Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jim's column 24.10.2015

What a week for Coventry City's goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook who wrote himself into the record books on Saturday against Blackpool with his third clean sheet in a row. He becomes the first City keeper not to concede a goal in his first three league games for the club. When you consider the great custodians the club has had over the years, from Jerry Best in the 1920s, through Bill Morgan in the 1930s, Alf Wood in the 1940s, Reg Matthews in the 1950s, Bill Glazier in the 1960s and of course Oggy, for what seems like forever, none of them matched Reice's record. Then, at Rochdale on Tuesday evening, he proceeded to do it again in a 0-0 draw. If you include the clean sheet at Yeovil in the JPT game then Charles has played five and a half games (or 495 minutes) since he conceded a goal to Donal McDermott on his debut at Rochdale in the League Cup.

On three occasions since the war City have achieved five consecutive clean sheets. In October 2001 Roland Nilsson's team won four and drew one without conceding, in early 1992 Steve Ogrizovic was between the posts as City's defence was not breached in five games and in October 1982 Les Sealey achieved the feat. In 2001 two 'keepers shared the honours with Magnus Hedman playing in the first two games and Andy Goram in the latter three. In total the team went 491 minutes without conceding.

In 1992, under the managership of Don Howe, the run included four 0-0 draws and a solitary 1-0 win. After Manchester City's David White netted the only goal of a defeat at Maine Road on 18 January, the Sky Blues won 1-0 at Crystal Palace (David Smith scoring), then drew four goalless games in a row – Liverpool (h), Southampton (a), Manchester United (h) and Norwich (h). On 7 March City travelled to Hillsborough and there were only seven minutes remaining on the clock when Viv Anderson scored to equalise Kevin Gallacher's earlier goal. That added up to 572 minutes without a goal past Oggy. So another clean sheet at Swindon would take Reice past Oggy's post-war record. (Stop press: Reice went 85 minutes without conceding at Swindon, setting a new post-war record of  580 minutes without a goal going past him)

Oggy's effort just pipped Sealey's record of 558 minutes in 1982 with five clean sheets: Notts County (h) 1-0, Watford (a) 0-0, Fulham (League Cup) (h) 0-0, Norwich (h) 2-0 and Aston Villa (h) 0-0. The Fulham game went to extra-time and the run came to an end somewhat abruptly with a home defeat to lowly Second Division Burmley in the League Cup.

For the club record you have to go back to 1934 when the club kept six clean sheets in a row, straddling two seasons. Harry Storer was the manager at the time and the goalkeeper was Horace Pearson. After a 3-1 defeat at champions-elect Norwich had ended their promotion hopes, Storer was determined to finish as runners up to the Canaries (only one team promoted in those days). A week later City ripped Bristol City apart, with a club record 9-0 victory and Clarrie Bourton netted four goals. A week later the season ended with a 0-0 draw at Clapton Orient. The 1934-35 season started with four consecutive clean sheets: Northampton (h) 2-0, Clapton (a) 1-0, Bournemouth (a) 2-0 and Clapton (h) 4-0, before on September 8th at Highfield Road, Pearson was beaten by Watford's Jimmy Poxon in the 43rd minute in a 1-1 draw. In total Pearson went 608 minutes without conceding.
                                               Horace Pearson in 1934

So the leader board looks like this:

608 minutes Horace Pearson
572 Steve Ogrizovic
558 Les Sealey
495 Reice Charles-Cook
491 Magnus Hedman/Andy Goram

Finally, before I leave the subject of clean sheets, Richard Home asked what is the club record for clean sheets in a season. The record was set in 1958-59, the Fourth Division promotion season under Billy Frith. The team kept 18 clean sheets out of 46 league games, 15 of them at home. This season Mowbray's team have kept seven out of 13 games, an average which, if were to be continued, would break the record.

The Rochdale result was City's best outcome at Spotland in eight visits stretching back to 1921. Previously they had lost six and although they drew there in the League Cup earlier this season, they lost the tie on penalties. So maybe that is progress!

