Sunday, 29 April 2012

Jim's column 28.4.12

                                                         Bobby McDonald - 160 consecutive games       

Coventry City’s relegation to League One (or Division Three) was confirmed with the home defeat to Doncaster Rovers last Saturday – a sad conclusion to a miserable season. Today the injury-ravaged team travel to Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium to try and recover some pride against the team most likely to follow Reading to the Premier League.

Coventry City have now been relegated four times in their League history. Ian Harris wrote in and wanted to know if in our previous relegations (1925, 1952 and 2001) we were relegated on the final day. In 1925 it was a 0-0 home draw with Derby in the penultimate game which sealed City’s relegation from the old Division Two. Coincidentally, the final game was at Southampton and the team lost 0-3. In 1952 their fate was settled on the last day with a 1-3 loss at Elland Road. In 2001, as many fans will remember it was the 2-3 defeat at Villa Park in the penultimate game which ended City’s hopes of retaining their Premier League status.

City fans will be glad to see the back of one of the worst seasons ever statistically but unfortunately I will have to do my statistical review next week when the season has finally ended.

Poor Richard Keogh saw his tremendous run of City appearances ended in the most unfortunate circumstances last Saturday - with a red card for giving away a penalty. He had played 90 complete league games without missing a single minute and looked set to be an ever-present for the second successive season, something not achieved by a City player since Oggy in the 1990s and by an outfield player since Bobby McDonald in the late 1970s. When the story of City’s time in the Championship is written Richard will be remembered as one of the big-hearted heroes of the era. The ovation he received as he left the pitch was memorable but fully deserved and acclaimed his excellent consistency over the last two seasons. He misses today’s game and City fans fear his form will have made him a target for Premiership or Championship clubs in the coming close season. Let’s hope he is still here come August to lead the club to promotion.

Many City fans (especially ones who travel away) have told me that they are looking forward to visiting lots of new grounds next season and I thought I would look at the likely trips we have next season. Promotion, relegation and play-off issues are still to be resolved in Leagues 1 and 2 (or Divisions 3 & 4 as I prefer to call them) but it is interesting to look at the definite, probable and possible opponents.

Definites – these 14 clubs will definitely face the Sky Blues next season.


Several of these clubs have been in the same division as City in recent years (Pompey, Doncaster, Colchester, Preston & Scunthorpe, but City have not met Brentford, Tranmere, Bury, Bournemouth and Shrewsbury in league games since the 1960s. You have to go back to 1958-59 for the last league trip to Hartlepool when 4,032 saw the final game of City’s Fourth Division promotion season.  City will face Yeovil for the first time in a competitive game. The six teams marked with an asterisk are either new or totally reconstructed since the City’s last visit, with Colchester, Yeovil & Shrewsbury new grounds.

Probables  - these clubs have an outside chance of either being relegated or making the play-offs but will probably face the Sky Blues next season.

Leyton O*
Notts Co

City will face Sussex club Crawley for the first time in League football and Leyton Orient’s ground has been totally reconstructed since City’s last league visit in 1966.

Possibles – these are the clubs who still have an outside chance of being relegated or those involved in the play-offs.

Sheff Wed
MK Dons*
Sheff United

There is a strong chance that both Sheffield clubs will be promoted to the Championship and this would make Coventry, arguably, the biggest club in the division. If that was the case then City would face MK Dons, Huddersfield and probably Stevenage – all three at grounds never visited before by the Sky Blues in league action. Cheltenham and Oxford have outside chances of reaching the League Two play-offs and both grounds would be a first for City fans. Stevenage, Cheltenham and MK Dons (if you ignore their dubious claim to Wimbledon’s history) would all be playing the Sky Blues for the first time in their history whilst City have not played Torquay in league action since 1961-62 nor Huddersfield since the Terriers were in the old Division One, and played at Leeds Road, in 1971-72.

