Monday, 30 September 2013

Jim's column 28.9.13

Last week’s piece about the fastest Coventry City goals prompted an email from Russ Malin. His father, Fred who lives in Macdonald Road in Wyken, remembers a game at West Brom just after the war when City’s George Lowrie scored straight from the kick-off. Russ takes up the story: ‘My Dad, who is 87 now, was at the game (still in his Army uniform) and remembers Lowrie receiving the ball from Ted Roberts straight from the kick off, running past Vernon their centre half and then blasting it in the net, all in 11 seconds apparently.’

If accurate this would make it the fastest post-war City goal.  I was able to track down a match report of the game at the Hawthorns on 3 May 1947 and the details are vague: ‘Lowrie scored in the first minute’. Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of the Pink match report to see if the goal time recorded there is more precise. If any reader can throw more light on this goal please let me know.

James Canavan contacted me via Twitter and was interested in knowing more details of a friendly game he attended at Highfield Road in 1998 against Bayern Munich. This game occurred during one of City’s best league & cup runs of the modern era. Between Christmas 1997 and the end of the season the team lost only three of 23 competitive games (and one of those, the FA Cup game at Bramall Lane, on penalties. At the end of January Bayern were emerging from the Bundesliga winter close-down & came to England for some match practice. A crowd of 8,409 watched the German champions beat a makeshift Coventry team 4-2. Viorel Moldovan, still to make his first Premiership start following his record £3.25 million move from Grasshoppers, put the Sky Blues ahead after nine minutes only for Mehmet Scholl to equalise after 19 minutes. Further goals from Brazilian Giovane Elber (40) and Carsten Jancker (50) put Batern in the driving seat. Simon Howarth, a sub for Dion Dublin pulled a goal back after 62 minutes before Ruggiero Rizzitelli completed the 4-2 scoreline.

The teams on the night were:
City: Scott Howie: George Boateng, John Salako, Gavin Strachan (sub Willie Boland 82), Gary Breen, Marcus Hall, Paul Telfer (sub Sam Shilton 58), Trond Soltvedt, Dion Dublin (sub Simon Haworth 45), Viorel Moldovan, Noel Whelan (sub Yasser el Hamrouni 73).
Bayern: Oliver Kahn: Christian Nerlinger, Mehmet Scholl (sub Alexander Zickler 77), Thomas Strunz, Giovane Elber, Lothar Matthaus (sub Frank Gerster 62), Bixente Lizarazu, Mario Basler, Thorsten Fink, Michael Tarnat, Carsten Jancker (sub Ruggiero Rizzitelli 77).

Several City players had picked up knocks in the previous Saturday’s FA Cup win over Derby County and Huckerby, Shaw, Burrows & Nilsson sat the game out. Boateng & Salako played out of position at full-back with Marcus Hall at centre-back. City also had a goalkeeper crisis with Hedman & Oggy both injured & had to draft in Motherwell’s Scott Howie on loan but this was his only appearance. Howie joined Reading a few weeks later & later played for Bristol Rovers & Shrewsbury. El Hamrouni was a Moroccan on trial at City at the time from his Tunisian club Stad Tunisien. He later played for MSV Duisberg in Germany.

Ten of Bayern’s starting XI were full internationals but City manager Gordon Strachan felt that if he had been able to put out his full-strength side it would have been a different scoreline. The game was beamed live to an estimated 3m viewers in Germany.

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Monday, 23 September 2013

Jim's column 21.9.13

                                                                    Eddie Brown

Coventry City’s 2-1 victory over Gillingham extended the team’s unbeaten league run to six games & lifted the Sky Blues out of the relegation zone. Leon Clarke’s fast goal prompted many to ask when did they score such a fast goal. Most reports timed Clarke’s goal at 56 seconds making it the fastest City goal since December 2008 when Clinton Morrison netted after 37 seconds against Ipswich Town at the Ricoh Arena in a game that ended 2-2.

Leon’s goal is some way off the fastest ever by a City player, a record shared by the late Eddie Brown & Gary McSheffrey at twelve seconds. Brown scored his swift goal in August 1954 in a 2-1 home win over Reading whilst McSheffrey’s speedy effort came in a 3-0 home League Cup win in September 2002. Other fast goals include:

Eddie Brown
12 secs
Gary McSheffrey
Colchester (LC)
12 secs
Youssef Chippo
13 secs
Mark Hateley
14 secs
Jimmy Whitehouse
Lincoln (FAC)
15 secs
Mick Ferguson
25 secs
Gerry Daly
27 secs
Steve Livingstone
28 secs
Peter Murphy
30 secs
Gordon Nutt
30 secs

Callum Wilson failed to find the net against Gillingham but with eight league goals is the joint top scorer not only in League One but in the whole Football League. He shares that honour with Bradford City’s Bermuda-born Nahki Wells (the new Shaun Goater?). Wells has continued in League One where he left off last term in League Two with eight league goals plus one in the League Cup.

