Monday, 25 August 2014

Jim's column 23.8.14

Two more overseas-born players have already made their debuts in a Sky Blue shirt this season. Simeon Jackson came off the bench for ten minutes or so of action against Barnsley on Tuesday night following Reda Johnson's introduction at Bradford. Jamaican-born Jackson, who grew up near Toronto & has won international honours for Canada, has been a prolific scorer for Rushden & Diamonds & Gillingham in the past whilst the French-born Benin international Johnson was a popular player at Hillsborough.

It set me thinking about the number of Coventry City players born outside the UK & Ireland and I discovered we are nearing the 100 mark. This season's debutants, Jackson and Reda Johnson take the total to 96.

The 96 include a number of players who were born to British parents (eg David Phillips & Terry Butcher) and others who subsequently took British nationality (eg Wilf Smith, Gerry Baker & Dietmar Bruck).

Of the 96, all but 17 have made their debuts since the Premier League started in 1992 illustrating the influence of foreign players on English football in the last twenty years. Two South African-born players, Fred Gibson & Percy Mackrill, were the first foreign-born players in the 1920s & Basque refugee Emilio Aldecoa was the first post-war foreigner in 1945-46 and went on to play for Barcelona & Spain. Then in the 1950s & 60s we had the Black South African Steve 'Kalamazoo' Mokone who thrilled the crowds but frustrated the coaches, Indian-born winger Nelson Stiffle whose stay was brief & legendary White South African goalkeeper Arthur Lightening.

The foreign legion have had mixed results with the club. From the dazzlingly skilful Peter Ndlovu in the 1990s to the instantly forgettable Ukrainian Alex Evtushok, from the legendary Swede Roland Nilsson to the catastrophic Italian goalkeeper Rafaele Nuzzo. How many City fans can remember the Australian Jamie McMaster, the Spaniard Vicente Engonga or the Congolese Chrstian Yulu. Sadly, too many of the club's imports have been useless.

Which countries have provided the most players to Coventry City? The answer is France with 15, easily outstripping its nearest rival Belgium who have provided six. The 15 Frenchmen include two born in French overseas departements (Pegguy Arphexad from Guadeloupe & Christian Negouai from Martinique) plus a raft of failures such as Jean Guy Wallemme, Youssef Sofiane, Kevin Malaga & Fabien Debec. A number of the French-born players have also represented their father's country at international level including Reda Johnson (Benin), Yazid Mansouri (Algeria) & Faysal El Idrissi (Morocco).

The most successful country for imports is probably Morocco with all three of their players having successful careers at City (Hadji, Chippo & Safri), closely followed by Sweden, who provided the peerless Nilsson, the safe hands of Hedman, offset by the rarely seen talents of Thomas Antonelius (or was it Gustafsson).

The top countries are as follows:
France 15 players
Belgium 6
South Africa 5
Denmark 5
Australia 4
Jamaica 4

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