As a postcript to the obituary of Jack Evans last week I would like to thank Jack’s neighbour Mrs Margaret Skinner and friend John Green for ensuring that Jack’s wonderful scrapbook was donated to the Coventry City archives. The scrapbook tells Jack’s career story wonderfully and gives a great insight to football from a golden age. It also reminded me of my first ever visit to Highfield Road in 1962 when my father took me to watch Lockheed Leamington beat Rugby Town 5-1 to lift the Birmingham Senior Cup and Jack scored two goals. Ken Brown, a former playing colleague of Jack’s at Coventry and Lockheed, sent me a simple email: ‘Read your piece about Jack Evans. My own little tribute to him, in two words, ‘a Wonderful Man’.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Jim's column 21.4.12

                                                  Jack Evans in his playing days
                                        Jack leads off the old boys at Legends Day 2007

It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of former Coventry City footballer Jack Evans. Jack who was 86 a few weeks ago was on City’s books between 1942-52 and was a regular in the reserve team for several seasons and made eight first team appearances between 1949-51. After leaving City in 1952 he had a long and successful career in local non-league football, playing at a high standard until the age of 36. He died suddenly after being taken ill on the golf course at Maxstoke Park last Sunday morning.

Born in Coventry on 11 March 1926, Jack was just too young to be called up for World War 2 but did his National Service in the army just after hostilities ended and was an accomplished glider pilot. He was signed by City after he wrote in asking for a trial and impressed the management staff. He played centre-forward and wing-half for Modern Machines (City’s Youth team) and in April 1949 after some good performances for the reserves he got his first team chance when injury ruled out Ted Roberts. The opponents in a Second Division match were Fulham at Highfield Road and a few years ago he told me the story. He was getting changed in the dressing room before the kick-off and the tannoy announcer gave the team changes. He read out’ “Number 9 – Jack Evans” only to be greeted by a chorus of boos. Jack however had the last laugh, scoring the only goal of the game against the side who would be promoted later that month.

Nemo in the Coventry Evening Telegraph was complimentary about the new boy:

‘Evans is the nearest thing to (Ted) Roberts on the City books. Lionhearted, not knowing what it is to be beaten, he did the job entrusted to him with real credit. It was a joy to observe his 100% enthusiasm and get a goal’.

The following week, with Roberts fit again, it was back to the ‘stiffs’ and it was the following season (1949-50) before he got another opportunity.  He made three appearances that season, two home 0-0 draws (v QPR and Preston) and a 0-1 defeat at Cardiff. 1950-51 was a good season for Coventry City – they were in the Second Division promotion hunt until the last few weeks of the season, in fact they led the table at the turn of the year. Ted Roberts was a virtual ever-present but when he was injured Jack made four appearances without finding the net:

Leicester (h)  won 2-1
Preston (a) drew 1-1
Cardiff (a) lost 1-2
Cardiff (h) won 2-1

Manager Harry Storer signed ace scorer Tommy Briggs the following week and Jack’s first team days were over.

Jack told me about a friendly game he played in in 1950 against the Turkish side Galatasaray at Highfield Road. They were probably one of the first Turkish sides to visit England and, according to the Coventry Evening Telegraph report, they created a wonderful friendly atmosphere at Highfield Road by carrying the Union Jack on to the pitch and throwing bunches of flowers to the crowd. A crowd of 9,350 saw City win 2-1with goals from Jack and Noel Simpson. Jack told me that the Turks were extremely sporting on the pitch, and they picked City players up when they fell down. Then in the second half, when Ken Chisholm was floored, he was picked up, had his hand shaken and was embraced by the Galatasaray player!

Jack obviously realised he wasn’t going to be a top-class footballer and whilst on City’s books he worked at Daimler and trained to be a carpenter, playing football as a part-time professional. Later he worked at Rolls Royce at Anstey where he was also involved in union duties. He told me that in those days he could earn more as a skilled carpenter than playing football full-time.

