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.

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