Monday, 25 April 2016

Jim's column 23.4.2016

Coventry City's successive home wins in four days have brightened the mood of the fans after a
dreadful run of sixteen games with only two victories. Barring a disastrous collapse by the five
teams immediately above them the play-off train has however left the station and the Sky Blues face
another season in League One. The two home wins, over sides virtually certain of being in the play-
offs, have not been short of talking points however and were the team's first back to back successes
since the run of four wins in November culminating in the performance of the season at home to

Both games saw opposition players picking up red cards for off the ball incidents, something not
that common these days. First to go was Shaun Williams of Millwall for a head-butt on Ruben
Lameiras. Millwall make a habit of red cards at the Ricoh – this was only their fourth league visit to
the stadium and their third red card. In 2005-06 substitute Matt Lawrence was sent off for elbowing
Michael Doyle (City went on to win 1-0). Then in 2010-11 current Lions manager Neil Harris saw
red for stamping on Aron Gunnarsson just a minute after coming off the bench (City won 2-1).

Bradford's bad boy was another substitute, Steven Davies, the former Derby and Blackpool striker,
who was ordered off for a wild kick at Jack Stephens minutes from the end. I think I am right in
saying that he is the first Bantams player to get his marching orders against the Sky Blues.

Those two dismissals makes it four red cards for opposition players this season with Chesterfield's
Emmanuel Dieseruvwe and Southend's Gary Deegan the others. This is a big increase on last
season's one red card for opposition, Sheffield United's Jose Baxter. The most red cards for
opposition players occurred in 2003-04 in the Championship when 13 opponents were sent off, the
majority for two yellow card offences. The highest number of red cards for City in a season is seven
– in both 2001-02 and 2002-03 City had seven players sent off. Since City left the Premiership they
have had 56 players sent off while in the same period 69 opposition players have received their
marching orders.

City's goal on Tuesday evening, a stunning half-volley from substitute Andy Rose, came out of the
blue in a game dominated by defences and bereft of chances. Rose's goal, with his first touch, was
timed by the club at 11 seconds after the restart of play, following his entry as a substitute in the 58
minute, and  whilst it is definitely the fastest by a substitute at the Ricoh the club record needs
closer scrutiny.

If one measures the time from when a substitute enters the game then the club record is held by
Wayne Andrews who scored 23 seconds after coming on at Barnsley in 2006. If, however one
measures it from the time when play re-starts then Kevin Drinkell's goal against Aston Villa at
Highfield Road in 1990 is faster. He scored around eight seconds after play restarted but had been
on the pitch for almost a minute whilst Villa's Mountfield was treated for an injury. Hopefully I can
throw some more light on this next week after further enquiries

It was the second consecutive game that a substitute has scored the winning goal following Marcus
Tudgay's clincher against Millwall. Six City goals have been scored by substitutes this season with
Tudgay heading the list with three from the bench and the others coming from Murphy and
Maddison.  Tudgay is the first City player to score three goals from the bench in a season since Patrick Suffo in 2004-05. Suffo scored a penalty against Sunderland on the opening day and followed up with two goals against Torquay in a League Cup game three weeks later. Others to score three in a season from the bench are Andy Morrell (2003-04), Trond Soltvedt (1997-98) and
Jay Bothroyd (2001-02). Some credit must go to Mowbray for his substitution strategy in these last two

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Jim's column 16.4.2016

Last week I wrote about a game against Sheffield Wednesday in 1970 when Roy Barry, City's inspirational captain at the time, suffered a broken leg. Today I'm writing about an earlier home game with the Owls – this week in 1952, when defeat for City meant almost certain relegation.

I met Arthur Warner from Binley at a recent Diamond Club lunch and he told me that his first City game was that infamous home game with Sheffield Wednesday. Arthur was six years old and does not remember anything of the game, other than that it was a large crowd which he found a bit overwhelming but nevertheless he enjoyed the experience and was hooked on the atmosphere from that moment. His Dad always told him that City were relegated and the Owls were promoted that day and asked me to provide some more details of the game.

Having led Division Two at the start of 1951, a poor run saw them finish seventh in the table and their poor form continued into 1951-52. There had been no new signings in the close season and it was an ageing team. A run of 11 games without a win in the autumn had made it an uphill task to avoid the drop but Harry Storer's team at least improved their home form.

The club went into the transfer market in February, buying their former Welsh international centre-forward George Lowrie from Bristol City but the veteran Lowrie failed to produce the spark needed, scoring just three goals in 12 games. Then in March Storer made the double signing of centre-forward Eddy Brown and centre-half Roy Kirk. The class of both men was quickly visible, but things had gone too far for them to stem the tide.
                                                      1951-52 team
Four days earlier a 5-2 win over Luton Town, their fourth home win in five games, seemed to have pulled them clear with two games remaining. Wednesday however were top of the table and needed just one more victory to clinch promotion to the top flight. It was a day of destiny.

