Sunday, 29 March 2015

Jim's column 28.3.15

What an amazing day at the Ricoh last Saturday as 35 former Coventry City players attended the eighth Legends Day. The former players all had a great time & many partied well into the night as the drinks flowed at the G-Casino who kindly hosted the post-match party. Once again the sight of all the former players singing the Sky Blue Song on the stage in the casino brought lumps to the throats of many of those present.

Sadly, whilst there were fun & games at the Ricoh & in the casino, news came through that Steve 'Kalamazoo' Mokone Had died in Washington DC, four days short of his 83rd birthday.

Mokone was not only the first black South African to play first-class football in England but also the first to play outside his native country. Although he only played a handful of games for Coventry City his story is an amazing one that has been the subject of two books and a film!
                                                         Mokone with Charlie Buchan
Older fans will remember the buzz in the mid 1950s when Mokone arrived at Highfield Road. He hailed from Doornfontein and played for Durban Bush Bucks FC, also appearing for the Natal Province XI and the South African Bantu XI- the highest honour at the time for a non-European in the country.

He apparently wrote to City for a trial after seeing their name in his local newspaper and Charlie Buchan, the legendary Sunderland, Arsenal and England player, put up £100 for his fare. It took the South African authorities almost a year to issue Steve with his passport. At the time South Africa were under an apartheid regime and any black person wanting to travel overseas was considered a threat. When the passport was finally issued he was told, “Stay out of politics, or else.” Mokone was not overtly political but he knew some senior ANC figures, including Dr William Nkomo, a close associate of Nelson Mandela. He gave up his job as a clerk in a Pretoria Government office & left his wife and six month old son to come to Coventry for an extended trial in August 1956.

‘Kalamazoo’, as he was nicknamed, impressed City's coach, the legendary George Raynor, who had led Sweden to great feats on the world stage. Steve had wonderful dribbling skills and devastating pace and his touch and trickery was something rarely seen in English Division Three. He took some time to adapt to English pitches – he had never played on grass before – but scored in a practice match at Highfield Road a day after arriving & two weeks later scored the winning goal on his Reserve team debut at St Andrews. Meanwhile he was given part-time work in the offices of City director Phil Mead & lodging with two other City players, Roy Proverbs & Alf Bentley. Former City player Lol Harvey remembers him well: 'We called him Kal & he was a lovely man, always happy with a big smile & everybody who met him liked him. I played in his debut in the reserves at St Andrews & he didn't have any shin pads. We told him he was mad playing without them but he insisted they would hamper his style & wanted to play with his socks rolled down'.
                                                           Mokone with George Raynor

His first-team debut came on 13 October 1956 at Highfield Road against Millwall. Playing at outside left, Mokone was in dazzling form & Nemo wrote in the Coventry Telegraph: 'Mokone's form was a revelation.... he created opening after opening only for his colleagues to fritter them away. He showed excellent ball control and positional sense, and was always ready to shoot first time.' The match report said that Mokone's selection had added 5,000 to the gate & he set up City's goal in a 1-2 defeat.

Two days later he set up two goals in a 3-2 Floodlit friendly victory over Nottingham Forest & the following morning signed a professional contract. Against Brighton a week later he came up against Jim Langley, the best left-back in the division who would play for England within eighteen months, and Kal found the full-back 'too much for him'. His first goal came in a 4-1 home win over Gillingham a week later but Nemo's report was not as flattering: 'foot-fluttering over the ball may look very good to the spectators, but not always to his colleagues who have run into position for a quick pass or centre'. With friendly matches virtually every week that autumn, Mokone struggled to keep up his form & he was disappointing in a defeat at Swindon. After four league games & three friendlies he was rested.

