Sunday, 26 April 2015

Jim's column 25.4.15

Trevor Lewis (6.1.1921- 12.4.2015)

Two weeks after the death of his great friend, Ken Jones, another former Coventry City player, Trevor Lewis has passed away, aged 94.

Welshman Trevor was born in Bedwelty, near Blackwood in South Wales, the eldest of 12 children. As a teenager he moved to Birmingham for work & early in the war was joined by several members of his family in Shirley. Trevor joined the Fleet Air Arm in late 1941 & was at sea, mainly on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, seeing service in the Mediterranean & the Pacific during the hostilities. He was awarded a number of medals including the Burma Star.

Trevor lost the best years of his playing career to the war & returned to 'civvy street' in the summer of 1946. He played local football for Catherine-de-Barnes near Solihull & progressed to Redditch Town where, in early1948, Trevor, now 27-years old, was spotted by a Coventry City scout and signed a professional contract.

A speedy forward who stood only 5 foot 6 ½ inches, and, according to his surviving brother Wilfred, was nicknamed 'Legger 'Lewis', because of his speed. He was also an excellent crosser of the ball in the days when all teams played a tall centre-forward.

Billy Frith was the manager when Trevor arrived at Highfield Road in January 1948 & gave him his first team debut in a 1-1 away draw with Sheffield Wednesday. The Coventry Telegraph match report was impressed:

Billy Frith had several reasons for being satisfied with City's display, not the least of these being the success of young Trevor Lewis, making his debut within a few weeks of leaving Birmingham Combination club, Redditch. The extraordinary feature – and perhaps the most satisfactory – of Lewis's display was the fact that he was included in the side at outside right when he is considered to be an inside-forward. As a right-winger he was in the middle of things all the time. He never tired, always disputed a Wednesday's player possession of the ball and might have scored a goal. Then, when injuries caused the City attack to be reshuffled, and he went inside-right, his brilliance faded. Nevertheless it was a most creditable performance.

A week later he appeared on the right wing in another 1-1, at home to Tottenham. His third & final game that season was at Millwall, where the Bantams got a 6-2 thumping from the already relegated home side. Trevor's switch to the right-wing became permanent but it was almost two years before Trevor played for the first team again, when he deputised for the injured Warner in two Christmas games against Leicester. Relegation clouds were gathering around new manager Harry Storer's team & the Foxes did the festive double, 1-0 at Filbert Street & 2-1 at Highfield Road. Two more games in March took his total for the season to four. City rallied after Christmas & finished seventh. Trevor could never cement a first team place owing to the form of legendary winger 'Plum' Warner and played only eleven first games in five years at the club. Amazingly he never appeared on the winning side but was a regular for the reserves throughout the period.
                                           1951-52 squad with Trevor second from right in middle row

It was almost another two years before his next opportunity - in the 1951-52 relegation season. Then he played three early season games before his last appearance in September 1952 in a 1-1 draw with Northampton. In January 1953, now aged 31, having played just 11 games in five years, he signed for Gillingham, another Third Division side. At Priestfield he went straight into the first team, playing 17 games that season. The following campaign he played seven games, including a return to Highfield Road where the Gills held City to a 1-1 draw, and scored in first league goal in a 3-3 draw at Torquay. In 1954-55 he played just two games as his professional career came to an end. In his final game he netted the team's goal in a 1-1 draw with Exeter.

Trevor moved back to the Midlands & played non-league football with Kidderminster Harriers, Banbury Spencer, Rugby Town and finally Bedworth Town in 1956-57 season. He went to work for Jaguar at Browns Lane, where he was a 'floater' on the production line, using his skills wherever they were needed on the production line. He earned a long-service watch from Jaguar & retired in the 1980s. He continued living in Coventry and was a member of the Former Players Association, attending the first Legends Day in 2007. At the time of his death he was the second oldest former City player, behind Colin Collindridge.