In May 1952 he was released by City and joined Nuneaton Borough and the following season had short spells with them and also appeared for Bedworth and Rugby Town. He was back with Bedworth for the 1953-54 season but by March 1954 he was appearing for Banbury Spencer and was playing at outside right.

In 1957 he joined Lockheed Leamington, where his former City colleague Les Latham was manager, and also a favourite grazing place for ex-City men. He played alongside several former City colleagues including Charlie Timmins, Ken Jones, Ken Brown and Mick Lane.

Moving back to wing-half he played his part in Lockheed’s golden era in the early 1960s and won championship medals in 1961-62 and 1962-63. In 1962 he returned to Highfield Road at centre-forward in the Brakes team that lifted the Birmingham Senior Cup by defeating Rugby Town 5-1 in what was my first ever visit to Highfield Road. Jack scored twice and winger Ernie Ward (a former City apprentice) scored a hat-trick. As a young boy I remember Jack leading the Brakes’ forward line and winning virtually every ball in the air with his bald head!

Jack hung up his boots in 1963 at the age of 37 and was assistant manager at Leamington for a time before being granted a testimonial against Nottingham Forest in 1964 for his service to the club.

Jack was a keen golfer and played regularly until his death. After growing up in Cheylesmore he lived in Duncroft Avenue, Coundon for many years. In 2007 he attended the inaugural Legends Day but told me then that he was disillusioned by the modern game and had no interest in coming regularly to City games. According to his old friend John Green, who played with Jack in the Modern Machines team after the war, Jack didn’t even watch football on the television.

A date for his funeral has not been announced at the time of going to press.

Thanks to Paul O’Connor, Paul Vanes and John Green for their assistance in preparing this obituary.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Jim's column 14.4.12

                                         Coventry's 1987 FA Youth Cup winning team

After Monday’s defeat at Ashton Gate in the ‘Game of Death’ the chances of City surviving are slim. An Easter weekend that had begun with so much hope and City looking favourites to avoid the drop, ended with City back in the bottom three and four points adrift of safety. They definitely missed a trick on Saturday afternoon – there was an opportunity against Peterborough to pile more pressure on Bristol, playing late at Nottingham Forest. Instead news of the 2-2 draw at the Ricoh probably galvanised Bristol and they fought a strong rearguard action to grab all three points against an inconsistent Forest.

City may have only lost one of their last ten home games – a remarkable record in the circumstances – but three of the last four have been draws and right now draws are not enough. In all three games City had enough chances and probably deserved to win. At the end of the season they could be the lost points which will send the club down.

City’s seven-game unbeaten run ended in the rain at Ashton Gate on Monday afternoon – it was the longest run since the autumn of 2003 when in the latter days of the McAllister reign the side drew seven in an eight match run without defeat.

Former City loanee Jon Stead scored at both ends, the first time this has happened in a City game since Luton’s Croatian Ahmet Brkovic did it in City’s 3-1 defeat at Kenilworth Road in December 2006.

The last time a Coventry City player scored at both ends was Dave Busst in a thrilling League Cup tie against Spurs in 1995-96 season. Before that you have to go back to the memorable night in 1981 that City beat West Ham 3-2 in the League Cup semi final first leg. City’s hero that night was Garry Thompson who recovered from scoring a first half own goal to score twice at the right end. By a strange coincidence on both these occasions City came from 0-2 to win 3-2.

I have an apology to make to Jack ‘Highfield Road’ Foster. I have just found a letter sent to me by Jack some months ago. He had four questions for me:

  1. What is the lowest points total of a club relegated from the championship?
  2. What is the lowest number of goals scored by a championship club?
  3. Do you reckon Andy Thorn should be the new ‘Mayor of Coventry’ if we avoid relegation?
  4. Do you reckon leaving Highfield Road was a disaster?

