Sunday, 20 February 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 19.2.11

Coventry City ended their appalling run of 10 winless league games with a hard-won 2-1 victory over struggling Crystal Palace at the Ricoh. Hopefully my extensive coverage of previous bad runs last week had the effect I intended and helped remove the ‘Indian Sign’ from City’s form. The team’s results over the last two months have wrecked their play-off chances and also dramatically affected the mood and confidence of the supporters. The dreadful run has also prompted some strategic reflection at SISU, the club’s owners, and the directorial moves over the last two weeks demonstrate that all is not well in the boardroom. City are now virtually condemned to an 11th season in the second tier of English football and it would appear that our latest owners now realise that there is no quick fix for the club’s financial situation.

Marlon King was on target again, scoring the second goal – his fourth in successive games – and has showed his Premiership pedigree in recent weeks. King has scored in the last three league games and at St Andrews in the FA Cup. No City player has scored in four successive games since 2003 when Andy Morrell scored in five successive league games (but failed to net in a League Cup tie in the run).

Morrell scoring run was:

13 Sep 2003 H Stoke Won 4-2 Suffo, Barrett, Adebola, Morrell
16 Sep 2003 A Preston lost 2-4 Staunton (pen), Morrell
20 Sep 2003 A Reading won 2-1 Adebola, Morrell
27 Sep 2003 H Wigan drew 1-1 Morrell
1 Oct 2003 H Crewe won 2-0 McAllister, Morrell

So King’s run is the best in all games since 1992-93, the first season of the Premiership when Mick Quinn scored in each of his first six league games for the club after arriving on loan from Newcastle United.

Mick scored two on his debut at home to Manchester City, a game which City lost 2-3, then netted singles against Sheffield United (a) (1-1) and Ipswich (h) (2-2). His form really took off then with three successive braces, at Southampton (2-2), at home to Liverpool (5-1) and in a Christmas cracker at home to Aston Villa (3-0). A stunning total of ten goals in six games!

Mick was the only City player in 34 years in the top flight to score in five or more successive league games although Terry Gibson did net in seven successive league and cup games in 1985-86 but this included two League Cup ties with Chester and a meaningless Full Members Cup game against Millwall.

The club record is held by Clarrie Bourton, the famous goalscorer from the 1930s. Bourton netted in 10 successive league games during the 1931-32 season, 11 if you include an FA Cup goal during the run. In that spell he managed 19 league goals including five goals in a 6-1 home win over Bournemouth and a hat-trick in the 4-2 home victory over Clapton Orient. Clarrie went on to score 49 goals that season and was the leading goalscorer in the whole Football League.

Michael Green e-mailed me with a question on behalf of Derek Craig, his 87 year old neighbour. Derek told Michael that his dad who had originated from Durham and played for Coventry City around the time of the First World War. He asked me if I had any information on his father.

Robert Craig was an outside left or left half who was born in Newcastle sometime before 1900. City signed him from North Shields Athletic in 1913 and over the next two seasons he played 25 Southern League games (City did not join the Football League until 1919) and scored one goal (on his debut at Gillingham).

After the Great War he joined Nuneaton Town for one season before joining Hinckley United where he appears to have stayed for five years before retiring in 1925.

If you like to wallow in some Coventry City nostalgia get along to the Coventry Transport Museum this coming Thursday (24 February). Dean Nelson and the Former Players Association are hosting a film night especially dedicated to displaying archive film material covering some past games of the Sky Blues (culled from his extensive archive). Dean will be showing Coventry City highlights from TV and celluloid coverage of old games from across the years. Last Saturday after the Palace game the 1981 players were surprised to see the goals from the famous win over West Ham, albeit very grainy images. The event is timed to last from 7pm – 9pm. Tickets will cost £1 each and can be booked by telephoning Coventry Transport Museum – Tel: 024 7623 4270

Sunday, 13 February 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 12.2.11

Some readers criticise me for ‘putting the mockers’ on good form when Coventry City are in a good run, rare though it may be. Last December I wrote about City’s strong run and their successive clean sheets, but that day they lost for the first time in a long time and haven’t won a league game since. Last March, I seem to remember, I waxed lyrically about City’s four straight wins under Chris Coleman that pushed City into the top eight and speculated about their play-off chances, only for the Sky Blues to collapse with a run of 11 games without a victory.

