Saturday, 29 October 2011

Jim's column 22.10.11

City’s run of good home form continued last Saturday with a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest. Since losing to Leicester City on the opening day of the season the Sky Blues are unbeaten in five home games, with two wins and three draws. The current run is the best the club have had since the winter of 2009-10 when Chris Coleman’s team went unbeaten in seven, including six wins. That run, between December and March helped lift the Sky Blues into the edge of the play-off places but once the run was ended Coleman’s team’s form collapsed and they failed to win any of their last six home games.

In the years since relegation from the Premiership in 2001, numerous City managers have talked about building Fortress Ricoh but none have really achieved it. The best home run since 2001 was under Micky Adams just after the move to the Ricoh. Between November 2005 and April 2006 City went twelve home games unbeaten, with the help of Dennis Wise. One interesting statistic is that since Andy Thorn took over as manager in March only one of 10 home games has been lost.

City’s second win of the season coincided with another goalkeeping substitution by the Sky Blues. The other victory, over Derby, also saw the injured Joe Murphy substituted by Chris Dunn. For Coventry City goalkeeping substitutions are a relatively modern phenomenon. During Steve Ogrizovic’s long reign as City goalkeeper he hardly ever had to be substituted. I remember in the days before goalkeeping substitutes were allowed, in 1996, Oggy was injured at Millwall and David Speedie went in goal. Then after the subs were increased to five in 1996, Oggy was replaced by John Filan at Highbury after a blood-curdling challenge by Ian Wright left Oggy out cold on a stretcher.

Since the club’s relegation in 2002 there were only three goalkeeper substitutions in seven seasons. However in the last three seasons and a bit there have been eight goalkeeping substitutions, five of them involving an ‘injury’ to Keiron Westwood and now two to Joe Murphy, the otehr being last season at Watford when loanee Iain Turner was injured and replaced by Michael Quirke. One wonders if goalkeepers are getting soft.

Last week I mentioned that current QPR boss Neil Warnock had managed Scarborough to victory over the Sky Blues in 1992 and Dean Nelson reminded me that Warnock’s involvement with City’s history goes even further back. Warnock  was manager of Burton Albion against Leicester City in an FA Cup match which had to be replayed behind closed doors at Highfield Road in 1985 after crowd trouble in the first match. Back in 1972 Warnock was also in the Hartlepool side beaten in a League Cup tie at Highfield Road.

Talking of Dean - the man who has a wonderful collection of Coventry City video clips - he has prepared an excellent DVD of 1960s highlights which will be shown at the G-Casino today at my Sky Blue Revolution book signing sessions, before and after the match against Burnley. For the book signing I will be joined by 1960s City legends Mick Kearns, Dietmar Bruck and Ronnie Farmer.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Jim's column 15.10.11

                                                      Jean-Guy Wallemme in 1998
Coventry City have had few French players in their team over the years. Goalkeeper Fabien Debec comes to mind and Florent Laville, a dodgy loanee defender from Bolton in the Peter Reid era, come to mind. Laville had a long and successful career with Olympique Lyon, winning two championships, but after joining Bolton in 2003 struggled with fitness and form. City’s first Frenchman, Jean-Guy Wallemme had a similar story – he was a star in France, especially in the northern mining town of Lens, captaining the town’s club to win the French League for the first time the previous season. Sadly he was a major disappointment at City and fans wondered why City signed him. Wallemme has been in the news recently having been appointed national coach of Congo.

Jean-Guy played just six league games for the Sky Blues in 1998 and looked impressive in his early games. But his Waterloo came in a 1-5 home defeat to Newcastle. From a fan’s viewpoint he was no worse than anyone in the City side but probably the fact that Alan Shearer, the man he was marking scored twice, made him one of the scapegoats. Shearer muscled him off to score his first and then later the Frenchman slid in to dispossess Shearer only to see the loose ball whipped upfield for Stephen Glass to score the fourth goal.

Wallemme was axed for the next league game at Charlton and never appeared for the first team again. Less than a week later he told French football magazine L’Equippe that however happy he was playing at Coventry he was concerned for his eight-year old son’s schooling and Bryan Richardson admitted that the Frenchman and his family were having a tough time. It seems that from that point on he was just not part of Gordon Strachan’s plans.

By the end of October it was a matter of when he moved back to France rather than if and with his family back in France his mind was not on football. In December he signed for French club Sochaux with City recouping most of the fee.

