Sunday, 23 November 2014

Jim's column 22.11.14

Two former Coventry City Academy players deserve congratulations this week after winning their first international caps. Cyrus Christie won his first full cap for the Republic of Ireland in their 4-1 victory over USA in Dublin on Tuesday night. He joins a select band of City products to have played for the Republic, becoming the sixth full cap after Peter Thomas, Jimmy Holmes, Gary Howlett, Dean Kiely and Barry Quinn.

Meanwhile Callum Wilson's progress to the top of the game continued with his first appearance for England under 21s. He came on as a substitute against France in Brest but couldn't stop the French winning 3-2. Callum follows a long line of City home-grown products who have pulled on a Young England shirt. England first played under 23 internationals in 1954 & Reg Matthews was the first City product to win a cap, in 1955 in a 5-1 victory over Italy at Stamford Bridge. Reg, of course went on to win full caps the following year. Since Reg there have been fifteen Academy products selected for either the under 23 side or its successor, the under 21s ranging from Dennis Mortimer & Garry Thompson through to Marcus Hall & Tony Dobson. Callum is the first however for ten years, since Calum Davenport played whilst a Tottenham player. Since Reg Matthews only four Academy products have gone on to win full caps: Jeff Blockley, Danny Thomas, Mark Hateley & Chris Kirkland.

Talking of Callum, this week I picked up a copy of the Banbury Guardian & read that another ex-Sky Blue, Shaun Jeffers is playing for Brackley Town in the Conference North. In the summer of 2013 some people were disappointed that Jeffers and not Wilson was released by City. In less than 18 months Wilson has progressed to England under 21s and may be on the radar of some Premiership clubs in the January window whilst Jeffers is plying his trade at Brackley. It's a funny old game.

Another former City striker is back as a manager in the same league. Andy Morrell was appointed boss of Tamworth a couple of months ago & is slowly turning things round for the Lambs. Two other former City players, Lee Hildreth & Donovan Simmonds have left the club recently.

Steve Pittam read my piece about City comebacks from two down & reminded me of one of the all-time great City recoveries. In November 1995 City entertained Wimbledon in a Premier League game. Both sides were struggling – City hadn't won in 13 league games (although had beaten Spurs 3-2 in that famous League Cup comeback a month earlier) & the Dons were without a win in 10. A Paul Heald own goal gave City an early lead before Paul Williams was shown a red card for handball in the penalty area & Vinnie Jones equalised from the spot. Goodman & Leonhardsen made it 3-1 for the Londoners by the hour mark before Dion Dublin pulled a goal back on 67 minutes. City were throwing everything at the Dons but ten minutes from time Richard Shaw was sent off for his second yellow card, leaving Ron Atkinson's men with nine players. Somehow City managed to equalise seven minutes from time through David Rennie & in a frantic finale Peter Ndlovu missed a glorious chance to win the game near the end.

My good friend Dave Long has been following the club since the early 1970s and remembers that when he first went to Highfield Road the kick-off time for Saturday games was 3.15 pm but at some stage came into line with other league sides and kicked off at 3pm. He wanted to know why City previously kicked off later & when did it revert to 3pm.

It was Jimmy Hill who introduced the 3.15 kick off time in 1962. There were two reasons for the change. Firstly, Hill revealed he had received requests from shift-workers whose shift ended at 3 pm and who could attend games if the kick-off time was adjusted. The second reason and possibly the more important reason was that the new 4.55 pm finish time would fit in neatly with the new ‘Sky Blue’ social club which would have a licence commencing at 5pm and members would not have to wait around for twenty minutes for a drink. Apparently he had been impressed with a similar club at Torquay the previous season where the home fans gathered in large numbers to have a drink after the game, missing the worst of the traffic and mulling over the game over a pint. There was a snag for fans unable to get to games. When the BBC did their classified results at 5pm it was rare for the final whistle to have blown at Highfield Road so the result was often not announced until after all the other results had been read.

The change back to 3pm occurred at the start of the 1972-73 season but I cannot find any information on the reasons for the switch, however it did coincide with Joe Mercer & Gordon Milne arriving at the club.

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