This week marks the 50th anniversary of a significant time in Coventry City's history. In the first week in December 1966 the Sky Blues, who had had an up and down autumn, showed their promotion credentials by beating the Second Division's leading clubs twice in six days. On this day City travelled to Molineux and on a snow-bound pitch pulled off an unlikely 3-1 victory to knock the Wolves off the top. Then on the following Friday evening Ipswich Town, the new leaders, came to Highfield Road and were spanked 5-0. Those two results catapulted Jimmy Hill's team into the promotion race following a mediocre run of four defeats in eight games and an embarrassing League Cup exit to Third Division Brighton.
The key to the results was undoubtedly the recall to the side of summer record signing Ian Gibson. The diminutive Scot had fallen out with Jimmy Hill two months earlier and requested a move. The request had never been granted but he had been close to joining Newcastle before injuries forced Hill to recall the inside-forward on the last Saturday in November and he had turned in a master class in a 3-2 win over Cardiff.
Seven days later the Sky Blues gave one of the best performances of the Hill era against Wolves who were unbeaten at home since the opening day. Gibson scored after seven minutes, nipping in when Fred Davies failed to hold a fierce Ron Rees shot. From that point until half-time Wolves penned City back and with Ernie Hunt pulling their strings in midfield an equaliser looked on the cards. Somehow City survived until the break but five minutes into the second half Wolves drew level when Dave Burnside headed in.
Many thought this would be the end of the Sky Blues but heroic defensive work and numerous brilliant saves by Glazier with a touch of luck enabled City to come through 25 minutes of extreme pressure and then snatch another goal. Kearns' long cross-field clearance found John Key who advanced before unleashing a strong shot that Davies might have stopped. Eight minutes from time City counter attacked again and Rees, dangerous every time he got the ball, made it 3-1 with a low cross-shot. Minutes later the Welsh winger almost made it four when he hit the cross-bar but that would have been a bit too much.
Six days later on a wet Friday evening Ipswich were put to the sword with a exciting attacking display described by Nemo as: ‘probably their best performance in the Second Division and on a par for skill and excitement with the great victory over Sunderland in 1963.’
Gibson was the architect and despite a first-half hat-trick from Bobby Gould, his first in senior football, the best goal of the night was the fifth, from the cheeky Gibson who chipped the ball over seven defenders to find the top of the net and guarantee himself enduring cult status with City fans.
Bobby Gould completes his hat-trick
After the weekend’s games City, suddenly, were not in the chasing pack but in the leading pack in a very bunched top half of Division Two:
1. Wolves 20 26
2. Ipswich 21 26
3. SKY BLUES 20 25
4. Carlisle 21 25
- Hull City 21 23
- Huddersfield 20 23
- Crystal P 20 23
- Blackburn 20 23
- Millwall 20 23
The Sky Blues didn't hit the top spot until the first Saturday in 1967 following a 1-1 draw at St Andrews and stayed there until the end of March when Wolves sneaked ahead of them. By then the two Midland giants were odds-on favourites to win the two promotion places and it became a two-horse race for the title won, of course by City.