Unfortunately Sochaux were relegated that season and Jean Guy was on the move again, to St Etienne, newly promoted to the First Division after a period in the doldrums. By 2001 he was managing the Verts, as St Etienne are known, but they too were relegated in his first season as manager and he returned to Lens, as a player and helped them to runners-up position in the league.

Since retiring from playing he has managed at Rouen, SK Ronse in the Belgian second division, US Royenne, a French amateur side and FC Paris. In 2008 he took over as manager of Lens and won promotion to the French First Division but last season they were relegated again and Jean-Guy was axed in January.

In August he was appointed as national coach to Congo (formerly Zaire). In his first match his team were defeated 1-0 by Sudan in an African nations cup qualifier.

Alan Ward read my piece about late goals two weeks ago and got in touch to tell me that last season City conceded 18 of their 58 league goals (around 30%) in either the last five minutes of the first half or the last five minutes of the second half including added time. Conversely they scored only six goals in the same periods (two of them at Watford in August). This season four of thirteen league goals conceded (around 30%) were in the final five minutes of either half and to date City have yet to net in those crucial periods. Even Bury and last year Morecambe scored late goals in League Cup games against the Sky Blues. On checking City’s record since Andy Thorn took over in March I discovered that City have failed to net any late goals in either half – a shocking statistic.

As CCFC historian I am expected to know all the trivia and facts and figures about Coventry City but as the years go on my memory doesn’t always work as it did when I was younger. A recently published book by Steve Phelps will assist me.
The book 'Coventry City Miscellany', Steve’s fourth book about City, gives Sky Blues fans loads of facts and figures about their favourite club and it also enlightened me to quite a number of interesting things about the club.  For instance I had forgotten that goalkeeper Magnus Hedman missed a penalty in the shoot –out at Peterborough in a League Cup tie on 11 September 2001 (the day New York’s twin towers were blown up).

I also never realised, until Steve’s book reminded me, that City never paraded the FA cup at Highfield Road in 1987. Nor that QPR manager Neil Warnock managed Scarborough when the Sky Blues were humbled in Yorkshire in a League Cup tie in 1992.
 Steve's skill is in pulling the stats and trivia from other sources and presenting them in an easy to read style. He generously acknowledges his sources but his book is more than a cut and paste job . For example he has done a lot of research into City's youth teams of 1987 and 2000 - discovering where the prodigious youngsters ended up

Talking of new books, next Saturday (22nd October)  I will be attending book signings for my latest book, Sky Blue Revolution, along with several legendary players from the Jimmy Hill Era including Mick Kearns, Dietmar Bruck and Ronnie Farmer. From 11 am until noon we will be at Waterstone’s bookshop in the Precinct in Coventry. Then from 1.45 pm until 2.45 we will be at the G-Casino, next to the Ricoh Arena, and after the Burnley game we will be back in the Casino available to sign books from 5.00 pm. If you are unable to get to the signing sessions but would like a signed copy please ring Waterstone’s on (024) 76 334224 to reserve.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Jim's column 8.10.11

Two weeks ago I wrote about a famous City player from the 1920s Hugh ‘Rubberneck’ Richmond and the piece generated a lot of positive feedback from readers. Today I will delve even further back thanks to an old cigarette card sent to me by Bernard Poulten of Baughurst, Hampshire. His father, who played for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1920s collected football memorabilia and when he died in 1970 Bernard found the card with a picture of Alfred Fenwick in his belongings. Bernard wanted any information I could provide on Alfred Fenwick’s career. 

Alfred (Alf) Randolph Fenwick was born in the mining village of Medomsley, near Consett in County Durham on 26 March 1891. He was the son of a mining engineer and grew up close to the Hamsterley Colliery where his father worked. 

It is known that he played for local team Craghead United before joining Hull City in 1910. In 1914 just as war was about to break out he signed for West Ham. There is no record of his war-time activities but after the war he briefly played for West Ham again before signing for City in December 1919. His steadying influence at left half helped the club pull out of the relegation places after a miserable first season in the Football League.

He made 53 appearances for City over two seasons and scored one goal. After leaving Coventry in 1921 he played for numerous other clubs including Lincoln, Notts County, Newark Town and Shildon Athletic. The last record of him playing was with Bedlington United 1926-27, coincidentally Hugh Richmond finished his playing career with the same club. I have no details of his post-playing life and Alf died in Northumberland in 1975 aged 83. In 1921 Alf recommended his nephew Austen Campbell to Coventry but he was released after one game but later joined Blackburn and became an England international.

