Sunday, 28 February 2016

Jim's Column 27.2.2016

I recently had a very nice letter from Margaret Raven, daughter of the late Les Raven. Les was an avid reader of this column and used to write to me regularly with questions. Les passed away in October and amongst his effects Margaret came across a lovely postcard of a team picture of Coventry City and wondered if I had seen it. 

The picture was taken in 1929 and shows the team with a large trophy. I believe the trophy is the Lord Mayor of Coventry's Charity trophy which back in those days was played for in a friendly game between City and another Midland club at Highfield Road and raised money for the Coventry and North Warwickshire Hospital. The games were usually played towards the end of the season and opponents included Wolves, West Brom and Birmingham. The 1929 game took place on 29 April and 3,187 supporters watched City draw 4-4 with Blues with City's goals coming from Jimmy Loughlin (2), Billy Pick and John Starsmore. I can only assume that the trophy was retained by Coventry for six months and then passed to Birmingham for the next six months. If any readers can add anything else please let me know.

My comments in last week's column about the fastest goal by a City substitute has been questioned by Craig Richards. He believes Kevin Drinkell scored a goal against Aston Villa in 1990, ten seconds after coming on at Highfield Road. Fellow historian Dean Nelson supplied a video clip of the said game, a 2-0 victory, and I timed his goal as 55 seconds from when he entered the pitch. However for over 30 seconds after coming on 'Drinks' is kicking his heels as Villa's Kevin Mountfield receives treatment from the trainer but once the ball is in play he nets around ten seconds later from a corner.

The whole question revolves around how one defines 'fastest goal'. If one defines it by the time after entering the pitch then Andrews clearly has the fastest goal. The Drinkell situation however introduces the concept of playing time. The game was delayed for around 45 seconds whilst Mountfield was treated. This was not playing time, it was time that the referee would have added on at the end of the game because of an injury.

Therefore if one defines the fastest goal in terms of the playing time elapsed after coming on then Drinkell's goal is faster. One could make a case for either definition being valid. A very inconclusive situation! For the moment I will stick with my assertion that Wayne Andrews holds the record for scoring 23 seconds after entering the pitch but watch this space.

I investigated the fastest ever debut goal in league football and the record is held by a former City player. In 2004 Freddy Eastwood made his Southend debut v Swansea and netted after 7.7 seconds. He went on to score a hat-trick against a Swansea side that included a young Sam Ricketts.

Keith Ballantyne picked up on my comment that Andrews never started a first team game for the club and wondered if his ten appearances as sub without a start is a club record. The answer is yes it is a record, but last season Shaun Miller also came off the bench in ten league games without a start but did start a League Cup game. Other players to make a number of sub appearances without a start are Mathieu Manset (2013-14) with nine, Dylan McGeouch (2013-14) with eight, and Zavon Hines and Shaun Jeffers each with seven. Gary McSheffrey holds the record of the most sub appearances before making a start (11) with Gary Madine (9) and Callum Wilson (8) not far behind.

I can always rely on fellow historian and friend Geoff Moore to come up with interesting stats. He tells me that when Leon Clarke appeared at the Ricoh for Bury two weeks ago he became the first player to appear at the ground with six different clubs. The six are Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, QPR, Scunthorpe, City and Bury. In five games in opposition colours he has managed just two goals (both for Scunthorpe in a 2-2 draw in 2012). Danny Pugh, another ex-City man now at Bury has appeared at the stadium for five different clubs.

Geoff also pointed out that we have had a 4-0 half-time lead in three games this season – Gillingham (h), Crewe (a) and Bury (h). He couldn't remember this happening in his 50 plus years watching the Sky Blues. Before this season, the last occasion was the final game at Highfield Road in 2005 when they led Derby 4-0 at the break (and went on to win 6-2). A year earlier, during the brief but exciting Eric Black era, City took a 4-0 half-time lead over Preston (winning 4-1). There were two League Cup games where a 4-0 half-time lead was taken, in 2002 v Rushden & Diamonds (final score 8-0) and in 1964 v Sunderland (final score 4-2). The previous occasion to 2004 in a league game was back in April 1963 when City beat Halifax 5-4 and George Hudson netted a first half hat-trick on his debut with Dietmar Bruck making 4-0 at the break. So in three months this season the Sky Blues have equalled their record for the last 53 years.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Jim's column 20.2.2016

I'm still on a high from last weekend, one that will remembered for a long time in the city and by the supporters of Coventry City. The service at the cathedral for Jimmy Hill was an emotional affair with some great speakers, beautiful video clips and uplifting music witnessed by over 2000 supporters, dignitaries and a host well-known people from football and the media, including many past and present City players, managers, directors and staff. The event put the city of Coventry and the football club back into the national limelight and was a great credit to all parties. I was certainly proud to be involved in it and so much credit goes to Joe Elliott and Dave Long for their determination in making it happen.

