Sunday, 27 September 2015

Jim's column 26.9.2015

Steve Cotterill wrote to me after my recent article about Bobby Gould scoring two goals at Nottingham Forest in 1967 after coming off the bench. He described his memories of that day:

I went with my neighbour to Nottingham Forest for City's second game in Division One, an evening midweek match,  but the crowd trying to get into the City Ground was so great in numbers that the gates were closed while we still in the queue outside. Then a mounted policeman told us that we should wait because they might open again, and after about ten minutes, to our delight the gates did open again. We moved forward, but just as we approached the entrance the gates were closed again for the final time, and were told to go home along with hundreds of others also locked out. So to our frustration we had gone all the way to Nottingham, could hear the noise inside the stadium, but we were locked out and missed the game. The annoying thing later for me was the fact the official attendance (if I remember correctly) was approximately 44,000, but on the following Saturday Forest played again at home, this time against Tottenham, and the attendance was given as over 48,000!

I, too, remember that night. I missed the Priory coach from Leamington and had to persuade my mother to give me a lift to Leicester Forest East services, where I managed to get a lift from some City fans. The traffic into Nottingham was horrendous and I finally got to the turnstiles at the Trent End of the ground at around 7.20. I didn't realise it, but this was the end reserved for Forest fans but I had no trouble getting in and worked my way down to the front of the terraces where the 'Boys section' was very sparse. I can only imagine that there were so many City fans attending the game that the terraces along the side were full and the police closed the turnstiles. The official attendance was given as 44,951 and I believe at the time was the second highest league gate at the ground. It was topped two months later when Manchester United's visit attracted over 49,000.

Steve asked me if I knew of any other City matches, home or away, where some of the crowd couldn't get into to see the game.

The only City game I failed to get into was the FA Cup Fifth round replay at QPR's Loftus Road in 1974. I arrived twenty minutes before the kick-off & the away end turnstiles were already closed with a crowd of 28,010 inside. City lost 3-2 with Stan Bowles scoring a late winner after extra time looked on the cards. The frustration was that QPR had had several larger crowds that season and managed to squeeze in over 34,000 for the sixth round tie with Leicester.

Older fans will remember that the gates were locked at Highfield Road for the games against Sunderland (1963) and Wolves (1967). Neither game was all-ticket and the majority of the crowd just paid at the turnstiles. The Sunderland gate was officially 40,487 but thousands gained entry without paying after at least two gates were broken down. The Wolves attendance was 51,452, a record for the club's old stadium, and the ground was too full for comfort with hundreds of youngsters accommodated on the edge of the pitch. In 1936 thousands were locked out of the vital promotion match against Luton Town. That night the official attendance was 42,309 but an estimated 5,000 failed to get in.

I attended last week's Diamond Club lunch at the Ricoh Arena and the large gathering was entertained by special guest Chris Cattlin. I bumped into former Diamond Club chairman Tom Dentith and we discussed my piece about Arthur Warner's memories of a game against Southend in 1955. Tom told me he had happy memories of a Southend game too as City played the Shrimpers on his wedding day in 1959. Although he didn't attend the game – he was holed up at the reception at the City Arms - he remembers news of goals being relayed amongst the guests during the celebrations. He asked me to give him the details of the game which City won 2-0.

City's scorers were Ken Satchwell (10 mins) and Ray Straw (80 mins) the attendance was 14,114 and the line up was:

Arthur Lightening: Roy Kirk, Frank Austin, Brian Nicholas, George Curtis, Ron Farmer, Jack Boxley, Ray Straw, Ken Satchwell, Reg Ryan, Alan 'Digger' Daley.

The win lifted City to fifth place in Division Three & they finished the season in fourth place, missing out on promotion after a dismal Easter programme. The win was the third in a run of nine consecutive home league wins – the second best run in the club's history. What would Tony Mowbray give for that sort of run now?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Jim's column 19.9.2015

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about City's inability to beat Southend United at home. You have to go back to the early 1960s to find the last time City beat the Shrimpers in a league game, although the teams have only met on a few occasions in the intervening years. Arthur Warner of Binley wrote to me with his memories of an earlier game against the Essex club:

Your article took me back to when I was about 9 or 10 in the mid 1950s a Third Division South game against Southend. It had been raining heavily all that Saturday morning, so dad said we'll go into the covered end (West End), behind the goal. He always went   on the Kop so it was a bit of a treat for me to go in the covered end. I seem to remember that the game was played in heavy rain and the pitch was a mud bath. I remember City had former England cap Jack Lee at centre-forward. He could have had a hat trick but the ball kept sticking in the mud in the goalmouth. I remember little Peter Hill playing and two of my favourites, Alan Moore and Reg Matthews. The game was abandoned I think half way through the second half with the City winning 3 or 4-1. What brings me to remember this game was that the City lost the rearranged fixture 3 or 4-1 later in the season. Hopefully you can put the record straight for me. Another game I remember against Southend when they upset the apple cart, was played on a Friday night - can't remember the reason why -in our 1964 promotion year and they beat City 5-2 . Can't remember whether it  rained or not that Friday night though.