If you have any pictures of old City players that you would like to know more about please send them to me via email or via the Coventry Telegraph and I will try and provide some background to the player.
My appeal, on behalf of Dean Nelson, for film footage of Oggy’s goal at Hillsborough in 1986 brought a positive response with two readers, Mike Young and a gentleman from Cheylesmore, offering Dean a copy of the great man’s only goal. Dean will now be able to complete his video of the famous 1986-87 season. Dean reminded me that during that season Coventry City appeared for the first time in a live league game. In January 1987, two weeks before their famous FA Cup victory at Old Trafford, John Sillett’s team played out a 0-0 draw with Arsenal at Highbury. If I remember rightly the London-based ITV commentary team were disappointed that City didn’t roll over and let the Gunners thrash them but recognised that City had, after a few years in the wilderness, developed a team that was hard to beat and could be ‘going places’. Four months later the Sky Blues lifted the FA Cup.

My latest book, Sky Blue Revolution, telling the story behind City’s amazing rise from the depths of Division Three to the First Division between 1961 and 1967 is now in the shops. Two weeks today, on 22 October, the day of the Burnley home game, I will be holding a book signing at Waterstones in Coventry between 11 a.m. and 12 and will be joined by a number of City legends from that era, including Mick Kearns, Ronnie Farmer and Dietmar Bruck. Later in the day, both before and after the game we will be moving to the G-Casino for a signing session and I look forward to meeting some of my readers at one or other of the venues.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Jim's column 1.10.11

Coventry City fans leave their seats at the Ricoh Arena before the final whistle at their peril and risk missing an exciting finale. On Tuesday night against Blackpool, City, once again, had victory snatched from their grasp in injury time with Keith Southern’s header grabbing a point for the Tangerines. This followed the drama last Saturday when Lukas Jutkiewicz missed an injury time penalty that would have sealed three points for the Sky Blues over Reading. These late mishaps come hard on the heels of the two very late goals at Crystal Palace which also cost City a victory. Perhaps it is time Andy Thorn and Steve Harrison coached the team on how to play out the latter stages of a game. Early in his managerial career last season, Thorn was given warnings when injury time goals cost City dearly at Preston and Middlesbrough. Mind you Aidy Boothroyd hadn’t deal with the problem either. His team suffered home defeats from late goals conceded against Cardiff (Jay Bothroyd) and Norwich (Grant Holt) and what looked like a certain victory at Doncaster was thrown away with James Hayter’s 88th minute goal. This season seven points have been lost in the closing minutes, points that would now have City just outside the play-off positions instead of the relegation area.

Jutkiewicz’s penalty miss was the fifth by a Coventry player at the Ricoh Arena, but the first in almost two years, home or away. The other miscreants at the Ricoh have been Michael Doyle, Elliott Ward (possibly the worst City penalty ever v Southampton), Sammy Clingan and Leon Best. Best was the last City player to miss from the spot, in the 1-0 home win over Doncaster on Boxing Day 2009. Between then and Tuesday night City had netted eight spot-kicks. Clinton Morrison (1), Lucas Jutkiewicz (4) and Marlon King (3).

My prediction skills on Coventry City attendances went awry on Tuesday night. Based on recent seasons the midweek September home game is generally one of the lowest of the season and with City’s poor form this season I fully expected there to be under 12,000, possibly as low as 11,000 at the game. The recorded attendance of 12,822 was boosted by a good following from Lancashire (over1,000 travelled with the Seasiders) and some Indian summer weather so it is hard to say whether City’s gates have bottomed out.

City fanatic Dean Nelson has built up a fantastic collection of television film clips of Coventry City but has struggled to find one of the most memorable goals in the club’s history. In October 1986 at Hillsborough, Steve Ogrizovic drop-kicked the ball from his own penalty area, the ball bounced once and cleared Sheffield Wednesday’s ‘keeper Martin Hodge and ended up in the net. If anyone has a video clip of this goal or knows whether it was ever filmed should contact Dean at

Dean has developed film shows for different eras and is planning a 1960s film night at the Transport Museum on 24 November to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Jimmy Hill’s arrival at Coventry City. Next year he is planning a 1987 film night at the Coventry Museum as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the FA Cup victory.

On the subject of Jimmy Hill don’t forget that my latest book ‘Sky Blue Revolution’ retelling the story of City’s rise from the depths of Division Three to Division One under the bearded wonder, is now for sale at local bookshops, the club shop and the internet. A book signing involving some of the stars from that golden era is being planned for later this month.