Monday, 31 January 2011

Help required

I need the help of my column readers!

I am writing a book about the JH era, from just before his arrival in Nov 1961 to his departure in October 1967. I intend the book to be one of match by match stats (like my previous books), the factual story, photos, and memories (players and fans). The plan is to publish in November to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his arrival.

I would like to hear your memories of that glorious time.

I would like to start with 1961-62 season. What was supporting City like before JH's arrival like? What memories of games before November? The dreadful Crystal Palace home defeat on a Friday night that supposedly convinced Robins that change had to be made? The Kings Lynn game, The players who did not survive after 61-2 viz. Billy Myerscough, Ron Hewitt, Stewart Imlach, etc.The early games under Hill, the first pop and crisps (Xmas 61), the kit, the ground, or just how you felt when JH arrived. Even if your memories are second hand (from your dad or a relative).

Please save your memories of later seasons under Hill for a couple of weeks whilst I capture these memories.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 29.1.11

Birmingham City are the Sky Blues opponents in the fourth round of the FA Cup today and the clubs will meet for only the third time in the competition. The last time the teams met was in 1980-81 when City beat the Blues 3-2 at Highfield Road and 29,500 saw two goals from Gerry Daly and one from Andy Blair see City through to a fifth round meeting with Spurs. The first meeting was even further back, in 1934-35 when the teams met at St Andrews in a Third round game with First Division Blues winning 5-1 over Third Division Coventry. City boss Harry Storer dropped a bombshell in the run up to the game by axing centre-half and captain Tommy Davison and goalkeeper Hubert Pearson for a breach of club discipline. In their places he selected youngsters George Mason and Bill Morgan and although they both played well they couldn’t stop a rampant Blues. Despite a third minute penalty from Leslie Jones Blues had equalised through Freddie Harris by half-time and ran City ragged after the break with Harris completing a hat-trick, Dave Mangnall (a penalty) and Bill Guest scoring.who won with. That day a crowd of over 40,000 was present (including around 10,000 from Coventry) which with the reduced capacity now at St Andrews cannot be bettered today. There is a brief Pathe News clip of the game at:

Michael Doyle left Coventry City this week to be reunited with his former City boss Micky Adams. Since signing from Celtic in the summer of 2003 ‘Doyler’ has been a great servant to the club and his final game at Loftus Road last Sunday was his 297th first team appearance. Since making his debut against Peterborough in a League Cup tie at Highfield Road in 2003 his record is as follows:-

Starts Subs Goals
League 256 9 20
FA Cup 19 0 1
League Cup 11 2 1

Total 286 11 22

His total puts him 17th in the all-time City appearance table ahead of such luminaries as Cyrille Regis, Brian Hill, Alf Wood and Ronnie Rees. In that time he has played under seven different managers(excluding caretaker managers): Gary McAllister (who signed him), Eric Black, Peter Reid, Micky Adams, Iain Dowie, Chris Coleman and Adie Boothroyd. During his time at the club he has played alongside around 140 different players and only Isaac Osbourne has been at the club longer. If he hadn’t spent last season on loan at Leeds he may have been pushing 350 appearances.

‘Doyler’ was not every one’s cup of tea. Some say he lost his bite 2-3 years ago when the referees got him down as a marked man but he always gave 100% and his athleticism was legendary. I remember someone quoting the statistics of how far he had run during City’s win at Old Trafford four years ago and although I can’t recall the distance it was a phenomenal statistic and far more than any other player on the park. He scored some good goals, showing that when he did push forward and get in the box he was a clinical finisher. His best goal was undoubtedly the winner at home to Preston in 2006-07, a thunderous drive five minutes from time. I also remember the freak goal he scored in a League Cup game with Sheffield Wednesday in 2004 when the goalkeeper was distracted by Stern John and Doyle’s curling free-kick from out near the touchline crept in. He is still under 30 and a new challenge at Bramall Lane may kick-start his career.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 22.1.11

City travel to Loftus Road tomorrow to take on the league leaders Queens Park Rangers. It will not be an easy trip for the Sky Blues who face a team that has lost only three league games all season and have only lost once at home (to Watford). They travel however with the knowledge that they have not lost in their last five trips to the ground, winning three and drawing two, since September 2004 when they lost 4-1. That was an horrendous night for Peter Reid’s team and was their fifth game without a win leaving them 18th in the table. Jamie Cureton scored a hat-trick and former Sky Blue Paul Furlong the other with Graham Barrett replying. Reid’s team that night makes interesting reading:

Steele: Carey, Staunton, Sherwood, Mills, Shaw, Jorgensen, Doyle, John, Morrell, Barrett. Subs: Suffo, Whing, Johnson.

