Monday, 28 March 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 26.3.11

The Coventry City funfair has a new ride. As the team’s hair-raising drop towards League One accelerates we now have the Chairman’s Merry-go-round to add to the perennial attractions, the Manager’s Revolving Door and the Sky Blues Roller Coaster. According to press reports this week chairman Ray Ranson is set to leave the football club. The stories seem to indicate that he is going to resign because his power has dwindled but who knows what the truth is about goings-on at the Ricoh Arena.

Since SISU and Ranson arrived in December 2007 like knights on a white charger to save the club at the eleventh hour from the jaws of administration information regarding the club has been strictly limited. The new owners saved the club, sure, but from day one the owners have alienated the old shareholders, the supporters and the media. That was their legal right, I know, but no one knows what is going on at the club we all love and care for. Details of SISU’s £20 million plus investment were thin on the ground at the start and little has changed in the intervening 3 ½ years.

A condescending stance to shareholders was evident from day one and a similar approach was taken with the Supporters Consultative Group who, whilst not a powerful group did offer excellent feedback from the club’s customers.

Because of the secrecy surrounding our owners and the absence of plans and accounts no one outside the club has ever really understood what SISU’s strategy was, nor what the plans are now. Fans on the board, Gary Hoffman and Joe Elliott have been sidelined and new unknown men have arrived. The only true City fan left is John Clarke, promoted to vice-chairman this week, the man who holds the record for the shortest tenure as chairman (nine days in 1993). The way things are going this week he might soon hold the record for the shortest reign as vice-chairman! Then again he might be chairman again soon.

At least with Ranson departing the club will save the club some money as I understand he was the first paid chairman since the infamous Bryan Richardson. Mike McGinnity and Geoffrey Robinson, Ranson’s predecessors, certainly had their faults including sharing with Ranson an inability to recruit a decent manager, but at least they did the job for nothing.

City’s chairmen over the last fifty years are as follows:

1960-1973 Derrick Robins
1973-1975 Peter Robins
1975-1977 Sir Jack Scamp
1977-1980 Phil Mead
1980-1983 Jimmy Hill
1983-1984 Iain Jamieson
1984-1990 John Poynton
1990-1993 Peter Robins
1993 John Clarke
1993-2002 Bryan Richardson
2002-2005 Mike McGinnity
2005-2007 Geoffrey Robinson

Next Saturday is the fifth annual Legends Day organised by the Former Players Association and over 50 former players are expected to attend with a number making their first appearance including John O’Rourke, Kevin Drinkell and Ernie Machin. A full list of all confirmed guests can be found on the Former Players Association website at Ensure you are in your seats at half-time next week to see the men who made Coventry City famous paraded on the pitch.

Talking of Kevin Drinkell, the former City striker who had such a bad time at Highfield Road after an illustrious career at Grimsby, Norwich and Rangers, he is hosting a book signing and question and answer session at the Royal Warwicks Club on the ring road next Friday evening from 7.30 pm. His book ‘Drinks All Round’ was published last autumn but the bad weather forced him to cancel his signing session in Coventry at the time.

Next Saturday evening (2 April) sees the return of the Coventry City Quiz at the Queens Head, Cubbington, kick-off 7.30. If you want to enter a team of three (£6 per team) in this fun quiz with prizes and food laid on contact the organiser John Hannon at

Sunday, 20 March 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 19.3.11

The Coventry City manager’s revolving door was in operation last week as Aidy Boothroyd became the ninth City manager to lose his job since the club were relegated in 2001.

The full league record of those nine men is as follows:

Games W D L For Agst GD Points Wins % Goals/game

Gordon Strachan 183 52 52 79 203 262 -59 208 28.42% 1.11
Roland Nilsson 40 19 5 16 56 48 8 62 47.50% 1.40
Gary McAllister 68 17 25 26 73 91 -18 76 25.00% 1.07
Eric Black 23 11 3 9 38 24 14 36 47.83% 1.65
Peter Reid 29 9 8 12 36 45 -9 35 31.03% 1.24
Micky Adams 90 31 24 35 113 124 -11 117 34.44% 1.26
Iain Dowie 43 16 9 18 49 63 -14 57 37.21% 1.14
Chris Coleman 107 30 35 42 112 140 -28 125 28.04% 1.05
Aidy Boothroyd 36 11 8 17 38 46 -8 41 30.56% 1.06

Strachan’s record includes all his games in the Premiership and therefore his percentages are hardly comparable but the ranking (by wins percentage) of the other eight is:

1 Black
2 Nilsson
3 Dowie
4 Adams
5 Reid
6 Boothroyd
7 Coleman
8 McAllister

The frightening statistics show that in the last ten years:

· Only four managers have won more than one game in three.
· Five out of eight managers have been given less than 50 games in charge.
· Only Black and Nilsson have won more than they have lost.
· Only Black and Nilsson have a positive goal difference.
· Only Black and Nilsson have scored more than 1.3 goals per game.