Over 26,000 had watched the Luton game, one of the biggest crowds of the season, and there was even more interest in the Wednesday game, who themselves had a big following. When the game started there were 36,331 in the ground – a crowd that was not to be topped for another 11 years.

There was added drama too, of a late team change. Goalkeeper Bill Gilbert, who had been down to play, had reported at the ground troubled by a shoulder injury. Reserve Peter Taylor was playing for the reserves at Norwich so young Derek Spencer, who had played only three reserve games since being signed from Lockheed Leamington, was thrust into action.

It was to be a cruel baptism for the young 'keeper – Wednesday took the lead after just 90 seconds. A footballing phenomenon by the name of Derek Dooley, who had scored 44 goals in 28 games, shot through a gap in the home defence and rocketed a right-foot drive into the net. City struggled to get back on terms and held their own for most of the remainder of the game, Dooley put the result beyond doubt two minutes from the end with his second goal past the luckless Spencer.

With no real time score-lines in those days it was several minutes before the players, directors and fans were aware of results elsewhere. Then the news came through: Hull, Swansea and QPR – the sides below Coventry – had all won. With one game remaining, at Leeds, the City were 21st in the table and needed others to lose to keep them up. In the end City lost at Leeds and their rivals all avoided defeat to confirm Coventry's relegation to Division Three.

City's team that fateful day was: Derek Spencer: Martin McDonnell, Dick Mason: Don Dorman, Roy Kirk, Les Cook: Les 'Plum' Warner, Ian Jamieson, Eddy Brown, Noel Simpson, Norman Lockhart.

I can always rely upon Keith Ballantyne for unusual questions and this week is no different. He asks: Which team have had the same shirt sponsors in all four divisions including the Premier League? The answer, he tells me, is Bradford City who have been sponsored by JCT600 a car dealership for many years.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Jim's column 10.4.2016

Martyn Harris emailed me recently. He and his wife left Coventry over 40 years ago and now live in Cheshire. They have always followed the Sky Blues progress. Recently they we were reminiscing about games watched, and remembered the game when there as a horrible incident where City captain Roy Barry broke his leg. Could I tell him when this happened and who were City's opponents..

The incident happened at a home game with Sheffield Wednesday on 14th March 1970. With twelve minutes gone, City trailed 1-0 to a Jack Whitham goal. Barry and Wednesday's Tommy Craig went for a 50-50 ball in midfield and Roy came off worst, suffering a broken leg. It was immediately clear that he was seriously injured and he left the field on a stretcher as referee Clive Thomas booked the prostrate defender. The injury visibly affected the whole team – they had lost their inspirational leader – and although Jeff Blockley headed an equaliser before half-time the team looked a shadow of the side that had deservedly been in the top six for most of the season.
                                                                  Roy Barry

Few players in City’s history have had the instant impact that Roy had when Noel Cantwell signed him from Dunfermline for £40,000 in October 1969. Signed as George Curtis’s replacement the Scottish hard man had been one of the driving forces in Dunfermline's success north of the border. In his first appearance, as a substitute at Stamford Bridge he was on the wrong end of hardman Ron Harris' boot and suffered a broken nose. Two weeks later he took over from Curtis and the team won eight of the next ten games and lay fourth in the table, established – for the time being - in the top elite of the First Division. Following Barry's tragic injury the team lost only one of the next eight games, finishing sixth and securing a European place for the following season.

Roy's recovery was long and hard and it was 14 months before he returned to first-team action and he went on to play almost 100 games for the club he was never quite the same player again. He joined Crystal Palace in 1973 and subsequently returned to Scotland with Hibs and East Fife. A brief managerial career took him to Nuneaton and Oxford United where he was caretaker boss when the team came to Coventry for a cup game in 1982. He has been back in Dunfermline for many years but has been a visitor to a number of Legends Days at the Ricoh.

Following my piece on friendlies with Scottish club Morton last week, regular reader Ed Blackaby asked me about a friendly with Rangers in the early 1990s. In July 1991 City travelled to Scotland for a pre-season tour which included a four-team tournament at Kilmarnock FC. City manager Terry Butcher had used his contacts north of the border to get City an invitation to the tournament, held over the weekend of 3rd and 4th of August, which included the hosts Kilmarnock, Rangers and Dutch side Sparta Rotterdam. As a warm up for the tournament City, who based themselves in the town of Troon, played a friendly with Ayr United, which they lost 3-1.

The day after the defeat at Ayr there was a major upset in the City camp as three senior players (Lloyd McGrath, Trevor Peake and Kenny Sansom) were disciplined after what was exaggeratedly described as a 'drinking spree' in a team's hotel. All three were sent home and fined and club captain Peake was sold to Luton two weeks later.

