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.