Two tough home games in a week saw City end their dismal run of home defeats with a hard-won point against Cardiff City following defeat to the Hammers on Saturday. The point enabled the team to avoid an unwanted record as four home defeats in a row would have been the worst run since the move to the Ricoh in 2005. You have to go back to the last winter at Highfield Road to find a worse run; in the period December 2004 to February 2005 City suffered five successive home defeats, as first Peter Reid, then his replacement Micky Adams failed to win a game. Cardiff meanwhile continue to be a thorn in City’s side. The Bluebirds have not lost at the Ricoh since April 2006 and have won three and drawn three of the games since. Former City Academy youngster Peter Whittingham continued his excellent goalscoring record against the Sky Blues with his fifth goal in five seasons.
Saturday’s gate of 20,524 was the second highest of the season (behind the 21,102 who watched the opening day derby with Leicester) and included a massive following from East London, numbering 6,254. Italian-based City fan Federico Farcomeni alerted me to the fact that the BBC incorrectly described West Ham’s large support as the biggest away following since the Ricoh Arena opened in 2005. I’m not sure where they got their information from but the cockney hordes numbered less than last season’s Leeds fans (6,274) and West Brom’s fans in 2007 (6,331). The Hammers' following did top Leicester's on the opening day (6,201).
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Jimmy Hill as manager of Coventry City. On the 25th November the club were knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Southern League side Kings Lynn and on 28 November manager Billy Frith and his backroom staff were sacked and Hill appointed as manager. The Kings Lynn defeat is always talked of as the game which changed the club’s history but in actual fact Frith’s fate had been sealed earlier, possibly as far back as September 1961 when City were dumped out of the League Cup by Workington. Either way a home league defeat to Crystal Palace a week before the Kings Lynn game was the final straw for chairman Derrick Robins and it was at a lunch at the chairman’s Leamington home days later that Hill was offered the job. Hill asked for time to consider the offer and took up an offer to attend the Kings Lynn game. In his autobiography JH describes events:
‘For a number of reasons it was thought prudent to keep my intended visit to Highfield Road a secret. A ticket for the far stand arrived in the post, not the stand in which the director’s box was situated. I sneaked into my seat, tucked my collar up around my ears and pulled a trilby hat well down over my forehead in the hopes that few people would notice me… not easy with a nationally known chin and here and there came acknowledgements, and stifled gasps of surprise that I should be at Highfield Road, the reason not easy for them to detect.’
You can imagine in the modern day social networking sites buzzing with this sort of news and Hill’s presence at the game would have been communicated to all and sundry by Saturday evening but it is clear that Frith had no inkling of what was coming.
On the day following the Kings Lynn game Hill telephoned a shocked Robins to tell him he had decided to accept his offer. Robins had assumed that the appalling performance would have dissuaded Hill from taking the job. Hill, who later said he had been courted by several clubs prior to Coventry’s approach, insisted that he had the power to appoint his own coaching staff. Thus began a partnership that would take Coventry City from Third Division strugglers to the First Division in five exciting seasons.
Long suffering South East-based fan George Ling is delighted to read that the club have recognised the Southern Professional Floodlit Cup success in 1960. He watched many of the games in the run to the final and points out that along with promotion from Division 4 in 1959 it was the only high spot pre-JH. He has mislaid his programme for the final against West Ham and wondered who scored the goals. George, Ron Hewitt scored both City’s goals in the 2-1 victory. City’s line up was as follows: Arthur Lightening, Don Bennett, Frank Kletzenbauer, Brian Nicholas, George Curtis, Frank Austin, Johnny Stephens, Ron Hewitt, Ray Straw, Peter Hill, Alan Daley.