I don’t have to remind City fans that it has been ten years of pain and mismanagement from top to bottom at the club. Goodness knows how much compensation has been paid out over the period to departing managers, not to mention departing directors. Probably enough to build a promotion side!

Aidy, the latest victim, was touted, like all his predecessors, as the one to get us back into the Premiership. Now nine months later he is victim number nine. I am not suggesting that the recent run of poor form does not warrant his sacking but one has to question the club’s managerial selection process. Anyone in business knows that time invested in recruiting staff can save you a lot of money - get the wrong person, spend money on their training and induction only to realise a year later that they are not very good and you have to release them and repeat the whole process. In football it is a double whammy, get the wrong manager and it costs you money and hampers the club’s progress. This is the single biggest reason for City’s failure to get anywhere near the play-offs in ten seasons.

I know it can be a lottery appointing a manager but I don’t believe good managers become bad managers overnight. Nilsson, Reid, McAllister, Black and Adams all have high-profile jobs in the game – in fact Nilsson will be in the Champions League next season after leading Malmo to the Swedish championship last season. Boothroyd will, I am sure, taste success again.

No, it is the Coventry City board that has take a long hard look at its recruitment policy and processes before diving in and appointing someone who has a good powerpoint presentation or comes over well in an interview or is a personal friend of a board member.

Preston North End are the only club that City have played in all ten seasons in this division. North End look odds-on to be relegated and bring an end to those meetings. There has therefore never been a better opportunity for City to win a league game at this bogey ground. In the last nine seasons City have picked up just two points and conceded 23 goals and in total City have never won in 14 league trips to Deepdale stretching back to 1949. A win today would go a long way to guaranteeing survival.

I received more suggestions for players with long careers against Coventry City. As I thought no one can top Peter Shilton’s record of playing against the Sky Blues 23 years after his first appearance but a few candidates for outfield players cropped up.

Last week I thought Teddy Sheringham might have held the record with 19 years and 12 days between his first and last appearance against City but Geoff Moore came up with Clive Walker, who first played for Chelsea in January 1978 and made his last appearance for Woking in the 1997 FA Cup tie (19 years 33 days). But he is beaten by Billy Bonds who played for Charlton as an 18-year old against the Sky Blues in March 1965 and made his final bow in November 1987, like Sheringham, aged 41.That is 22 years and eight months, just shy of Shilton’s longevity.

Last Saturday Hull’s substitute was 37-year old Nick Barmby who first played against City in early 1994. He would have to play for another six seasons to overhaul Shilts and Bonds.

14-year old David Woodfield who sits behind me in the Tesco Stand, celebrated his 100th Coventry City game last week (despite the disappointment of another home defeat). Dave is the third generation of the Woodfield family to be mad City fanatics following in the footsteps of his late grandfather Bert, whose memories of the great Clarrie Bourton could brighten the dullest day at Highfield Road, and his father Richard, the Bantam mascot in the early days of Jimmy Hill. Dave has seen little to cheer about in those 100 games and lets hope he sees some success in the near future. Well done Dave!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Aidy's gone

Aidy Boothroyd became the ninth Coventry City manager to be sacked since City lost their Premiership status in 2001. I have some sympathy with Aidy. He was given little money and was hit by injuries to key players. His mistake was not signing a more prolific striker. Platt was never going to score a lot and Jukebox was always a gamble. King has scored goals and looked dangerous but we have only won 4 games out of 18 that he has started and we were 4th when he arrived. Maybe it was his arrival that sparked the slump.

After the success of Coyle and Lambert can't we find a bloody minded Scot.

JIM'S COLUMN 12.3.11

A disastrous home defeat to Bristol City last week saw Marlon King receive his second red card of his short stay at the club – City’s fifth red card of the season. This is the club’s worst season for dismissals since 2002-03 when seven players were sent off. Seven in one season is the club’s worst campaign and was also the total in 2001-02. This season’s culprits are:

Carl Baker (Millwall away)
Aron Gunnarsson (Norwich home)
Marlon King (QPR home)
Martin Cranie (Leicester away)
Marlon King (Bristol City home)

Surely it is no coincidence that four of the red cards have been dished out during the current bad run started in December. Conversely no opponent has been sent off this season and if that situation continues until the end of the season it will be the first time since 1996-97 that no opposing player was given a red card. King emulates players like David Thompson, Kevin Kyle and Leon Barnett who received two red cards in one season.