Several readers have asked when Coventry last had the leading scorer in a Football League season. The answer is the 1931-32 when the legendary Clarrie Bourton topped the scoring lists with 49 goals in Division Three South – the only time a City player has achieved that feat. Bourton scored 40 goals the following season to top the Third South list again but was pipped to the overall top scorer award by Hull City’s Bill McNaughton who scored 41 goals.

Three other Coventry players have topped the divisional scorers. In 1962-63 George Hudson netted 30 league goals to top Division Three’s list but Tottenham’s Jimmy Greaves netted 37. In actual fact only six of Hudson’s goals were scored for the Sky Blues after his move from Peterborough in April.

In 1966-67 Bobby Gould topped Division Two’s scorers with 24 goals but was easily beaten by Southampton’s Ron Davies (37) & QPR’s Rodney Marsh (30). In 1997-98 Dion Dublin was joint top scorer with Michael Owen in the Premier League with 18 goals but was surpassed by many in the lower divisions including Kevin Phillips & Pierre Van Hooijdonk.

American reader Bob Nelsen wanted to know what playing kit the club used prior to Jimmy Hill introducing the famous Sky Blue kit in 1962. The team wore white shirts with a blue v-neck and white shorts. The short-sleeved version is illustrated in the picture but as the cold weather arrived the long sleeved version, with blue sleeves, came into use.

Follow me on twitter @clarriebourton

Monday, 16 September 2013

Jim's column 14.9.13

 Coventry City's attendances hit a new low last Sunday for the visit of Colchester United to the Sixfields Stadium. The attendance of 1,789 was the lowest crowd for a home league game since the club joined the Football League in 1919, beating a record set in 1928 when 2,059 watched a Monday afternoon game against Crystal Palace.

Several readers have pointed out that according to the Breedon Complete Record book published in 1991 there was a crowd of 1,660 for a home game with Hartlepools United in 1926. The attendances in the book were the gates reported in local newspapers & could often be incorrect. However since the book was published I have carried out research on the official Football League records and confirmed that attendance to be incorrect. There was in fact a crowd of 4,744 at that game. The Football League records only go back to 1925 so there may be other attendance inaccuracies in the Breedon book before that date.

Although the Colchester attendance was the lowest of the three gates at the Sixfields the home contingent was the highest. For the Bristol game there were only 1088 home supporters, 1506 for the Preston game & 1517 for Colchester. Colchester traditionally have one of the smallest away followings (only 173 of them turned up at the Ricoh last season) so City's gates at their temporary home may now have bottomed out.

Several readers have asked me to list other smaller crowds for home games. Here are the ten lowest crowds in league games since official records began in 1925:

1,789 v Colchester  2013-14
2,059 v Crystal Palace 1927-28
2,068 v Preston 2013-14
2,204 v Bristol City 2013-14
3,974 v Newport County 1954-55
4,744 v Hartlepools 1925-26
4,785 v QPR 1953-54
5,073 v Ashington 1925-26
5,329 v Brighton 1930-31
5,479 v New Brighton 1925-26

To find a Coventry City league crowd lower than Sunday's gate you have to go back to the Southern League season of 1909-10 when an estimated 1,500 watched the home game against Portsmouth.

Last week whilst writing about Callum Wilson's goalscoring feats, I mentioned the efforts of George Lowrie who scored seven goals in the first three games of 1947-48. By coincidence I received an interesting email from Colin Turner. He tells me that his daughter is an optometrist working in care homes in South Wales & recently tested the eyes of a 90 year old lady who is the widow of George Lowrie. He wanted me to write something about Lowrie's career that his daughter could show Mrs Lowrie.

George Lowrie was born in December 1919 in Tonypandy, South Wales. His football career started with Swansea in 1935 but he was unable to break into the first team and moved to First Division Preston. Having no luck at Deepdale either he signed for Coventry in June 1939 for £1,750 -  big fee for Coventry then. Manager Harry Storer saw George as the ideal replacement for the legendary Clarrie Bourton who had left eighteen months before but never really replaced. Storer guaranteed him first team football but couldn't have foreseen that World War 2 would take seven years out of George's playing career.

