Sunday, 6 April 2014

Jim's column 5.4.14

There was a very welcome win at Crewe's Gresty Road last Saturday after six consecutive away defeats. Although City have not played at Crewe much over the years it is a ground that City have rarely done well on. It was the Sky Blues' first league victory there since 2002 when Lee Hughes notched the last City away hat-tick in a 6-1 win. Since then there have been four consecutive league defeats before Saturday's win with that meaningless 2-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy victory last season. Older fans will remember in 1966 when City, then a top Second Division club, almost got knocked out of the FA Cup by the Fourth Division Railwaymen. Only a late Ronnie Rees goal earned City a Highfield Road replay which they duly won.

Steven Pressley's 'win ugly' strategy worked at Gresty Road and after the 0-0 home draw with Bradford City on Tuesday evening the team has now gone unbeaten in three & probably banished the relegation blues. The strategy however cost City seven yellow cards in the Crewe game & I was scouring the records to discover any other instances. By my reckoning it was the most in a game for the club - I could find several instances of five bookings in a game but not more. In December 1971 at Old Trafford in a 2-2 draw the referee booked the whole of City's five-man defensive wall for not retreating ten yards. Then at the opening game at the Ricoh Arena City had five men booked in the 3-0 victory over QPR. Allegedly there was some bad blood from a pre-season game between the clubs in Ibiza & Rangers had their centre-back Danny Shittu ordered off just after half-time.
Several readers have asked me if this season is a record for the number of penalties conceded by City. They have now given away 12 spot-kicks in all competitions with seven scored and five saved by Joe Murphy. I wrote some time ago that Joe had surpassed Jim Blyth & Bill Glazier's post-war record of penalty saves but as far as penalties conceded this season's total is, I believe, the worst season in the club's history.

Rod Dean read last week's piece about the Tottenham friendly in 1964 which ended 6-5 to the Londoners & was at the game. He noted that the late John White appeared for Spurs & asked me to try & confirm if it was the last game he played before his tragic death in a lightning strike on a golf course that July. I do know it was his final appearance in a Spurs shirt but he did play an international for Scotland in West Germany two weeks later.

Some weeks ago Steve Burroughs asked me to confirm whether this season's side has featured the most home grown players in the club's history. I was pretty certain that in the early 1980s City had a stronger contingent of players who had come through the ranks if measured by number of appearances but did some research.

As of Tuesday City's 10 home grown players have made 191 league appearances this season:

Conor Thomas  37 plus 2 subs
Jordan Clarke  33 plus 2 subs
Callum Wilson 31
Cyrus Christie  28 plus 1 sub
Jordan Willis  15 plus 7 subs
Billy Daniels  10 plus 8 subs
Others   5 plus 12 subs

Total  159  plus 32 subs (191)

Between 1979 and 1983 City played 30 different home grown players from the memorable such as Mark Hateley, Garry Thompson, Les Sealey & Danny Thomas to the less well-known such as Keith Thompson, Derek Hall, Steve Murcott & David Barnes.

In those four seasons the total number of appearances by home grown players was as follows:

1979-80     259 (19 players)
1980-81     354 (17 players)
1981-82     383 (19 players)
1982-83     391 (16 players)

It is easy to forget how many of the team in those days, under Gordon Milne & Dave Sexton, were products of City's youth scheme. In the latter two seasons the only non-home grown players making any substantial number of appearances were Steve Hunt & Gerry Francis. Effectively the club's youth strategy kept the club in the top flight.

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