Sunday, 11 March 2018

Jim's column 10.3.2018

It was a major disappointment last Saturday with the postponement of the Sky Blues home game with Lincoln causing Legends Day to be called off. Many former players were already in the city or well on their way when the game was called off at 10 am. Thankfully Legends Day has be re-arranged for Saturday 5th May, at the home game versus Morecambe, a game which may have a lot at stake for City.

Postponements had become relatively a thing of the past since the club moved to the Ricoh Arena in 2005 and the Lincoln game was the first postponement there since then (although a game v Walsall at Sixfields in 2014 was called off). The last City home game postponed was in 2002 when two home games in the space of five days at Highfield Road were called off. On New Years Day the home game with Rotherham fell foul to an icebound pitch, and the pitch was not fit for play four days later for the FA Cup third round tie with Tottenham. The re-arranged cup-tie went ahead on the 16th January with Spurs winning 2-0 in front of almost 21,000.

Older fans will remember the bad winter of 1976-77 when the Highfield Road pitch suffered serious drainage problems and the team had to play eight consecutive away games between 22 January and 2 April. That season was the worst season in the club's history for postponed games with five call-offs with the Bristol City game postponed twice, on 1st January and 1st March. That season even eclipsed 1947 & 1963, the UK's worst winters of the twentieth century, for home games called off. In 1947 City had three home games called off & because of government restrictions on midweek games they didn't complete their fixtures until the last week in May and the First Division title wasn't decided until June.
                                                 A snowbound Highfield Road in the 1950s
In 1963 football was decimated again by snow and ice and City didn't play a game for two months but although there were 21 postponed away games (including a British record 16 FA Cup ties at Lincoln) there were only two home games called off. That FA Cup game at Lincoln was due to be played on Saturday 5th January but the snow and ice gripped the whole country that week and only three of the 32 ties were played (at Plymouth, Preston & Tranmere). A further twelve ties managed to be completed by the end of January but with no real thaw emerging until the end of February, March commenced with nine of the 32 ties still to be played. The first week of March saw the outstanding games played with City winning 5-1 at Lincoln on Wednesday 6th March (60 days after the original date). Before the kick-off both teams knew their prospective opponents in Round 4 (Portsmouth or Scunthorpe) and Round 5 (Sunderland were already through). The last of the 32 third round ties took place at Bradford City the following evening with Newcastle winning 6-1.

If that delay wasn't bad enough the Sky Blues took three games to dispose of Portsmouth in round 4, needing a second replay victory at White Hart Lane to progress to a bumper home tie with Sunderland in round 5. City's famous victory over the Division Two leaders earned a sixth round tie with Manchester United and the glorious run came to an end with a 3-1 defeat. In 24 days City had played six FA Cup ties!

The weather and subsequent postponements as well as the protracted FA Cup run hit City's Third Division promotion challenge that winter. When the heavy snow first fell on the last Saturday of 1962 Jimmy Hill's team were in fourth place, four points behind leaders Peterborough but with two games in hand. When the Cup run finally ended with the defeat to Manchester United on the last Saturday in March the club were left with nine league games in April and a further seven in May. Despite being still fourth and only five points behind the leaders they failed to take advantage of their four games in hand and won only five of the 16 games to end up fourth, five points behind the promoted clubs, Northampton and Swindon.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Ron Dickinson tribute

It was sad to hear from Ray Dickinson of the death of his brother and former City player Ron Dickinson at the age of 87. Ron was a Cov kid who attended Bablake School before training to be an accountant. Whilst doing his National Service at RAF Oswestry he was spotted by Shrewsbury Town and played 12 games for them in the 1953-54 season. He signed for City in the summer of 1954 on a part-time basis so that he could continue his accounting career and worked for Fox & Co in Walsgrave Road. Ron played for the 'A' team and few games for the reserves but couldn't break into the first team and left the club the following year. He subsequently played in a successful Bedworth Town side for six years and the picture shows him in a Bedworth team picture alongside a number of ex-City men. Ron, a widower, worked for city fuel company Morris James in Quinton Road and lived in Finham for 55 years.

