Steven Pressley blooded two more debutants on Tuesday night against Carlisle United and has now used 30 players in all games this season, a high number but still seven short of last season's total and well short of the club record 44 used in the dire 2002-03 campaign. Loanees Chuba Akpom & Michael Petrasso (the club's first ever Canadian) became the 899th & 900th players to wear a Coventry City shirt in a competitive game since the club joined the Football League in 1919. It is less than seven years since Robbie Simpson became the 800th in a League Cup tie at home to Aldershot and less than 12 years since Steve Walsh (now he was one of our worst signings) became no. 700 at Watford.
Paul O'Connor has analysed the timescales of the 900 players and points out that there is a clear correlation between performance on the pitch and number of players used.
1-100 (1919-1925) 6 years – early days of struggle
101-200 (1925-1931) 6.5 years – more struggles
201-300 (1931-1950) 19 years – granted included the 6 years of WW2 but many players came back to play – promotion and Div 2 consolidation.
301-400 (1950-1963) 11.5 years – not so settled and included the start of the JH upheaval
401-500 (1963-1980) 17 years – promotion and consolidation in top flight
501-600 (1980-1993) 13 years – survival but tempered by the Bobby Gould eras
601-700 (1993-2002) 9 years – survival but then relegation. (10% loans)
701-800 (2002-2007) 5 years – rudderless ship. (31 % loans)
800-900 (2007-2014) 6.5 years – continued decline and relegation (25 % loans)
Paul's analysis is spot-on and two other factors have influenced the modern day turnover of players. Until the 1990s there were few loan players but since the club's relegation in 2001 they have increasingly been forced into the loan market, mainly because of the flexibility & relatively low cost of taking loan players. In addition there has been a far greater turnover of managers since Gordon Milne's long reign ended in 1981. The greater turnover in managers, the greater turnover in players as new managers insist on building their own teams & often clear the decks of the old guard.
It is no surprise that the periods in the club's history with the lowest turnover of players, the 1930s and the 1960s, coincided with their most successful eras. The main managers in those eras, Harry Storer and Jimmy Hill, were both given time to build success & realised the benefit of a low turnover of players.
The death of the great Tom Finney last weekend prompted tributes at football grounds across England. I never saw him play in the flesh but have seen clips of him playing for Preston and England. Dean Nelson asked if Finney ever played against Coventry City during his long career. Preston did spend two seasons in the old Division Two between 1949-51 and Finney, nicknamed the Preston plumber because of his profession outside football, played in the two draws at Deepdale but did not appear at Highfield Road. Preston were promoted back to Division One in 1951 & with City relegated to Division Three the following year it seemed unlikely that Tom would ever play in Coventry. Then in January 1956 with both sides out of the FA Cup & with a free Saturday, a friendly was arranged.
Finney dazzled 13,000 rain-soaked spectators as Preston comfortably beat City 4-1. The England winger bamboozled City’s left-back Charlie Timmins so much that according to other City players Timmins pleaded at half-time for manager George Raynor to switch him to right-back. Raynor obliged, and Frank Austin faced 45 minutes of torment from Finney.
Dan Brown asked me for details of his first Coventry game which he thinks was against Liverpool in February 1992. The game was during the brief reign of Don Howe who had taken over a month earlier after Terry Butcher's sacking. Howe had recorded his first victory, 1-0 at Crystal Palace, a week earlier and a 0-0 with third-placed Liverpool was seen as a good result. Kevin Gallacher gave the Reds defence an uncomfortable afternoon & Grobbelar had to make three good saves to foil City. Liverpool faded after this game & eventually finished sixth whilst City were dragged into a relegation battle and only survived on the final day after Notts County beat Luton to make City's defeat at Villa Park immaterial.
The gate was 21,547 and the City line-up was: Ogrizovic: McGrath, Sansom, Robson, Billing, Atherton, Flynn, Emerson, Rosario, Gallacher, Smith D.
Liverpool's line-up was: Grobbelar: Jones, Burrows, Marsh, Wright, Tanner, Saunders, Houghton, Walters, Redknapp, McManaman. subs: Harkness & Rosenthal.