City's shell-shocked team gave a good account of themselves on Day 1 of the contest, drawing 1-1 with Rangers but losing 4-3 on penalties. Substitute Paul Furlong looked to have won the tie with an 83rd minute goal but John Spencer grabbed a last minute equaliser before Sandy Robertson (later signed by City) missed an injury-time penalty. The following day Killie and Rangers fought out the final, Rangers emerging winners, whilst City lost 2-1 to Sparta in the 3rd place play-off.

City's team against Rangers was:
Ogrizovic: Borrows, Edwards, Robson, Pearce, Billing, Woods, Gynn, Drinkell (sub Furlong), Gallacher, Smith.

In the Sparta game Butcher gave starts to other members of the squad, Martyn Booty, David Titterton, Dean Emerson and Robert Rosario whilst the small band of City fans had one of the earliest glimpses of a young Zimbabwean striker called Peter Ndlovu, who came on as a substitute.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Jim's column 2.4.2016

Colchester United turned up at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday evening sporting a fetching fluorescent orange kit which certainly dazzled Tony Mowbray's team. As usual when City's home performances struggle to get above the mediocre the talk around me in the East Stand turns to the past. The Woodfield brothers (both City supporters from the early 1960s) discussed the colour of the visitor's shirts which reminded John Woodfield of the shirts worn by Scottish club Morton in a friendly at Highfield Road in 1967. He thought the Scots played in a similar orange kit but brother Richard remembered it as a more redder hue but still very fluorescent. It was not uncommon, in the early days of floodlights for teams to wear a more silky version of their normal kits as they glowed brightly under the lights. I remember reading about Wolves' famous floodlit friendlies against top European sides at Molineux in the 1950s when they wore a specially commissioned silky shirt and shorts.

The discussion about Morton reminded me that Steve Bell had asked me recently about the friendly games against the Scottish club in the 1960s and I was able to provide him with details. At the time Morton were a very go-ahead and innovative club and were referred to as the Scottish Sky Blues. The clubs agreed to play a friendly at Highfield Road in October 1964 and a crowd of 17,029 watched a 2-2 draw with City's goals scored by John Mitten and George Hudson. The crowd was larger than expected due to the first home appearance of new goalkeeper Bill Glazier, a record £35,000 signing from Crystal Palace. Five months later the return took place at Cappielow Park, Greenock and the Scots ran out 3-1 winners, Dave Clements netting City's goal.

Two years later, in November 1966, Morton returned to Highfield Road (probably the occasion of their fluorescent shirts) and City got a sort of revenge, winning 3-2. With several injuries and a massive game at Wolves on the following Saturday, City manager Jimmy Hill gave run outs to several youngsters including goalkeeper Peter Thomas, defenders Mick Coop and John Burckitt, and forwards Willie Carr and Trevor Shepherd. Three days earlier rebel forward Ian Gibson had been recalled to the side after a seven-week absence following a fall-out with JH and had been man of the match with two goals in a 3-2 victory over Cardiff. He starred again against Morton and inspired the victory with the goals coming from Ronnie Rees, Bobby Gould and Shepherd. Carr came on as a substitute at half-time, the first of many appearances in a Sky Blue shirt, and impressed many of the 4,098 crowd.

Following the game at Peterborough on Friday night fellow historian Paul O'Connor reminded me that the loss was City's 100th away defeat in the Football League. In the 90 seasons since the club joined the league in 1919 their away record is:-

Played Won Drawn Lost Goals -for Goals – against
1921    410    511     1000     2039          3406

Finally, I had an interesting request from Margaret Crabtree this week. She was a member of the Coventry Bantams Ladies XI in 1968 and asked if I could help track down some of her former teammates.

She can name some of her teammates on the photo and has attempted to trace some of the other players at various times with limited success. These are the sketchy details she has:-

Back Row (Left to Right)
Susan Dunning (now Smith) - lived at 38 Standard Avenue, Janet Chadwick, Lesley ? – lived in Standard Avenue, Frances C. O'Neill - (Married Don Peachey (CCFC youth team player) and emigrated to Australia.  Margaret Key (now Crabtree) – Lives in Nuneaton.

Middle Row (Left to Right)
Pauline M. McNally – (Married Tom Sinclair (CCFC youth team player & friend of Alan Dugdale), Anne ?, Janet ? (Drove a sky blue dormobile to matches), Anne’s sister, Maureen ?

Front Row (Left to Right)
Avril (Parham?), Liz ?, Terri ?, Sandra ? – (Used to live in Sadler Road)
If you are in the photograph or know any of the ladies team please send Margaret an email at