Team picture of Bedworth Town in 1955-56

Back row (left to right): Geoff Palmer, Dick Mason (player-manager), Ron Floyd, Ron Dickinson, Gerry Belcher, Stan Smith, Bob Ward (trainer).
Front row: Roy Dayers, Peter Spacey, Eddie Fowkes, Norman Smith, Herbert Morrow.
The mascot is Peter Spacey, junior.)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Jim's column 24.2.2018

The FA Cup run came to an end at Brighton's Amex stadium on Saturday but the Sky Blues' young team did the club proud against their Premiership opponents which included the impressive £14m record signing Jurgen Locadia.

The Amex attendance was reported as 26,966 which I think was quite impressive for a stadium that only holds 30,750 and the modern trend for attendances to be poor when Premiership sides entertain lower division teams.

City's following was reported as 4,529 but I believe there may have been a couple of hundred in the Brighton areas and not included in that figure. The Sky Blue Army's numbers were restricted by the allocation from Brighton and without a cap I think we would have topped the 7,873 that travelled to Milton Keynes for round four.

Since away fan numbers have been officially reported around 11 or 12 years ago, these are the top City away followings (Wembley apart):

11,423 v Man United (League Cup) 2007-08
7,956 v Arsenal (League Cup) 2012-13
7,873 v MK Dons (FA Cup) 2017-18
6,781 v MK Dons 2013-14
5,604 v Birmingham (FA Cup) 2010-11
5,186 v Arsenal (FA Cup) 2013-14
5,021 v Tottenham (FA Cup) 2012-13
4,988 v MK Dons 2012-13
4,846 v Blackburn (FA Cup) 2008-09
4,529 v Brighton (FA Cup) 2017-18

You have to admit they are impressive followings for a lower division club.

Talking about attendances I have to comment on the Accrington crowd figure two weeks ago. The club reported the 'official' attendance as 28,343 but most regulars realised there were nowhere near that number actually in the ground. Most estimates put the actual crowd at more like 21,000. The reason for the higher number being reported is that all EFL clubs (and Premiership clubs) have to include every season ticket holder whether in attendance or not and every ticket issued. The club gave away around 14,000 tickets to local schools for the game and all of these were included in the 'official' attendance when my view is that only about 50% of them were taken up.

In days gone by the official attendance was the number counted at the turnstiles, plus an allowance based on dividing season ticket numbers sold by the number of matches that season, but not (I believe) "complimentaries".  That was because the Football League were entitled to a share of the gate receipts, and therefore were more interested in the money than the number of spectators. In my opinion the league rules are crazy, especially when it comes to historic record-keeping, but the league have a poor record when it comes to recognising history.

Talking to other club historians I discovered that many Premiership clubs have virtually identical attendances for every home game despite there being numbers of empty seats and that the Manchester police reckon that Old Trafford attendances are sometimes 10,000 less than the 'official' attendance reported.

The 28,343 reported gate does set a new record for Tier 4 since the league's reorganisation in 1992 but it's lower than the highest since the 1958 reorganisation (when Division Four was formed) – that record is 37,774 for Crystal Palace v Millwall in 1961. The gate was also lower than City's tier 4 record, 28,429, set in 1958-59 for the Division Four promotion six-pointer with Port Vale.

Next Saturday's Legends Day is promising to be the biggest in terms of former players attending with 53 Fps confirmed as I write this. Several are attending for the first time including Micky Adams, Jim Blyth, Nick Pickering and Andy Marshall, and Mo Konjic is attending for the first time in many years. Seven decades of City players will be represented on a day that is dedicated to Cyrille Regis. Cyrille's widow Julia and a good number of his relatives are also attending as well as several football personalities keen to pay their respects to the big man. To see a full list of former players attending go to

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Ken McPherson 1927-2018

It is sad for me to report the passing of former Coventry City player Ken McPherson. Ken, who was 90 years old, was the second oldest former Coventry City player and one of the last links with the 1950s. A big, strong centre-forward in the traditional English mould, Ken made 90 appearances for the club between 1955-58, scoring 40 goals.

Born in West Hartlepool in the North East, Ken played his early football for Horden Colliery Welfare and Siemens FC and did his National Service as a paratrooper. After a brief spell with his local team Hartlepool United as an amateur he signed for Notts County in the summer of 1950 and became the understudy to the legendary Tommy Lawton at Meadow Lane. He made his debut for the Magpies alongside Lawton at Bury in a Second Division game in September 1950 and played a further four games that season. Two games followed in 1951-52 but in December 1952 he was called up to play against Blackburn and netted four goals in a 5-0 win alongside a young Ron Wylie, later to be assistant manager at Coventry. Suddenly Ken was first choice and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands , netting 14 goals in 23 games.

