Monday, 25 April 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 23.4.11

Three more points against Millwall last Saturday made the Sky Blues safe from relegation for another season. The replacement of manager Aidy Boothroyd with caretaker boss Andy Thorn has galvanised the team and eleven points from six games has put Thorn in with a shout of being the next City manager. However with little or no news on funding or ownership changes any talk of a long term appointment is a waste of time. Since the tsunami of news when the new board were appointed three weeks ago things have gone quiet at the Ricoh and no-one has elaborated on the comments that Sisu’s latest transfusion of money would only last until the summer. HMRC and other creditors (including presumably the football club who were owed money that caused the transfer embargo to be enforced) have been pacified for the moment, but players will need paying through the close season as will HMRC for the PAYE liabilities. A permanent appointment is highly unlikely until Sisu’s longer term intentions are clearer or a new owner comes over the hill on his white charger. Frankly, if I was Andy Thorn I would be loathed to take the job until the fog around City’s future clears.

Marlon King became the first Coventry player to score a brace in two successive league games since Micky Quinn achieved the feat in 1992. Since then Dion Dublin (1997-98), Darren Huckerby (1998-99) and Cedric Roussel (1999-2000) have done it including a Cup game, in fact Huckerby scored successive hat-tricks against Macclesfield and Nottingham Forest but no-one has done it since the club were relegated in 2001. In 1992 Quinn had a golden period when he arrived courtesy of new vice-chairman John Clarke’s £250,000 donation. ‘Quinny’ scored ten goals in six games including three successive braces at Southampton (2-2) and at home to Liverpool (5-1) and Aston Villa (3-0). Marlon, now on 11 goals, could be on target to take McSheffrey’s record of the most league goals (15) in a season since relegation.

Days after Portsmouth’s Haydn Mullins became the first City opponent to receive a red card this season Millwall’s Neil Harris became the second, and the fastest ever at the Ricoh Arena, his expulsion being timed at 67 seconds after coming on as a substitute. The previous record was held by Michael Mifsud, sent off after 11 minutes against West Brom in 2007. I believe Harris is only the second opposition substitute to be ordered off at the new stadium, the other was Colchester’s Teddy Sheringham in 2008. The mild-mannered Claus Jorgensen remains the only City substitute to be sent off at the Ricoh, although another affable substitute, Brian Borrows, received his marching orders at St James’ Park in the late 1990s and Carl Baker ‘saw red’ at Millwall this season.

Harris joins a select group of miscreants to be sent off as a substitute against the Sky Blues including Clive Allen, the first in 1992, when playing for Chelsea, Trevor Benjamin (WBA), Nicky Summerbee and West Ham’s Steve Lomas.

City’s fastest ever red card was timed at 24 seconds and received by loanee Peter Clarke at Cardiff’s Ninian Park in 2004.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 16.4.2011

City’s upturn in form continued at Fratton Park on Tuesday evening with a convincing 3-0 win over Portsmouth. The win completed the club’s first ‘double’ of the season, after City’s opening day victory at the Ricoh. It ensured that the Sky Blues did the ‘double’ over at least one team for the eleventh season in a row. You have to go back to 1999-2000 for a campaign where City didn’t achieve the ‘double’, that team, boasting Robbie Keane, Gary McAllister and the Moroccans may have been dubbed ‘the Entertainers’ but failed to win a single away game.

As I said last week City have met Pompey very infrequently over the last 45 years but it was still the first win at Fratton Park since August 1966 when goals from Ray Pointer and Bobby Gould secured a 2-0 win. Tuesday’s victory was City’s biggest away victory for almost three years, when a 5-1 win at Colchester helped save City’s bacon and only the second time this season the team have scored more than two goals. Coincidentally two of those goals at Colchester were from the penalty spot, Elliott Ward the man on target at Layer Road. Marlon King emulated Ward’s feat at Fratton and took his tally of league goals to nine. His scoring form is excellent and although he is unlikely to better Gary McSheffrey’s 15 goals in 2005-06 (the best by a City player in the post-Premiership era) he may well reach 12 which would be the best total since Gary’s record campaign. Marlon’s goals per game ratio however is the best in the modern era with nine in 20 starts.King only settled in the side in November after fitness issues and the conundrum is why the team have they slumped to the lower reaches of the table whilst King has been relatively prolific with his goalscoring.

Portsmouth’s Haydn Mullins became the first City opponent to receive a red card this season for his handball offence ensuring that one record stays intact; it is 14 years since we went through a whole season with no opposing players sent off.

Next Friday, Good Friday, City play host to Scunthorpe in what will be the first Good Friday afternoon home game since the club joined the Football League in 1919. Traditionally Coventry factories worked on a Good Friday and were closed on Easter Monday and Tuesday and as result the club would usually play home and away fixtures against the same club on the Monday and Tuesday, with occasionally an away game on Good Friday. In the days before floodlights (i.e. pre-1955) the Tuesday game would take place in the afternoon and with few at work a big crowd was usually guaranteed. Only once in almost 100 years have City played at home on Good Friday, an evening game with Sheffield United in 1975. In 1913 and 1914, when City were a struggling Southern League side they played afternoon games on Good Friday. I understand that some Coventry firms still work on Good Friday and fans working for these are likely to miss the game and the decision to play on Friday will have upset many people of a religious persuasion.

