Thursday, 30 August 2012

Jim's column 25.8.2012

Coventry City’s first home game on Tuesday evening was watched by a half reasonable crowd of 12,621, a thousand or more than I was expecting. A good away following of over 1500 from Sheffield ensured that the crowd did not set an all-time Ricoh low but I suspect that unwelcome record (12,054, set last season v Crystal Palace) will be tested in the weeks to come, and possibly today when Bury are in town. The last time the Shakers travelled to Coventry was in the autumn of 1966 when goals from Bobby Gould, Ian Gibson and Dave Clements gave City a comfortable 3-0 win.

I noticed with interest City’s first two away attendances. At Dagenham & Redbridge for the League Cup game the gate was 1,904, the lowest ever crowd for a City game in a competition which City have competed in since 1960. City’s following in East London of 580 made up 30% of the crowd. The previous lowest was a second round tie at Rochdale in 1991 which attracted 2,288 spectators. It was also the lowest crowd to watch a City competitive game since 1,086 turned up at Highfield Road to watch a Full Members Cup game against Millwall in 1985. The pitifully low crowd was mainly due to the fact that there was nothing at stake as neither side could progress in the competition.

Then on Saturday the crowd for City’s first ever competitive game at Yeovil was 6,006 and, despite it being Yeovil’s biggest home crowd for almost two years, it was the lowest league crowd for a City game since December 2010 when there were 4,397 for the game at Scunthorpe. City’s away following of 2,136 was 35% of the crowd. I think we will see away crowds smaller than 6,000 as the season progresses.

Kevin Malaga’s debut on Tuesday night meant that nine Coventry players have made their debut in club colours in the first three games. It is not quite a club record – in 2003 manager Gary McAllister unveiled ten new players in the first three games. The ten, some of whom went on to become stars at the Ricoh, were: Scott Shearer, Stephen Warnock, Steve Staunton, Patrick Suffo, Graham Barrett, Michael Doyle, Andy Morrell, Dele Adebola, Yazid Mansouri and Claus Jorgensen.

Last week I mentioned that it was 50 years to the day that City had worn their sky blue kit for the first time in a competitive game and I received several comments. One reader, Kevin Ring, remembered the Notts County game well and wrote:

I can hardly believe it is 50 years. I recall the night before - I couldn't sleep for excitement (I was 11 years old). The 22,000+ crowd was more than double the average & that new forward line really caught the imagination. Curiously what I recall most is a chap at the top of the stairs at the side of the main stand (Swan Lane side) which led to the 'Paddy Ryan Fighting Fund' office shouting down to someone, 'the good times are back' as we went through the turnstiles. How right he was.

The chap at the top of the stairs was probably harking back to the 1930s when City had last had ‘good times’ and I think most City fans of today can relate to that. Let’s hope the good times are just round the corner for the new Sky Blues. If you want to read more memories of that golden season 50 years ago I am serialising it this season in the club programme.

Knowl who runs the excellent GMK website asked me to list Coventry City’s leading league goalscorers over the last ten years in the championship. Here it is:

1. Gary McSheffrey 60
2. Stern John  26
3. Clinton Morrison 21
4. Michael Doyle 20
5= Leon Best 19
5= Dele Adebola 19
7 Lukas Jutkiewicz 18
8= Freddy Eastwood 17
8= Andy Morrell 17
10 Michael Mifsud 16

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Jim's column 18.8.12

Today marks the start of Coventry City’s first league campaign in the third flight of English football for 49 years at Yeovil’s Huish Park. After a mixed pre-season City fans’ feelings are mixed with some confident that Andy Thorn’s summer transfer dealings can spark a successful campaign whilst others still bemoan the lack of investment from SISU and fear that the club’s fortunes have not yet reached their nadir.

Looking at the statistics of previous relegated teams from the Championship, the omens for an immediate return to the second tier don’t look great. Over the previous ten seasons only six of thirty clubs relegated from tier two have bounced back at the first attempt. Peterborough (in 2010-11), Norwich (2009-10), Leicester and Scunthorpe (2008-09). Brighton (2003-04) and Crewe (2002-03). In the last five seasons big clubs (by League 1 standards) such as Leeds United, Southampton, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday have returned to the higher division but only after two or three seasons. Other clubs, such as Luton Town and Plymouth Argyle, have virtually sunk without trace, primarily because of financial difficulties. It could be argued that the Sky Blues have more in common with the Lutons and Plymouths than the aforementioned big clubs. Unlike relegation from the Premier League there are no parachute payments when you drop out of the Championship to make relegation a relatively soft landing and give a big advantage over the rest of the field..

Thorn’s transfer wheelings and dealings have drastically changed the face of the team with big names Keogh, Cranie, Eastwood and Clingan all now ex-players and a mixed bag of newcomers including two French defenders, a multi-capped Irish international (Kilbane), a refugee from Rangers (Fleck) and two interesting loanees (Brown and Ball). As I write this before the Dagenham game it would seem that, judging from the final friendlies, we may have at least five or six league debutants at Yeovil today.

The modern day record for most CCFC debutants was set in 2008-09 when six players made their first start in a City shirt: Keiren Westwood, Stephen Wright, Guillaume Beuzelin, Freddie Eastwood, Clinton Morrison and Aron Gunnarsson – all now ex-players.  The vast turnover in City’s personnel can also be seen from looking at the team put out by Chris Coleman on the opening day in 2009-10. In a 2-1 home victory over Ipswich City lined up as follows: Westwood: Osbourne, Van Aanholt, Clingan, Wright, Turner, Bell, Gunnarsson, Morrison, Best, McIndoe. Today only David Bell is still at the club and sadly is on the injury list again.

Attendances at the first two home games this week will be interesting. The all-time Ricoh low of 12,054 will be severely tested, especially on Tuesday night when Sheffield United are in town. They may be one of the big clubs in this division but sadly midweek games at the start of the season, when many fans are still on holiday, are notoriously poor. With less than 6,000 season tickets sold I think the attendance will be under 12,000.

That is a far cry from the attendance at Highfield Road 50 years ago today. A crowd of 22,832 watched the team play Notts County in their first competitive game in their brand new sky blue kit. Jimmy Hill paraded his all new five man forward line as the Sky Blues ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Terry Bly and Hubert Barr. Golden memories!