Sunday, 24 November 2013

Jim's column 23.11.13

The Sky Blues third appearance on television this season saw them impress a wider audience in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bradford. The goals keep coming and the team have now scored 37 league goals with a total of 61 goals having been scored in their 16 league games. On Sunday they leapfrogged Leyton Orient to become the highest scoring side in England and they have now scored as many goals as they did in 42 Division One games in season 1970-71.  At this rate the team could well score 100 goals, something no Coventry City side has done since the 1930s. Then, in what was a golden period for football in Coventry, the Bantams, as the team were known scored 100 goals in four out of five seasons between 1931 and 1936.

1931-32  108
1932-33 106
1933-34 100
1934-35 86
1935-36 102

In those five seasons they netted 502 goals with the great Clarrie Bourton bagging 164. The team scored five or more goals on such a regular basis at home that the fans used to shout 'Come on the old five'. Since 1936, the Third Division South championship season, the closest the team has got to 100 goals was in 1963-64 when the Sky Blues scored 98 goals on their way to the Third Division championship. That season they had netted 42 goals after 16 games so Steven Pressley's team are behind schedule but in 63-64 the team had a disastrous slump after Christmas, giving up a 9 point lead on 3 January to require goal average to go up on the final day of the season. Between then and the end of March they netted only 18 goals in 11 games.

The best season for goals in the modern (post-1967) era was 1977-78 when with the twin strikeforce of Ian Wallace and Mick Ferguson being fed by the devastating Tommy Hutchison, Gordon Milne's team racked up 75 goals. That modern record will surely go this campaign.

The late penalty conceded at Bradford was frustrating for Pressley & his men & City fans everywhere but for Bermudean Nahki Wells it meant a hat-trick – the first conceded by the Sky Blues for over seven years. The last was in early 2006 at Plymouth in a 1-3 defeat when Cameroon-born Frenchman Vincent Pericard, on loan from Portsmouth, netted all three goals. Other than his goal spree against City Pericard's loan spell at Home Park was forgettable – he only scored one further goal in 14 appearances. Vincent later played briefly in the Premiership with Stoke City and spent some time in prison for perverting the course of justice over a speeding offence. Now 31 he retired from the professional game last year after being released by Swindon Town & now runs a company helping foreign players adjust to life in England.

Cayman Island-based City fan Mark White sent me an email regarding City's appearances on television this season. He wondered if the three appearances constituted a record for the club.

They have appeared live twice on Sky (Sheffield United & Bradford) and once on the new BT service (AFC Wimbledon) but it is well short of the record for the club which was set in 2001-02, City's first season outside the top flight for 34 years. Then the Football League had a lucrative contract with ITV digital & with the Sky Blues in the top six for long periods of the season they were featured on live TV on twelve occasions. At the end of that season the debt-ridden ITV digital went into administration, a move which had a disastrous effect on the finances of all Football League clubs with clubs like Nottingham Forest, Bradford City & Wimbledon going into administration. It could be argued that City's finances, already fragile following relegation, never recovered from that calamitous situation.

Follow me on twitter @clarriebourton

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Jim's column 16.11.13

Coventry City's impressive season has seen long-held records falling and after the last home game against Notts County the goal scoring feats of Messrs Clarke & Wilson came under the spotlight. Both strikers clocked their eleventh league goals of the season before Callum scored again at Wimbledon in the FA Cup. Steve Phelps wondered when two City players last reached 20 goals in the same season. The answer is the Third Division championship season of 1935-36. In that momentous season City scored 102 league goals, 75 of them at home & the great Clarrie Bourton netted 23 and winger George McNestry hit 20. A third player, Les Jones, managed 19! It also happened on three other occasions prior to that, in 1925-26 (Paterson 25, Herbert 22), 1926-27 (Herbert 24, Heathcote 21) and 1934-35 (Jones 25, Bourton 24).

In 1962-63 two City players topped 20 goals; George Hudson (30) & Terry Bly (25). however 24 of Hudson's goals were scored when he was at Peterborough, his previous club. The best haul of the modern era (post-1967) was the Ferguson/Wallace partnership of 1977-78. Ian Wallace scored 21 & Mick Ferguson 17 in a season that the team netted 75 league goals & finished seventh in the old First Division & missing out on a European place only because Arsenal lost the FA Cup final.

After a golden few weeks when he netted 6 goals in 6 games Leon Clarke has now scored 19 goals in 27 league games for the Sky Blues, one of the best scoring starts ever by a City player. He ranks 3rd equal in the best starts ever, level with Terry Bly (1962-63) just behind Micky Quinn (20 in 27 in 1992-93-94) but way behind the immortal Clarrie Bourton who netted 34 goals in his first 27 league games for the club in 1931-32. Leon's record is however better than that other legend George Hudson who netted 17 in his first 27 games.

