Sunday, 30 October 2016

Jim's column 29.10.16

Regular readers will know I try and look on the positive side of things and with all the doom and gloom around the football club at the moment I have to highlight the fact that after last week's consecutive home victories over Oxford and Rochdale, the team are now unbeaten in 13 competitive home games. They won the last three home games of last season, have won two and drawn five league games this campaign and won three cup ties at the Ricoh. The 13-game run equals the best run for the Sky Blues since the 1979-80 season when Gordon Milne's side recorded 14 without loss at home.

In the intervening 37 seasons there has only been one 13-game unbeaten run – in the 2005-06 season under Micky Adams, aided by the inspired signings of Dennis Wise and Don Hutchison. That was the first season at the Ricoh and the team lost three of the first eight games at their new home. Following the third defeat, on 2nd November to Stoke, the team didn't lose at home until Preston won 1-0 on 1st April 2006. The thirteen games (12 league and an FA Cup drawn tie with Middlesbrough) included eight wins and five draws. Last season Tony Mowbray's team went 13 league games unbeaten at home from the start of the season but the Northampton Cup defeat spoiled the run.

The 1979 run occurred in a golden two-year period of home form for the Sky Blues. Just before Christmas 1977 City lost a League Cup replay to Liverpool at Highfield Road but then won six straight home games before losing 2-3 to Aston Villa in March, then came a run of 16 without loss that stretched through to the following February when Tottenham lowered City's flag with a 3-1 victory. City then lost the next two home games to Man City (0-3) and West Brom (1-3), the latter on 3rd March 1979. They then embarked on the 14 game unbeaten home run before Stoke City won 3-1 at Highfield Road on 3rd November. So, in just under two years the Sky Blues lost just four games at home out of forty played, winning 24 and drawing 12. Even better was the period from December 1965 to August 1967 when Jimmy Hill's team lost only one home league game out of 32! Those were the days when it was a real pleasure to watch City at home.

The club record for unbeaten home games in all competitions is 19, set in 1925-26 (in Division Three North) and equalled in 1962-63. The best home runs are as follows:

19 1925-26 (Div 3N), 1962-63 (Div 3)
18 1952-53 (Div 3S)
17 1965-66 (Div 2)
16 1950-51 (Div 2), 1978-79 (Div 1)
14 1934-35 (Div 3S), 1935-36 (Div 3S), 1979-80 (Div 1)

Last Saturday we finally saw the Sky Blues break the Rochdale bogey. It was the seventh league meeting between the clubs and City's first victory. In addition the teams have met on seven occasions in cup games, including a League Cup game last season, and City have won only once (a 4-0 League cup win in 1991).

Keith Ballantyne was interested in Peter Denton's Sky Blue career and remembers the 1-0 win at Birmingham in November 1965 in which Peter played. Blues had been relegated from the First Division the previous season and were struggling near the foot of the table. City's goal came half an hour from the end of a tough, physical battle of 47 fouls, when Bobby Gould was sandwiched by two home defenders when he was through on goal. Ronnie Farmer, in his trademark cool manner, slotted home the penalty kick. City had a large following in the 26,000 crowd and the Sky Blue song echoed around St Andrews in the final half-hour. Keith correctly points out that Ken Hale, a favourite of his, played his last game for the club that day. He had received a lot of stick from the fans and Jimmy Hill had persevered with Hale but the signing of Ray Pointer a month or so later curtailed his first team opportunities and he moved to Oxford in March 1966.

Congratulations to the club's under 23 team who won 3-1 at Crystal Palace to record their seventh successive victory. Several readers have asked if this is a record for any Coventry team. The records of reserve games is somewhat patchy but seven wins equals the first-team record set in 1998 when Gordon Strachan was in charge. That team's run was as follows:

24 January Derby County (FA Cup) (h) 2-0
31 January Bolton (a) 5-1
7 February Sheffield Wed (h) 1-0
14 February Aston Villa (FA Cup) (a) 1-0
18 February Southampton (a) 2-1
21 February Barnsley (h) 1-0
28 February Crystal Palace (a) 3-0

As I write this I have just heard the sad news that former City player Brian Hill has passed away. Brian was the youngest ever City player in 1958 when he made his debut at Gillingham before his 17th birthday. He scored on his debut and is still the youngest City player to score a goal and the youngest to start a first-team game. I will write a full tribute to one of City's finest servants next week.

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