Dean Nelson pointed out that David James, the Bristol ‘keeper on Saturday, played 18 years after his first appearance against the Sky Blues and wondered if it was some kind of record. 40-year old James first played against City for Liverpool in 1993 in a 4-0 defeat for the Sky Blues -almost 18 years ago last Saturday. Dean asked how many times he had played against City in that period and I make it 17 including the two games this season for Bristol City. He has only appeared on the winning side six times in that time and Saturday’s game was only the second winning side he has played in in Coventry. Considering that eleven of the 17 games were for Liverpool it is not that impressive. He was between the sticks at Anfield for all three of City’s great victories there – in 1995, 1997 and 1998.

As far as I know James’ record is topped by two players. When Teddy Sheringham appeared as a substitute (and was sent off) for Colchester at the Ricoh in 2007, aged 41, it was 19 years and 12 days since his first appearance against City, for Millwall in 1988.

The record however is held by Peter Shilton who first played against City for Leicester in December 1967 and played his last match in April 1991, over 23 years later, for Derby at Highfield Road. In total ‘Shilts’ played against City 42 times for five different clubs (Leicester, Stoke, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Derby) and was on the winning side 19 times.

The longest City career (in time) is also held by a goalkeeper Alf Wood. Alf made his debut in February 1937 and although the war intervened, he made his final appearance over 21 years later in December 1958 at the age of 43 years.

City had three different captains during the match with Bristol, which must be some sort of record. Keiron Westwood captained the side from the kick-off but handed the armband to King when he went off at half-time. When King was red-carded he passed the band to Gunnarsson. Then on Tuesday Richard Wood was captain.

Today’s special guest of the Former Players Association at the Hull City game is Peter Bodak. Birmingham-born Peter played a big part in the 1980-81 League Cup run to the semi-final but was unable to attend the recent reunion of that team. He will be best remembered for two stunning goals, the first in the 5-0 quarter final victory over Watford, the second, the following season at Maine Road where his delicious chip clinched a famous FA Cup win and won Match of the Day’s goal of the season.
Fans will be able to meet him in the corporate areas before the game and after the game in the G-Casino.

Finishing touches are now being made for this year’s grand reunion of our former players at Legends Day 2011 (which is less than a month away). This will be held on Saturday 2nd April 2011 at the Sky Blues’ home game against Watford. Over 40 Former Players have already confirmed their appearanceand it is expected that 2011 will be the biggest and best Legends Day so far. We will reveal on the website who is coming nearer the date.
The funeral of former Coventry City defender Eric Dobbs will take place at Canley Crematorium on Monday 14 March at 11.30 am.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Saturday’s hard won point at Leicester’s Walkers Stadium was very welcome and ended a run of four away league games (five if you include the Blues cup-tie) stretching back to December when they got a point at Reading. This run was some way short of the worst ever run of 11 away defeats when City were in the Third Division North in 1925-26.

The four-game sequence was however the worst run since they lost seven in a row in 2007-08. Then, after beating West Brom at the Hawthorns in early December 2007 (the week before SISU’s takeover) the team lost at Blackpool, Bristol City, Hull, Preston, Burnley, Scunthorpe and Sheffield United before finally getting a 0-0 draw at Southampton on 22 March, by which time Iain Dowie had been replaced by Chris Coleman. During the disastrous league run Dowie did lead the club to an FA Cup win at Blackburn.

Talking of the FA Cup, Tim Wilding wrote to me after the defeat at St Andrews asking about results and gates at past big away FA Cup ties in the Midlands. Since joining the Football League in 1919 City have played the following games:

1934-35 Birmingham (R3) Lost 1-5 40,349
1945-46 Aston Villa (R3) Lost 0-2 40,000
1951-52 Leicester (R3) Drew 1-1 36,116
1964-65 Aston Villa (R3) Lost 0-3 47,656
1971-72 West Brom (R3) Won 2-1 26,472
1972-73 Wolves (R6) Lost 0-2 50,106
1978-79 West Brom (R3 replay) Lost 0-4 36,262
1981-82 West Brom (R6) Lost 0-2 27,825
1983-84 Wolves (R3 replay) Drew 1-1 19,204
1994-95 West Brom (R3 replay) Won 2-1 23,230
1997-98 Aston Villa (R5) Won 1-0 36,979
1998-99 Leicester (R4) Won 3-0 21,207
2010-11 Birmingham (R4) Lost 2-3 16,669

At the time I didn’t realise that the Blues was the first such game for 12 years and the first time City have lost such a game since 1982. By the way in the two ties that were drawn City triumphed in the replays at Highfield Road. The attendance at St Andrews was the lowest ever for such a ‘big’ game and illustrates the slump in FA Cup crowds in recent years. If the game had been played in any period up to the 1980s it would have attracted 40,000, as was seen in 1935. Older fans will remember the enormous City followings at Villa Park in ’65 and Molineux in ’73 and the massive disappointment on both occasions, more especially in ’73 when Gordon Milne’s exciting team failed to turn up and Derek Dougan and John Richards knocked them out to reach the semi-finals.

