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.

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