George scored on his debut against Barnsley on the opening day of the 1939-40 season, in a game declared void when war was declared a week later, and had to wait until 1946 for his 'official' debut. During the war he was a prolific scorer as a guest for Northampton, then later back at Coventry where he scored 43 goals in 52 games, and also for Wales for whom he won eight wartime caps and scored a hat trick against England at Wembley. Army duties restricted his appearances later in the war and he was still in uniform during 1946-47, his golden season. He scored 29 goals, including five hat tricks, in 36 games. He attracted the attention of several Division 1 clubs during the following season and it seemed to affect his form, although he still managed 18 goals in 22 games, including another three hat tricks. He was transferred to Newcastle for a then club record fee of £18,500 but because of injuries and form failed to win a regular place at St James' Park and eighteen months later moved on to Bristol City for £10,000. In February 1952 with Coventry facing relegation from Division Two Harry Storer re-signed him but he could not help avoid the drop. In 1953 he was given a free transfer & returned to Wales to play for non-league Lovells Athletic. He died in South Wales in 1989.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Jim's column 7.9.13

Coventry City's phenomenal August goalscoring feats slowed down somewhat at Shrewsbury last week although Callum Wilson's early goal threatened another goal glut. In the end City scored 16 goals in the month of August and thanks to Dave Mobley for making me aware of a Football League record the team came close to breaking.

Dave checked the league tables for all four divisions going back to the war and found that no team had scored more than 18 goals by 31 August (before the war the league season rarely started before the last Saturday in August). He pointed out that before the Shrewsbury game the Sky Blues had scored 15 so on Saturday afternoon needed three to equal the record and four to break it.

 The highest August scorers are:
18 goals                Liverpool 1969 , Crystal Palace 1960
16 goals                Arsenal 2004 , Ipswich Town 1999 , Manchester United 1999 , Chester City 1972,  Sheffield United 1969 , Q P R 1962 , Charlton 1968 , West Ham 1968.

As it turned out the one goal put them in joint second place in the all-time table.

What a extraordinary start to the season Callum Wilson is having. After starting just three league games before the start of the season he cannot stop scoring. His goal at Shrewsbury was his sixth in the first five league games a feat not achieved by a Coventry City player since 1954-55 when Eddie Brown netted six in the first five unbeaten City games. Only two other City players have matched that feat, the great Clarrie Bourton in 1935-36 and George Lowrie who netted seven goals in the first THREE games in 1947-48, all of which were scored in August.

No City players from the last thirty years have managed five or more goals in the first five games but others to have achieved it are:

1977-78 Ian Wallace
1965-66 George Hudson
1964-65 George Kirby
1963-64 George Hudson
1960-61 Ray Straw & Billy Myerscough
1932-33 Clarrie Bourton

Last week's obituary for Gerry Baker prompted some nice comments from various readers but two comments are worth reporting. Former City player Ian Goodwin, who was a youth team player when Gerry was at the club remembers him fondly: 'He was a wonderful man who always had time to offer help and advice to the younger players. He certainly helped me and will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.'
Bob Nelsen, an American City fan who lives in California, met Gerry a few years ago: 'I had the honour of meeting him one time at the Tile Hill Social Club, where he was introduced to me as a former American international.  I was quite surprised by his Scottish accent and we had a good laugh about that.  I thanked him for his service to both the USA and CCFC.  He was a modest and jolly gentleman.'
Two weeks ago I wrote about the League Cup tie with Leicester City in 1964-65 and Leicester's full-back Richie Norman scoring. I said that Norman had later managed Nuneaton Borough but Rod Grubb kindly pointed out that this was incorrect & that Norman had only ever been physiotherapist at Nuneaton.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Jim's column 31.8.13

