Sunday, 27 October 2013

Jim's column 26.10.13

By scoring City's late equaliser in a classic local derby nineteen-year old Aaron Phillips joined two select bands. Firstly, he became only the third City player to follow his father by scoring a first-class goal for the Sky Blues. His father David scored 11 goals in 122 games for the club between 1986-1989 with his first coming at Old Trafford in a 1-1 draw in October 1986 which turned out to be Ron Atkinson's last game in charge of United before the appointment of Alex Ferguson.

The two other father and sons to achieve this feat are Ted & Dudley Roberts, and Tony & Mark Hateley. Ted Roberts scored 87 goals in 223 games between 1937 and 1952 with his first goal scored on his debut in a 4-0 home win over Bradford Park Avenue. Son Dudley played only 16 games but managed six goals including two in his home debut, a 3-1 win over Charlton in 1965.
                                                              Tony Hateley
Tony Hateley didn't have a happy time at Coventry and managed only four goals in 17 games in 1968-69 with his first coming in a 1-1 home draw with Manchester City. His son Mark was far more successful scoring 34 in 111 games although it took him 17 games before getting off the mark with two goals in the epic 5-0 League Cup quarter final win over Watford in 1980.

Aaron, who has yet to start a competitive game, also joined a group of players who have scored a first class goal before they had made their full starting debut. By my reckoning 18 players have achieved this feat, the last before Aaron being Mathieu Manset in the 4-4 home draw with Preston this season. Others to achieve this feat in recent seasons include Callum Wilson, Zavon Hines (currently starring for Dagenham & Redbridge), Wayne Andrews, Michael Mifsud & Don Hutchison. Strangely neither Andrews & Hines ever started a game for the club. Older players to have achieved it include Peter Ndlovu (at Highbury in 1991), Mick Harford, Viorel Moldovan (in the famous Cup win at Villa in 1998) and Les Cartwright (the first substitute to score on his debut).

Last week's comments regarding City's largest away followings prompted a lot of replies with great memories of large away days, many of them remembering the glorious1960s. As I said last week there were no official figures until recent seasons so all I have to go on are estimates quoted in Coventry Telegraph match reports which, in the case of all-ticket games, were based on actual ticket sales. Steve Pittam thought there were 20,000 City fans at St Andrews in January 1967 but Nemo's match report estimated City's following at 10,000 (in a gate of 36,000). Steve also thought we had a similar number at Molineux in April 1970 when we clinched our European place with a 1-0 win. The total attendance that night was only 23,000 and the City following was estimated at 7,000. Jim Bimbi remembers a large contingent at Huddersfield in May 1966 when City had an outside chance of promotion but Nemo's estimate was 3,000. Jim did however mention games at Liverpool in the League Cup in 1977 (estimate 10,000) and at West Ham in the same competition in 1981 (10,000 tickets sold). Robert Yates mentioned two games from the 1966-67 Second Division championship season, at Molineux & St Andrews, but City's away followings didn't really take off that season until the latter part of the season and although there were 10,000 at St Andrews there was a much smaller contingent at Wolves in a 27,000 crowd.  Several readers mentioned a game at Peterborough in 1964 when the Sky Blues were on the verge of the Third Division championship and it seemed that the whole of Coventry was on the road to Peterborough. The estimate was that 12,000 fans made the trip in a total attendance of 26,300. David Brassington remembered that night at Peterborough and thought the 0-2 defeat signalled the end of City’s promotion hopes. David also remembers a massive away following of Manchester United fans at Highfield Road in 1976. In David’s words ‘United won 2-0 and such was their fans ghastly reputation  at the time that many City fans just gave it a miss. The old West End, usually the City’s stronghold was completely taken over by THEM. Just to complete my misery  I  had to travel back to London in a train packed with them.’

So, as I wrote last week, the biggest City followings were in 1987 (the two games at Hillsborough and the two games at Wembley) and the biggest in the league was probably the game at Villa Park in 1937 (20,000 in a gate of 68,000), followed by the 15,000 that trekked to Wolves in January 1966.