It was a very disappointing crowd at Rochdale of 2,495 - the lowest to watch a City away league game since 2002 and the third lowest in the post-war era. If you take the City following out the home crowd was less than 2,000.

Since the war there have been five crowds under 3,000:
2,077 v Wimbledon 2002-03
2,275 v Southport 1958-59
2,495 v Rochdale 2015-16
2,607 v Halifax 1961-62
2,866 v Scunthorpe 2014-15

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Jim's column 17.10.2015

Another great result at Fleetwood last week cemented City's place in the top six of League One. With Steven Pressley's appointment as Fleetwood's manager ahead of the game I was fearing the 'new manager bounce' but City finished the stronger side and snatched a deserved winner in the final minute courtesy of ex-player Richard Wood. The last former City player to score for us was Jon Stead against Bristol City in 2011-12 in the defeat at Ashton Gate that virtually condemned us to relegation.

City left it late at Fleetwood and it was the second time this season that a goal at the death has won them the points, the other being in the 3-2 home win over Crewe. In contrast City haven't so far gone down to a late defeat this term, something that has been very familiar in the last few years.

Keith Rogers who sits behind me in the East Stand and has been a City fan for around 50 years, has asked me if we have ever scored a winner so late in the game. Wood's goal was timed as the 90th minute and there are several examples of the team scoring in added time. At Crawley last season, James Maddison scored in the 91st minute, and in 2011-12 both Leon Clarke and James Bailey netted winners in the 94th minutes against Preston (JPT) and Oldham respectively.

Keith's question reminded me that it would be worthwhile updating my stats on late goals. The table below shows the number of goals scored and conceded after the 80th minute in games.

Goals scored after 80 minutes (all games)

By City
By Opponents
2009-10 (Coleman)
2010-11 (Bothroyd/Thorn)
2011-12 (Thorn)
2012-13 (Thorn/Robins/Pressley)
2013-14 (Pressley)
2014-15 (Pressley/Mowbray)
2015-16 (Mowbray)

The statistics disprove the theory that City concede more late goals than they score. It was certainly the case in the Championship and those goals hastened relegation, but since 2012 the Sky Blues have the upper hand, including this season where City have yet to concede a late goal. Another interesting fact is that of the 13 late goals scored last season eight of them were winning goals.

On the question of statistics, Craig Evans asked whether 22 points from the first 11 games of a season is a record. Craig, it is the best haul of points from 11 since a win was upgraded from two to three points in 1981. If three points had been awarded prior to 1981 then only two seasons better this term's figure. In 1963-64 the team would have won 23 points from 11 and in 1937-38 Harry Storer's team would also have reached 23 points. It's a good omen; in 1964 City won the Third Division title and in 1938 they finished fourth in the old Second Division. 

Two weeks ago I asked for help recognising former City player Horace Matthews from an old team picture of AWA Baginton taken in 1942-43. Regular reader Ron Dickinson contacted me to say that he was pretty certain that Horace is second from the left in the back row. Ron writes: 'The team captain was Bill Beaufoy, in the centre of the front row, behind the big trophy. Beaufoy was a leading player in junior soccer in the war and possibly played a few games for City's reserves.'
                                              AWA Baginton 1942-43

'Probably the best known member of the team was Bob Ward (front row, second from the right, behind the smaller trophy), who also went on to play for Coventry City and was later trainer at Bedworth Town and Lockheed Leamington. Bob was a jovial person yet regarded as a bit of a 'hardman'. I remember seeing him play at Villa Park in the mid week FA Cup game at Villa Park in 1946. It was an early afternoon kick off (no floodlights in those days) and the coach driver made a detour to pick up three of us from school at lunch time to take us to Villa. The City finished with ten men and the newspaper headline the next day referred to them as the "10 commandos". The player sent off was Bob'.