The abandoned game Arthur remembers so well is not part of City's official records but I do have the details. It was played on Saturday 26th March 1955 and City led 3-1 when the referee abandoned the game because of heavy rain in the 68th minute. Barry Hawkings, Colin Collindridge & Jack Lee netted the goals in front of a tiny crowd of 4,100. City's line up was as follows:
 Reg Matthews: Ken Jones, Roy Kirk: Iain Jamieson, Martin McDonnell, Frank Austin: Alan Moore, Barry Hawkings, Jack Lee, Peter Hill, Colin Collindridge. At the time the attendance would have been the smallest crowd to watch a City home game since the 1920s but it didn't enter the record books. Ten days later the gate dropped to 3,936 for the visit of Newport County.

                                                  Coventry City 1954-55

The Southend game was re-arranged for a midweek game in early May & Arthur's memory is good, City lost 1-4 with Jock Lockhart netting a hat-trick for the Shrimpers in front of a crowd of 7,303.

Arthur also remembers the game in 1967 when Bobby Gould became the first Coventry-born player to score a top-flight hat-trick.

I was at the Burnley game when Bobby got his hat trick and gave us a 5-1 win, and l can remember the story on the back page of the Telegraph on the Monday was that manager Noel Cantwell said that he would not sell Bobby for £100,000 on that performance. Big money back then, but as usual we could not keep him, and a couple of months later he was sold to Arsenal for £90,000. As you know the £90,000 was spent on Neil Martin from Sunderland who was a good replacement and scored many important goals for us.

The recent Southend home game saw City's two goals scored by central defenders, Reda Johnson & Sam Ricketts. Sam Gayton wondered when the last time that two central defenders scored in the same City game. It was a great question & I had to dig deep to find the answer. It was back on New Years Day 1997 when City drew 2-2 at home to Sunderland in a Premier League game. City went into the game on a four-game winning run but trailed to a 6th minute Michael Bridges goal. Dion Dublin (playing in defence) headed City level four minutes later. After 18 minutes Steve Agnew put the visitors ahead again from the penalty spot after Liam Daish brought down John Mullin. Ten minutes later Daish made amends as he headed an equaliser. City looked the more likely winners until Dublin was sent off by Graham Poll five minutes before the break after retaliating against Bridges.

After the game City were in 12th place in the table, and Sunderland one place higher. Both sides however struggled in early 1997 – Sunderland won only four out of 17 games – and on the final day of the season City saved themselves with that famous win at Tottenham, a result which sent Sunderland down.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Jim's column 12.9.2015

For Coventry City fans of a certain age, Mick Kearns is a true legend. Nuneaton-born Mick was the ultimate one-club man, making 385 appearances for City between 1957 and 1967. His career
spanned the whole of the immy Hill era & he had the honour of representing the club in all four
divisions of the Football League plus the old Third Division South. Mick is a great supporter of the
Former Players Association & has won the annual golf competition on at least two occasions.

During the summer he asked me to remind him of the club's overseas tours in which he took part & I was able to supply him with a list of the foreign tours during his time at the club.

1962 West Germany (3 games)
1963 West Germany (4 games)
1964 Spain (1 game)
1965 Iceland (3 games)
1966 European Tour (West Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium. 4 games)
1967 West Indies (5 games)

Mick informed me that he didn't go on the 1962 tour to West Germany as he was doing his National Service.

