Sunday, 28 September 2014

Jim's column 27.9.14

Coventry City played in front of two very small crowds last week with the trips to Scunthorpe & Rochdale. They were amongst the lowest post war attendances at Coventry City away league games. The list shows the twelve smallest crowds since 1945 & the Scunthorpe gate was the fourth lowest & the lowest for 12 years when City faced Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in front of a miserly 2,077. I remember attending the game & thinking that there looked less than a thousand people in the stadium & that the ‘official’ attendance had been enhanced by absent season ticket holders.

2,077 v Wimbledon 2002-03*
2,275 v Southport 1958-59
2,607 v Halifax 1961-62
2,866 v Scunthorpe 2014-15
3,229 v Colchester 2012-13 
3,261 v QPR 1962-63
3,270 v Wimbledon 1991-92*
3,360 v Newport County 1961-62*
3,375 v Stevenage 2013-14*
3,454 v Crawley 2013-14*
3,458 v Torquay 1961-62*
3,583 v Rochdale 2014-15*

* Saturday games

Saturday’s gate at Rochdale was slightly better than the Scunny crowd but at 3,583 was the seventh smallest to watch a Saturday away game since the war. It does make you wonder how these clubs survive but the two team’s victories over the Sky Blues showed that it’s not just about money, even in League One. Of course the Rochdale bogey was not broken & the defeat means that City have lost all six visits to Spotland stretching back to 1920.

Following Reda Johnson’s red card at Scunthorpe, several people asked me what City’s record was in games when they were reduced to ten men. Johnson is only the fourth City player dismissed since we left the Championship in 2012. Jordan Stewart was the culprit at Walsall in 2012-13 & last season Dan Seabourne  & Carl Baker received their marching orders. You have to go back to February 2010 for the last time City won a game with 10 men. By coincidence Scunthorpe were the visitors to the Ricoh when Leon Barnett received a red card after 59 minutes. City were leading 1-0 through a Jon Stead goal at the time & extended their lead on 68 minutes through Sammy Clingan before Grant McCann scored a consolation in the 83rd minute. City hung on to win 2-1.

Since then City have had eleven men dismissed & have drawn two & lost nine of those games. The eleven red cards were for: Marlon King (2), Carl Baker (2), Aron Gunnarsson, Martin Cranie, Gael Bigirimana, Richard Keogh, Stewart, Seabourne & Johnson.

The last time City won an away game with ten men was in the Eric Black era in 2004 at Cardiff when loanee Peter Clarke was ordered off after 24 seconds but City managed to win 1-0 thanks to a Gary McSheffrey penalty. It was a good period for the Sky Blues – the win at Ninian Park was City’s fourth away win in a row.

Prompted by the news in August that England Ladies player Fara Williams had won her record 130th international cap, Mr R A Berry wrote in asking what happened to Cobi Jones who played briefly for the Sky Blues in 1994-95 season.  The dread-locked Jones was a US international who had impressed at the 1994 World Cup. City chairman Bryan Richardson had tried to sign his US teammate Alexei Lalas who chose Italian club Padova instead. Jones was his second choice & arrived in September 1994, around the time Dion Dublin & Steven Pressley arrived at the club, and made his debut as a substitute in a 2-1 home win over Leeds United. His mazy run was ended by Chris Fairclough’s challenge in the penalty area & Paul Cook scored from the resulting penalty. Cobi made 25 appearances (18 starts, 6 subs) & scored two goals, the only goal in a home victory over Norwich & the other in the famous 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace which preceded Phil Neal’s sacking & the appointment of Ron Atkinson. After Big Ron’s arrival Jones only made two sub appearances.