Of the 14 on duty that night, eight of them had gone by the start of the following season and Sherwood and Mills only played one more game for the club. Reid managed to survive until the New Year when he was sacked with City in 20th place and heading for relegation.

Since that dreadful night the results have gone City’s way:

1-0 (McSheffrey pen), 1-0 (Adebola), 2-1 (Mifsud & Kyle), 1-1 (Fox), 2-2 (Best & Wood).

QPR are currently heading for their best finish in the division since they were promoted from League One in 2004. In the last six years their best finishing position is 11th and over that period their record is not dissimilar to the Sky Blues. Now of course they have wealthy owners who have allowed Neil Warnock to invest considerable sums in the squad and promotion back to the Premiership for the first time since 1996 looks a distinct possibility.

Last week’s obituary on Jack Kendall prompted some correspondence. Alan Blackwell, a close friend of Jack’s, sent me the picture below of Morris’ cricket team from around 1960, a team captained and coached by Jack (centre of front row). The football team picture shown last week prompted John Beardow to contact me. He was a friend of Jack's for 48 years. Jack had shown him the team photo some years ago. He knows the match was played on GEC's Copsewood ground (where City trained in those days) and the photo was taken there but he cannot remember the circumstances of the game.

Peter Barratt pointed out that his grandfather Dick Hill, City’s trainer for many years was in the photo on the far right of the back row. Diamond Club member John Green pointed out that the referee (middle row, far left) was Dai Evans. John worked with him at AWA Baginton in the late 1950s and early 1960s and says: ‘Being much older than myself I never suspected he was involved in any sport. Now having reached four score years myself I realised what opportunities young folk miss by not questioning their seniors’.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 15.1.11

The Sky Blues were fortunate that Crystal Palace did not start playing until the hour mark last week and they were able to end the Palace bogey and end the South Londoners’ excellent run of four wins and a draw at the Ricoh Arena. A hard won victory saw City through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup and avenged that defeat from 1908. The gate of 8,162 was I admit higher than I expected but like many attendances around the country was pitifully low.

Another promising youngster Conor Thomas made his debut last Saturday as a substitute. Good judges tell me that great things are expected from young Thomas, certainly better than other recent ‘bright young things’ like Adam Walker and Ashley Cain, who sadly disappeared without trace. Thomas was 17 years and 71 days which makes him the ninth youngest City debutant – the youngest being Jonson Clarke-Harris who was 16 years and 20 days when he came on at Morecambe earlier this season. He is however the youngest City player to play in the FA Cup. I believe the previous youngest was Dennis Mortimer who was three months short of his 18th birthday when he played against Liverpool in January 1970. He is also the 850th first team player for the club since they joined the Football League in 1919.

It is sad to report the death of former wartime Coventry City player and local footballer and cricketer Jack Kendall. Jack passed away on 7 January aged 89 years. Born in Lentons Lane, Aldermans Green in 1921 Jack had outstanding ability at football and cricket and played cricket for Coventry Boys and football for Longford St Thomas as a teenager. When war broke out he was working as an engineer at Brico in the city and was excused a call up to the services because his job was vital to the war effort.

He was never strictly on City’s books and was playing football for Morris Engines in 1944 when manager Harry Storer called him up to play as a guest for City, covering for a regular who was away on service duty (many of the city’s top amateur players played for the club in this period). In 1944-45 season he made 10 appearances, at left half. His daughter Helen Ewing sent me the photograph which I have never seen before. It is possible that it may have been taken before one of those games and bearing in mind the quartered shirts it was probably an away game. Then again it might have been taken in Memorial Park. Jack is second from the right on the front row, to the right of Tommy Crawley and Charlie Elliott, George Mason, Billy Frith and Harry Boileau are on the back row. If readers can identify the occasion and any other people in the photograph please let me know.

