Everyone at Coventry City and the Former Players Association were saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Denton last week.
Peter joined City straight from school in 1962 – soon after Jimmy Hill had arrived as manager. A diminutive right winger with a great turn of speed and a deadly shot, Peter hailed from Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and arrived in Coventry with his good friend Graham Saunders.
Peter was an apprentice on the groundstaff, cleaning boots, sweeping the terraces and getting 'A' & 'B' team football on a Saturday, normally against local works or village teams and playing home games at City's training ground at Shilton. In his first season he played for the club's youth team in the FA Youth Cup alongside Bobby Gould, Dennis Oakes & John Burckitt. Sadly the young Sky Blues got a 5-0 home thumping from Port Vale in the First Round.
Dennis Oakes spoke fondly of Peter: 'As I remember he came to the club from Gorleston with Graham Saunders and they both went into digs with Alan Turner. Peter was a quiet lad and kept himself to himself. He kept his head down and was really the ideal young professional. They both joined as apprentices alongside myself, Bobby Gould, Dudley Roberts, Pat Morrissey, Dave & John Matthews. He was a lively right winger who had an eye for a goal. He never changed, was a gentleman at 18/19 years of age and remained so the last time we met'.
The following season (1963-64) there was a stronger youth team with Dudley Roberts, Pat Morrissey and local teenage prodigy John Docker joining Peter and Bobby in the team. In the first round City's kids gave First Division West Brom a big shock, coming from 4-0 down, before losing 6-4 with Peter scoring one of the goals.
His performances were good enough to earn him a professional contract on his 18th birthday in March 1964 and the following season he was a regular in the successful reserve team. In front of crowds averaging over 6,000 the Sky Blues' reserves won promotion to Football Combination's First Division, thrilling the fans with 96 goals in 34 games.
Winning a first team call-up was hard – the number 7 shirt belonged to the consistent and influential Welsh winger Ronnie Rees. In early October 1965 City played Stoke in a friendly game and with Rees on international duty Peter was given his chance and scored in a 5-1 victory over the First Division side. A month later, following the 6-1 League Cup defeat at West Brom, Jimmy Hill made changes including switching Rees to the left wing and gave Peter his chance against Ipswich at Highfield Road. It was one of the youngest forward lines in the club's history – Denton (19), Dudley Roberts (20), Bobby Gould (19), Ernie Machin (21) and Rees (21). Within five minutes the pint-sized winger won a penalty and overall he made an impressive debut in the 3-1 victory with Roberts, Gould and Ronnie Farmer (penalty) scoring the goals.
Peter kept his place for the next three games, a 1-0 win at Birmingham and draws against Leyton Orient & Middlesbrough before returning to reserve team duty. Later that season he was back in the team as City's promotion push continued. He stood in for the injured Rees in a 4-1 FA Cup replay win over Crewe, starred in a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace and two weeks later scored his only senior goal in a 3-1 home win over Cardiff. It came after three minutes of the game when his fiercely driven cross from the by-line swerved freakishly and Dilwyn John in the Cardiff goal could only help the ball into the net. Ten minutes later it was 2-0 as Peter was tripped in the area & Farmer netted the penalty.
A week later he played in the 2-2 home draw with Bolton but appeared on the losing side for the first time on Easter Saturday at Portsmouth. His final appearance that season was a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough in the last home game of the season.
His form dropped in the 1966-67 Division 2 championship season and with Rees and Dave Clements performing consistently well and another right-winger John Key in the squad, Peter had to be content with reserve team football. In August 1967 he played his last first team game in a 3-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest. In total he had made 11 first team appearances and scored one goal.
In early 1968 he joined Luton Town but things didn't work out for him at Kenilworth Road & he moved into non-league football playing for Canterbury City and Margate. He settled in the Luton area and worked for many years at Vauxhall Motors in the town whilst doing some part-time coaching. His son-in-law Wayne Shanley tells me that in the last ten years or so Peter has been a part-time waiter at the Green Man at Offley in Hertfordshire and latterly the Beefeater in Luton where he was very popular. He leaves behind Margaret, his wife of 46 years, three daughters and three grandchilden. He remained a Sky Blues fan and always looked out for their results. He was a member of the Former Players Association and earlier this year travelled up to Jimmy Hill's celebration service in the cathedral and attended Legends Day the following day.Peter pictured at the JH service in February
His funeral will take place on Friday 28th October at 11.15 at the Vale, Stopsley, Luton and afterwards at the Jolly Topers pub in Round Green, Luton.