He returned to the States that summer & after impressive appearances for his country in the Copa America was signed by Brazilian club Vasco da Gama. After just four games in Brazil he was back in the USA & joined Los Angeles Galaxy for the inaugural MLS season in 1996. In eleven seasons with Galaxy he played over 300 MLS games & twice helped them to lift the MLS Cup as well as being voted US Athlete of the Year in 2005. When he finally retired from international football he had won 164 caps & played at three World Cups. He was a coach at Galaxy & worked under Ruud Gullit before being caretaker boss in 2008 when the Dutchman was sacked & then worked under his successor Bruce Arena. He left Galaxy in 2011 & has since worked for New York Cosmos but is now back in California working in the media covering his beloved Galaxy. His shirt number of 13 has been officially retired by the club.

Cobi won more caps for the USA than any other player & his record of 164 caps is the seventh highest in world football.

If you have a question about Coventry City's history send me an email at & I will attempt to answer it.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Jim's column 20.9.14

With no column last week I have to start by mentioning the incredible attendance at the Gillingham game two weeks ago. The final figure of 27,306 was largest City home crowd for a night league game since August 1978 when the defending league champions Nottingham Forest visited Highfield Road and 28,585 watched an enthralling 0-0 draw. That was three years before Jimmy Hill decided to make the club all-seater and reduce the capacity of the old stadium to just over 20,000. Later the capacity was increased by the re-opening of the Spion Kop terracing and the visit of Liverpool in August 1987 pulled in over 27,500 for an afternoon game but that was never bettered. The previous best 'night' crowd for a league game was 27,212 for a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham City in 2006. The Gills crowd was the sixth highest crowd for a City game at the Ricoh and the second highest for a league game, topped only by the 28,184 for Leeds in 2010-11 but there were over 6,000 Leeds fans present.

Dave Long asked how the Gillingham crowd compared with the total number of City fans who travelled to Sixfields for league games last season. That figure was 39,599 at an average of  1,722 per game. We can only hope that City’s home gates never slip as low again & the attendances of the 2013-14 season are an one-off & consigned to the history books.

How sad then that the attendance versus Yeovil last Saturday dropped to just over 11,000. Coincidentally the last big crowd at the Ricoh, for the JPT regional semi-final with Crewe in 2013, was followed days later by the visit of Yeovil. Then the crowd slumped from 31,054 for Crewe to 11,277 for Yeovil. A number of factors affected last Saturday’s attendance. Firstly the ticket prices for Yeovil were back to normal with no ‘special deal’. Secondly, the Gillingham game was an ‘event’ and attracted a lot of floating fans as well as many non-City fans who just wanted to be there for the homecoming. Thirdly, many people cannot afford to pay for two games in just over a week & would always opt for the Gillingham game. Finally, there are a number of fans who are sticking by their ‘Not One Penny More’ stance & vow not to return to the stadium until the owners have gone. It's unlikely that crowds will increase appreciably unless the team show consistent home form & they look capable of a serious challenge on the top six. The current form suggests that after years of under-performing the latter may be possible this campaign. Midweek games traditionally attract lower crowds & the Sky Blues have no midweek home league games between now and Christmas. If the reasonable form continues gates could well stay over 10,000 for the foreseeable future, although a Tuesday night game v Scunthorpe in February might test my prediction.

Today the Sky Blues travel to Rochdale, a ground that they have always struggled on. They have failed to win on all four visits, one league game in the 1920s & three Cup trips since 1971. In 1971 Noel Cantwell's side had played in Europe but were dumped out of the FA Cup by Third Division Rochdale for whom David Cross, later to join City scored. Then in 1991 in a League Cup tie Terry Butcher's team took a 4-0 first leg lead to Spotland only to slip up 0-1 to a Fourth Division side. The last banana-skin was in 2003 in the FA Cup fourth round when Gary McAllister's team were humbled 0-2. Surely Steven Pressley's side can come away with something today.