Ron is correct. The first FA Cup competition after the war was played before the Football League commenced and the FA decided to make all ties up to the semi-final, two legged. City were drawn against Villa and beat them 2-1 at Highfield Road on Saturday 5th January. The second leg, four days later, is the game that Ron remembers and Villa won 2-0 to make it 3-2 on aggregate.

Still on the subject of Horace Matthews, Bobby Gould kindly sent me a picture of the full Coventry City staff from 1965 with Horace's son John, who later became such a success in Ireland, pictured third from left in the third row.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Jim's column 10.10.2015

The Sky Blues bowed out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at League Two Yeovil on Tuesday evening after losing a penalty shoot-out for the second time this season.

It was the fifth penalty shoot-out City have been involved with in the last four seasons & after winning the first two (Burton and Sheffield United in 2012-13), they have now lost three in a row (Leyton Orient 2013-14 and Rochdale and Yeovil this season). Prior to 2012 the Sky Blues had only ever taken part in three penalty shoot-outs since they were introduced into domestic games in 1976. In 1988 City lost at Reading in a Simod Cup semi-final, in 1998 they lost to Sheffield United in an FA Cup quarter final replay and in 2001 they won a League Cup tie at Peterborough. Their overall record therefore is played eight, won three, lost five.

Admittedly on Tuesday night City had a much-changed line up from the sparkling win over Shrewsbury and were missing the speed merchants, Armstrong and Kent, but it was a poor outcome from the first hurdle on the road to Wembley. Many fans will say: 'at least we can concentrate on the league now' which is something Jimmy Hill did as manager in the 1963-64 and 1966-67 promotion seasons. In the former season, Hill, remembering how the previous season's FA Cup run had damaged the team's promotion hopes, was not unhappy to leave both major Cup competitions early on. Then in 1966-67 the team tumbled out of the League Cup at the first hurdle to Third |Division Brighton and left the FA Cup at the first attempt in a 3-4 thriller with Newcastle at Highfield Road. Hill never openly admitted to a lack of interest in the Cups in those seasons but it was common knowledge that he wasn't that upset about the defeats which enabled him to focus on promotion.
On Twitter the other day, someone posed the question: Did Coventry City ever have a player called Andy Williams, and the answer is yes.

Andy was born in Dudley in 1962 and was late coming into professional football after serving an apprenticeship at a local firm which gave him accountancy qualifications. He played as an amateur for Dudley Town and was appearing for Solihull Borough in his spare time when Coventry City spotted him in 1985. Don Mackay was the City manager at the time and Andy took two weeks off work to have a trial with the Sky Blues. A midfield player, he appeared in two reserve games and did enough to warrant an offer of a full-time professional contract.

Within a few months he was given his chance in the first team, as a substitute in a 0-3 home defeat to Liverpool, when he came on for Greg Downs in the 73rd minute. City had an injury crisis at the time and Graham Rodger also made his debut and young striker Gareth Evans played only his second game.
                                                          Andy Williams
Andy went back to the reserves but got another chance in early 1986 with his first start, at home to Aston Villa as a stand-in for the injured Dave Bennett in a 3-3 draw and he set up a goal for Cyrille Regis.

Andy played in a 1-0 win at Oxford and a 2-3 defeat at Newcastle however manager Mackay bought another midfielder Nick Pickering soon afterwards and Andy was unable to win a first team place, other than on the bench. The following season, after one further substitute appearance he was on his way to Rotherham United with Evans in exchange for Dean Emerson.

Rotherham, a struggling Third Division club at the time, were boosted by the arrival of the two youngsters and Williams scored the winning goal against Bolton on his debut, while Evans finished as the club’s leading scorer with 11 goals. Andy played 87 games over two seasons with the Millers before joining Leeds United in 1988. He was never a regular at Elland Road but over four seasons made 50-odd appearances including 15 games in the 1990 Second Division championship team alongside Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary Speed.