Monday, 11 April 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 9.4.2011

It was another memorable Legend’s Day at the Ricoh Arena last Saturday with 48 former players and relatives of former players attending the Watford game. Many thanks to everyone who attended and made it a day to remember!
I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at CCFC, Compass, who put on a marvellous lunch, and the G Casino who hosted the evening activities. They were fantastic on our big day and we couldn’t have done it with out you all!
The Former Players Association committee, plus our hard-working fundraisers Gill Young, Dave, Leslie, and Grant, all worked hard to make it a special day.
Thanks to all our patrons and the club’s associate directors, with special mention to John Clarke and Joe Elliott, for their generous donations to the CCFPA, it is much appreciated!
Finally to the most important people, the fans and the former players of Coventry City, you were brilliant. Billy Bell asked me to say that he was honoured to introduce the former players parade at half time and the reception they received was truly awesome! He said: ‘When Ernie Machin was wheeled on to the pitch to that wonderful reception, I have to admit it brought a tear to my eye.’
Billy went on: ‘Credit also to the Watford fans who treated the boys with the respect they deserve and gave them warm applause throughout. The fun in the E-On lounge before the game and the craic in the Casino was brilliant. I knew I had to many when I woke up on Sunday morning to find my suit in bed and I was hung up in the wardrobe! The messages of thanks from the former players for a cracking day, for me, makes all the hard work involved worthwhile.’ Here’s to the next one!
It was the fifth Legends Day and the 2-0 victory over Watford means the Sky Blues have never lost on Legends Day!
Photographs of the day (kindly taken by our own photographer Tony Thomas) and a report can be found on the FPA’s website
This week City travel to play two old foes from the Second Division days of the 1960s. Today they are at Derby’s Pride Park and on Tuesday it’s Fratton Park. Older fans will remember Easter 1966 when City’s defeats at Derby and Portsmouth wrecked the promotion hopes. City were well placed for promotion before a 2-0 defeat at Fratton on Easter Saturday, then, on Easter Monday afternoon, a late Alan Durban goal gave the Rams the points on the day Bill Glazier made his return after a year out with a broken leg. City lost only one of their remaining six games but were pipped at the post by Southampton.

City have not got a great record at Pride Park in recent years and have won only once in seven games since they were relegated in 2001. That was a 3-1 win in October 2003 near the end of Gary McAllister’s reign as manager, when Stephen Warnock and Patrick Suffo (2) netted.

The visit to Fratton Park is the first in the league since Pompey were promoted to the Premiership in 2003. That season City got a creditable 1-1 draw thanks to a Calum Davenport goal after losing 1-0 to a Peter Crouch goal the previous campaign. During City’s 34-year unbroken period in the top flight they only encountered Portsmouth once, in 1987-88, and drew 0-0. So you have to go back to August 1966 for City’s last win at Fratton but they have only met there on four occasions since, including last season’s 1-1 FA Cup draw.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


It was a case of Déjà vu at the Ricoh Arena this week with the club’s desperate financial plight taking over as the main news item from last week’s story about the team’s vertical drop towards League One. A high-powered press conference, talk of administration, financial injections and a new team on the board with their serious talk and furrowed brows. Yes there are new faces in the boardroom, some of them allegedly with questionable pasts, but they make the same old noises. They blame all the problems on the previous regime, talk about making the club financially viable again and state the obvious that the club must own the stadium in the future. Call me cynical but most City fans could have written the script for the press conference on Wednesday.

An added ingredient this week was that HMRC sent their bailiffs to the Ricoh looking to seize the club’s assets in lieu of unpaid PAYE tax. It can only have been like something from a Monty Python sketch.

HMRC bailiff: ‘So there are no assets?
CCFC representative: ‘No, we own nothing, just eleven football shirts’ (according to Ray Ranson in 2008) ‘We have got a training ground, but we’ve mortgaged that now. If you had come in January we had a talented 17-year old but we sent him to Liverpool’.

Joking apart, this is a serious problem. In normal circumstances HMRC would commence bankruptcy proceedings against a non-payer, so someone needs to pay them pretty quickly. But what a state this football club is in – Derrick Robins and Phil Mead, the men who quietly and frugally built the club up in the 1950s and 60s must be turning in their graves at the thought of the bailiffs turning up.

The faces in the boardroom are mostly new but the owner, SISU, is unchanged and little was said to reassure the long-suffering fans that much will change. SISU have had three years to progress the stadium ownership issue and have achieved little. Before SISU, Paul Fletcher, easily the best Chief Executive in the modern era in my opinion, resigned in frustration at the lack of progress with the owners of the stadium (and too much tinkering from a chairman who thought he knew best). In the three years since SISU saved the club in the last crisis there has been little or no progress on the playing side. On Wednesday the new chairman got off to a bad start when his assertion that a meeting was planned with the council was exposed as a myth by council leader John Mutton.

One way forward may be for all the parties (including the politicians) to get off their high horses, stop posturing and sit down together and thrash out a solution that benefits the football club’s supporters and the city of Coventry. Until that happens our football club will just stagger from this disaster to the next.

Today is the fifth annual Legends Day organised by the Former Players Association and over 50 former players including family members of some of the late greats (George Mason, Ray Straw and Frank Austin) are expected to attend. A full list of all confirmed guests can be found on the Former Players Association website at Ensure you are in your seats at half-time to see the men who made Coventry City famous paraded on the pitch. It promises to be a great day with the celebrations starting in the Arena Exhibition hall at 11.30 where the E-type Jaguars are on display and carrying on throughout the day at the Ricoh and culminating in a party open to all at the G Casino after the game.