After the small crowds at the Ricoh Arena for the League Cup and Football League Trophy games several people have asked me for more details about the game which attracted the lowest ever crowd for a City game in 1985 - a Full Members Cup tie against Millwall that attracted only 1,086 fans to Highfield Road.
Following the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, English clubs were banned from European competitions and the Football League decided to introduce two new domestic competitions to help compensate clubs for the reduction in income. The Football League Super Cup was launched for the six sides who would have played in Europe and a subsidiary competition, the Full Members Cup (FMC) was inaugurated for the remaining First and Second Division sides.
By the time the draw was made only 21 out of 38 full member clubs indicated a desire to play in the FMC – City being just one of four top flight teams. The teams were separated into Northern & Southern sections and into four groups within each section. City were in the Southern half and their group of three also contained Stoke City and Millwall (both from the Second Division). Each team played the other two once, with one game at home and one away and the group winners would go through to a regional semi-final and final before a Wembley final between the regional winners. With so few top flight teams in the competition City fans fancied their team's chances of progressing to the knockout stages. City travelled to Stoke on 18th September for the opening game with just one change from the team that had drawn 1-1 at Villa Park in a league game four days earlier. They suffered a 3-0 defeat with goals from Keith Bertschin, Carl Saunders and Carl Beeston. A pitifully low crowd of 3,516 was a portend for the competition.
On 2nd October Stoke travelled to Millwall and watched by 1,741 snatched a late equaliser for a 2-2 draw. That result meant that Stoke had amassed four points and that the Sky Blues could not win the group to progress in the competition. Millwall could still qualify however, by winning by more than three clear goals in the final tie of the group. So on 15th October City and Millwall played out the final game in front of 1,086 (which included a small number of away fans). In an eerie atmosphere,Terry Gibson gave City the lead just before half-time but Nicky Chatterton grabbed a late equaliser to ensure Millwall finished second in the group and ahead of the Sky Blues. There was one thing to celebrate however as Gibson's goal meant he had netted in seven successive competitive games and set a club post-war record.
Stoke went on to lose to Oxford United (then a First Division side) in the regional semi-final. Oxford subsequently lost to Chelsea who progressed to the Wembley final against Manchester City where a David Speedie hat-trick helped the Londoners to a 5-4 victory in front of 69,000 fans.
The group stages were scrapped for the 1986-87 season and City fell at the first knockout hurdle, an away tie with Norwich. City's performances in the competition were disastrous. In all but one season they were knocked out in their first tie, the exception being 1988-89 when they reached the semi-final only to lose on penalties at Reading.
Somehow the pointless competition survived until 1991-92 with various sponsors (including Simod and Zenith Data Systems) when, with the Premier League about to commence and English clubs re-admitted to Europe, it was scrapped. Many of the competition's games were watched by four-figure crowds but all the finals attracted 60,000 plus crowds at Wembley.
During the summer I had numerous questions about the club's history and I will try and answer them in the coming weeks. First off is Jim Molloy who wrote seeking more information about former City player Eric Jones who was at college with his father-in-law.
Eric Jones, who was born in Dover in March 1938 was one of three Snowdown Colliery Welfare youngsters recommended to City by former player (then manager at Snowdown) Harry Barratt in 1955. Eric, George Curtis and goalkeeper Alf Bentley all signed for the club. A centre-half, Eric made his debut as an 18-year old in a home game with Brentford in November 1956 but was unable to get a regular first-team place because of the form of his friend Curtis and played only 16 first-team games in seven seasons. After being released in 1961 Eric was a teacher at Binley Park School. He didn't give up football however and captained Nuneaton Borough's Southern League side. He passed away in 1987.
1960 City team with Eric Jones front row, far right.