November 1956 was a traumatic month for the club, even by City's standards. Coach Raynor left 'by mutual consent' as manager Harry Warren sought to turn the team's poor form around. His replacement was former England & Arsenal hard-man Wilf Copping, who had a reputation for being a tough taskmaster on the training ground. Then, the club's England goalkeeper Reg Matthews was sold to Chelsea for a record fee of £22,000.
Lol Harvey remembers how, after training at Highfield Road, Mokone would lay bets with Matthews, that he could score penalties against him, and usually won handsomely. He also recalls a practice match between the first team & the reserves at Highfield Road when Mokone took a penalty & started his run up from the halfway line!
Mokone was back in the reserves, scoring goals & doubling attendances for reserve games but was unhappy, In early January 1957 the Coventry Telegraph reported that he had asked for a transfer saying that ' he had not been given the chances for the training he expected' and that 'the club does not seem to be interested in developing me'. The club refuted his allegations but agreed to waive his contract & gave him a 'free' transfer. He continued to play for the club's reserves & A team & in February netted four goals in three reserve games prompting a call-up for the first-team's floodlit friendly with Akademisk Boldklub of Copenhagen. He scored the only goal against the Danes and according to Nemo: 'it was his colourful dashes down the wing which drew most of the applause'. Later that month he played in a Benefit match against an All-Star Managers XI. Sadly that would be his last first-team game & at the end of the season he left the club but not before a gracious farewell message for the fans: 'I am deeply grateful to them for all their support & encouragement, which has meant so much to me. I shall take with me many happy memories of the Coventry people.'

Steve joined Dutch club Heracles of Almelo, a small town near the German border. In the 1957-58 season he helped them win the championship of Division 3 B and was voted player of the season by the fans. He played for Heracles for two seasons becoming a local legend, even appearing in a friendly game against Santos of Brazil for whom Pele appeared. His time at Almelo was recounted in detail in De Zwarte Meteoor (The Black Meteor) written by Dutch football journalist Tom Egbers in the late 1990s and the book was later made into a film. There is a street named after Mokone in Almelo and one of the stands in Heracles’s Polman Stadion is dedicated to him.

In 1959 he tried his luck in the Football League again and joined Cardiff City, then a Second Division side. He played only two games for the Welsh side, including a 3-2 win over Liverpool when he scored the opening goal. The club tried to force him to play through an ankle injury and Mokone refused; he was not selected for the first team again.

Next stop was Barcelona who loaned him out to Marseille. He never appeared for either club but in the south of France he ran a small factory manufacturing ‘Mokone’ football boots. In 1961 in a spell with Barnsley, he made a solitary appearance.

He married South African Joyce Maaga in 1961 and after a year in Rhodesia they moved to Italy where he had a brief period with Torino. In one match he scored four goals against Verona and was hailed as the new Eusebio (then the top African player in the world).

At the time the Italian football writer Beppe Branco wrote: 'If Pele of Brazil is the Rolls-Royce of soccer players, Stanley Matthews of England the Mercedes-Benz and Alfredo di Stéfano of Argentina and Spain the Cadillac of soccer players, then Kala of South Africa, lithe and lean, is surely the Maserati.'

After a brief spell in Australia in 1964 playing for Sunshine George Cross in Melbourne, he moved to the USA and became a mature student in Washington, ultimately gaining three degrees and qualifying as a Doctor of Psychology. His marriage was in trouble however and there was a custody battle over the daughter of the marriage, Thandi. Three violent assaults took place. First, Steve was attacked by three unknown assailants. Next, his wife’s lawyer was attacked with acid. Then Joyce herself was similarly attacked. Mokone was arrested and despite maintaining his innocence was jailed for 12 years. Later Tom Egbers would discover evidence that made the verdicts questionable and that South African authorities had asked the American CIA to bring Mokone, who had been increasingly political with the anti-apartheid movement in the US, to heel. Egbers would later write a second book, Twaalf Gestolen Jaren (Twelve Stolen Years), which, like the first book, was only released in Dutch.

After leaving prison in 1990 – where he ran the library and the football team – he took up his psychology again before retiring some years later with heart trouble. In 2003 he became the second South African sportsman to be recognised as a member of the Order of Ikhamanga, for exceptional achievement in the field of soccer and an outstanding contribution to the development of non-racial sport. He joined the Former Players Association (CCFPA) a few years ago & enjoyed hearing news of his former colleagues, especially Lol Harvey, George Curtis & Roy Proverbs.
                                                    Mokone proudly wearing his FPA tie

Ironically CCFPA’s Mike Young had only just put Steve in touch with a Ed Aarons, a Guardian journalist who was preparing a book on the contribution and history of Black African footballers to the game.