His goals earned him a £15,000 move (big money in those days) to First Division Middlesbrough. Things didn’t work well at Boro and the team were relegated in his first season. In December 1955 after 33 games and 15 goals in 2 ½ seasons Boro agreed to let him leave. He had been vying with a young Brian Clough for the number nine shirt when City came in for him and relished the move to the Midlands.

In the 1955-56 season City, then playing in Third Division South, were managed by Jesse Carver who was something of a football purist and liked his teams to play football on the ground. His philosophy worked at home, the team were unbeaten in 11 league games, but on the road the team couldn't pick up a victory. Carver was finally persuaded to sign a big, bustling centre-forward in the shape of McPherson. Ken went straight into the side and scored on his debut, a 3-0 home win over Newport. His arrival sparked a run of five straight wins, two of them away, and pushed City into the top five. Carver however resigned after Christmas to return to Italy and City's form stuttered. Ken netted 13 goals in 25 games as City finished eighth, a long way from promotion.

With new boss Harry Warren in charge Ken was top scorer in 1956-57 with 23 goals in a poor City team but the following season the goals dried up and he lost his place to Ray Straw. In the summer of 1958 he moved to Third Division Newport County after 40 goals in 90 games for the Bantams and soon rediscovered his goal touch. This was the most settled spell in Ken's career with 57 goals in 142 games for the South Wales club including a couple of goals against City.

Ken spent the summer of 1961 playing for the New York Hakoah-Americans before joining Swindon at the start of the 1961-62 season. At Swindon he successfully converted to play at centre-half and in 1962-63 he was in the Swindon side that won promotion to Division Two alongside future City player Ernie Hunt. The following season he was voted Swindon's first Player of the Season. He hung his boots up in 1965 and went to work at Morris Engines in Coventry before moving to Nottingham where he was a hospital porter before retiring.

The team picture was taken before the opening game of the 1956-57 season v Exeter.

Back row (L to R): Frank Austin, Jim Regan, Reg Matthews, Roy Kirk, Noel Simpson, George Curtis.
Front row (L to R): Eric Johnson, Dennis Churms, Ken McPherson, Peter Hill, Ray Sambrook.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Jim's column 10.2.2018

I'm back from my sickbed this week and looking forward to two memorable Saturdays. Today the Sky Blues entertain Accrington Stanley and a bumper crowd is expected for Community Day. Then, next Saturday, the team travel to Premiership Brighton for an FA Cup Fifth round tie with another large following hoping to see City reach the sixth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2009.

Today's attendance is almost certainly going to be over 25,000 and although many schoolchildren are on free tickets, the gate will be a record for a League Two game since the league reorganisation in 2004. The existing record was set by Portsmouth two years ago when 18,746 watched their home game against Northampton. One record that won't be broken today however is the highest attendance for a game in tier 4 of the league. That was set in 1961 by Crystal Palace when 37,774 watched the Glaziers (as Palace were known then) play Millwall on the way to winning promotion. That excludes any play off finals at neutral Wembley or Cardiff. City's highest in their one season in Division 4 (1958-59) was 28,429 for the vital promotion game against Port Vale when a Ray Straw goal earned City the points.

The tie with Brighton is the fourth time City have been drawn against the Seagulls in the competition and each time they have been the away club. The teams first met in 1911 when City, fielding seven of their previous season's giant-killing team, got a 0-0 draw with their fellow Southern League opponents at the Goldstone Ground, and won the replay 2-0. The next meeting, in 1953, saw Brighton reverse the tables with a 5-1 thrashing by the sea in the First Round. The last game was in 2006 when a Gary McSheffrey goal was enough to win a Third Round tie at the Withdean Stadium.

Graham Paine has been in touch regarding Michael Doyle's total appearances for the club and believes he is now in the top twelve appearance-makers for the club. Graham is correct, this season Micky has overtaken Willie Carr, Marcus Hall, Peter Hill, Ronnie Farmer and Frank Austin in the all-time list and now stands twelfth.