Elderly City fan Les Raven was present at St Andrews in 1935 and was featured in these pages at the time. He wanted to know the City XI that played that day and here it is:

Bill Morgan: Vic Brown, Charlie Bisby, Billy Frith, George Mason, Harry Boileau, Bob Birtley, Charlie Wilson, Clarrie Bourton, Les Jones, Fred Liddle. Jones scored City’s goal (a penalty after 4 minutes) and it was 1-1 at half-time before Blues ran riot. Les felt the scoreline flattered Birmingham and put the defeat down to a poor display from full-back Bisby.

Today’s special guest of the Former Players Association is Ian Gibson. ‘Gibbo’ was one of the most popular Sky Blues of the 1960s and played over 100 games between 1966 and 1970. Fans will be able to meet him after the game in the G-Casino.

The funeral of former Coventry City defender Eric Dobbs will take place at Canley Crematorium on Monday 14 March at 11.30 am.

Ian Gibson

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 26.2.11

It is sad to report the death earlier this week of former Coventry City player Eric Dobbs who passed away months after his 90th birthday.

Eric, a full-back, played only five first team games just after the Second World War but played a good number of reserve games over three seasons in the days when the club had a professional squad of 30 or so players.

Eric was born in October 1920 in the rural Norfolk village of Hingham – in the Angel Inn pub, which his family ran. In 1926 the Dobbs family left Norfolk to come to Coventry -presumably to work in the booming industrial town. They lived in Aldermans Green but later moved to Bedlam Lane, Foleshill. Eric’s nephew Chris Wilson tells me that their house would have been on the site of the Arena Park shopping centre, adjacent to the Ricoh Arena.

He attended Foleshill Church of England School but left at 14 to work as a painter and decorator with his father. In 1936 he was playing football for the Miners Arms team in Aldermans Green and from 1938 he was in City’s ‘A’ team as an amateur. In 1940 he enlisted with the Coldstream Guards, first as a PT instructor but later he saw action in North Africa and in Italy. In 1944 he was involved in the famous but bloody battle of Monte Cassino and was shot in the thigh.

He joined Coventry City as a professional in 1946, following his demobilisation, and played for the ‘A’ Team and the Reserves, occasionally playing at centre-forward. On Easter Tuesday 1947 he got a surprise call-up to the first team to play Swansea owing to injuries to Charlie Elliott and Billy Frith. Eric had to mark Swansea’s dashing winger Norman Lockhart, who later joined City.

On a wet afternoon City won 3-2 and Nemo commented on Eric’s debut: ‘Dobbs showed up prominently in conditions that did not help him at all’. Eric got another first team game before the season was over, playing in a 2-1 home win over Leicester.

His further three games came the following season and he played right-back in home wins over West Brom (1-0) and Fulham (5-2) and a home defeat to Leeds (1-2). At the end of the season he was released and joined Bristol Rovers. Sadly he failed to break into Rovers’ first team and a year later was back in the Midlands playing briefly for Kettering Town before signing for Lockheed Leamington under his former City team-mate Les Latham. Eric’s arrival at the Windmill Ground in 1949 coincided with the Brakes’ first season in the Birmingham Combination and the team finished last but one in the league. The following season however saw the team improve to ninth and win the Birmingham Senior Cup for the first time and Eric was in the team that beat Hereford United Reserves in the final after a replay. The first game, at Nuneaton, ended 2-2 but Lockheed won the replay at their own Windmill Ground 3-1 in front of a ground record 3,500. Earlier that season Eric scored a rare goal (from the penalty spot) in an 11-2 home win over Atherstone. The team picture, kindly supplied by Chris Wilson, shows the successful Lockheed team of 1950-51 with Eric far left on the back row.

Former City player and director Micky French played with Eric both for City Reserves and later at Lockheed. He remembers Eric fondly and used to get a lift to training in Leamington on the pillion of Eric’s motorcycle. I spoke to Micky this week and he had this to say: ‘Eric and I hit it off at Coventry and played a few reserve team games together. When I finished my National Service in 1950 and went to play for Lockheed he was there and we took up where we left off. He was a popular but quiet man who was very kind and honest. But on the field he was a good footballer with an extremely hard tackle and it was best to avoid him in training. He was a real old-fashioned defender and took no prisoners’.

After he left professional football Eric became a painter and decorator and later joined the machine tool company Skelcher and Rowe where he worked as a maintenance man. He was a keen golfer and played at Cosby Golf Club in Leicestershire. He is survived by his wife Joyce. Eric was one of the early members of the Former Players Association when it was formed in 2007 and attended the first Legends Day. He will be sadly missed by his friends and former team-mates in the Association. Until his death he was the oldest former city player, a mantle now taken up by Colin Collindridge who lives in Nottingham and was 90 last November.

Eric Dobbs