Matt Kite reminded me this week that we are approaching the 40th anniversary of Coventry Sporting's famous FA Cup run which saw them get the scalp of league club Tranmere Rovers. Matt is the son of David Kite who was the manager of Sporting at the time and both father and son have been big City fans for many years.
After progressing through the FA Cup Qualifying rounds, Sporting reached the First Round proper for the first and only time in their history. The draw paired them with Tranmere and it was quickly clear that their small ground at Kirby Corner would be unable to cope with a sizeable crowd. Coventry City stepped in and offered to host the tie at Highfield Road. On 22 November 1975 Sporting pulled off a major giant-killing act, beating their high-flying Division Four opponents 2-0 with both goals scored by 19-year old Rolls Royce apprentice Stewart Gallagher. A crowd of 4,565 watched the tie and gave a massive financial boost to the part-timers .
In the second round Sporting, whose assistant manager was former City and England goalkeeper Reg Matthews, were given another home tie, this time the visitors were Third Division Peterborough United. The fans were dreaming of another victory followed by a tie with Coventry City in round three. Posh however, managed by former City boss Noel Cantwell, had other ideas and shattered the dream, winning 4-0 in front of over 8,500 fans at Highfield Road.
It's a massive game at the Ricoh Arena today with league leaders Gillingham in town for the top v second clash. With the teams level on points and separated by a single goal, the winners will be league leaders tonight. There was much speculation on Twitter this week about the last time the Sky Blues were the league leaders other than at the start of the season. In 2001-02 City were top of the Championship for one day at the end of October after a 10-match unbeaten run culminating in a 2-0 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday, remembered for a superb goal direct from a free-kick from Youssef Safri. The following day Wolves beat Burnley 3-0 to leapfrog City and Roland Nilsson's team never reached those heady heights again.
Prior to 2001 City had not been in top place in any league apart from brief spells in the early weeks of 1992-93 and 1989-90. You have to go back to the Jimmy Hill for the last time the club were in the top position for any length of time. In 1966-67, the Second Division Championship season the Sky Blues were slowish starters and did not hit top spot until a win at St Andrews on 7th January. They kept top spot until the end of March and only regained it during the final match of the season as they leapfrogged Wolves to snatch the title.
By coincidence, fifty years ago this weekend the Sky Blues hit the top spot in Division Two following a 1-0 win at St Andrews. They stayed there one week and missed out on promotion by one point, having to wait a further season to reach the First Division.
Another question, from Moz Baker, was: when was the last time that Sky Blues were involved in a top v second game in any division? My immediate reaction was to say the Wolves game at Highfield Road in 1967 when 51,452 watched City beat their West Midland rivals in the Second Division. Phil Fisk on Twitter reminded me that early in the 1992-93 season, second-placed City hosted league leaders Norwich City. Peter Ndlovu replied to an early Ian Crook strike by the Canaries and the game ended 1-1. In the Premier League's inaugural season Bobby Gould's Sky Blues never got as high as second again and finished 15th. There was also an early season game in 1978-79 when City, unbeaten in their first five games, were second and travelled to Anfield to face leaders Liverpool. City lost 1-0 to a Graeme Souness goal.
There was sad news last week that former City goalkeeper Marton Fulop had lost his fight against cancer and died at the young age of 32. The Hungarian joined City on loan from Tottenham in October 2005 after Stephen Bywater was recalled by West Ham. City were in the bottom three in the Championship when he arrived but he kept a clean sheet on his debut, a 1-0 home win over Luton. Dennis Wise is credited for City's remarkable turnaround that season but Fulop has to take a lot of credit too. He gave the defence great confidence and he was only on the losing side twice in 18 games at the Ricoh as the new stadium became a fortress for the only time. City finished eighth that season – their best finish in eleven seasons in the Championship – and Fulop played 33 league and Cup games under Micky Adams.Marton Fulop
In late 2006 Roy Keane signed him for Sunderland and he played sporadically for the Wearsiders over the next four seasons, interspersed with loans at Leicester, Stoke and Manchester City. In 2010 he rejoined Keane at Ipswich and was a regular in their Championship side for one season before a move to West Brom where he warmed the bench as back up for Ben Foster under Roy Hodgson for the 2011-12 season. His final move took him to Greek Superleague side Asteras Tripoli and he won a Greek Cup runner-up medal with them in 2013. Marton won 24 full caps for Hungary and would have won more but for the form of Gabor Kiraly.