Trevor's funeral takes place on Friday (1st May) at 11.15 at Canley Crematorium. The family would prefer no flowers but donations to the Macmillan Trust can be made via the funeral directors, Henry Ison & Co, 76-78 Binley Road, Coventry CV3 1FQ.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Jim's column 18.4.15

Coventry City's 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic on Tuesday night has probably ensured their safety from relegation from League One. It is difficult to see five clubs overhauling them with the games running out & several of the teams seemingly unable to buy a win. It was the Sky Blues' ninth home draw in what has been a frustrating home season, and fifteenth draw in total, the highest number in the division along with Walsall. With three games remaining the club record for the highest number of drawn games in a season, 17 set in 1962-63 (Jimmy Hill's first full season in charge), could come under pressure. A positive statistic is that if just eight of this season's 15 drawn games had been won, City would be in seventh place & challenging for a play-off position.

With one home game left, against Crewe a week today, the club may equal their highest number of home draws in a season of 10, set in 1971-72 – the season that saw Noel Cantwell sacked in March after a second successive FA Cup exit to a lower division club, Hull having knocked City out at Highfield Road.

Fellow historian Paul O'Connor tells me that the draw was the 1000th drawn game since the club joined the Football League in 1919. The complete record over 89 seasons is now:

Played      Won       Drawn       Lost
3801        1327        1000         1474

Tuesday night's draw was the first time since December that the team had come from behind to gain a result. The last time was the 1-1 home draw with Fleetwood when Simeon Jackson equalised an early Andy Webster own goal. This season the Sky Blues have only come from a goal down to gain a point on three occasions, and have once gone on to victory (Peterborough at home).

Geoff Moore came up for an amazing statistic after the Leyton Orient home defeat recently. He pointed out that Orient's winger Jobi McAnuff has played eight times at the Ricoh Arena & never been on the losing side. Since 2005 he has played there for Crystal Palace, Watford, Reading & Leyton Orient & incredibly been on the winning side six times with two draws. He has scored twice, for Palace in a 4-2 win in 2006-07 & for Reading in a 3-1 win in 2009-10. It backs up the theory that the Sky Blues have struggled badly at home since the move to Longford. In fact this season will be the eighth season running that they have failed to reach double figures in home wins.

McAnuff must love playing against the Sky Blues – in the same period he has not been on the losing side to City for his home teams. Prior to 2005 his record is not so good. Between his first game against City for Wimbledon in 2001 ,he appeared against the Sky Blues for the Dons, Cardiff & West Ham on seven occasions, winning once, drawing three & losing three. Jobi is now 33 & his career is tailing down but since 2001-02 he has never played less than 35 league games in a season & will top that figure this campaign. It's an impressive record that Reda Johnson must envy!

City fan Ed Blackaby asked me recently about locally born players who have never appeared for the Sky Blues. He named his XI of players born in Coventry & Warwickshire who he feels could have done a decent job for the City:

Goal - Ben Foster
Defenders- John Curtis, Nigel Winterburn, Ian Evatt, Ricardo Scimeca
Midfield- Graham Alexander, Jamie Paterson, Peter Whittingham, Mark Bridge - Wilkinson
Strikers - Matty Fryatt, James Collins

substitutes: James Quinn & Dean Thomas

I thought of a few others from bygone eras. Leamington-born George Green signed for Sheffield United from Leamington Town in 1923 & went on to play over 400 games for the Blades and won eight full England caps. Then there was David Woodfield, another Leamington lad, who played over 250 games for Wolves in the 1960s. I remember as a boy, being excited to be calling at his house in Tachbrook Road, Leamington, to get the autograph of a First Division star. David is still alive & lives near Cambridge. Finally, there was Graham Parker, an outstanding Coventry Schools player who also played for England Schoolboys in the early 1960s. Graham, a wing-half turned down City to join First Division Aston Villa & was Villa's first ever substitute in 1965. He made only 21 appearances in five seasons for Villa but subsequently had a long career with Exeter & Torquay.

If you can name any other Coventry or Warwickshire players who City missed out on please drop me an email.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Jim's column 11.4.15

It is sad to report the death of former City player Ken Jones, aged 89. Ken, a right-back, joined City from Llanelli AFC in 1949 & played 88 games for the club between 1951-56. He later played for Lockheed Leamington & Rugby Town. With the help of his daughter Jayne Prosser I have been able to get a better idea of Ken's life.