Mokone had a brief but memorable time at Highfield Road. His fall from grace at Coventry coincided with George Raynor's departure from the club & one is left wondering what might have happened if Raynor had stayed & coached what was undoubtedly a great talent. That someone with Kalamazoo's talent couldn't get into a poor City side that struggled to avoid re-election that season almost sixty years ago is a mystery.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Jim's column 21.3.15

The rights & wrongs of Coventry City's sojourn at Northampton last season have been discussed Ad nauseam but one of the major downsides for me was that the Former Players Association were unable to put on their annual Legends Day last season. Today Legends Day returns to the Coventry City calendar for the first time in two years & around 40 ex-Sky Blues will be at the Ricoh Arena to meet up with their former playing colleagues, enjoy a nice lunch, courtesy of the football club, & receive the traditional half-time ovation from City's supporters.

The former players attending include several making their first ever appearance at a Legends Day including former Irish international Gerry Daly, John Tudor, who cut his teeth as a young man before going on to form a formidable striking partnership with Malcolm Macdonald at Newcastle, and all being well, David Thompson, who gave his all for the club in the Premiership relegation season & whose rip-roaring goals kept City in the promotion race for so long the following season.

As usual the former players will include representatives from all eras from Brian Nicholas of the 1950s to Claus Jorgensen, a stalwart of the Ricoh era. Last season's absence of a Legends Day meant that CCFPA could not properly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the club's Third Division Championship under Jimmy Hill & that will be rectified by a special presentation to some of the members of that team or their relatives. The man whose goals helped fire the Sky Blues to promotion back in 1964, George Hudson, will be there, along with goalkeeper Bob Wesson, defenders Dietmar Bruck & Ronnie Farmer & Graham Newton, who, although only joined the club two months from the end of that memorable season, helped steady a Sky Blue ship which was looking decidedly wobbly on the run-in. Jimmy Hill will be represented by his son & grandson & the trainer of the team, Peter Hill, who sadly died recently, will be represented by his widow Barbara.

If you are at the game today please try & be in your seats at half-time when all of the former players will be introduced to the crowd & give the men who helped make our football club a great reception. In conjunction with Legends Day the club are urging fans to dig out a Retro shirt for the day. Although anyone wearing the swirly red away shirt from the 1990s will be turned away at the turnstiles!

City fans were rubbing their eyes in disbelief on Tuesday night after a second away win in four days. Following on from the 3-2 win at Chesterfield, Tony Mowbray's side scored two late goals to clinch a vital win at Fleetwood, in their first ever competitive game at Highbury Stadium. It was the first time the team had won back to back league games since September (the first two games back at the Ricoh) & the first consecutive away wins since February 2013 when caretaker boss Lee Carsley's team won at Bury & Steven Pressley celebrated his first win as City manager at Scunthorpe. The points were vitally important for the club's battle against relegation but several respected pundits praised the quality of the football in the victory, no doubt helped by the plush Fleetwood playing surface which suited City's passing style of football.

This week one national newspaper, talking about the sacking, by Sunderland, of manager Gus Poyet with just nine games remaining, posed the question: What’s the latest point in a season that a club has sacked a manager?

I felt obliged to remind them that in modern times Coventry City have twice sacked a manager with just one game of the season remaining. In 2002 the club’s dream ticket of Roland Nilsson and assistant Jim Smith had failed to reach the play-offs after looking odds-on certs in March and with one game of the campaign remaining they were told to clear their desks. Two years later chairman Mike McGinnity, repeated the trick.

Gary McAllister had taken over from Nilsson and managed to avoid the boot in 2002-03 but then left the club to care for his ill wife in December 2003. Eric Black replaced him and after 20 actually rather successful games in charge in 2003-04 was sacked the day after the penultimate game of the season – a 5-2 win over Gillingham – in order for the board to bring in the more “high-profile” Peter Reid. Within seven months Reid himself was sacked after failing to reverse the club's fortunes despite bringing in the high profile Tim Sherwood & Stern John.
Nilsson & Black were both sacked when there was little to play for & the club was planning ahead but in 1986 chairman John Poynton sacked manager Don Mackay with just three games remaining with relegation a distinct possibility. After a particularly spineless performance in a 0-5 defeat at Anfield & relegation looming, Poynton replaced Mackay with George Curtis & John Sillett. George & John inspired the team to win two of their three games & avoid the drop by two points. Within twelve months the Sky Blues were at Wembley and the rest, as they say, is history. It just shows how quickly things can change in football.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Jim's column 14.3.15

Jon Stead came close to a record on Tuesday night. Geoff Moore alerted me to the fact that the much-travelled Bradford striker was set to play for his sixth different club at the Ricoh Arena. As it turned out he spent the whole evening on the substitute's bench.

