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.

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