So today I thought I would write about the dreadful run without a win that Aidy Boothroyd’s are having right now, put it into a historical context and hopefully help end the run!

After 10 games without a win we are getting close to the club’s worst run for eight years. The worst league sequences since City fell out of the Premier League are:

2003 16 games over two seasons under Gary McAllister.
2009-10 11 games at the end of the season under Chris Coleman.
2010-11 10 games under Aidy Bothroyd.
2009-10 10 games in mid-season under Coleman.
2004-05 9 games in early season 2004-05 under Peter Reid.
2008-09 8 games at the end of the season under Coleman.
2003-04 8 games pre-Christmas under McAllister (incl 7 draws).
2002-03 8 games in Jan & Feb 2003 under McAllister.
2006-07 7 games prior to Micky Adams’ departure.
2001-02 7 games at the end of the season under Nilsson which cost a play-off place.

The club’ worst ever series of results was back in 1919 when, after joining the Football League they failed to win any of their first 19 games and finally broke their duck with a 3-2 win over Stoke City on Christmas Day. The current sequence is beginning to look similar to the dreadful times in Division 1 in 1983 and 1984 when in both seasons City collapsed after Christmas after being in top six positions early in the New Year. In February 1983 Dave Sexton’s young team were fifth in the league after beating Manchester City 4-0. Garry Thompson was sold over the head of Sexton and the team’s form imploded. They went 13 games without a win and only a face-saving 3-0 win at Stoke pulled City out of their seemingly suicidal plummet towards Division Two. The following season, under Bobby Gould’s inexperienced management, another 13-game slump saw City fall from sixth to sixteenth before Gould pulled them out of their freefall and avoid relegation on the last day of the season.

The above list is a terrible indictment on the Sky Blues recent history and it is no surprise that we are the only club (apart from seemingly doomed Preston) of being in this division consistently for the last ten years. At least Preston have reached the play-offs three times and before this season had an enviable home record stretching back a number of years. City regrettably have never beaten Preston at Deepdale in that time.

Another bogey side Crystal Palace are in town today, supported by a large following which may help their team to continue their amazing five-game unbeaten league run at the Ricoh but will at least boost City’s depleted coffers by £100,000 or more. Let us hope that the recent FA Cup victory over Palace has banished this particular bogey.

Manchester City fans paid tribute to the late Neil Young last week. Young, who died after a long fight against cancer, was one of the classiest players I ever saw at Highfield Road and had a remarkable record against the Sky Blues. Between 1964 (when City came up from Division Three) and 1971 (when Young was prematurely losing his touch following the sudden death of his younger brother) he played 10 games for the Manchester Blues against City, was never on the losing side, consistently tormented Mick Kearns and other City defenders with his classy left foot and scored six goals. The only time he was on the losing side was in a League Cup game at Maine Road in 1965 which Coventry won 3-2. Young was somewhat overshadowed by the bigger names in Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison’s team of the time, namely Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell and Francis Lee, but the record books show he was the top scorer in both the Second Division (1966) and First Division (1968) Championship sides as well as scoring the winning goal in the 1969 FA Cup final and in the Cup Winners Cup final a year later – not bad for a player considered to be a midfield player. When you look at the mediocre players selected for England in the modern era it is a travesty that Neil Young never played for his country.

Make a note in your diaries for Thursday 24 February. That night the Coventry Transport Museum, supported by Dean Nelson and the Former Players Association are hosting a film night especially dedicated to displaying archive film material covering some past games of the Sky Blues (culled from his extensive archive). Dean will be showing Coventry City highlights from TV and celluloid coverage of old games from across the years. The event is timed to last from 7pm – 9pm. Tickets will cost £1 each and can be booked by telephoning Coventry Transport Museum – Tel: 024 7623 4270
Neil Young

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


What a miserable ten days in Coventry City’s history. Before their trip to Loftus Road two weeks ago only Nottingham Forest in the earlier game at the City Ground, had come from behind to beat Aidy Boothroyd’s side. Then, like London buses, we get three in a row, culminating in Tuesday night’s capitulation against an average Forest side who didn’t look anything like as good as last year’s team that reached the play-offs.