The answers are:

  1. Since the number of games increased to 46 in 1988-89 the lowest total points has been 26, by Stockport County in 2001-02.
  2. 31 by Birmingham City in 1988-89.
  3. If he pulls us out of this mess, yes!
  4. Yes. I think there is a gypsy’s curse on the stadium. We have only finished in the top half once in seven seasons at the Ricoh.

It is 25 years since the Sky Blues’ greatest day - when they won the FA Cup by beating Spurs at Wembley. That same year the club’s youth team won their equivalent, the FA Youth Cup, beating Charlton Athletic in a two-legged final. To commemorate that achievement the Former Players Association have organised a reunion of the Youth squad of ‘87 at next Saturday’s final home game against Doncaster Rovers. The majority of the squad are expected to be present including final goalscorer Steve Livingstone, Tony Dobson, the Middleton twins and Howard Clark - all of whom progressed to the first team. In addition we hope to have the coach of the team, Mick Coop - a true Sky Blue legend - and the director in charge of the boys, John Reason, attending the lunch and making an appearance on the pitch at half-time.The boys, who are now in their early 40s, are all excited by the reunion and many will be coming to a City game for the first time in years. Additionally a good number of the Wembley heroes will be at the game as part of their celebrations of the 25th anniversary of that fabulous day at Wembley.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Jim's column 7.4.12

             1928: Sid Kimpton (left) alongside Jimmy McIntyre (manager) and Arthur Waters (assistant trainer)

Finally at the 20th time of asking the Sky Blues notched their first away win of the season at Hull City’s KC Stadium last week. Not only does the victory mean the team won’t have the ignominy of going through a whole season without an away win, and emulating the 1999-2000 side, but it greatly improves the chances of the club remaining in the Championship. There is still much work to be done before safety is assured but two successive wins following four draws means the Sky Blues are the form side at the foot of the table.

The six game unbeaten run might only have been worth 10 points but is the longest unbeaten run by a City side for five years. In 2007 Ian Dowie’s arrival as manager sparked a six game unbeaten run with home wins over Southampton, Hull, Wolves and Barnsley and away draws at Norwich and Colchester. The last time the club had a longer unbeaten run was the autumn of 2003 (in the reign of Gary McAllister) when they drew seven and won one in an eight-game run.

I had to check out how the 20 game winless run compared against the club records and it was two short of the modern day record set between April 1999 and August 2000 which covered the whole of the 1999-2000 season. When you go back further however there was some way to go to break the all-time club record of 28 set in 1924-25. The worst ever runs are as follows:

28                Between 2 Jan 1924 and 4 April 1925 (most of the 24-25 relegation season and half the previous season)

25                Between 23 Oct 1954 and 17 Dec 1955.

22                Between 3 Oct 1931 and 5 Nov 1932 (at a time when Clarrie Bourton was breaking all the scoring records)

22                Between 3 April 1999 and 23 Aug 2000 (during the ‘Entertainers’ era of Keane and Hadji)

At the last Diamond Club lunch Gary Clifford asked if I could through some light on the former City trainer from the late 1920s Sid Kimpton who he believed coached the French national side.

Born in 1887, Sid was christened Gabriel Sibley Kimpton but was also known as ‘George’and came from the Watford area. A tall inside-forward, he played all his football for Southampton in the Southern League, making his debut in 1910 and making almost 150 appearances before the First World War as well as many wartime games. Saints’ manager at the time was Jimmy McIntyre who later became Coventry manager and a close friendship developed. After the war Sid was re-signed by Saints but at the age of 33 his playing career was coming to an end.

His coaching career started on the continent and he coached the now defunct DFC
Prague, Polonia Warsaw and KS Cracovia. There was also a spell in Russia where according to Mike Young he was once falsely arrested with his wife in Germany having arrived from Russia for 'smuggling' a box of chocolates after coaching a 'top Moscow club'.