The full list of games the club played during those tours is as follows:

11-5-1962 Hanau won 3-2
13-5-1962 Hassfurt won 2-0
16-5-1962 Singen won 3-0
26-5-1963 Neumunster won 3-1
28-5-1963 Bad Neuenahr won 6-1
29-5-1963 Kaiserslautern won 2-0
24-5-1964 Onteniente won 5-2
24-5-1965 KR Reykjavik won 4-1
26-5-1965 Keflavik won 4-1
28-5-1965 Iceland XI won 3-0
25-5-1966 Offenbach Kickers drew 0-0
31-5-1966 FC Austria Vienna lost 1-4
3-6-1966 Young Fellows Zurich lost 2-3
6-6-1966 Union St Gilloise won 3-1
2-6-1967 Trinidad & Tobago XI won 5-2
4-6-1967 South Trinidad XI won 4-3
6-6-1967 Barbados XI won 3-2
12-6-1967 Barbados XI won 2-0
18-6-1967 Bermuda Police won 8-0

It is interesting to note that all the tours were post-season, unlike the modern trend to have pre-season tours. In 1964 and 1967 the club took the players away to celebrate winning the Division Three & Division Two championships and the game in Spain in 1964 was apparently organised at very short notice against a Spanish Second Division side near their resort of Gandia. The 1966 tour was an interesting one in that the Rover Car company provided the club with a fleet of Sky Blue Rover 2000 cars in which to travel Europe & the team did various marketing exercises for the company to promote sales of the popular car.

                                              Sky Blue Rovers set off for European tour 1966
Sunday's victory at Burton was impressive & lifted the Sky Blues to the heady heights of second place in the table. It was a rare away victory on live television. You have to go back to November 2008 and a 1-0 win at St Andrews, courtesy of a Clinton Morrison goal for the last away league victory 'on the box'. Since then the team had been 'live'  eight times away from home. The record up till Sunday was dire with six defeats & two draws:

2008-09 Reading lost 1-3
2009-19 Derby lost 1-2
2009-10 Scunthorpe lost 0-1
2009-10 Leicester drew 2-2
2010-11 QPR lost 1-2
2011-12 Ipswich lost 0-3
2011-12 Southampton lost 0-4
2013-14 Bradford C drew 3-3

Jim's column 5.9.2015

Monday night's home game with Southend was definitely two points dropped in my opinion. City had the lion's share of the play & deserved to win but not for the first time they failed to convert a penalty. They have now missed seven of the last eight penalties awarded, stretching back almost 18 months. Since 11 March 2014 when Callum Wilson & Carl Baker both scored penalties at Gillingham, the only successful penalty for Sky Blues has been Gary Madine at the same venue in January this year. The seven culprits to fail to convert are:

Callum Wilson (Stevenage home)
Carl Baker (MK Dons home)

Reda Johnson (Worcester FAC home)
Marcus Tudgay (Walsall away)
Gary Madine (Yeovil away)
Nick Proschwitz (Crawley away)

Jim O'Brien (Southend home)

It's a sad state of affairs when so many professional footballers cannot score from twelve yards, especially when you consider that City's penalty kings Ronnie Farmer & Gary McAllister had such good records from the spot. Farmer missed only one in 23 attempts & McAllister one out of 16.

After the game manager Tony Mowbray wondered why Adam Armstrong, as a man used to finding the net, didn't insist on taking penalties. He would have the added benefit of improving his goal tally, something all strikers, whatever they may say, desperately want to do. It set me thinking about some of City's successful strikers over the years & whether they were penalty takers. Some of the most prolific didn't go anywhere near a penalty including 25-goal Terry Bly in 1963 and George Hudson, another 20 goals -a -season man. Bobby Gould managed 24 goals in 1967 without being a spot-kick man and Ian Wallace, Mick Ferguson and Terry Gibson bagged lots of goals without penalties. Similarly only one of Mick Quinn's 17 goals in 1993 was a penalty.

In more recent times Dion Dublin had half a season in 1998 as penalty specialist when McAllister was injured. He managed six league penalties which when added to his twelve from open play made him the Premiership's joint leading scorer. Later Gary McSheffrey's goalscoring record was enhanced by his penalty goals. In fact, but for his spot kicks Gary would have struggled to reach double figures in any season and in 2004-05 six of his 12 league goals came from the spot. Mind you he did miss more than his fair share too.

Two seasons ago Callum Wilson became the first City player to score 20 league goals in a season since Wallace in 1978 but only two of them were spot-kicks & I remember his dreadful miss against Stevenage which would have meant he equalled Quinn's post-war record of scoring in six consecutive games.

The bottom line is that the manager must appoint a penalty taker and probably get Ronnie Farmer down to Ryton to give him some coaching on the perfect spot-kick.

Older fans will remember the visits of Southend to Highfield Road in the 1960s & City failed to break that hoodoo on Monday night. Between 1961-64 Southend visited the old ground three times, drawing 3-3 in 1961-62, and winning 4-3 in 1962-63 and 5-2 in 1963-64. The latter result stunned City fans as the Sky Blues were top of Division Three at the time & heading for promotion. Monday night's draw means that the Shrimpers have not lost in Coventry in five league visits going back to 1960.