In 1992 he joined Notts County, then a First Division side, but couldn’t keep them in the top flight. He returned to Rotherham in 1993 but failed to have the same impact at Millmoor as the first time around and moved on to Hull City two years later. He returned to Coventry with the Tigers for a League Cup tie in 1995 but was on the losing side. His last league appearances were for Scarborough in 1996-97.

The last I heard, Andy was based in the Rotherham area and ran the local council rents arrears office, putting the knowledge he gleaned before his playing career to good use.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Jim's column 3.10.2015

How predictable that Leon Clarke should score for Bury against the Sky Blues at Gigg Lane last week. Once again, the immutable law of the ex, as the famous football writer Brian Glanville described it, struck, to consign City to a defeat they scarcely deserved on their second half performance.

Clarke went one better than most ex-players and scored twice, the second from a contentious penalty. He became the first former City player to score twice in a game against us since 1983 when Steve Whitton of West Ham scored a pair in a 5-2 hammering at Upton Park in what was his first game against his old club since his move that summer.

I can find two other instances of a former player scoring two. In 1973 in a League Cup tie at Bristol City's Ashton Gate Bobby Gould scored both goals in a 2-2 draw. Prior to that John Tudor netted two for Newcastle in a 4-2 win over the Sky Blues in early 1972. Tudor was never a prolific scorer but was a wonderful foil for Malcolm Macdonald who seemed able to score at will against Coventry in that era.

Back in those days there were far fewer instances of former players scoring against their old clubs – players just didn't move around as much – but Ronnie Rees scored for both Nottingham Forest & West Brom, after leaving us in 1968. The best ever effort by an 'ex' though was probably the famous England test cricketer Patsy Hendren. He left City in 1911 after a brief career but came back to haunt us fifteen years later as a veteran of 37 playing for Brentford. In a 7-3 thumping at Griffin Park Patsy helped himself to four goals in what was his final season as a player.

Jim McIlwaine sent me an interesting article in the summer about former City youth player John Matthews. The article states that John is regarding as one of the greatest players ever to play in the League of Ireland. After joining Waterford from the Sky Blues in 1966 he won seven championship medals (six with Waterford and one with Limerick) scoring 156 goals as a left-winger. Jim wondered if I had any more information on John and his father Horace who played for the club in the 1940s.

Horace Matthews (born 1913) was well known in local league football before he joined City in 1945. He was a member of a strong AWA Baginton side and was a logical signing when the club had so many players away in the services towards the end of World War 2. He played five games at outside left in the transitional season of 1945-46, scoring one goal – in a 3-1 home win over Fulham. His only officially recognised games were in the two-leg FA Cup third round ties with Aston Villa in January 1946 which City lost 2-3 on aggregate. I believe that in 1946 he returned to playing in local soccer. I wonder if Horace is in the picture of AWA Baginton's team from 1942-43. Please let me know if you can spot him.

Horace's son John joined City after being spotted playing for GEC and was in the same youth team as Mick Coop and Pat Morrissey. In 1966 Jimmy Hill was approached by Mick Lynch, the manager of Waterford, seeking a young player on loan. JH agreed for young John, who would have probably been released that summer, to go over for six weeks to gain some experience and in his first seven games he helped them clinch their first ever League of Ireland championship. John signed permanently for the club soon afterwards and the club won five more titles over the next six seasons and played in the European Cup against such sides as Manchester United and Celtic. After retiring Johnny, as he became known in Ireland, managed Limerick & Waterford United as well as becoming a referee & TV pundit.

Ron Dickinson was interested in my recent column regarding penalty takers where I pointed out the excellent record from the spot by Ronnie Farmer (1 miss from 23 attempts) and Gary McAllister (I miss from 16). Ron's memory goes further back – to Norman Lockhart, who played for the club from 1947-52 and was the regular penalty taker during that time. I checked the records and discovered Norman's record was 14 successful penalties from 17 attempts. The other great penalty taker for the club was Brian Kilcline. Killer's record doesn't match Farmer & McAllister but he did net 19 spot-kicks while missing five.