Monday, 4 November 2013

Jim's column 2.11.13

During the 1960s Coventry City were the most innovative football club in England. Led by chairman Derrick Robins and manager Jimmy Hill, the Sky Blues were always looking for publicity and were probably the first club to develop 'media relations'. The Sky Blue kit, Sky Blue Radio with pre-match entertainment, the Sky Blue Special train that carried fans to away games, were just a few of the ideas implemented by the club during that golden period.

In 1966 the Sky Blues planned an end of season European tour in a fleet of Rover cars kindly donated by the Rover car company. Chris Wilson of the Rover Sports Register contacted me recently asking if I had any information on the cars and the tour of Europe.

From Chris I discovered that Rover, with the blessing of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, lent the club nine Wedgwood Blue Rover 2000 cars for their 17-day trip that took in Frankfurt, Vienna, Zurich & Brussels. Wedgwood Blue was as good as Sky Blue. The idea was that City would play friendly games in each city and attend a 'promotional conferences' at Rover distributors and dealers to aid Rover's export efforts.

The tour started with anything but a friendly in Germany against Offenbach Kickers which was a bad-tempered affair, ended 0-0 and with Ronnie Rees sent off for a bad tackle.

The Rover cavalcade moved to Vienna where the Sky Blues were beaten 1-4 by Austria Vienna with Ernie Machin netting the consolation goal. Another defeat (2-3) followed against FC Zurich, Bobby Gould netting the City's goals. Three days later the Sky Blues finally won a game, beating Belgian side Union St Gilloise 3-1 with goals from Ray Pointer, Gould & Rees.

Ronnie Farmer was on that trip & remembers it well: 'The Rovers were brand new & we drove all the way from Coventry to Dover & then caught the ferry to the continent. The cars were great & we had a great three weeks in some lovely hotels. In Austria we stayed in a picturesque village in the mountains. The players took turns at driving & I'll never forget one day when John Sillett was driving our car. A sparrow hit the windscreen and he turned the windscreen wipers on & the bird was splattered all over the screen. After the tour I think we had the opportunity to buy the cars at a reduced price but I had just bought a new Ford Corsair. Like all our overseas trips there was a great camaraderie & we all got on well.'

I spotted former City striker Mick Harford at the Leyton Orient game and he had kind words to say about the Sky Blues saying they 'played really well, looked a unit and had a few outstanding players for League 1'. Mick of course had the briefest of careers at Coventry. Signed by Bobby Gould from Sunderland in the summer of 1993 his solitary appearance was as a substitute in the first home game of the season against newly-promoted Newcastle. Mick came off the bench for Tony Sheridan with sixteen minutes remaining and the score at 1-1. Five minutes from the end his looping header clinched the three points for the Sky Blues. Unfortunately Mick suffered back problems and didn't play again during his 13-month stay at Highfield Road. He did recover and joined Wimbledon and went on to play a further 60 games before taking up coaching. As a manager he has had spells with Rotherham & Luton as well as caretaker roles at Nottingham Forest & QPR. He is currently assistant manager to Steve Lomas at Millwall. He didn't tell me which players he might have been scouting for at Sixfields.

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