At St Andrews I felt we were lucky to go two goals ahead (Blues had two great chances in the first ten minutes) and we know from recent Cup experiences (Man United and Blackburn (twice)) that for City to get a result against top flight opponents they need to be on top of their game for ninety minutes and the opposition need to be ‘off’ their game. There was evidence of neither on Saturday with City having a good 20 minutes in the first half but under the cosh to a strong-looking Birmingham for the majority of the game. David Bentley and Aleksandr Hleb are international-class players and proved a handful for City and although Conor Thomas battled manfully to keep a grip on Hleb the Belarussian was the most influential player on the park. Bentley, of course, was in the Blackburn side trounced 4-1 by City in 2008 and repeated his stunning goal that day with an unstoppable shot for Blues’ first goal.

Many fans asked me when we last lost after being two goals up and the facts are we have only done it twice in the last ten years. Two seasons ago Watford came from 0-2 to win 3-2 at the Ricoh Arena and in 2002-03 Ipswich came from 0-2 to win 4-2 against a very young and inexperienced City team that included players like Ben Mackey, Andy Whing, Gary Montgomery, Tom Bates and Craig Pead. City led 2-0 at the break but where overwhelmed with four goals in 17 second-half minutes with Marcus Bent and our nemesis Pablo Counago each getting a brace.

Prior to that City last lost from 2-0 away from home at Villa Park on that fateful day that saw us relegated from the Premiership in 2001. City, unfortunately don’t have a great record for coming from two down, although they got a draw at Watford this season and at home to Middlesbrough last season after being two down. The last time City won after being 0-2 was in a League Cup tie against Tottenham in 1995-96. City trailed to goals from Chris Armstrong and a David Busst own goal but bounced back to win with goals from Peter Ndlovu, Busst and John Salako. Before that you have to go back to 1986 to find a 0-2 scoreline turned into a win. On that occasion Southampton led 2-0 at half time but goals from Dave Bennett, Nick Pickering and Alan Brazil gave City a 3-2 win. I think there are only two other instances of City coming back from two down to win since they won promotion to the top flight in 1967. The famous League Cup semi final first leg against West Ham when City scored three second half goals to win 3-2 and the 4-3 win at Derby in September 1970 when the Sky Blues were two down after 13 minutes and won 4-3.

Talking of that famous semi final game in 1981 it is thirty years ago this month that City and West Ham battled for a Wembley place in what was Coventry’s first ever major semi-final. To celebrate the anniversary the Former Players Association are hosting a reunion at next Saturday’s home game with Crystal Palace. A number of the players who appeared for Gordon Milne’s dazzling young team, including Garry Thompson (the hero and villain of the first leg), Danny Thomas and Andy Blair, will be presented to the fans at half-time and mixing with the fans at the G-Casino after the game. The picture was taken in the dressing room after the 5-0

quarter-final replay win over Watford.

Congratulations to John Clarke on his appointment this week to the Coventry City board of directors. John’s elevation is well deserved after many years hard work for the club as an Associate Director and I am sure the appointment will mean stronger links between the football club and the people and businesses of Coventry. John was a director before of course. Back in 1992-93, with City in dire financial straits (when were they not!) he came up with the £250,000 required to sign Mick Quinn. Quinn’s prolific goal scoring (17 goals in 26 games) pushed City briefly into the top six in that first-ever Premiership season. In the summer of 1993 John briefly became chairman and was on the verge of becoming the major shareholder when ‘dark forces’ were unleashed and he was forced to resign and Bryan Richardson took over. John was chairman for nine days and in his own words: ‘he has taken 18 years to get back on the board’. John has been an avid City fan for years and was the Founder Patron and a great supporter of the Former Players Association. He understands the importance of the club’s history and heritage to the fans and we can never have too many of his type in the boardroom.