The following day a JH-themed Legends Day was also a great success – probably the most successful in the nine years since CCFPA was formed. 40 former players including special guest Brian Kilcline enjoyed a memorable day with a record number enjoying great hospitality in the Eon lounge. The large numbers ensured a lot of money was raised for JH's favourite charities, Alzheimer's Research and Sparks, as well as CCFPA. A big thank you to those who donated raffle and auction prizes as well as the people who bought tickets and bid in the auctions. To top it all the team on the pitch came good after their rocky patch and notched the biggest home league win since Jimmy Hill was manager.

One has to go back to October 1963 and a midweek game against Shrewsbury Town to discover the last time the team won by a six-goal margin. That night Shrewsbury, with an 18-year old debutant goalkeeper, were thrashed 8-1 with goals from Ronnie Rees (3), George Hudson (2), Hugh Barr (2) and an own goal. Since then City have had big wins in Cup games v Macclesfield (7-0 in 1999) and Rushden & Diamonds (8-0 in 2002), and a 7-2 League Cup victory over Chester in 1985, but big league wins have been rare. Since 1963 there had been only three occasions that the team have scored more than five at home in the league:

1981-82 6-1 v Sunderland (Division 1)
2004-05 6-2 v Derby (Championship)
2005-06 6-1 v Derby (Championship)

You have to go back to March 1958 to find the last instance of a 6-0 home win (over Aldershot). On Saturday poor old Bury didn't know what to do to stem the tide and at one stage it looked as though City might threaten the all-time biggest win - 9-0 v Bristol City in 1934.

Adam Armstrong was on target twice in the second half to take his tally to 19 goals for the season and he has now scored two or more goals on seven occasions. This takes him past one of George Hudson's scoring records from1963-64 – George managed two or more on six occasions as he netted 24 league goals. Adam is the first City player to score seven braces (or more) since Ray Straw scored seven on his way to 27 league goals in 1958-59. In 1931-32 Clarrie Bourton managed it 13 times as he netted an all-time club record 49 goals in Division Three South.

Armstrong is closing in on Callum Wilson's 2013-14 total of 21 league goals and only Callum, Ian Wallace and Bobby Gould have scored more league goals in a season in the last 50 years. Since World War Two only twelve City players have scored more in a season than the young Geordie:

27 – Ray Straw (1958-59)
26 – George Lowrie (1946-47)
25 – Terry Bly (1962-63)
24 – Ken Chisholm (1951-52)
24 – George Hudson (1963-64)
24 – Bobby Gould (1966-67)
21 – Ian Wallace (1977-78)
21 – Callum Wilson (2013-14)
21 – Ken McPherson (1956-57)
20 – Ted Roberts (1948-49)
20 – Eddie Brown (1953-54)
20 – Ray Straw (1959-60)
                                                            Ray Straw

It's frightening to think that Armstrong has potentially another 15 games to overhaul some or all of these goalscoring legends and a post-war club scoring record could be on the cards. Only one man, the legendary Clarrie Bourton, has scored more than 30 league goals in a season – he did it in 1931-32 (49 goals) and 1932-33 (41 goals).

Several people asked me on Saturday when we had last had five different scorers in a game. It's actually quite rare and last happened in December 1995 in a 5-0 thrashing of champions Blackburn Rovers. On a icy pitch with Peter Ndlovu at the top of his game the scorers were: Dave Busst, David Rennie, Dion Dublin, Ndlovu and John Salako. This was also the last time that City won 5-0 at home. The club record for number of different scorers is six, achieved twice in the mid-war years. In 1927 City won 7-0 at Aberdare Athletic (the club's record away win) with six players netting the goals, then in 1930 City beat London side Thames FC 7-0, again with six different scorers.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Jim's column 13.2.2016

As I write this the finishing touches are being made to the Jimmy Hill celebration that took place at the Cathedral last night. I hope it was a successful event – the hard work from all the parties involved deserved to be rewarded – and today our attention turns to Legends Day.

It is the ninth Legends Day since the Former Players Association was formed in 2007 and as usual there will be a host of stars at today's game. Legends Day has caught the attention of City supporters with over 500 people will be enjoying hospitality today. Amongst the guests will be a good contingent of the Hill family, including at least three of his children.

Hopefully 1987 FA Cup final skipper Brian Kilcline has arrived safely from Portugal and Bill Glazier is jetting in from Spain. There are lots more of City's former stars attending including Ian Wallace, Bobby Gould, Garry Thompson and Greg Downs. It promises to be another memorable day and I would encourage fans to be at their seats for the half-time parade of the stars and give them a fantastic reception.

I mentioned last week that a 'new' member, 93-year old Ray Paul, was attending and he is very excited about what will be his first visit to the Ricoh. A centre forward, Ray, who was the son of a trainer of near neighbours Nuneaton Borough, joined his dad and became a striking sensation with the ‘Borough’ scoring 42 goals in the 1941-42 season. Ray turned out for Coventry City as a guest player in the wartime Football League North and scored 8 goals in his ten appearances. He made his debut in a 4-1 defeat for the City in September 1944 at the Hawthorns v West Brom. Two weeks later he scored a hat-trick on his home debut in a 4-3 victory over Port Vale and went on to score eight goals in ten starts for the Bantams. In the same Coventry side at the time were City stalwarts George Mason, Walter Metcalf and Billy Frith. Ray also played as guest in six games for Nottingham Forest up to 1945-46. I'm looking forward to finding out what became of Ray after the war but I believe he played for Atherstone Town and ran a wallpaper shop in that town.
                                                                Ray Paul

Ray is definitely the earliest surviving player to become a member of CCFPA but Colin Collindridge at 96 is our oldest surviving former player but wasn’t signed for the City until 1954. Another member Jack Lovering who is also 93 was a WW2 junior for CCFC but didn’t make his first team debut for the Bantams until 1946.

