City team at Coventry station leaving for Denmark 1946. Alf Setchell is kneeling on the right.
Coventry City’s poor run of form continued at Fratton Park on Saturday with the division’s financial basket-case gaining a much needed three points with a 2-1 victory. If, as many believe, Pompey are docked ten points because their parent company have gone into administration (and Southampton set the precedent for this three years ago), then they will become basement bedfellows with the Sky Blues. Unfortunately the way things are going we will need two more clubs to go into administration in order to avoid the drop.
The defeat sent City to the foot of the table, somewhere they haven’t been since 1996. On 7 December 1996 City lost 1-2 at home to Tottenham and propped up the whole Premier League. Ten days later Darren Huckerby inspired a famous win over Newcastle and a further three successive wins lifted City into mid-table. A spring slump however saw the Sky Blues sucked back into the relegation dog-fight and it needed wins at Anfield and at Tottenham (famously on the last day) to avoid the drop.
This season the statistics are not good for the Sky Blues. In the last eleven seasons only four clubs in this division have had 13 points or less from the first twenty games, and all have been relegated. The unfortunate four were:
Stockport 2001-02 12 points
Brighton 2002-03 12 points
Rotherham 2004-05 8 points
Southend 2006-07 12 points
In an effort to be positive I should point out that City’s worst 20-game start to a season during the same period (before this season) was in 2005-06 when, despite the move to the Ricoh Arena, only 18 points were in the bag at this stage. Then Micky Adams’ inspired signings of Don Hutchison and Dennis Wise lifted the season from the disastrous to the ecstatic with a final placing of eighth. Me thinks Andy Thorn needs to find a new Dennis Wise!
2011 has been a miserable year to be a City fan with before today only six league wins recorded. This is heading to be a new all-time low unless two wins are gained before the New Year. The current record low is eight in 2003 when City managed just one win in 24 games between January 1 and September 13. Gary McAllister’s team managed to win a further seven games out of the remaining 22 that year to reach the heady total of eight victories. That 2002-03 side was undoubtedly the worst City team I had ever seen and would have been relegated if the season had gone on two more games. Anyone who thinks the current team is the worst ever couldn’t have been around in 2003!
My brief obituary of Alf Setchell last week prompted his sons John and Alan to contact me to correct some of my facts and add some more of their own. Alf, who sadly passed away two weeks ago, was born on 29 October 1924, therefore was 87. He had made his debut as an eighteen year old in 1942 in a 1-0 home win over Walsall but his wartime service in the Royal Navy robbed him of what might have been a very successful football career. In addition to his 18 war-time appearances for City he also appeared as a guest in the war for Southport and Morton and possibly Rangers whilst on active service in the Navy.
After the war he was on City’s books until 1947 and a regular for the reserves in 1946-47 before joining Kidderminster Harriers, then a Southern League club. According to John, Kidderminster offered him more money than Coventry!
I was incorrect in saying that he played for Lockheed Leamington but he did appear briefly for Hereford United, another Southern League side, before becoming part of a strong Bedworth Town team that won the Birmingham Combination in 1948-49 and 1949-50. The Bedworth team included several former City players including Stan Kelley (player-manager), Jack Evans and Norman Smith, with ex-City man Bob Ward as trainer. One of Alf’s playing colleagues at Bedworth in 1953-54 was Jim Brockbank (from Earlsdon) who also contacted me this week to express his condolences and remind me that ‘Shad’ Richards, the goalkeeper in that team, also passed away recently.
Outside of football, Alf worked at Dunlop Aviation Division for a number of years before being elected to the position of Secretary of the Unicorn Social Club, Holbrook Lane, in 1972. He held this position until his retirement in 1993. He was therefore well known not only in the Holbrooks area but also in the wider Warwickshire branch of the Club and Institute Union organisation.