Stead, who has played for 10 different clubs in his 12-year playing career, has appeared at the stadium for Sunderland, Derby, Ipswich, Coventry and Bristol City. He also sat on the bench for Sheffield United & played against the Sky Blues for Bradford City at Sixfields last season. His scoring record against City is very patchy – two goals in nine appearances. He scored for Derby in a 2-1 win at the Ricoh in 2006 & for Bristol City in 2011-12 at Ashton Gate in that miserable Easter Monday game that City lost 1-4, a result that virtually ensured relegation from the Championship. In that game he was also credited with City's first-half goal.

Geoff tells me that there are three other players who have played for five different clubs at the stadium. Jack Cork played there for Scunthorpe, Southampton, Coventry, Watford and Burnley, Leon Clarke (Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, QPR, Scunthorpe and Coventry) and Jordan Stewart (Watford, Derby, Sheffield United, Notts County and Coventry).

I believe the record for the most appearances with different clubs at Highfield Road was held by Bobby Gould. The Coventry-born striker who appeared for eight different clubs in a 16-year playing career appeared for six different clubs at Highfield Road (Coventry, Arsenal, Wolves, West Brom, Bristol City and West Ham). He played against City on six occasions at the ground & scored twice (for Arsenal & West Ham).

Keith Ballantyne regularly asks me questions about Coventry City's history. Following my summary of Tony Mowbray's career last week he emailed me the following:

My mind may be playing tricks on me again Jim - I was certain that Tony Mowbray played for Ipswich at Portman Road against City in 2002. My other recollections of that game, which I think we lost 2-1 with John Eustace scoring a consolation, was Gary McSheffrey's pace constantly undoing Ipswich down the left, albeit to no avail, Gary McAllister being past his sell-by date and the appalling Jamie McMaster sporting hair more or less the same colour as his yellow shirt...

Keith's mind is playing tricks on him. Tony's last game as a player was the Championship play-off final at Wembley in May 2000. Ipswich, managed by George Burley, finished third in the regular season to qualify for the play-offs for the fourth successive year. After beating Bolton over two legs they faced Barnsley at Wembley & won 4-2 with captain Mowbray scoring the first goal. Ipswich returned to the Premiership after five years away but lasted only two years & since 2002 they have never been back in the top flight. In that game at Portman Road, sub John Eustace equalised Darren Bent's early strike but City were beaten by a late goal from their sub Pablo Counago.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Wal's catering at Highfield Road in the 1960s & 1970s. I received an email from Terry Kemble which throws more light on the novel pitchside refreshments that started in the Jimmy Hill era.

I was really pleased to read your recent article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph as Wal was my Grandfather and Reg Kemble my father (both have now sadly passed away).
I started to go with them to Highfield Road from 1963.
The lads sold tea from a tank on their backs and the pies were kept warm in a separate insulated box that was made by my father.
I think you can just see one of the lads in the main picture with your article, just to the right of George Best!
Wal ran the Oak pub in Gosford Street at this time before later moving on to the Nugget in Coundon which later changed its name to the ‘The Sky Blue’.
I believe CCFC took over part of the catering when the main stand was rebuilt (in 1968) and the catering for the rest of the ground a year or so later.
We returned to the ground in the 1975/76 season and ran the catering for three quarters of the stadium up until the early eighties when there was a change in the law re the consumption and sale of alcohol within the stadium.
The catering company originally started as Sky Blue Catering but later changed to Cater Sport Services.
They also ran the catering for the Sky Blue Special train from 1964.
Terry Kemble

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Jim's column 7.3.15

Tony Mowbray was unveiled as Coventry City's new manager on Tuesday, becoming the 35th manager since the war & the 13th since the club were relegated from the Premier League 14 years ago.

Tony had a long & successful playing career with Middlesbrough, Celtic & Ipswich Town & made over 570 league & cup appearances – the majority with 'Boro who he captained to successive promotions in the late 1980s under the managership of Bruce Rioch. In 1988-89 they were back in the top flight (the old First Division) & I thought he must have played in that classic game at Highfield Road that season when David Speedie scored a hat-trick of headers for the Sky Blues but finished on the losing side. A Bernie Slaven hat-trick ensured 'Boro won 4-3. It's hard to imagine 'Speedo' scoring three headers against the man-mountain Mowbray & on checking the line-ups I discovered it was one of the few games that Tony missed that season. Later that campaign he played against the Sky Blues in a 1-1 league draw at Ayresome Park and a 1-0 victory in the Zenith Data Systems Trophy.