Before last week's game at Vale Park Mike Prince asked me if City had played a friendly there in the late 1970s. He remembers going as a boy with his dad. The only friendly in that era was on 10 August 1976 when Gordon Milne took his team to the Potteries for a pre-season game. City won 3-0 with goals from David Cross (2) and Alan Green. The team was: Blyth: Coop, Holmes, Craven, Lloyd (Brogan), Dugdale, Beck (Cartwright), Green, Cross, Murphy (Ferguson), Powell.

Keith Ballantyne emailed me recently. He had been watching a video of City's final game at Highfield Road in 2005 which resulted in a 6-2 victory for the Sky Blues. He commented that Andrew Whing scored very quickly after coming on as a substitute and wondered if it was the quickest goal ever by a City sub. I watched the video myself and timed Whing's goal at 55 seconds after coming off the bench. There are several contenders for the title of fastest goal by a sub. In addition to Whing there are three other City subs who scored, according to match reports, 'within a minute' of coming on: John Beck at West Brom in a 3-3 draw in 1978, Noel Whelan v Burnley in the FA Cup in 2000 and Laurent Delorge at Sheffield United in 2001 (his first touch in league football). Unless anyone has evidence to the contrary I believe the fastest was recorded by Wayne Andrews at Barnsley in 2006. Wayne's goal (on his debut) came 23 seconds after he came off the bench for Leon McKenzie. Andrews' career at Coventry was severely hampered by injuries and in his two years at the club he never started a game but made 10 substitute appearances but never scored another goal.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Peter Ramage and Stephen Hunt joined an elite group of Coventry City players recently when they made their Sky Blues' debuts. Peter became the 942nd City player to appear in a competitive first team game since the club joined the Football League in 1919 but more interestingly the fourth player to have a namesake play for the club. He is the second Peter Ramage, following David Smith, Bill Morgan and Paul Williams into the history books. The first Peter Ramage was an inside forward who came from Scottish club Newtowngrange Star in 1927, played 28 games, scoring six goals before joining Derby County. He played over 250 games for the Rams and was still playing non-league football after the war.

A week later, incredibly, we have another namesake debuting for the Sky Blues with Stephen Hunt making his bow at Southend. Many fans will remember the 'first' Stephen Hunt, better known as Steve. A product of Aston Villa's Youth scheme, Steve made his name in the US playing alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbauer with New York Cosmos. City pulled off a massive coup to sign the Brummie for a bargain £40,000 and in 1980 his early season form was good enough to convince Milne that Tommy Hutchison was superfluous to plans and Steve became the focal point of the team. He developed from a fast, tricky winger with a penchant for long distance shooting into one of the country’s most accomplished midfield play-makers with a cultured left foot capable of unlocking the tightest of defences. Steve played 223 games for the Sky Blues and was very unlucky not to win England caps until after he left in 1984.

At Southend two weeks ago our former player Gary Deegan was sent off for two bookings and several readers asked me when a former City player had seen a red card whilst playing against the Sky Blues. By my reckoning there has only ever been one, the afore-mentioned Steve Hunt. Steve joined West Brom in 1984 and in Septemeber 1985 came to Highfield Road with the Baggies for a league meeting. Hunt was lucky to to receive a red card for a bad foul on Brian Borrows but soon after he lashed out at Dave Bennett and got a straight red. City won 3-0 to make it nine defeats in a row for Albion and manager Johnny Giles resigned after the game. Hunt is one of only two players to have been sent off twice at Highfield Road (he was sent off playing for City against Southampton in 1983), the other being Chris Whyte who 'saw red' for Arsenal and Leeds before his one-match loan for the Sky Blues in 1995. Deegan, who has had a reputation as a hard man ever since he came to England with the Sky Blues, was never sent off in a City shirt.
                                                             Steve Hunt

Next Saturday is Legends Day and the Former Player's Association have been working hard to bring a star-studded cast for what will be an even more special event than normal with a special emphasis on the late Jimmy Hill. Many former players are in town on Friday for the celebration service in Coventry Cathedral and will stay over to be at Saturday's game with Bury. A number of ex-City players will be making their 'debut' at a Legends Day including 1987 skipper Brian Kilcline, 1970s striker Brian Joicey (the man whose goal clinched City's European place in 1970) and more recent stars Dele Adebola, Marcus Hall and Barry Quinn. 93-year old Ray Paul, who played for the club during World War II, will also be making his first appearance. Amongst the other 'stars from the past' are Ian Wallace, Bill Glazier, Bobby Gould, Garry Thompson and Greg Downs. It promises to be another memorable day and fans are encouraged to be at their seats for the half-time parade of the stars.