Born in the Welsh steel and tin town of Llanelli during the depression in 1926, young Ken was always destined to work in one of the numerous works around the industrial town. Aged 15, he left school & went to work in the Tin plating works but within a year suffered a serious industrial accident that strangely signposted a football career. He was working close to the acid baths used in the tin plating process & accidentally slipped into one of baths, finding himself up to his waist in corrosive acid. A colleague immediately pulled him out & immersed him in cold water. When they got the teenager to hospital they cut his skin off 'like nylon stockings'. His injuries caused him to spend over a year in hospital and as part of his recuperation he was encouraged to kick a football to strengthen his legs.

His hospital stay meant his call-up to the services in 1944 was delayed & when he finally joined the Army he was able to impress his regiment with his football talent, helping his squad to win a Lichfield League championship. His army service saw him sent to Norway & he was involved in the liberation of the country.

After leaving the services he returned to work in the tin factory & played regularly for Llanelli AFC in the Welsh League. He came to the attention of the senior Welsh league clubs & Swansea beat off the challenge of Cardiff & Newport to sign him on amateur terms but Llanelli, who had ambitions to become a Southern League side persuaded him to sign professional forms with them & he continued his development. By 1949, Ken's reputation was growing & eventually West Ham & Coventry were serious about their intentions. City's South Wales scout, former player Ernie Curtis, recommended him to City manager Harry Storer & Ken's preference was for City because the booming car industry of Coventry offered a back-up in case things didn't work out in his football career. On 29 October 1949 Storer missed City's league game at Blackburn to watch Jones at Llanelly & was so impressed he signed him after the game. His old contracts record that Ken was paid £7 per week & £6 in the summer with a £2 bonus if he played for the first team. In the close season he would take casual work for a Coventry builder Ted Smart to supplement his income.

Ken had to be content with reserve team football for almost two years but in September 1951 he got his chance in a Second Division game at Barnsley. The Bantams lost 0-1 but Nemo, writing in the Coventry Telegraph noted his debut: 'Jones...had no reason to feel he had let the side down. He improved with every minute of the game, and, if he can tidy up his work in the air, his value will increase considerably'.

His next chance came the following March when he deputised for flu victim Dick Mason in a 1-3 home defeat to Leicester. City were having a tough time & were relegated to Division Three that season but Ken was improving slowly in the 'stiffs'. After just one first team game the following season, Ken became a regular at right-back in 1953-54. His performances were outstanding & according to a press cutting he was 'the most improved player at the club that season', with 'his standard of play surprising even his friends'.
                                                        Ken receiving treatment from Dick Hill

City finished 14th in Division Three South but improved the following season to 9th despite lots of boardroom wranglings & changes in management. Ken was a virtual ever present in 1954-55 and was a member of the City team that held First Division Huddersfield Town to a draw in the FA Cup, only to lose the replay at Highfield Road.

Jesse Carver took over as manager in 1955 & after Ken lost his place after 10 games he sought a transfer. He was briefly recalled to the first team towards the end of the season but it was insufficient to win him a further contract & he was put up for sale. Birmingham League Lockheed Leamington stepped in and signed the 30 year-old Ken and immediately appointed him captain. He missed just one game in his two seasons with Lockheed playing a total of 92 games and in both campaigns the team reached the Birmingham Senior Cup final. In 1957 they beat Redditch 2-0 at St. Andrews and in 1958 they lost 0-1 to Moor Green at Nuneaton.

In 1958 he joined Rugby Town & made 32 appearances in their Southern League side and meanwhile Ken had gone to work at the Jaguar factory in Brown's Lane. Later he moved to the Standard Triumph at Tile Hill & he lived in that area until his death.

When the Former Players Association was formed in 2007, Ken enthusiastically joined & attended the first Legends Day, along with his old team-mate, fellow Welshman, Trevor Lewis. He loved meeting his old Bantam pals from the early 1950s. Sadly, there are few of them left now.

Ken's funeral takes place on Tuesday (14th April) at 11.15 at Canley Crematorium and his family would be pleased to see his friends afterwards at Lime Tree Park Club, Templar Avenue, Tile Hill Lane CV4 9BQ . Flowers can be sent to Grimmett & Timms, 118 Albany Road, Earlsdon, Coventry CV5 6NG.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Jim's column 4.4.15

George Mason was a giant for Coventry City in the 1930s & 40s. In a twenty-year career, interrupted by the war, he made over 350 appearances at centre-half for the club. His son John, was on City's books in the 1960s & regularly attends Legends Day. This year John kindly presented me with a great photograph for the club's archives.