Jack made one appearance in 1945-46 season and also appeared as a guest for Leicester City earlier in the war. He was involved in local football and cricket for many years after the war, captaining and coaching the very successful Morris cricket team throughout the 1960s and coaching cricket at colleges until the age of 69. Friends put Morris’ success down to Jack’s ability and man-management skills. He was an amateur on Warwickshire C.C.’s books for a number of years playing mainly as a wicket-keeper for the Second XI and in 1948 played 4-5 first XI games. Jack was courageous behind the stumps, standing up for some very fast bowlers. His friend Alan Blackwell once asked the famous old England wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans whether he knew Jack and Evans’ reply was: ‘he was one of the best wicket-keepers I ever saw’.

He loved football and was always asking how the City had got on. He was involved in coaching Rugby Town under the famous Eric Houghton in the 1960s and continued working for Brico as tool-room foreman up until his retirement in the 1980s.

His funeral will take place at Canley Crematorium on 24 January at 10.45 and all his old friends are welcome.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


A miserable Christmas period saw the Sky Blues win one point from five games and slip out of the play-off positions to 11th position as I write this. They now have 35 points from 26 games and are four points off the play-off positions. The division continues to throw up more and more strange results and although the Sky Blues have more points at this stage than all but two of the last nine seasons (2001-02 and 2002-03 the exceptions) a chance has been missed to consolidate a position in the top six.

The last few weeks has seen a glut of managerial changes, the majority of them being sackings. It is sad to report that two ex-City players were victims of the sack just before Christmas. Sam Allardyce was very unfortunate to get the order of the boot from Blackburn Rovers and his departure means that no ex-City players are managing in the Premier League. His replacement, for the time being anyway, is former City assistant boss Steve Kean who had two years at the Ricoh under Chris Coleman.

Paul Trollope of Bristol Rovers is another ex-City manager to be sacked before Christmas. He only played a handful of games for City, at the fag-end of the disastrous 2001-02 season (a Jim Smith signing if I remember correctly) but had had a five-year spell as manager at Rovers. Interestingly four of the last five Rovers’ managers were ex-City men with Trollope preceded by Ray Graydon, Gerry Francis and Garry Thompson.

The Championship’s struggling clubs have been changing managers like a merry-go-round in recent weeks with Preston, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Sheffield United all having changes. The Blades’ change was enforced on them by Gary Speed’s elevation (is that the right word) to Welsh national boss. Blades’ fans did not seem unduly worried about Speed leaving as they languish near the foot of the table and it offered an opportunity to former City boss Micky Adams to return to the Championship. After leaving Coventry, some say unluckily, Micky had a bad time at Brighton but has rejuvenated his managerial credentials with a spell at Port Vale in League Two. Now he has landed his dream job, managing the team he has not only supported since he was a boy but also started his playing career with. His next league game will see him returning to the Ricoh Arena almost exactly four years to the day of his departure as manager.

Talking of former players Ken Jones of Finham sent me a nice letter a few weeks ago with a cutting from The Packet, a Cornish newspaper. It was a match report of Falmouth Town’s 2-1 win over Witheridge in the South West Peninsula League. Former City midfielder Sean Flynn, now aged 42, is the Assistant manager/player for Falmouth. Flynn (pictured below) joined City from Halesowen Town in November 1991 and made his first team debut on Boxing Day and scored in a 3-0 win at Bramall Lane. Between 1991 and 1995 he made over 100 appearances for the Sky Blues scoring 10 goals.

Today is FA Cup Third Round day, a day that used to be such an exciting one in the football calendar. Now for all but a handful of non-league or lower division sides it is a damp squib day. The FA Cup has lost its glamour and all across the country season ticket holding fans will be expected to cough up extra money to pay for a cup tie, just after they have maxed out on the credit cards in the run up to Christmas and in the January sales. Gates across the country will be pitifully low with a gate of well under 10,000 expected at the Ricoh for the visit of unattractive Crystal Palace. Last season just over 7,000 attended the Portsmouth replay and after City’s miserable Christmas results I think today’s gate may struggle to top that. Palace may well be buoyed by a new manager (or caretaker Dougie Freedman) and they will not need reminding that they have never lost at the Ricoh with four wins and one draw since 2005. When you consider that in the only other FA Cup meeting between the clubs (in 1908) Palace won 4-2 at Highfield Road the omens seemed stacked against City. That game back in 1908 by the way was a memorable one in the club’s history. They had reached the equivalent of the Third Round for the very first time, as a Birmingham League club, and their efforts not only attracted a Highfield Road record crowd of 9,884 but also brought them national press exposure for the first time. Although beaten by their South London opponents City were, within six months, voted into the Southern League and the club never looked back.