Last Saturday evening I received the sad news that former City player Gerry Baker had passed away earlier that day at the age of 75. It seems only five minutes since I laughed and joked with him at the last Legends Day in March when he was full of beans and posed for pictures with his fellow ex-City great Scots such as Stein, Carr, Hutchison & Wallace.
Gerry was born on 11 April 1938 in New Rochelle in New York State, where his English father ( a sailor) and Scottish mother had settled, but after a year in the States, the family moved to his father's native Liverpool, so that he could assist the war effort by joining the Merchant Navy. During their time on Merseyside, his younger brother Joe was born and the two brothers both had outstanding football careers. Gerry & Joe both won international caps for the countries of their birth despite their broad Scottish accents. 
A few weeks after Joe's birth, the family were evacuated to Scotland and the football mad brothers were brought up in Motherwell, playing football first for his school sides of Park Primary and St. Joseph's Secondary, as well as Craigneuk Boys Club.
Gerry's skills soon brought him to the attention of local side Larkhall Thistle, and after only six games, the 15 year old headed south to join Chelsea where he starred in their youth, third and reserve teams (scoring four goals in six starts), before making one appearance for the Chelsea first team, against Luton Town in a Southern Floodlight Cup match in September 1956. He returned to Scotland later that year suffering from homesickness, and was quickly snapped up by his home town team of Motherwell.
Gerry's first team chances were limited at Motherwell and he was regularly played at outside left, which was not his favoured position. A move to St. Mirren in early 1959 kick-started his career and he scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over a Hibs side which contained his brother Joe. He also helped the Saints to the Scottish Cup final, scoring seven goals en route, and then netted the third goal in the clubs 3-1 final win over Aberdeen at Hampden.
The following season, Gerry made history by scoring an incredible ten goals in a Scottish Cup tie against Glasgow University, which St Mirren won 15-0. (Unbelievably brother Joe scored nine against Peebles Rovers for Hibs a year later.)
 In 1960 Gerry caught the eye of Manchester City who paid £30,000 for his signature and he crossed the border again, playing alongside the great Denis Law, but once more did not settle in the south and a year later he was on the move to Hibernian. He was a regular scorer for Hibs for two seasons & once again attracted the English scouts. In November 1963 former Newcastle legend Jackie Milburn paid £25,000 to sign Gerry for Ipswich Town. He was unable to stop Ipswich being relegated from Division One that season but was a regular at Portman Road for four seasons scoring 58 goals in 135 games.
Noel Cantwell signed Gerry for the Sky Blues two weeks after taking over from Jimmy Hill as City's manager in October 1967, paying Ipswich £25,000. He made his debut in a disastrous 0-3 home defeat to Fulham which sent the team to the foot of the table. Fellow Scot Ernie Hannigan made his debut the same day. Gerry netted his first goal for City in a 1-1 home draw with West Ham on a snow-bound pitch with his speed unnerving the normally calm Bobby Moore.
Gerry was small for a striker but he was good in the air. His real strength however was in his speed and finishing. He scored further goals at home to Liverpool, Newcastle and Charlton but his most memorable goal came in a 2-1 home win over Chelsea in February 1968. The previous week City had won their first away game of the season and only their second league win since September & the first of many great escapes was underway. Cantwell had signed centre-forward Neil Martin and he made his debut in an all Scottish forward line of: Hannigan, Baker, Martin, Ian Gibson & Willie Carr (Baker always considered himself a Scot despite his US passport). City trailed the high-flying Londoners 1-0 at half time but Gerry headed an equaliser before Hannigan clinched a vital win with a searing shot.
Gerry played 22 games that season, scoring five goals & helping the Sky Blues avoid the drop. The following season he lost his place to Ernie Hunt and made only 11 appearances scoring a solitary goal, against Newcastle at home. That season he did however make himself available for the U.S.A. team as it began qualifying matches for the 1970 World Cup. His first cap came in a 4–2 World Cup qualifying defeat to Canada on 17 October 1968.
Over the next month, Gerry started six games with the U.S.A. and scored twice in a 6–2 victory over Bermuda. His seventh & last cap came in a 1–0 loss to Haiti which put the U.S.A. out of contention for a spot in the finals.
His final first team game for Coventry came in September 1969 when deputising for the injured Hunt he won one of two penalties in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. The following month he joined Brentford on loan where he scored two goals in eight games before being released by the Sky Blues at the end of the season. In total he played 34 games and scored six goals.
Gerry then signed as a player-manager with Southern League Margate, but was limited by several injuries, first a dislocated shoulder in August 1970, then broken ribs in the November. Despite these injuries, Gerry played a total of 48 games (16 goals) before leaving the club in September 1971. He joined Nuneaton Borough and played 30 games (9 goals) under David Pleat for one season, followed by spells with Bedworth United, Worcester City & Racing Warwick.
Brother Joe, who won eight caps for England in the early 60s, passed away 10 years ago.
After retiring from professional football Gerry worked for Jaguar Cars in Coventry, and took up golf. His late wife Ann was a champion sprinter in her heyday, and daughters, Karen and Lorraine, were both international athletes. Lorraine represented Great Britain in the 1984 & 1992 Olympics, finishing fifth in the 800 metres in 1984. Gerry & Ann returned to live in Scotland some years ago & Ann passed away last year after a long illness. Gerry's funeral took place in Motherwell yesterday .