  1. Steve Ogrizovic 601
  2. George Curtis 543
  3. Mick Coop 499
  4. Brian Borrows 488
  5. Bill Glazier 402
  6. Mick Kearns 385
  7. Richard Shaw 362
  8. George Mason 359
  9. Tommy Hutchison 355
  10. Roy Kirk 349
  11. Trevor Peake 334
  12. Michael Doyle 332

Doyle, with 35 appearances already this season, is only two behind 1987 FA Cup hero Trevor Peake, and assuming he plays today and on Tuesday night will draw level with Peaky at Colchester. If he stays fit he could reach Roy Kirk's total of 349 by the end of the season.
Finally, the Sky Blues go into today's game on the back of seven consecutive home wins. An eighth win today would be the best since they won the same number in 1954.

12 April QPR (h) 3-1
20 April Southampton (h) 2-1
24 April Bristol City (h) 3-0
26 April Norwich City (h) 1-0

21 Aug ust Bournemouth (h) 1-0
23 August Reading (h) 2-1
4 September Brighton (h) 2-1
6 September Gillingham (h) 4-1

On 18 September 1954 Bristol City ended the run with a 3-1 win at Highfield Road in front of a 29,000 crowd.

City did win nine league games in a row in 1959-60 season but that run was punctuated by a cup draw with Southampton. Included in that run was a 2-1 victory over today's visitors Accrington, on their last visit to the city.

Several people have asked me how they can make a donation to remember Cyrille Regis. His favourite charity was Wateraid and donations can be made at:

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Jim's column 27.1.2018

The Swindon Town bogey has officially been put to rest after last Saturday's 3-1 victory for the Sky Blues secured City's second double of the season. It was City's first home win over the Robins since October 1964 when Jimmy Hill's team won 3-2 at Highfield Road. Since then City had been unable to win in seven home games, one in the League Cup (1968), one in the Premiership (1994), both of these draws at Highfield Road, and five games in League One (four defeats, one draw).City's record at the County Ground has been little better until the victory there this season – the first in the league since 1960.

That last home victory in 1964 was an interesting game. City, newly promoted from Division Three, had started the season in scintillating form, winning their first five games to head the table. Then the wheels fell off and they went seven games without a win. The Swindon victory was a very nervous one and ended the dreadful run. Swindon had a young, exciting team which included Mike Summerbee and Don Rogers as well as future City star, Ernie Hunt. Ernie Machin gave City an early lead but Ken Skeen equalised. George Hudson made it 2-1 but Hunt levelled from the penalty spot before half-time. City's winner came ten minutes from time from Ken Hale and the game was watched by 25,253. Swindon were relegated that season and it would be thirty years before the clubs met again in league action.
                                                                         Ken Hale 

Saturday's victory made it six home wins in a row (five in the league plus one FA Cup). That is the best home run in league and cup games since 1987 when the team won six in a row in the run up to the FA Cup final

Feb 14 Chelsea won 3-0
Feb 28 Charlton won 2-1
Mar 7 Sheffield W won 1-0
Mar 20 Oxford won 3-0
Apr 20 QPR won 4-1
May 2 Liverpool won 1-0

The run was ended by Manchester United who held City to a 1-1 draw on May 6th.

City did win six league games in a row in early 2006, inspired by the signing of Dennis Wise, but a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup with Middlesbrough spoiled the run. The club record for consecutive home wins is 12 set in 1952-53 season (11 league and 1 Cup).

Nigel Spence asked me a question a few weeks ago. He wanted to know which City goalkeeper has saved the most penalties. I have records of most missed penalties since World War Two and I believe the top three 'savers' are:

Steve Ogrizovic 12
Bill Glazier 10
Joe Murphy 9

Joe holds the record for the most saves in a season – 5 in 2013-14 and his record achieved in just three seasons is impressive. Since Joe left Coventry four years ago only two penalties have been saved (excluding penalty shoot-outs), both by Lee Burge last season.

Ian Crawley was a local football legend and the son of former Coventry City player Tom Crawley. In 1983 he scored the winner for VS Rugby in the FA Vase final at Wembley and followed up this achievement when hitting the net six years later when Telford beat Macclesfield Town in the FA Trophy final.

In 2006 Ian was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and shortly after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He cruelly lost his life on 8th July 2008.

