A new football season starts today & every Coventry City fan will be hoping their side can put together a strong promotion challenge in order to regain their place in the Championship which they lost in 2012. To achieve a promotion place will require much more consistency than in the last three seasons & a much better home record. Last season the Sky Blues won only 27 home points, out of a possible 69, and in the 15 years since they dropped out of the Premiership they have only gained more than 40 home points once, in 2005-06 when Dennis Wise inspired an exciting home record. That season, under Micky Adams, City won 43 home points and a similar haul last season would have pushed them into the play-offs. Last season's automatically promoted clubs, Bristol City & MK Dons, won 53 and 51 points respectively, whilst the previous season Wolves (55) and Brentford (58) bettered that. In the new campaign manager Tony Mowbray will be hoping for a home points total close to 50 which, if achieved, would require only a slightly improved away record to get the team into contention for a top two placing. A good home record would almost certainly push attendances higher & allow Mowbray to invest more money on the pitch.
City will face seven different teams in this campaign. Bristol City, MK Dons and Preston were promoted & replaced by Millwall, Wigan & Blackpool. Notts County, Crawley, Leyton Orient & Yeovil were relegated & replaced by Burton Albion, Shrewsbury, Bury & Southend. City fans will be glad to see the back of Preston & face a trip to Deepdale, the team's bogey ground where City have never won a league game in 18 visits stretching back over 60 years. Today's opponents Wigan will surely be strong contenders for promotion & I also expect challenges from Sheffield United, Doncaster, Bradford City & Swindon. It seems only yesterday that Wigan & Blackpool were in the Premiership & whilst the latter club have unique issues with the club's owners, it still surprises me that clubs relegated from the top flight cannot manage their finances better despite enormous parachute payments that weren't available to the Sky Blues in 2001.
Burton Albion, who only joined the League in 2009, will be playing City for the first time in a Football league game. The teams did meet at the Ricoh in a Football League Trophy (JPT) game three years ago which City won 10-9 on penalties after a goalless draw. Albion were only formed in 1950 but City did meet their predecessors from the brewery town, Burton United, in the Birmingham League in 1907-08 (both clubs winning their home games). They also met Burton Swifts, then a League side, in an FA Cup tie in 1895 with Swifts winning 2-0 at Stoke Road. All of the other new opponents have faced the Sky Blues at some time over the last 5-6 years with the exception of Wigan, who last met Coventry in 2004-05. That season Wigan won promotion to the Premier League for the first time & beat the Sky Blues 4-1 at home and 2-1 at Highfield Road. In the four league meetings between the clubs City have never won, but did beat the Latics in an FA Cup replay at their old Springfield Park ground in 1991. Then a Third Division outfit, Wigan gave Terry Butcher's side a major fright & the performances of Ray Woods & Peter Atherton won them moves to Highfield Road soon afterwards.
I had lots of interesting correspondence over the summer & will try & deal with it over the coming weeks. First of all, a fascinating picture sent to me by Dave Coulson. Peter Hill's widow, Barbara, gave Dave the photo, probably taken at City's training ground at Anstey around 1960. It shows, from left to right: Alf Wood (trainer), player hidden, Dietmar Bruck, Nelson Stiffle, Frank Kletzenbauer, Frank Austin, Ray Straw, Bill Myerscough, Ronnie Farmer & Peter Hill. The Indian-born Stiffle, who had made his name in Bournemouth's FA Cup giantkilling run of 1957, joined City in the close season of 1960 & Ray Straw left the club at the end of 1960-61, which places the picture sometime during that season. After being strong promotion challengers in 1959-60, it was a disappointing campaign which saw City finish 15th in Division Three.