Gerry Baker, spotted at Ricoh this week.
What a treat – two Coventry City wins in a week - could the tide by turning at last. I hope I won’t tempt fate by pointing out that City notched their first trio of successive wins for December 2010 when they defeated Burnley and Middlesbrough at home and Scunthorpe away to reach the heady heights of fifth place in the Championship. They haven’t won four in a row since December 2002!
Sadly the gates at this week’s games were pitifully low. The gate for the Arlesey FA Cup game was 6,594, the lowest for a home FA Cup tie since December 1908 when 6,215 watched City draw 1-1 with Wrexham in a Fifth Qualifying Round tie. Gates were generally poor in the Cup last week and City’s was only bettered by Portsmouth who had 7,560 for the visit of Notts County.
Tuesday night’s gate plumbed new depths for the Sky Blues with only 8,862 present for the visit of Crawley – the lowest home league crowd since March 1992 when 8,454 turned up for the midweek game against Norwich just three days after almost 24,000 had watched the Sky Blues entertain Manchester United. The crowds are drifting down to the lowest in the last 50 years with the smallest since 1962 being the 7,478 who watched the Watford game in January 1986. The Crawley gate means that City’s average this season is just 10,514 and unless it improves it will be the lowest average since 1961-62, the season Jimmy Hill took over as manager.
The FA Cup victory, City’s biggest home win since they moved to the Ricoh in 2005, set up a revenge game for the Sky Blues. The draw paired City with the winners of the Rochdale v Morecambe replay. Both of these clubs have knocked City out of Cup competitions in recent years, Rochdale in the 2003 FA Cup and Morecambe in 2010-11 League Cup, and older fans will remember the even bigger shock in 1971, when City lost at Spotland on a dreary Monday afternoon after the original game had been postponed.
David McGoldrick is the man of the moment and became the first City player to score 10 goals before the end of November since Michael Mifsud in 2007. Mifsud reached double figures on 3 November, beating McGoldrick by three days. Mifsud achieved it in only nine starts, McGoldrick has had 14 starts. McGoldrick is something of an enigma. Forest fans don’t speak highly of him – his nickname at the City Ground was McGoaldrought – and he scored only nine goals in 75 appearances (but only 36 starts) in three seasons. Prior to that he scored only 15 goals in 75 games (55 starts) for Southampton but obviously did enough to persuade Forest’s manager Billy Davies to pay £1m for him. He can’t seem to stop scoring for the Sky Blues and it has to be hoped that he can stay at the club beyond his loan period.
The introduction of Arlesey Town’s substitute, player-manager Zema Abbey, prompted the question from John Woodfield and Dean Nelson: when was the last time a player-manager appeared against the Sky Blues?
The answer is, to my knowledge, Gillingham’s Andy Hessenthaler who played several games for the Gills v the Sky Blues between 2001-2004 during his time as player-manager at the Priestfield Stadium. The last appearance was in City’s 5-2 win there in 2004 when Richard Shaw famously scored his only City goal and Hessenthaler got his marching orders. Another is Paul Simpson who played for and managed Rochdale to the aforementioned Cup win in 2003. My memory of the Premiership years is failing me and I have to thank Paul O’Connor for reminding me of several player-managers who played against us in the Premier League including three Chelsea men (Glen Hoddle, Ruud Gullit & Gianluca Vialli), Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish and Trevor Francis. Francis, I believe, is unique in that he did it twice (for QPR and Sheffield Wednesday) and scored against the Sky Blues in a 2-1 QPR victory in 1988-89. I do have good memories of the 1960s and remember Bill McGarry (PM of Bournemouth) and Jimmy Scoular (PM of Bradford PA) in the 1962-63 season. There may be more but it’s not as strange as it sounds.
I bumped into former Coventry City player Gerry Baker after Tuesday night’s game. It is always nice to chat to Gerry – a true gentleman – but it was sad to hear that his wife Anne passed away recently after a long illness. Gerry was down from his Motherwell home visiting his family in Coventry and took the opportunity to make a rare visit to the Ricoh. He was full of stories of the Sky Blues early seasons in Division One and reminisced about the late Ernie Machin.