The best overall season for away league followings was 1963-64 when approximately 81,000 City fans travelled to 23 away games, an average of 3,500 per game. That included the 12,000 at Peterborough, 8,000 at Millwall, 7,000 at Luton & 6,000 at Watford. This season's average is currently just over 1,800 and whilst it is heading for the best for many years it will not better 1963-64.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Jim's column 19.10.13

Former Coventry City striker Gerry Baker who passed away in August didn't live to see the publication of a book telling the story of his and his brother Joe's footballing career. The book The Fabulous Baker Boys Is an incredible story of two brothers who scored more than 500 goals between them and donned international jerseys for England & the United States. Despite being brought up in Scotland and having broad Scots accents they never had the chance to play for the country they felt was their own.

I wrote about Gerry's career in his obituary at the time of his death and how, by virtue of being born in the USA he became the first top-flight European footballer to represent the States - this was before the international qualifications changed in the 1980s allowing players to qualify by virtue of parents & grandparents places of birth. Joe's story is equally as fascinating - he was born in Liverpool and aged 19, became the first man to play for England having never played in the Football League. His goal scoring feats at Hibernian saw him selected to play alongside greats such as Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton & Johnny Haynes. Between 1959 & 1966 Joe won eight full caps & but for the emergence of a young striker called Geoff Hurst months before the 1966 World Cup would have almost certainly been in Alf Ramsey's squad for the tournament. There are humorous stories of Joe, with his broad Scots accent, turning up for international duty.

Young Joe's scoring & international performances had the top English clubs chasing his signature but with the maximum wage still in force, the lure of the Italian lire was too great & Joe signed for Torino, around the same time as Denis Law joined them. The book tells how Joe, who was on £12 at Hibs was given an unbelievable £12,000 signing on fee. Joe & Denis' time in Turin was a disaster on the pitch and culminated in a serious car crash which left Joe hospitalised.

Once recovered he returned to the UK & signed for Arsenal (the maximum wage had been removed in the meantime) and scored goals for fun for the Gunners & later Nottingham Forest before winding his career down at Sunderland and back in Scotland with Hibs. The Forest side of 1966-67 was outstanding   , finishing second in the league & but for a bad injury sustained by Joe in the FA Cup sixth round against Everton, may have won the FA Cup. I remember seeing Joe play for Forest against Coventry at the City Ground the following season, City's first in Division One, on the night George Curtis broke his leg. A battling Sky Blues team led three times, with substitute Bobby Gould scoring twice, in a thrilling 3-3 draw & Joe netted one of the Forest goals. A week later in the return game at Highfield Road Joe ripped City's makeshift defence apart scoring twice in a 3-1 win.

Although Gerry only spent a couple of years at Coventry near the end of his career & his time at Highfield Road is only briefly covered in the well-researched book, I would still recommend the book as an excellent read for all football fans. The author, Tom Maxwell a Scottish football historian, has worked with the Baker family including Gerry, before his death, and gives a great insight into British football in the 1950s & 60s, an era when footballers were paid modest wages and the average football fan could relate to them, something it's not possible to say these days.

Ian Harris wrote to me recently regarding the largest away followings Coventry City have had. Until recent seasons there have been no official figures for the number of away fans at games so any figures I quote are estimates that were quoted in the Coventry Telegraph at the time, some which may have been based on ticket sales for all-ticket games. The largest number of City fans at an away game has to be the estimated 50,000 who travelled to Wembley Stadium in August 1987 for the Charity Shield game versus Everton. During the previous season's FA Cup run there were approximately 25,000 tickets sold by the club to City fans for the final, but it's likely that a good few more obtained tickets elsewhere. There were 27,500 at the semi final v Leeds at Hillsborough and 15,000 at the sixth round tie at Hillsborough. Other large followings include the FA Cup tie at Villa Park in 1965 (20,000), a league game at the same venue in 1937 (20,000 in a crowd of 68,000), 15,000 at Molineux in 1966 and 14,000 at the same ground for the FA Cup tie in 1973. Since 1987 the largest City away following is probably the estimated 11,000 who travelled to Old Trafford for the League Cup game in 2007. Can anyone remember any other big away followings?

