The end of the season is almost upon us and today is the final home game of the season. Thankfully Andy Thorn and Steve Harrison have steered the club away from tricky relegation waters before today as the final two games are, on paper, daunting tasks. My comments in last week’s column generated more than the average feedback with the vast majority of readers agreeing with my view that a long-term management appointment was premature until SISU’s intentions were clearer. I did not believe Thorn would commit to being the manager of a club in such turmoil and can only imagine that he has been given firm re-assurances that the club’s future under SISU is secure and that means either more money being ‘invested’ by SISU or an additional investor. Without one or the other the fans are still led to believe there will be a cashflow issue sometime over the summer. If , as rumours persist, a consortium is being gathered to buy City out then Thorn runs the risk of not being the choice of the new owners.
The other rumour that refuses to go away is that the council will not sell their share in the Ricoh Arena to SISU. If this is true then it is one more reason why SISU should seriously consider any offer to buy their shares in the Football club. Once again the supporters are being kept in the dark about their club and the owners’ intentions.
The promotion and relegation issues affecting the Championship are not totally resolved but it is now certain that City will renew rivalries with Brighton & Hove Albion next season. The south coast side, ably managed by former Chelsea and Spurs’ Gus Poyet, return to our league after a five-year interlude in League One., and next season will be playing in their new stadium on the outskirts of Brighton. Their promotion is timed perfectly and the new 22,500-seater stadium will be significantly fuller than the 8,000 capacity former athletics stadium at Withdean. The last time City played the Seagulls in league football was in early 2006 - a 2-0 home win with Dennis Wise scoring both goals.
As we welcome Brighton, and probably Southampton, who look set to take the second automatic place, we say goodbye to Preston North End. North End’s eleven-year stay in this league comes to an end and leaves Coventry City as the longest-serving club in tier two of the English game. Preston have, for most of that time, punched above their weight and reached the play-offs four times. Two frightening statistics - in the last ten seasons the Sky Blues have never won at Deepdale and have only finished above Preston on one occasion, 2004-05.
Sheffield United’s plight under former City boss Micky Adams also looks doomed. The Blades have been in this league for nine of the last ten seasons (the other season was that controversial one in the Premier League) and like Preston have only once been headed by the Sky Blues in a final table. When you look at these facts you realise how dreadful City’s performance has been in the last ten seasons and how lucky they have been not to be relegated.
I recently had some correspondence with Jim Dobbin, a lifelong City fan who now lives on the Isle of Man. His late father, also Jim, was the tailor to the Sky Blues in the Jimmy Hill era and knew a lot of the players well, especially goalkeepers Arthur Lightening and Bob Wesson. Jim has a pewter tankard given to his father by Lightening after City played a friendly game with then First Division Burnley in may 1962. The game was to commemorate the opening of the rebuilt Cathedral and Jim wanted the details of the game.
Burnley, who the previous week had lost the FA Cup final to Tottenham and finished runners-up to Ipswich in the league, brought a strong team to Highfield Road and outclassed City 4-2. It was the last time that City wore their pre-JH all white kit before switching to the famous Sky Blue strip that summer.
The match details requested by Jim are as follows:
Line-ups: City: Lightening: Sillett, Austin, Farmer, Curtis, Brian Hill, Humphries, Johnny Byrne (West Ham – a guest), Dwight, McCann, Imlach.
Burnley: Blacklaw: Angus, Buxton, Adamson, Cummings, Miller, Price, Bellamy, Pointer, Robson, Harris.
The scorers were: Robson (21 min), Price (37), Pointer (78 & 82), Byrne (87), Humphries (89).
Attendance: 7,416 (probably lower because the terrace admission price was increased from 2/6 to 5/-)