The photo shows George shaking hands prior to the kick-off at a game between City & Luton Town. Rod Dean confirmed that it was the Third Division South game at Kenilworth Road on the penultimate Saturday of the 1935-36 season. The two teams were battling for the one promotion place & went into the game level on 53 points with three games remaining. Luton entertained the Bantams & the clubs were due to meet again at Highfield Road on the Monday evening (a re-arranged game owing to a weather postponement in December). The two games would decide who would be promoted to Division Two.

The meetings generated an enormous amount of interest & Luton closed the gates with a ground record 23,559 inside the cramped stadium. In the picture one can see the crowd has spilled on to the touchlines to get out of the terrace crushes & similar scenes were seen at Highfield Road on the Monday evening. George is shaking hands with Luton skipper Billy Fellows before a tense game which ended 1-1. Clarrie Bourton netted for City whilst Joe Payne, an emerging goal-machine for the home side, netted for the Hatters. Luton's shirt has a large badge with a straw hat on it representing the club's nickname which came from a major industry in the town in bygone years.

Two days later in the return at Highfield Road, a crowd of 42,809 – 11,000 more than the record set six years previously in an FA Cup tie with Sunderland – squeezed in to see a goalless draw. The result left the promotion issue in the balance until the final day of the season when City came from a goal down to defeat Torquay at home & Luton could only draw at QPR. City won the title & the promotion place by a single point.

Mason, sadly, was injured in the first Luton game & had to sit out the final two games. He often told the story that he was so nervous during the second half of the Torquay game that he had to leave the ground & have a walk around Gosford Green.

After Wednesday night's home defeat to Leyton Orient the Sky Blues have now won the same number of points at home as away (23). Once again the team have had a dismal home season & we can only hope that the recent good away form continues until the end of the season as it doesn't look like we can rely on decent home results. Only Yeovil & Notts County have won fewer home games in the division. The latter's home record of 4-4-11 gives a bit of hope for Monday.

City's home/away record has sparked discussions amongst fans & the local media as to whether generally it is easier to win away than at home in these days as opposed to earlier eras. I gleaned some stats from the English National Football Archive which seems to back up that theory. The table below shows the percentages of home wins, away wins & draws in all Football Leagues (including Premier League) by decade, since the 1920s, as to calculate it on a points basis would make comparisons pre & post the introduction of three points for a win in 1981 difficult.

decade    home    draw    away
1920s    55.7%    23.6%    20.7%
1930s    57.2%    22.4%    20.4%
1940s    51.0%    24.5%    24.5%
1950s    53.6%    23.1%    23.3%
1960s    52.3%    25.0%    22.7%
1970s    50.3%    28.6%    21.0%
1980s    48.8%    26.7%    24.5%
1990s    46.4%    27.6%    26.0%
2000s    44.9%    27.3%    27.8%
2010s    43.0%    27.1%    29.9%

There has definitely been a trend towards a higher number of away wins in football since the 1920s with, a 50% increase over that period. When you look at City's home record in the 2010s it makes for even sicker reading. The percentage of Sky Blue home wins for that 5-year period is under 34%. It is hardly surprising that no City manager has achieved a 50% home win ratio since Roland Nilsson.

Between 1919, when City joined the League, and 1969, they never won fewer home points than away & between 1929 & 1947 never won less than 50% of home games. In 1969-70, arguably one of the best seasons ever, the club finished sixth in the old First Division, won 10 away games & racked up one point more on their travels than at home. Since then they have repeated this on six occasions: 1987-88, 1992-93, 1996-97, 2002-03 & 2012-13. In most of these seasons the difference was one or two points but two years ago Mark Robins' won 28 points at home and a massive 37 on the road. Nine home games were lost that campaign, two more than the team have lost this campaign.

By the way the English national Football Archive ( is a wonderful resource for football stats. For a small subscription you have access to a database of every League & Cup match since 1888 including line ups & scorers, together with a database of every footballer who has ever played a first-class game.