Follow me on Twitter @clarriebourton

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Jim's column 12.10.13

Ed Blackaby emailed me recently regarding a Portuguese player called Carlita who he remembers joining the Sky Blues in the mid 1990s but can’t recall him playing for the first team. I don’t know too much about the man from Portugal but from the internet i have gleaned that his full name was Carlos Alberto Maior Silva Batista and he was born in Angola in 1970. He had played for various minor teams on the Algarve including a brief spell with top-flight club SC Farense before coming to England for a trial with Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Blackburn rejected him & he came to Coventry where he impressed manager Ron Atkinson enough to be offered a deal. Some newspaper reports suggest City paid Farense £150,000 or more for his signature but I find that hard to believe. Having said that my colleague Alan Poole reported at the time that Benfica were very interested in him and he was rated in the £300,000 bracket.

Carlita never played for the Sky Blues first team but did appear in seven first-team friendlies. In his first game, a 3-1 pre-season win against Finn Harps in Ireland, according to match reports: ‘he impressed with his workrate and control’. He also appeared against Cambridge United, Vitoria Guimares & Deportivo de la Coruna (in a pre-season tournament in Portugal), Birmingham City (Brian Borrows’ testimonial), St Albans & Cork City. He was a regular in the reserves during the first half of the season but sometime before the end of the season he returned to Portugal & played a handful of games for Boavista. After that he disappeared. I suspect he was one of Big Ron's impulse buys - he always had a penchant for skilful foreigners and the same summer signed classy Brazilian midfield player Isaias from Benfica.

After City's Johnstone's Paint Trophy game at Leyton Orient this week Ben Lipman asked me if City had ever played in the same stadium three times in a season and on the same day of the week - City have played at Orient's Match Room stadium twice on a Tuesday night already this season and will play there again in the league on a Tuesday night in January. The answer is no but it did set me thinking about instances of City playing the same side in three different competitions in one season. 

To achieve this rare feat they would have had to be drawn against a team from their own division in more than one cup competition. Since the League Cup was inaugurated in 1960 City have been drawn against the same team in two cup competitions twice. In 1962-63 City, then a Third Division side, met Portsmouth in both the FA and League Cup, winning the FA Cup fourth round tie in a second replay but losing the League Cup tie heavily at Fratton Park. Then in 2003-04 City, a championship side, beat League Two Peterborough United in both the League Cup (2-0) and FA Cup (2-1) but neither of these instances were against a club from the same division.

However in 1959-60 City, a Third Division side, were drawn against Southampton in both the FA Cup and the Southern Professional Floodlit Cup (a senior competition but one that was obsolete the following season when the League Cup started). City therefore met Southampton in three competitions in the same season. With the FA Cup first round tie ending 1-1 at Highfield Road a replay at the Dell was necessary (duly lost 1-5) so City travelled there twice and entertained the Saints three times winning the league game (4-1), drawing the FA Cup tie and winning the Southern Professional Floodlit semi final (2-1) on the way to becoming the last ever winners of the trophy.

California-based City fan Bob Nelsen asked what colour City's kit was before Jimmy Hill took over as manager and changed the kit to the continental looking Sky Blue. The answer was that for the three seasons from 1959-60 City wore an all-white kit with various different styles of sleeves and collars. The team picture here (taken at the start of the 1960-61 season with the previously mentioned Southern Professional Floodlit Cup trophy) shows some players with a short sleeved v-neck shirt with blue trim and some with a round necked shirt with a blue V. Another variation was also used and is illustrated with a picture of George Curtis taken at Notts County's Meadow Lane. This had long blue sleeves and I suspect was worn when the temperatures dropped. After JH took over in November 1961 the white kit was retained until the end of the season and replaced with the snazzy Sky Blue kit in August 1962. Rod Dean seems to remember the all-white kit being introduced earlier, possibly in a home match against Port Vale in the 1958-59 Fourth Division promotion season. Can anyone remember this?
 Follow me on twitter @clarriebourton

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.

Follow me on twitter @clarriebourton

Thanks to Mike Young for the photo from 1935.