Sunday, 11 December 2016

Jim's column 10.12.2016

Coventry City's miserable season hit another low on Sunday as they capitulated to League Two Cambridge United in their FA Cup clash. For the third season running the Sky Blues have been knocked out of the competition by a club from a lower status; Cambridge following Worcester City and Northampton Town as David's to City's Goliath. Few City fans travelled with confidence but the size of the defeat, 4-0, was a shock, being the club's heaviest loss to a lower status club since they first entered the Cup in 1895. Before Sunday City had lost only once by more than two goals to a lesser club – in 1922 as a Division 2 side they were defeated 3-0 at New Brighton from the Lancashire Combination in the equivalent of the First Round.

Another record set on Sunday was the four goals by Cambridge's Luke Berry – the first man to score four against the club in an FA Cup game. Berry has never been a prolific scorer – in 2014-15 he made 31 appearances for Barnsley and scored once – but it was a day to remember for him on Sunday. Berry is only the fourth opposition player to score four in a game since the war, the others being:-

1946-47 Jackie Gibbons (Bradford P.A. A) City lost 1-5
1983-84 Ian Rush (Liverpool A) City lost 0-5
2000-01 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Chelsea A) City lost 1-6

Since JFH's four goals sixteen years ago, City have only had seven hat-tricks scored against them, and two of them came on successive Saturdays in 2013 when Nahki Wells (Bradford City) and Ryan Lowe (Tranmere) netted three each. The last FA Cup hat-trick by an opponent was by Colchester's Rowan Vine in 2004 in a 3-1 replay defeat at Layer Road.

I always rely on fellow City historian Geoff Moore when it comes to City's youngest and oldest teams and he has been in touch recently. City's youngest ever starting line up was at Manchester City in November 1980 when Gordon Milne put out a side with an average age of 21 years and 58 days.

That team was: Les Sealey (23), Steve Jacobs (19), Brian Roberts (25), Andy Blair (20), Paul Dyson (20), Gary Gillespie (20), Peter Bodak (19), Garry Thompson (21), Mark Hateley (19), Danny Thomas (19), Steve Hunt (24). Nine homegrown players plus Gillespie who was signed as a 17-year old.

Geoff informs me that the youngest starting team this season was Scunthorpe (h) with an average age of 22 years 59 days but for the FLT game at Wycombe last month the average was 21 years 120 days. That line up was:

Charles-Cook (22), Dion Kelly-Evans (20), Sterry (21), Finch (20), Turnbull (22), Harries (19), Lameiras (21), Rose (26), Maycock (18),Thomas (19), McBean (21).

At half-time Haynes (21), Jones (19) and Bigirimana (23) were introduced for Sterry, Rose and Lameiras, bringing the average age down to 20 years 274 days, the youngest Coventry City side on the pitch for a competitive game.

Robert Yates enjoyed my piece last week on the two memorable games 50 years ago. He wrote:

'I remember that season well, going to all the home games and selected away games, I was 18 that year, and not having my own car yet, took the trip to the Wolves game on the Red House coach, probably costing about 7/6d. I was on the South Bank at Molineux, rather conspicuous in my blue mac and sky blue 6 foot college scarf, but it was an incredible game, and with your details from the game, it could have happened yesterday, but I remember Gibson's goal at our end and as you say, a lot of Wolves pressure after that.

After Wolves had equalized, and were pressing hard, there was an amazing miss by Ernie Hunt, but some local guys behind me said, "Eh, you don't support this lot , do you mate?" after that City scored two more goals and I looked around and my local commentators had disappeared!

The Ipswich game was also incredible on the Friday night as they were top of the league at the time, and I remember the headlines in the Coventry Telegraph the next day; "Sky Blues G-men (Gould and Gibson) Grill the Leaders". John Key scored in both games and was a very under-rated player on the right wing.

Amazing, that then you had to catch up with the stories mainly in the 'Pink' and other papers, there was no local radio phone ins!'

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