Monday, 7 October 2013

Jim's column 5.10.13

Chris Lambert was in contact with me regarding a rare Coventry City programme he has recently acquired & asking for some details behind the game. It was for a friendly game played in 1935 at Highfield Road between City & Austria Vienna. The programme is just four pages with the teams on the inside along with

Since the Canadian club Hillhurst in 1911, no foreign team had visited Highfield Road, but in the summer of 1935 City were approached by Austria Vienna regarding an autumn tour of England. At the time, the Austrian national ‘Wunderteam’, managed by the legendary Hugo Meisl, was recognised as one of the strongest in the world and had reached the World Cup semi-finals the previous year. Several of the
Wunderteam played for Austria Vienna, including Matthias Sindelar, a tall, thin, pale, blond centre-forward nicknamed ‘the man of paper’, who compensated for his fragility with superb technique. He is considered one of the greatest Austrian footballers of all time and in the modern game would have been a highly paid superstar. In 2006 Brian Glanville placed him in his top twenty all-time world stars.

Such a ‘big-name’ team wanted to be paid for their services and a fee of £150 was agreed upon. The game was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon (2.15 kick-off) in early December but the previous Saturday City were surprisingly held to a draw in the FA Cup by non-league Scunthorpe United and the replay was to be played on the Thursday. As City’s first team headed north for the replay manager Harry Storer selected a reserve side to face the Austrians at Highfield Road. The game at Scunthorpe was called off because of bad weather but in Coventry the game went ahead. Even with Sindelar in the team (few City supporters would have heard of him) only 3,000 turned out to see City reserves win 4-2. with goals from Fred Liddle (2), Billy Lake & John Watson. Press reports describe the City and Vienna teams exchanging ‘beautiful banners’.

Sindelar’s impact on the small crowd went unreported, but two years later – after the German invasion of Austria and the Anschluss – his career was thrown into crisis. He refused to play for a ‘greater’ Germany
team in the 1938 World Cup and in 1939 mysteriously died in a gas-filled room. But in May 1936, six of the Vienna side who appeared at Highfield Road were in the Austrian team that defeated England 2-1 in Vienna.

Graham Williams asked me if I could provide some details about the career of former City player Trevor Lewis who recently took a bow at the Legends Charity match at the Ricoh Arena. Trevor was born in 1921 (making him 93 years old) in a small town called Bedwelty in South Wales. He was 27-years old when he was spotted by City playing for Redditch Town. A speedy right winger who could get a good cross in, Trevor made his City debut in a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough in April 1948. Trevor however could never cement a first team place owing to the form of Plum Warner and Dennis Simpson and played only eleven games in five years. His final game was in a 1-1 draw with Northampton in September 1953. Amazingly he never appeared on the winning side but was a regular for the reserves throughout the period. In 1953 he joined Gillingham and played 26 games and scored two goals in three seasons before moving in to non-league football with Kidderminster Harriers, Banbury Spencer and Rugby Town.

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Thanks to Mike Young for the photo from 1935.

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