The big story of the week was Coventry Council's sale of their shares in ACL to Wasps RFC & the possible ramifications. The story obviouslyovershadowed events on the pitch – a welcome point against Crawley after three successive defeats & progress in the Football League Trophy (aka Johnstone's Paint Trophy) with a very young side.
The Crawley game was watched by a pitifully low crowd of 7,708 – the lowest home league crowd in the city since January 1986. Then City, struggling in the relegation zone, lost 0-2 to Graham Taylor's Watford for whom John Barnes scored both goals in front of 7,478. That was the lowest league crowd since April 1962 when the club had two end of season crowds under 6,000. Watford were making their second visit to Highfield Road in fourteen days having won 3-1 in an FA Cup Third round tie two Saturday's previously when the attendance was 10,500. Fourteen months after that miserably poor crowd the Sky Blues were at Wembley in the FA Cup final in front of 98,000! It shows how a club's fortunes can change in a short space of time.
On Tuesday night a crowd of 7,273, far more than many were expecting, attended the Exeter tie in the Football League Trophy. They witnessed a solid 3-1 victory from Steven Pressley's side who worked hard to break down a packed Exeter defence. With a 2-0 half-time lead Pressley was able to introduce two more of the promising under 18 side, George Thomas & James Maddison. The former made one appearance last term & Maddison was making his third appearance from the bench this campaign & both gave mature & exciting performances. With the Sky Blues also fielding youngsters Lee Burge, Aaron Phillips, Ryan Haynes, Jordan Willis & Conor Thomas I had a feeling that the side that finished the game was one of the youngest City X1s of all time.
The record youngest City X1 is the team that started versus Manchester City away on 22 November 1980 which had an average age of 21 years and 58 days. Geoff Moore who tracks this interesting statistic tells me that Tuesday's final X1 averaged just 21 days more, so it was probably the second youngest of all time and the youngest ever for a home game. For the second time this season the finishing line-up was comprised of nine home-grown players – a fantastic achievement by the club & the Academy set-up ably led until last season by Gregor Rioch.
Talking of Aaron Phillips, the youngest scored a superb brace of goals & supporters were asking if a full-back has ever scored a hat-trick for the club. I can find no record of a defender ever scoring three in a game. The last full-back to score two in a game was Steve Morgan in a 3-0 League Cup victory over Wycombe Wanderers in 1993-94 season and Steve Phelps reminded me that Brain Borrows got two in a 5-1 victory over Liverpool in December 1992. Over the years City have had very few prolific full-back goalscorers. Bobby McDonald scored a few goals as did Danny Thomas and of course Aaron's father David was playing at full-back when he scored at Sutton in 1989.Steve Morgan
Exeter, making their first trip to the city since 1958-59 season, had a vociferous band of almost 500 supporters who never gave up their chanting & were rewarded with a late consolation goal. Coventry is not a happy hunting ground for the Grecians; they have won only twice in 19 visits & the last time was back in 1934 in a Division Thee South Cup tie.
Kevin Ring found last week's piece about the 1964 friendly with Brazilian America FC interesting & remembers attending the game. He recalls that the old Atkinson's Stand had been demolished in the few days since the final league game with Colchester, leaving the two wing stands (that had been erected during the 1963-64 season) either side of a big gap of rubble. In the subsequent weeks the centre blocks of the new Sky Blue Stand were erected in time for the start of the new season. He pointed out that in the Jimmy Hill era the club played many foreign sides in friendly games at the old stadium including Slovan Bratislava, TSV Aachen, Ferenvaros of Hungary & Stade Francais, several of whom were 'big' clubs in Europe at the time.