented to the fans at half-time and mixing with the fans at the G-Casino after the game. The picture was taken in the dressing room after the 5-0
quarter-final replay win over Watford.
Congratulations to John Clarke on his appointment this week to the Coventry City board of directors. John’s elevation is well deserved after many years hard work for the club as an Associate Director and I am sure the appointment will mean stronger links between the football club and the people and businesses of Coventry. John was a director before of course. Back in 1992-93, with City in dire financial straits (when were they not!) he came up with the £250,000 required to sign Mick Quinn. Quinn’s prolific goal scoring (17 goals in 26 games) pushed City briefly into the top six in that first-ever Premiership season. In the summer of 1993 John briefly became chairman and was on the verge of becoming the major shareholder when ‘dark forces’ were unleashed and he was forced to resign and Bryan Richardson took over. John was chairman for nine days and in his own words: ‘he has taken 18 years to get back on the board’. John has been an avid City fan for years and was the Founder Patron and a great supporter of the Former Players Association. He understands the importance of the club’s history and heritage to the fans and we can never have too many of his type in the boardroom.