As I write this the weather forecast for the next few days is not good. More rain is expected before today's home game with Bradford City and there must be some doubts whether the game will go ahead. It is a month since the last home game at Sixfields after the postponement of the Walsall game two weeks ago and as a result the Sky Blues have now played five successive away games. Several readers have pointed this out and asked when the club last had such a run. Older fans will remember the bad winter of 1976-77 when the Highfield Road pitch suffered serious drainage problems and the team played eight consecutive away games between 22 January and 2 April. Only one win (at Leeds) and one draw resulted from the eight matches and City spiralled from a comfortable mid-table position into a relegation battle which went to the wire and only resolved in that dramatic 2-2 draw with Bristol City on a Thursday night in May.
The 1976-77 season was the worst season in the club's history for postponed games with five call-offs with the famous Bristol game postponed twice, on 1 January and 1 March. That season even eclipsed 1947 & 1963, the UK's worst winters since World War 2, for home games called off. In 1947 City had three home games called off & because of government restrictions on midweek games they didn't complete their fixtures until the last week in May and the First Division title wasn't decided until June. In 1963 football was decimated again by snow and ice and City didn't play a game for two months but although there were 21 postponed away games (including 16 FA Cup ties at Lincoln) there were only two home games called off.
The Walsall postponement was the first Coventry City home game to be called off because of weather since January 2002 when the New Years Day fixture with Rotherham and the FA Cup tie with Tottenham four days later were postponed because of snow on the Highfield Road pitch.
Ed Blackaby e-mailed me recently about Lee Hurst, a Coventry-born youngster who broke into the first team in 1991 and played 55 first team games before suffering a career-ending injury at a pre-season training camp in 1993. Lee, an all-round midfield player, had had an outstanding season in 1992-93 and looked to be a first-team regular for years to come before his unfortunate accident. He still lives in the area & runs a successful painting & decorating business & has attended several Legends Days. Ed's question was regarding another City player from the same period called Lee Hirst who he thought came from Scarborough.
Ed is correct. Lee Hirst was a central defender who scored the 93rd minute winning goal for Scarborough against City in a two legged League Cup tie in 1992-93. Bobby Gould signed Hirst for the Sky Blues the following summer and although he was given a squad number and played in one pre-season friendly he could not break into the first team & after a season in the reserves was released. One of his contemporaries at City told me that Hirst had a blinder for Scarborough but never repeated that form at City. Hirst had tough competition at Highfield Road; Gould had successfully converted Phil Babb to a central defender & he and Peter Atherton had excellent seasons plus there was also a young Dave Busst as back-up.
Today the Sky Blues entertain the Bantams (Bradford City). Over the years I have been asked hundreds of times 'Why were Coventry City nicknamed the Bantams before Jimmy Hill turned them into the Sky Blues?'
According to David Brassington's 'Singers to Sky Blues' excellent history of the club published in 1985, the Bantams nickname was first used in 1908 after Nemo in the Midland Daily Telegraph pointed out that City, who had recently admitted to the Southern League, were one of the only clubs not to have a nickname. He asked for suggestions and being the lightweights of the league the Bantams nickname was adopted & soon afterwards the small fowl was used to depict the club in newspaper cartoons. However I recently came across a letter from a Mr Kennell to the Coventry Telegraph from 1967. He recalled asking his father 40 years earlier why they were the Bantams & his father had explained that the were named after the bantam weathercocks on the spires of the three main churches of the city. I wonder if anyone has any other theories for the nickname?