Sunday, 13 April 2014

Jim's column 12.04.14

I make no excuses for tripping down Memory Lane this week. Coventry City travel to Peterborough today and it is 50 years ago this month since 12,000 fans made the trek to London Road to watch the Sky Blues there. It is still the biggest Sky Blue away league following outside the West Midlands and in true Coventry City fashion the fans were let down.

Local schools & factories finished early to allow the Sky Blue Army to make the cross country trip and the roads of Northamptonshire were packed nose to tail by the Sky Blue invasion as cars, vans & every available coach from a 20-mile radius was put into service for the journey.

A win on that Monday night in April 1964 in their penultimate game would have virtually ensured promotion from Division Three but in front of a ground league record crowd of 26,307, home goals from Chris Thompson & Derek Dougan consigned City to a 2-0 defeat. It left Jimmy Hill's men & all Sky Blue fans biting their nails for five days before they sealed the Championship with a 1-0 home win over Colchester.

It was another anniversary this week – 17 years since one of the best home games in modern history, a 3-1 home win over Chelsea at Highfield Road. A defeat to West Ham in their previous home game had left City in serious trouble near the foot of the table but an amazing 2-1 victory at championship chasing Liverpool thanks to 92nd minute Dion Dublin goal had revived hopes of survival. Three days later FA Cup semi finalists Chelsea arrived without their change kit & were forced to play in City's red and bluechange kit. Gordon Strachan donned the shirt for the first time that season and inspired a superb comeback from a goal down to win 3-1. In a nine-minute second half spell Dublin, Paul Williams & Noel Whelan won the points and reduced Chelsea's team of all-stars to a disorganised & petulant rabble. At the final whistle French international Frank Leboeuf ripped off his shirt, threw it on the ground & allegedly spat on it. The win was a crucial one in City avoiding relegation & is often forgotten when talking about the Great Escape that year.

Carl Baker's goal against MK Dons means he becomes the fourth City player to score ten goals in all competitions joining Callum Wilson, Leon Clarke & Franck Moussa. Ben Lipman asked me if this had ever happened before & the answer is yes but not for fifty years. Again we go back to that memorable 1963-64 season when no less than five players reached double figures. The famous five were:

George Hudson 28
Ken Hale 17
Ronnie Rees 15
Ronnie Farmer 11
Willie Humphries 11

What a contrast this season has been to some recent seasons - in 2006-07, 2010-11 & 2011-12 no City player reached double figures! Admittedly it was at a higher level of football but then again the club's playing budget was substantially higher back then. Callum was unable to add to his goal tally but his achievements this season are nothing short of astounding and in the years to come his scoring feats this season will be remembered. Whether he stays or goes this summer we need to cherish his accomplishments.

One of this season's fabulous four scorers, Franck Moussa, had one of his 'goals' removed from his record this week. After substantial pressure from myself & other football statisticians the Football League finally agreed to review the second goal at Rotherham on New Year's Day and realised that Franck was nowhere near the ball when it entered the net & that Cyrus Christie was the goalscorer. There was a possibility of it being given as an own goal but it was decided that the Rotherham defender did not affect the flight of the ball sufficiently. Moussa is now credited with 12 goals (11 in the league).

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