Monday, 6 October 2014

Jim's column 4.10.14

Keith Ballantyne emailed me a question in the summer regarding Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Keith had read somewhere that Kasper had played for Coventry City & had no recollection of this. He did indeed play for the Sky Blues in 2008. Manager Chris Coleman signed the then 21 year-old Manchester City on loan in mid-March until the end of the season. Kasper, son of Manchester United legend Peter, replaced Andy Marshall in goal & played the last nine games of the season. He made his debut in a 0-0 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday & only appeared on the losing side three times. City were desperately close to the relegation zone after defeats at Watford & at home to Stoke but a 5-1 win at Colchester & a home draw with Wolves set up a dramatic final day of the season in the Championship. With Scunthorpe & Colchester already relegated any of the five teams immediately above them could fill the third relegation spot. The five were Southampton, Leicester, the Sky Blues, Sheffield Wednesday & Blackpool. City had a two point advantage over Leicester & the Saints & knew that as long as they had as good or better result than either team they were safe. City were away to Charlton, Saints were at home to Sheffield United & Leicester were at promotion-chasing Stoke.
An estimated 3,500 Sky Blue fans travelled to The Valley for the Sunday afternoon showdown but the players had a nightmare afternoon. They were a goal down as early as the fourth minute after Schmeichel, so safe up until that point, made a bad mistake, and fell two down in the 19th minute. Mifsud got a goal back but another mistake from the keeper left City 3-1 down at the start of the second half and developments elsewhere left them sweating on Leicester's result at Stoke. Blackpool, Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton both moved towards safety after getting ahead in their games as City lost another goal.
At 4-1 the game at the Valley became a non-event and all ears were tuned in to Stoke versus Leicester. At some stage Stoke realised they were promoted and their result against Leicester was immaterial. The desperate Foxes hit the post and Stoke keeper Carlo Nash pulled off two top saves to deny the goal that would have sent City down and saved Leicester from the drop.
Kaspar Schmeichel never played for the Sky Blues again & returned to Manchester City. In 2009 he joined Notts County, followed a year later with a transfer to Leeds. He arrived at Leicester in 2011 & has subsequently made over 150 appearances for the club as well as winning six full caps for Denmark.
City fan Martin Oliver sent me a fascinating email in the summer. When he was living in Brazil some years ago he knew an ex-footballer called "Paulo Pedro" who was one of the first Brazilian players to play in Europe (with Benfica). When he learned that Martin supported Coventry City he told me he played against them when he was playing for America de Rio De Janeiro. He remembered them visiting England and playing against Arsenal in a friendly then coming up to Coventry (who they had never heard of) only to be welcomed by a stadium full of screaming fans and a guy riding round the pitch on a horse.
Some of these 'facts' are true but others aren't. City did play a friendly against a Brazilian side called America FC in 1964, the week after they clinched the Third Division championship. However I can find no record of them playing Arsenal in the same trip. The story about a man on a horse is interesting because three years later Jimmy Hill donned his hunting gear & rode around the Highfield Road pitch before a friendly with Liverpool.
I have checked the line-ups for the America friendly in 1964 & they did have a player called Carlos Pedro playing for them – whether it is the same gentleman as Paulo Pedro or not I don't know but the Brazilian does seem to have some knowledge of a game at Coventry fifty years ago.
For the record City lost the friendly 2-5 with George Hudson netting both goals. It was 2-2 at half-time but a tired City ran out of steam in the second half. The week after the famous Colchester home victory which sealed the title the team played friendly games on five consecutive nights. On the Monday they played a Dublin XI in Ireland (lost 3-4), Tuesday was Tottenham at home (lost 5-6), Wednesday was Bedworth Town (won 4-0), Thursday was the America FC game & Friday the team travelled to Eastbourne (won 3-1). For their efforts the Sky Blues' players were taken to Wembley for the FA Cup final on the Saturday & three weeks later jetted off to Spain with wives for a holiday.

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