City’s new striker Simeon Jackson became City’s first international player for over two years when he appeared for Canada against Jamaica, the country of his birth, last week. Simeon, who has won around 40 caps for Canada and is City's first ever Canadian international, came on as a substitute in the 3-1 victory in Toronto. The last time a City player played for his country was in June 2012 when Sammy Clingan & James McPake appeared for Northern Ireland in a 6-0 drubbing from Holland in Amsterdam with Oliver Norwood whose loan from Manchester United had formally ended also appearing. Neither Clingan nor McPake appeared again for the Sky Blues after their appearance in Holland. McPake, who won his only cap that night, had spent the second half of the 2011-12 season on loan at Hibernian & three weeks after the Holland game he joined Hibs on a permanent basis. He has recently joined Dundee, newly promoted to the SPL. Clingan, who left the club as a free agent in June 2012 is appearing for Kilmarnock in the SPL.

If you have a question about Coventry City's history send me an email at & I will attempt to answer it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Jim's column 6.9.14

I am writing this before the Ricoh homecoming on Friday night when the Sky Blues will run out at their home ground for the first time in nineteen months to a large excited crowd. With tickets being released in dribs & drabs and no certainty about how much of the stadium will be open, the attendance is difficult to predict but people in the know are expecting around 25,000. Numerous people have asked me how that will match up against other City attendances at the stadium & here are the top crowds before last night.

31,407 v Chelsea (FA Cup) 2008-09. Lost 0-2
30,154 v Crewe (JPT) 2012-13.  Lost 0-3
28,184 v Leeds United  2010-11.  Lost 2-3
28,163 v West Brom (FA Cup) 2007-08. Lost 0-5
28,120 v Middlesbrough (FA Cup) 2005-06.  Drew 1-1
27,992 v Wolves 2007-08. Drew 1-1
27,212 v Birmingham 2006-07. Lost 0-1
26,856 v Wolves 2005-06. Won 2-0
26,723 v Leicester 2005-06. Drew 1-1

Let's hope the result against Gillingham was better than the majority of packed crowds there have been at the stadium since it opened in 2005. Only one of the nine games above were won!

With two good away draws at MK Dons & Swindon & an away win at Wycombe in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, the Sky Blues have now gone five league & cup games without defeat since the League Cup exit to Cardiff. This is the best run by Steven Pressley's team since the start of this year when the Boxing Day victory over Peterborough sparked a six game unbeaten run which was ended on 24 January at the Emirates Stadium. For a time on Saturday it looked like the Swindon hoodoo might be broken but in the end City had to be content with one point. It is now fifty four years and seven league visits since the Sky Blues won at the County Ground in a league game.

Dan Donovan wanted to know if he was correct in thinking that the five smallest crowds at Sixfields last season were the lowest in the club's history. It was worse than that Dan – prior to last season the smallest League home crowd for the club was 2,059 against Crystal Palace in 1927-28 but last season City had TEN league crowds lower than that, six of them under 1700.

The ten smallest crowds were:
1,603 v Carlisle
1,618 v Crewe
1,627 v Port Vale
1,637 v Walsall
1,673 v Bradford C
1,697 v Stevenage
1,789 v Colchester
1,816 v Tranmere
1,961 v Rotherham
1,966 v Shrewsbury

There was also an even smaller crowd for the Hartlepool FA Cup replay in December with 1,214 watching City progress to the Third round.

I saw some great statistics on City's history at the Ricoh Arena (2005-13) produced by Rich Tomlinson for his excellent CCFCTV blog. One of the most interesting highlighted City's W-D-L record at the stadium which is, won 81, drawn 58, lost 67 producing a pitiful win percentage of 40%. This is pretty shocking when you consider that the average between 1919 and 1967 was 57% and the win ratio regularly topped 65% in the 1930s & 1950s with 90% in 1935-36 & 80% in 1966-67. The stats support the view that there might be a curse on the new stadium, perhaps from that Leicester City shirt allegedly buried by one of the contractors. Interestingly the win ratio at Sixfields last season was better than all of the last six seasons at the Ricoh which failed to produce a win ratio over 40%. My conclusion is that the club's home form is going to have to improve dramatically for City to have any chance of featuring in the promotion race.