With the Sky Blues not playing last weekend I was able to ponder the recent run of form. They managed to end the dreadful run of losses in league games with draws against Peterborough and Bolton, in fact City should have won both games. The defeat at Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day was therefore the end of the run of seven straight defeats, equalling the worst run by a City team since 1924, and two short of the worst run since they joined the Football League in 1919.
City have still failed to win in nine league games – the longest run since 2012 when Andy Thorn's relegated side failed to win any of their last six games in the Championship and then went eight games into 2012-13 without registering a league victory (under Thorn, caretakers Lee Carsley and Richard Shaw and Mark Robins). Let's hope that's not an omen and Russell Slade can end the run quickly and pull the club away from the relegation zone.
The form shown in the last two league games and the FL Trophy victory over Brighton on Tuesday evening has cheered some City fans up and with more signings expected in the January window I expect the side to have a stronger look for the last three months of the campaign. Against Bolton Slade introduced three new players, all of whom made an instant impact, and the number of players to represent the club since they joined the League in 1919 edged towards the 1000 mark. No-nonsense defender Nathan Clarke (the 966th to wear the shirt), midfield loanee Callum Reilly (967) and all-action striker Stuart Beavon (968) all played their part in a much-improved display. Beavon became the 106th player to make his debut in the 4 ½ years since we were relegated from the Championship in 2012. By comparison, Jimmy Hill in his six years as the club's manager only gave 40 players their debuts. Back then new signings were rare and a number of the players he inherited in 1961 were still at the club when they reached the First Division six years later including George Curtis, Mick Kearns, Ronnie Farmer & Brian Hill.
The rate of new players has accelerated in recent years, for example Steve Jacobs was the 500th player in May 1980 (the club's 55th season in the league) and now 37 years later we are approaching the 1000 mark. Last season we gave 24 players their first game, one less than the 2014-15 when a record 25 got their debuts. This season there have been 15 so far – maybe the inability for clubs to take loans outside of the transfer windows has had an effect – but I expect there to be several more.
Stuart Beavon comes from a footballing family and it makes me feel very old to say I remember watching his father and grandfather play. Cyril Beavon, his grandfather, was a no-nonsense full-back in the Oxford United team admitted to the Football League in 1962 after the demise of Accrington Stanley. He was a regular in their side in the 1960s that included Ron Atkinson and his brother Graham, who sadly passed away recently. Cyril's son Stuart senior was in the Reading side that knocked City out of the Simod (Full Members) Cup at the semi-final stage in 1988. In a game which had a delayed start because of traffic congestion, City and Reading drew 1-1 after extra time and Reading won the penalty shoot-out to book a Wembley final place. They met Luton in the final and won 4-1 becoming the only side outside the top flight to win the trophy and Stuart scored one of the goals from the penalty spot.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the days when football was played on Christmas Day, usually with the return of a double header on Boxing Day. City had numerous long trips to make on Christmas night to fulfil a return game the following afternoon but Rod Dean reminded of the two worst Christmas double headers from a travel point of view. On Christmas Day 1929 City entertained Plymouth Argyle, the previously unbeaten league leaders of Division Three South, and won 1-0 in front of over 26,000, more than double the crowd that had watched them play Luton at home four days earlier. Somehow the two teams got to Plymouth, 207 miles away, in order to play the return twenty-four hours later (probably by train in the days when BR ran a Christmas Day service). Argyle won 3-0 in front of over 27,000. Rod also mentioned the Christmas of 1958 when the fixture compiler (pre-computer days) matched City v Torquay, a round trip for both teams of 370 miles. The clubs met at Highfield Road on Boxing Day morning with City retaining top spot in Division Four with a 3-0 win in front of over 27,000. Twenty-four hours later the teams clashed again at Plainmoor with honours even in a 1-1 draw. There was very little time for footballers to have a Christmas with their families back then and I wonder what the modern managers and players would have to say about two games in two days with or without a long journey!