Sunday, 20 November 2016

Jim's column 19.11.2016

The Sky Blues unbeaten run that stretched back 14 games in all competitions to last April came to an end on Saturday at the Ricoh when Scunthorpe United did a smash and grab raid. Cov kid Graham Alexander has built a strong outfit and most people watching thought they were the best side City have faced at home this season.

The run, which comprised of eleven league games (six wins, five draws), two EFL Trophy ties (both won) plus a League Cup victory, was the best by the club since the late 1970s. In 1979-80 Gordon Milne's side went 14 without loss at home and the season before 16 without loss.

Before Saturday's defeat the team had also won four home games in a row – something they hadn't done since early 2007. Then, Iain Dowie's arrival as the replacement for Micky Adams sparked four wins, all in the league:

20.2.2007 Southampton (h) 2-1
4.3.2007 Hull City (h) 2-0
13.3.2007 Wolves (h) 2-1
17.3.2007 Barnsley (h) 4-1

However any hopes of reaching the play-offs were dashed by three straight home defeats (to Preston, QPR & West Brom). Interestingly Dele Adebola, not always a regular starter under Adams, netted four of the ten goals in those four games. The last time that City won five home games in a row was February/March 2002 under Roland Nilsson.

Regular reader Keith Ballantyne emailed me after I mentioned Dudley Roberts a few weeks ago wanting to no more of his career at City. He was the son of post-war City hero Ted Roberts who was renowned for his heading ability, a skill Dudley inherited and displayed by scoring prolifically at Cheylesmore School. After joining the Sky Blues as an apprentice in 1961 he was converted to a defensive wing half and played in City’s youth team with Bobby Gould and Pat Morrissey. In the autumn of 1965 he was called up to play at centre-forward for the reserve team after injuries to the regular strikers. Impressive performances earned him a first team call-up at Preston and he did not let the side down.

Four days after his debut Dudley played an important role in a 3-2 League Cup win at Maine Road and had a goal disallowed. His home debut against Charlton coincided with his 20th birthday and he celebrated with two goals in a 3-1 win, one a close range shot from a Ken Hale cross, the second a trademark header. Goals against Plymouth, Portsmouth and Ipswich took his total to five in five. He missed several games through injury and when he was fit Jimmy Hill had signed Bury’s Ray Pointer to boost the attack.

Dudley made only five further appearances, one of them at right back during an injury crisis. When star striker George Hudson was controversially sold to Northampton his place went to Bobby Gould and Dudley stayed in the reserves. Dudley did not appear in the first team during the promotion season but was a virtual ever-present for the reserves. In Division 1 he made only one appearance, at Hillsborough in Jimmy Hill’s last game in charge.

In March 1968 he joined Mansfield Town for £6,000. He went straight into the first team at Field Mill and for the next six years he was a prolific scorer for the Stags. In total he scored 73 goals in 231 appearances and was the Third Division’s leading scorer in the 1970-71 season. Several big clubs expressed an interest in him and Mansfield rejected bids of £60,000 from top-flight clubs.

In 1974 he joined Scunthorpe where he had two successful years adding 17 more goals to his overall tally before a serious knee injury ended his career.

In 1969 he had married Rose McNulty, the original Sky Blue Rose from the Jimmy Hill era. Rose had been the first recorded voice that kept City fans up to date with news on the telephone in the days before mobile phones and text services. Rose and Dudley still live in Mansfield. Dudley spent 21 years with the Electricity Board and is now semi-retired, helping out with a local photographer. He has attended various CCFPA events and is a true gentleman.

On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of attending the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Coventry City London Supporters Club. Back in 1976 Colin Heys, a Kent-based fan known to many of City's travelling fans, put a small advert in the Tottenham v City programme asking any Coventry supporters living in London or the South East to contact him with a view to forming a club. At the first meeting, held at a West End pub, there were eleven of us and three of the founders, myself, Neil Hadden and Rod Dean were there on Thursday to celebrate 40 years. Former player Chris Cattlin was the guest of honour at the dinner and have an excellent speech on an emotional night of memories.

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