CCFC photographed in Denmark on tour in 1946. Setchell is far right in the front row.
City’s trip to the South Coast and the first visit to the new Amex Stadium ended in defeat and disappointment for the 1900 City fans (the biggest away league following for almost two years) who made the long trip. One bright spot was the debut of Gary Gardner who scored after just eight minutes of his debut in a City shirt. According to my records he is only the fourth loanee to score on his first outing for the club. The three others are Lee Mills (2001-02 v Crystal Palace – almost ten years ago to the day), Johnnie Jackson (2002-03 v West Brom) and Micky Quinn (1992-93 v Manchester City). Quinn scored twice on his debut in a 2-3 loss and like Mills had his loan turned into a permanent transfer within weeks. Gardner’s goal however will go down as the fastest by a City loanee. Gary was also the first City debutant scorer for over four years – the last being Julian Gray on the opening day at Barnsley in 2007.
Cov kids Billy Gray and Alf Setchell were both on Coventry City’s books in the period immediately after the Second World War. This week I had news of both of them but very sad news in the case of Alf. Two weeks ago he was badly burned in a fire at his home in Holbrooks Lane and has subsequently died of his injuries.
Recent knowledge of Alf is vague but I do know that he was secretary for a local football team and must have been in his mid-80s – having appeared for City during the World War Two.
He was one of numerous good local players who filled in during the war for City when many of the first team squad were on active service in the hostilities. He made 12 appearances on the left wing in the 1942-43 season playing alongside several City legends including George Mason, Alf Wood, Billy Frith and George Lowrie. City had a strong team - only three of his twelve games were lost - and Setchell managed one goal in a 2-0 win at Filbert Street. Another three appearances were made in 1943-44, with one goal in a 4-1 win at Notts County. He then disappeared off the scene for almost two years before popping up in April 1946 and making three further appearances near the end of the transitional regional league season.
In May 1946 City travelled to Denmark for some friendly matches and Alf was in the 17-man squad who travelled across a war-ravaged Europe and scored a goal against crack Danish side Aarhus. (see picture). He must have been confident of being in the first team squad when the first post-war season kicked off in August 1946 but he never played for the first team again. I believe he may have played for Lockheed Leamington at some stage after the war but I do know he lived in Coventry for the rest of his life.
Alan Clowes gave me the latest news on Billy Gray. Billy, who celebrates his 80th birthday today, moved to Northumberland with his wife, Dot, a few years ago, to be closer to his family, but misses Coventry. He was a couple of years younger than Setchell and was one of an amazing crop of talented youngsters who played for Modern Machines FC which was in effect City’s youth team in the late 1940s. The team were virtually unbeatable in the Coventry leagues and saved the club thousands of pounds in the transfer market and Billy was a contemporary of players like Lol Harvey, Reg Matthews, Peter Hill, Frank Austin and Gordon Nutt. Billy played at wing-half where there was stiff competition for a first team place with Don Dorman, Harry Barratt, Harvey and others vying for a place. Billy got his chance in October 1951 playing at right half in a 1-1 home draw with Birmingham City. City’s form that autumn was not dissimilar to this season and the result, City’s fourth home game without a win, left them 21st in the Second Division table. At the end of the season City were relegated.
Billy did enough to keep his place for a visit to Leicester the following week but the 1-3 defeat at Filbert Street marked the end of Gray’s first team career. He appeared many times for the reserves in a six-year career at the club but in 1954 he transferred to Kettering Town before reverting to local football with Morris Motors a year later.
Hopefully I can persuade Billy to sign up to the Former Players Association and get him to the Ricoh for a game soon.
Former City player Paul Furlong was spotted playing for St Albans City at Leamington’s New Windmill last weekend. The Londoner who played for City under Terry Butcher and Don Howe in the 1991-92 season, is now 43-years old.