Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Jim's column 6.8.2016

A new season is upon us today and it just seems like yesterday that I was watching City's final games, the FA Cup final and the Champions League final. I know I say it every year but the close season is too short. Mind you 50 years ago last weekend England were winning the World Cup and just seven days later the Sky Blues played their first pre-season friendly!

A trip to Swindon is not one City fans will relish today, especially when you consider the last four visits. In each of those games City looked set for victories only to be pegged back. Last season they had two-goal lead with Reice Charles-Cook breaking Oggy's post-war shutout record and looking impregnable only to concede twice in the final seven minutes to turn a victory into a draw. It was a similar story in the 1-1 the previous season with a late home goal cancelling McQuoid's opener and in 2013-14 two home goals in the final 14 minutes turned victory into defeat. Two goals from David McGoldrick in 2012-13 looked to have sealed a victory with 13 minutes remaining but the Robins pulled two goals out of the hat to foil the Sky Blues. You have to go back to December 1960 for City's last league win at the County Ground when goals from Billy Myerscough and Ray Straw gave City a 2-1 win in a Division Three game. The picture at home against the Robins is little better – Swindon have won three of their last four visits to the Ricoh and the Sky Blues last win was in 1964 – 3-2 with goals from Machin, Hudson and Hale. So my message to City fans today is, be patient and don't expect too much.

Moving on to Tuesday evening and the first home game, a League Cup tie with League Two Portsmouth. It is the first League Cup tie at the Ricoh for four years with City having played Cardiff at Sixfields, sandwiched between away exits from the competition at Leyton Orient and Rochdale. That last tie was a thrilling 3-2 victory over Championship side Birmingham City just two days after manager Andy Thorn was sacked. Richard Shaw was caretaker boss and guided the Sky Blues to a famous victory with goals from Cody McDonald, Kevin Kilbane and an extra-time winner from Carl Baker.

Pompey are managed by former City player Paul Cook, a talented midfielder who was left in the cold after the arrival of Ron Atkinson in 1995. In his team he is likely to have former City players Michael Doyle and Carl Baker and I'm sure they will get good receptions from City fans. The clubs have met three times in the competition previously with Pompey winning twice at home in the 1960s and Coventry progressing in 1968 with a 2-0 win at Highfield Road. The first meeting was in the inaugural season of the competition in 1960-61 when after defeating Barrow 4-2 at home, City lost 0-2 at Fratton Park in front of a miniscule crowd of 4,533. Two years later Jimmy Hill rested a couple of players and was undone by Albert McCann, a player he had released a few months earlier. Big Ron Saunders scored a couple in a 5-1 thrashing.

The Highfield Road game in 1968 reminds me of the great form the late Ian Gibson was in at the time. He scored one and set up the other goal for Ernie Hunt in front of a crowd of 20,946 – what would the club give for a gate like that on Tuesday night.

Talking of 'Gibbo' reminds me sadly that two fine former players passed away this summer. Gibbo died at the age of 73 at the end of May and six weeks later his former team-mate John O'Rourke passed away, aged 71. 'Gibbo' is best remembered for the massive role he played in the Second Division Championship season of 1966-67 and some of his outrageous goals and tricks but he and O'Rourke were key players in City's most successful top flight season, 1969-70, when Noel Cantwell's team qualified for Europe by virtue of finishing sixth in Division One. Gibbo was sold the following summer and never played for the Sky Blues in Europe but O'Rourke left his mark by snatching a hat-trick in the club's opening game in the Fairs Cup in a 4-1 away win against Trakia Plovdiv.

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