Sunday, 11 March 2012

Jim's column 10.3.12

                                                          Kevin Drinkell

On Tuesday night the lowest ever crowd to attend a league game filed through the Ricoh Arena turnstiles. Only 12,054 turned up on a cold evening to watch the Sky Blues not only fail to beat Crystal Palace but also fail to gain any ground on the teams above them. With City’s appalling away form – now 10 successive defeats and the worst run since 1930 – it is vital that every home game yields three points and Tuesday’s slip, and it was two points dropped despite the point saver by Cody McDonald, could, ultimately, prove to be crucial.

City’s gates have been holding up reasonably well, considering the team’s fixture in the bottom three and the poor home fayre, especially before Christmas. There were only 12,309 at the Reading home game in September and I predicted the Ricoh low (12,292 v Doncaster last season) would be broken at the midweek game with Blackpool three days later, but it wasn’t. Between then and Tuesday, there were six sub-14,000 gates, four of them sub-13,000 and it was only a matter of time before the record fell. Only large away followings from Southampton, West Ham and Leeds have kept the home average as high as 14,500, but that is still over 10% down on last season’s final average of 16,307. If the average doesn’t improve between now and the end of the season the home gates will be at their lowest level since 1993-94 when the average was 13,352. The lowest average since then was 14,632 in 2003-04. 1993-94 was the season that Highfield Road was only open on three sides as the East Stand was being built and with the capacity reduced to just over 17,000 the other three sides of the ground seemed fairly full most of the time. The biggest home crowd that season was 17,009 for the visit of Manchester United.

Sammy Clingan’s penalty miss at The King Power Stadium was the second miss by a City player this season – Lukas Jutkiewicz missed the first in injury time in the home game with Reading. Sammy’s penalty record for the Sky Blues is not brilliant – he has only scored one out of three – he missed one at home to Swansea in 2009 and his solitary success was at home to Ipswich earlier this year. Jutkiewicz was the first choice penalty taker before his miss against Blackpool but as the team didn’t win any further spot-kicks between that miss at Lukas’ move to Middlesbrough in January we don’t know if he had lost his position. Sammy duly scored against Ipswich, a week after Jutkiewicz left but the Northern Ireland international was missing for the home game with Leeds and Gary McSheffrey deputised and duly scored twice from the spot. By all accounts Gary is now the first choice penalty taker again.

Paul Konchesky became the second Leicester City player to be sent off against the Sky Blues this season, following Darius Vassell’s dismissal in the opening day game at the Ricoh. Despite the red cards Leicester still managed to do the double over the Sky Blues for the first time since 2002-03. Leicester are the first team to have players sent off at home and away against the Sky Blues in the same season since Millwall in 2005-06. Then Canadian Adrian Serioux was sent off in a  0-0 draw at the Den and Matt Lawrence saw red at the Ricoh in a 1-0 Coventry win later in the season.

Legends Day is almost upon us again and the Former Players Association are working hard to bring a record number of former City players to this year’s event which takes place two weeks today at the Portsmouth home game. 40 legends have already committed and the final figure is hoped to be between 50-60. Amongst the players definitely booked are Roy Barry, Ernie Hunt, Ian Gibson and Kevin Drinkell. Places at the lunch in the 1883 restaurant are still available from the football club.

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