Middlesbrough were relegated that season & although they returned to the new Premier League in 1992, Tony had moved on to Celtic and the 1988-89 season was the only season he played in the English top flight. He never appeared against the Sky Blues again & never played at Highfield Road.

After retiring from playing in 2000 having captained Ipswich to promotion to the Premier League in his final season, he became coach at Portman Road but in 2004 got his first management job at Hibernian. His success in Edinburgh alerted West Brom & he was appointed their manager in 2006. After losing the play-off final in his first season, he led the Baggies to the Championship title in 2008 as well as the FA Cup semi finals.

In those two seasons he came up against the Sky Blues on five occasions, winning four and losing once. In 2006-07 Micky Adams' City lost 0-5 at the Hawthorns & in the return at the Ricoh soon after Iain Dowie took over, the Baggies triumphed 1-0. The latter game was memorable for two red cards. City's Ben Turner was sent off on his full debut & Albion's Diomansy Kamara followed near the end. In 2007-08 Albion won 4-0 at the Ricoh in a game that saw Michael Mifsud sent off after just 10 minutes. In the return at the Hawthorns a month later City pulled off a major shock by winning 4-2 with two goals apiece for Leon Best & Mifsud. The teams also met in the FA Cup fifth round that season just a week after Dowie had been sacked. City, led by caretaker bosses Frank Bunn & John Harbin, picked up another red card, for Michael Doyle, and were comprehensively hammered 0-5 with four of the goals coming after Doyle's dismissal.

The following season the Baggies were relegated from the Premier League & in the summer of 2009 Tony was lured away to Celtic. His time in Glasgow was troubled & he was sacked before the season was out, having failed to keep pace with Rangers in the SPL. In October 2010 he was recruited by Middlesbrough & for a while things went well. He steered them away from the relegation zone & they finished 12th. They came up against the Sky Blues at the Ricoh in December & lost to a Marlon King penalty but won the return 2-1 at the Riverside in April. In 2011-12 he led Boro to seventh place but managed to take just one point from the games against City. A 1-1 early season draw at the Riverside was followed in January by a rare Sky Blue win – McSheffrey, Nimely & an own goal on target in a 3-1 victory. The following season Boro finished sixteenth and Tony lost his job at the Boro twelve games into the 2013-14 campaign.

Tony's managerial record against the Sky Blues is therefore:
Pl W D L
WBA 5 4 0 1
Middle sbrough 4 1 1 2

Several readers were surprised at the statistic I quoted last week regarding the home record of Coventry City managers. I said that since we left the Premiership in 2001 only Roland Nilsson had a better than 50% win ratio in home games. On further investigation I can reveal some startling statistics. Since the team moved to the Ricoh in 2005 the team has won only 85 home league games out of 223, a win ratio of 38%. Before anyone says 'The Ricoh must have a curse on it', I can tell you that the win ration since the club dropped out of the Premiership in 2001 is virtually identical. So things were as bad at Highfield Road.

The home records of the managers since 2001 are as follows:

Win ratio
Roland Nilsson
Micky Adams
Eric Black
Iain Dowie
Peter Reid
Mark Robins
Aidy Boothroyd
Chris Coleman
Andy Thorn
Steven Pressley
Gary McAllister

(League games only)

Chief executive Steve Waggott said last week that he was looking for a manager with a 40% win ration or better (and Tony Mowbray meets that criteria) but most Coventry City managers in the last fourteen years haven't been able to achieve that in home games.

Despite impressive results at Sixfields last season, Pressley's home record was poor & he won only five of 18 games at the Ricoh. Even Mark Robins struggled at home but his outstanding away record leaves us remembering his time as a golden period.