The 3-1 FA Cup victory at Wimbledon was City's first away win in the competition since they won 1-0 at Torquay United in 2009. Elliott Ward got the late winner that day but City have failed to win in 4 FA Cup trips subsequently, drawing twice (at Blackburn & Portsmouth) & losing twice (at Birmingham & Tottenham). 

Reader Alan Ward alerted me to a statistical milestone approaching for the club. Since joining the Football League in 1919 the Sky Blues have won 3999 points and a win or draw at Bradford tomorrow will see them reach the milestone.

In those 94 years the club have played 87 seasons of league football (World War 2 took seven seasons out) in seven different divisions. For the first 55 seasons there were only two points for a win but since 1981-82 there have been three points for a victory. Their full record in those 87 seasons is:-

Played.     Wins.     Draws.   Losses.  Goals for.     Goals against.    Points
3727.        1308.    975.         1444.       5175.           5390.             3999

The club took 24 seasons to reach 1000 points, 22 seasons to get to 2000, 22 seasons to get to 3000 and only 19 seasons to get to 4000 however with the different points systems it is a fairly meaningless exercise.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Jim's column 9.11.13

The Sky Blues win at home to Notts County was the first time in almost three years that the team have won three consecutive league games. They didn't manage it under Andy Thorn or even Mark Robins in that golden period last November & December when sadly the home form let them down.You have to go back to the Aidy Bothroyd era to find the last three in a row. On 20 November 2010 Burnley were beaten 1-0 at home thanks to a Michael Doyle goal. A week later a Gary McSheffrey goal  & a Joe Murphy own goal saw City win 2-0 at Scunthorpe. Then Middlesbrough were beaten 1-0 at the Ricoh with Marlon King netting his first Coventry goal from the penalty spot. Those three victories lifted the Sky Blues into fifth place in the Championship, the highest position the club have been in during the last six years. Unfortunately the wheels came off after that & the team went ten games without a win and Bothroyd's days were numbered.

You have to go back to 2002 to find the last time City won four league games in a row. That was in the Gary McAllister era and part of a magic month of December when the Sky Blues followed away wins on consecutive Saturdays at Stoke & Wolves by beating Derby & Reading at home. The wins lifted the team to sixth place in what was then called Division 1 but like 2010 it was the pre-cursor to a massive slump. Following the 2-0 win over Reading on Boxing Day, McAllister's men won only one further game all season and none at home. The club's financial situation was critical & McAllister was forced to play youngsters & loanees few of whom were good enough to avert a slide down the table to a final position of 20th.

Damian Kimberley pointed out that the Sky Blues have netted three goals in each of the last three home league games & wondered when they last achieved that feat. To find when City last scored three or more in three consecutive home games you have to go back 34 years to 1979 & the Gordon Milne era. In April 1979 City beat Southampton 4-0 thanks to an Ian Wallace hat-trick and ended the season with a 3-0 victory over Leeds (Barry Powell 2 & Gary Bannister). Then in the opening home game of the following season Bristol City were beaten 3-1 (Tommy English, Powell & Tommy Hutchison).

Keith Ballantyne e-mailed asking the question: 'aren't Preston North End one of our real hoodoo sides? I have a vague recollection of us playing them in a winter fixture, and seem to remember that it may have been the game where the Highfield Road pitch was cleared of snow and promptly froze solid, but it was decided that if the snow was put back on it would be playable; it was and the game went ahead. I've got a feeling it was 1965-66 and George Hudson featured on the scoresheet. I hope that you can enlighten me'

Keith is correct regarding the hoodoo. City have never won a single league game at Deepdale in 16 visits stretching back over 60 years but did win Cup matches there in 1909 & 2000. At home the Sky Blues have a better record but have still only won two of the 12 league meetings between the clubs since 2001. They beat Preston 4-1 in 2003-04 (during the Eric Black era) and 2-1 in 2007-08, all other games have been drawn or lost.

The game on an icy pitch that Keith remembers was at Christmas 1964 when the Sky Blues beat Preston 3-0 with goals from Ernie Machin, Hudson & Willie Humphries. It was one of Hudson's greatest games in a Coventry shirt. His chip for his goal was reminiscent of Moussa's recent effort against Leyton Orient & he made the two other goals with delicate flicks. In the Coventry Telegraph match report Nemo wrote: 'How many of the game's finest ball artists could have turned on a performance such as this unpredictable man Hudson did last night? Ninety-five per cent of what he achieved was accomplished to perfection.'

Follow me on twitter @clarriebourton

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.