Sunday, 1 February 2015

Jim's column 31.1.15

Fellow Coventry City historian Dean Nelson posted an interesting picture on Twitter this week. He had acquired an aerial photograph of Highfield Road taken in 1953 & there are no sign of any floodlights. Dean wondered when the club first installed lights & who were the opponents for the first game under them.
                                               Aerial photo of Highfield Road 1953

The club unveiled their first floodlight system in October 1953. It consisted of wooden poles, each topped with a pair of large bulbs, and pairs of similar bulbs attached to the roof of the two stands parallel with the touchlines. In total, approximately 48 lights illuminated the pitch. According to the club’s accounts, published in April 1954, the system cost £3,967. Floodlights were all the craze, and City were one of the first clubs outside London to install them. In the same month several other clubs inaugurated their lights, among them Manchester City, Luton, Wolves and Bury. For their first floodlit game, City invited Scottish club Queen of the South to Highfield Road. The programme makes quaint reading: ‘Opinions differ regarding the permanency of floodlight football, but we believe there is a great future in this type of entertainment. And why not? Does it not give us the opportunity of allowing our supporters to see the best teams, not only in Great Britain, but also Continental teams of repute. We realise that only the best will continue to attract, and it will be our endeavour to bring teams that under normal circumstances would not be seen in Coventry. What a start we have made! Queen of the South, Wolverhampton Wanderers and East Fife.’
                                            City's first floodlights from a game in 1956-57

Such opponents would not inspire awe today, but back then all three were attractive teams. Wolves led the First Division at the time. Queen of the South had been fixtures in the Scottish First Division (the top division) for almost twenty years and were current League leaders. East Fife had finished third in the Scottish League two years running and recently lifted the Scottish League Cup. For both teams it was their first experience of playing under artificial lights. In his match report in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, ‘Nemo’ wrote: ‘the players had no difficulty in following the flight of the ball under the artificial lighting, and the spectators found it equally easy to follow the play.’ Queens manager, however, said his goalkeeper had occasional difficulty with high crosses. A crowd of 16,923 paid to watch, several hundred more than had attended the previous league game at the ground. The game ended 1-1, with a fourth-minute Don Dorman header being the first goal under the lights, and a Scottish equaliser three minutes later.

A week later 18,680 attended the second floodlit match, against Wolves. The First Division leaders, playing in their famous old gold shirts, fielded eight of their previous Saturday’s First Division side, but the three absent were their England international stars, captain Billy Wright and wingers Jimmy Mullen and Johnny Hancocks. Wright was no doubt resting ahead of the forthcoming international with Hungary which would prove to be a pivotal game in English football history. Wolves took things gently but City wanted a big scalp and won through Iain Jamieson’s penalty.

The lights soon became superceded technically and in 1957 they were replaced by four giant pylons at each corner of the ground.

Chris Lambert posed an interesting question. He had acquired a copy of former Leeds & England manager Don Revie's book (Soccer's Happy Wanderer) published in 1955 & sent me a picture of Revie scoring against City. Chris says that the book claims it is the only goal at Highfield Road, which makes it sound like the winning goal, but Chris thinks it is Hull's only reply to four City goals, in 1950-51. Chris is correct, the game took place on 10 March 1951 & City won 4-1 with goals from Bryn Allen (2), Ken Chisholm & Ted Roberts in front of 22,650.

Chris wondered how many other future England managers have scored against City at Highfield Road. He thinks Kevin Keegan & Glen Hoddle managed it.

Revie actually scored three goals at Highfield Road, for Leicester in their 2-1 win in 1948, the above goal and again for Hull in 1951-52 when the Tigers won 4-1. Alf Ramsey, Ron Greenwood & Terry Venables all played at Highfield Road but never scored.

Glen Hoddle scored a penalty for Tottenham at Highfield Road in Spurs' 3-2 victory in 1985-86.
Kevin Keegan scored there for Liverpool in a 1-1 draw in 1974-75 & for Southampton in 1981-82 in a 2-4 defeat to the Sky Blues.

Peter Hill's funeral service takes place at Canley Crematorium this coming Monday 2 February at 11.15am.

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