For a comparison with the above table, Coventry City's most successful managers have been Harry Storer & Jimmy Hill. Hill's home win ratio in his six years at the club was 60%, whilst Harry Storer in his two spells between 1931 and 1953 achieved a home win ratio of over 63%. During City's golden era from 1931-1939 under Storer's management the team won 70% of its home games.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jim's column 28.2.15

Last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane together with results elsewhere pushed Coventry City into the bottom four of League One & precipitated the departure of Steven Pressley, after two years in charge. I think it is always sad when a Coventry City manager leaves the club in these circumstances but especially so in the case of Steven. There is no question that he worked tremendously hard to achieve success for the club & he unquestionably had his share of bad luck but ultimately it is about results & no club can afford relegation from any division these days with the financial rewards & crowds usually dropping after a demotion. Every manager is under pressure & with few exceptions, forced to work with a lower budget than they would wish for. The number of managerial casualties increases every season – a staggering 17 managers have left their posts in the Championship this campaign.

Steven took over as manager in March 2013 after Mark Robins jumped ship to join Huddersfield & had his best period in the first half of last season when boosted by the goalscoring feats of Callum Wilson & Leon Clarke, the team quickly wiped off the ten point deduction & at one stage looked set for a play-off challenge. His decision to give Wilson his chance, when others preferred Shaun Jeffers, is probably his greatest legacy at the club. Last season he was hamstrung in the transfer market & forced to play his inherited players, some of whom he clearly didn't fancy, but when the handcuffs came off a number of his loan players were disappointing.

Last summer he was again hampered in the transfer market but his signings have, with a couple of exceptions, been poor & although the defence has looked more secure he never remotely got close to replacing Clarke & Wilson.

At Bramall Lane a two-goal lead against the ten-man Blades was thrown away – not for the first time on Pressley's watch. Last season two-goal leads were frittered against Bradford & Crawley with woeful defending.

Steven had exactly 100 games in charge (87 league & 13 cup) – only four managers since 1986 have had more (Sillett, Adams, Strachan & Coleman). His league record in the same period the stats rank him as 11th out of 18 managers for win percentage, appreciably better than Messrs McAllister, Thorn & Atkinson. His home form was the Achilles heel however, with only fifteen victories out of 43 games (34%) but he is not alone in this – only Roland Nilsson out of the 18 managers had a better than 50% win ratio at home.

CCFC managers since 1986

Games W D L Wins %
1 Mark Robins 25 13 5 7 52.00%
2 Eric Black 23 11 3 9 47.83%
3 Roland Nilsson 40 19 5 16 47.50%
4 Iain Dowie 43 16 9 18 37.21%
5 Micky Adams 90 31 24 35 34.44%
6 John Sillett 128 44 37 47 34.38%
7 Terry Butcher 49 16 11 22 32.65%
8 Phil Neal 58 18 18 22 31.03%
9 Peter Reid 29 9 8 12 31.03%
10 Aidy Bothroyd 36 11 8 17 30.56%
11 Steven Pressley 87 26 28 33 29.89%
12 Bobby Gould 54 16 19 19 29.63%
13 Gordon Strachan 183 52 52 79 28.42%
14 Chris Coleman 107 30 35 42 28.04%
15 Gary McAllister 68 17 25 26 25.00%
16 Ron Atkinson 64 14 24 26 21.88%
17 Andy Thorn 59 12 21 26 20.34%
18 Don Howe 19 3 8 8 15.79%

League games only

The goal-glut at the start of last season means that Pressley's goals per game is the fourth best of the 18 – only Robins, Black & Nilsson had better scoring rates. Steven's cup record was a mixed bag also. Only six of the 13 ties was won & five of the victories were against lower opposition with the win at Barnsley in last season's FA Cup a rare highlight. This season's defeat to Worcester has to go down as one of the worst results in the club's Cup history.

Craig Richards asked if City managers had been sacked in previous relegation seasons. The club have only been relegated four times in their league history, in 1925, 1952, 2001 & 2012. In 1925 manager Albert Evans was fired in the November with secretary Harry Harbourne taking over the reins. In 1952 the great Harry Storer was in charge & survived a further fifteen months after relegation. In 2001 & 2012, Gordon Strachan & Andy Thorn were respectively sacked a few games into the following season.

On Saturday Sheffield United's Jose Baxter became the first opposition player to be shown a red card since January last year when Preston's Kevin Davies was sent off at Deepdale. In the time since then the Sky Blues have had six men ordered off – a pretty frightening statistic. Baxter's red card came in the 19th minute – the quickest opponent's dismissal since August 2011 when Leicester’s Darius Vassell was ordered off after only 10 minutes.