He arrived at Highfield Road in 1928 and worked under manager Jimmy McIntyre but with little success. He left Coventry in the early 1930s, probably after Harry Storer replaced McIntyre in 1931 and in 1934 turned up in France. After taking  coaching sessions for the French FA he was asked to help coach the French national team in that summer’s World Cup in Italy under senior coach Gaston Barreau. Although France were eliminated in the First Round they gave the tournament favourites, Austria, a major shock only losing after extra-time. Kimpton was feted by the French press but went back to his coaching lessons in Paris at the same time becoming the manager of leading club Racing Club Paris, leading them to the French league title in 1936 and to the Coupe de France in 1936 and 1939. In the summer of 1939 he joined Rouen but soon after the start of the war he was imprisoned as a POW and spent several years in a camp near Paris.

After the war he rejoined Rouen and helped them to win the last War championship before joining AS Cherbourg. He spent his later years back in England and died at Leavesden near Watford in 1968.

The picture was taken at Highfield Road around 1928 and shows Kimpton, McIntyre and according to Mike Young, assistant trainer Arthur Waters.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Jim's column 31.3.12

The sixth Annual Legends Day surpassed all expectations with a record 51 former players attending last Saturday’s home win over Portsmouth. Everything went smoothly and the atmosphere in the dining room, on the pitch at half-time and after the game in the G-Casino was electric. So much laughter and a few tears as old friendships were renewed with lots of ex-City players meeting up again after long absences.

The mystery guest and 200th member of the Former Players Association was former Coventry City and Wales captain Terry Yorath. Terry had not been to the Ricoh Arena before and was mightily impressed with the stadium and facilities. He got giant hugs from his old team-mates such as Barry Powell, Andy Blair and Garry Thompson and got a tremendous ovation from the fans at half-time.

Terry bumped into Coventry property guru Harvey Williams who was responsible for finding Terry and his family a house in Coventry when he signed from Leeds in 1976. Harvey related the story of how his firm showed Terry 25 or more properties over a number of weeks but none of them impressed the Yoraths. Finally Terry took Harvey to Cannon Hill Road, pointed to a house and said ‘that’s where we want to live’. There was only one snag, the club chairman, Jimmy Hill owned the house and his wife, Heather and children lived there. Harvey relayed the news to JH whose reaction was: ‘who’s going to tell Heather she has to move?’ In the end Harvey and Jimmy broke the news to Heather and Harvey found her a new property in Fairlands Park nearby, and Terry and his family spent three happy years in the house. Harvey and Terry reminisced about old times as though they had never been apart.

Terry was one of a number of the guests who were making their first appearance at Legends Day and others included former Assistant Manager Ron Wylie, 80-year old Billy Gray who played in the early 1950s, Dennis Oakes and Peter Denton from the 1960s, 1987 Youth Cup winner Howard Clark and recently retired Marcus Hall who couldn’t believe so many former players could be brought together.

There are so many people to be thanked for Saturday but the committee are grateful to everybody who contributed, by making donations, by giving up their time and by supporting the committee. Everybody involved helped make it a very successful day. To top a great day the Sky Blues won a vital game, and are now unbeaten in six legends days. When Andy Thorn was told this his response was: ‘Can we have a Legends Day every week’.

Mr RA Berry of Holbrooks recently sent me a Coventry City team picture and asked if I could tell him the year it came from. The picture, reproduced here, is of the 1906-07 team and was taken before a match against Wolves Reserves at Highfield Road on 5 January 1907. The Birmingham & District League game was watched by a crowd of around 2,500 and ended 1-1 with Tooth netting for City. Managed by former player Joe Beaman, City were on the verge of making a name for themselves. The following season an excellent FA Cup run took them to the equivalent of the Third Round, and although they lost to Southern League Crystal Palace they came to the attention of many influential people in the football world and in 1908 were elected into the Southern League, then the foremost league outside the Football League.

On Thursday evening I will be at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum for the launch of the exhibition ‘From Highfield Road to Wembley Way’ commemorating the 25th anniversary of the club’s Wembley victory. Tickets for the launch, which are free, are available on line at