Monday, 31 March 2014

Jim's column 29.3.14

Coventry City's topsy-turvy season (when has it been anything else for the Sky Blues?) saw the team succumb to Brentford, arguably the best side in the division, on Saturday and then on Wednesday evening, with relegation clouds gathering, relieve some of the pressure with an ugly but vital 1-0 win over bottom the table Stevenage. The Brentford loss was despite taking an early lead with Callum Wilson's 19th league goal of the season. The accolade of being the highest City scorer since 1967, currently held by Ian Wallace (21 in 1977-78), was now in sight. Then on Wednesday evening at home to Stevenage the dynamic young striker failed from the penalty spot & his run of five scoring league games came to an end, one short of Mick Quinn's six in a row in 1992.

The goals against Brentford & Stevenage took City's league total for the season to 68 & long-suffering fan Colin Heys wanted to know when a City team last scored that many goals. With still eight games to play they have now eclipsed last season's total of 66 and the 67 scored in 2003-04 and could beat the highest total since the club came out of the old Second Division in 1967. That was 75 goals, again set in the 1977-78 season when strikers Wallace & Mick Ferguson were on fire & superbly served by wingers Ray Graydon & Tommy Hutchison. The team scored 75 from 42 games & included two five-goal hauls & four four-goal hauls & only five games in which they failed to score.

On the opposite side of the coin the team have now conceded 68 League goals & are heading for one of their worst defensive performances since World War 2. The most goals conceded in a season since the war was in 1956-57 season when in 46 Division Three South games the team, managed by Harry Warren, shipped 84 goals.

Since the club reached the top flight for the first time in 1967 there have been some pretty miserable defensive seasons, namely:

71 1985-86 & 1967-68
73 2004-05
77 1983-84

One common factor in all these four seasons is that the Sky Blues were fighting relegation until the final or the penultimate game. I hope that is not an omen.

Declan Murphy was in contact with me regarding two friendly matches between Coventry & Tottenham at Highfield Road in the 1960s. In April 1964 in the week after Jimmy Hill's team had clinched the Third Division championship City were scheduled to play Brazilian club side FC America but the FA refused to sanction the game. Hill persuaded Spurs to fill the gap at short notice and Bill Nicholson brought their First Division side to Coventry for a friendly game. It gave the fans a chance to applaud their heroes one by one as they were presented to them in the centre circle before the game. The team were then joined on the pitch by the manager, chairman Derrick Robins and Hill’s back-room team, Pat Saward, Alan Dicks and Peter Hill. Robins thanked the crowd for their wonderful support, and led the players in a rendition of ‘Three cheers’ for their loyal supporters. Spurs, missing only Jimmy Greaves and Maurice Norman from their first team, gave a scintillating display of football and won 6-5 in front of 15,638 with Les Allen scoring an 11-minute hat-trick. Spurs’ Welsh international winger Cliff Jones later said: ‘It was a bit of an experience to see a crowd of 15,000 turn out so quickly for a friendly match. I don’t think I’ve heard a crowd shout so much at a friendly match.’  Spurs' Scottish international, who was tragically killed that in a lightning strike on a golf course that summer, possibly played his final game in a Spurs shirt that night.

The scorers were Hudson (2), Kirby, Farmer, Newton (City) and Saul (2), Allen (3) and White (Tottenham). It was probably the busiest week in the club's history with five games in five days as the Brazilians finally got clearance to play on the Thursday. This was their programme that week:

Saturday: Beat Colchester 1-0 to clinch championship. Players & wives at celebration dinner at Hotel Leofric.
Sunday: Day off.
Monday: City play a Dublin XI in Dublin (lose 3-4)
Tuesday: Tottenham game followed by a celebration banquet at the Council House.
Wednesday: Testimonial game at Bedworth (win 4-0)
Thursday: A very tired City lose 2-5 to FC America.
Friday: City travel to Eastbourne for a testimonial game (win 3-1)

In all five games City put out a strong side with several players playing all five friendly games but the following week they got their bonus for winning promotion – a two week trip to Spain.

Almost exactly a year later Tottenham returned to Highfield Road for a repeat game and this time won more easily, 3-0 with goals from Low, Mullery and Saul in front of 13,660.

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