On May 19th 2018 his family and friends will be celebrating Ian’s life and raising funds for the MND Association with the Crawl Ball 10th Anniversary at the Britannia Hotel Coventry with tickets at £35. Throughout the night there will be a number of fundraising activities such as raffles and auctions to support the vital work of MND Association. For tickets contact his daughter Sophie Crawley on email

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A tribute to Cyrille Regis

Cyrille Regis
9.2.1958 – 15.1.2018

If George Curtis was the Sky Blue player of the 60s and Tommy Hutchison the player of the 70s, then Cyrille Regis was a strong contender for the City player of the 1980s. Cyrille was a talismatic centre-forward who was adored by Coventry City fans of all ages during his seven years at Highfield Road and was a key player in the Sky Blues' 1987 FA Cup triumph. His death this week at just three weeks short of his 60th birthday has shocked the football world but especially the fans of his two favourite clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City.

Strong, quick and direct, Cyrille had an excellent first touch and a habit of scoring spectacular goals, powerfully running at defences before unleashing thunderous shots from either foot. He had a strong aerial presence too and many of his goals were headers. He was a true centre-forward who led the line with passion and bravery prepared to take a battering from a tough defender as well as the vile racial abuse from the terraces.

Born in Maripasoula in French Guiana, Cyrille's family moved to the UK in the early 1960s and he grew up in West London, not far from Wembley Stadium. West Brom spotted him playing for non-league Hayes and at the age of 19 he moved to the Hawthorns for a £5,000 fee. He made an instant impact, scoring twice on his debut in a League Cup tie with Rotherham and four days later, like something out of Roy of the Rovers, he scored against Middlesbrough on his league debut. Within a short space of time he become a fixture in an Albion side that included two other outstanding young black players, Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Batson.

Eighteen goals that season and the same number the following season when, with Ron Atkinson in charge, the Baggies finished third in Division One saw Cyrille gain international recognition. In his seven years at the Hawthorns he built a formidable reputation as a goalscorer winning four England caps and narrowly missed going to the 1982 World Cup finals. The Sky Blues crossed paths with Big C several times in that period and two games are not fondly remembered by City fans. In October 1978 Atkinson's rampaging Albion side took a more than useful City team apart at the Hawthorns, winning 7-1 with Cyrille scoring twice. Then, in 1982, Dave Sexton's young City side travelled to the Hawthorns for an FA Cup sixth round tie and Cyrille scored the first goal - one of his screamers – in the 2-0 win. That year he was voted second in the PFA Player of the Year award behind Kevin Keegan. His haul of five England caps was poor reward for years of brilliance and he would have won more but for the outstanding form of Trevor Francis and Paul Mariner and later Gary Lineker, and if he had played for more fashionable clubs.

Cyrille admitted in his autobiography that the years 1983-86 were spent in the wilderness. He lost form in a struggling Albion side, had off the pitch problems and his career had stalled when City manager Bobby Gould paid £250,000 for him in October 1984. His first two seasons at Coventry were disappointing as first Gould, and then Don Mackay used him as target man and his goal return was poor. He almost joined Bordeaux in 1985 and under Mackay there were stories that City were trying to unload him for £40,000. In his first season City had to win their last three games to avoid relegation and in the final game he finally came good, scoring twice (a powerful header and a scrambled effort). There were always glimpses of the old Cyrille , for example he equalled the club's individual scoring record by netting five goals in a League Cup game with Chester. After John and George took over in 1986 Sillett insisted they played to Cyrille's strengths – playing on the deck and getting him to hold the ball up and play off and around him. Immediately City looked a different proposition, the successful partnership with Dave Bennett was formed and the club enjoyed their best season for a long time. Cyrille netted 16 goals including a memorable 90th minute winner against Tottenham in a 4-3 thriller at Christmas but this was only the prelude to a memorable FA Cup run.

Cyrille described City’s 1987 FA Cup win as the greatest football day of his career and his role in that famous team was vital. He scored in the 3-0 win over Bolton in round three and then in the sixth round he set City on the way to a famous victory by scoring at the Kop end against Sheffield Wedneday at Hillsborough. Lloyd McGrath and Dave Bennett did the spade work in the centre circle and a one-two with Benno saw Cyrille take off like a greyhound with the Wednesday defence trailing in his wake. As Martin Hodge the Owls goalkeeper came out Cyrille, from the edge of the penalty area, let fly and the ball rocketed into the net.

His form that season was so good that he was recalled to the England squad and gained the last of his five full caps. Critics said he did not score enough goals but he made many for others purely with his physical presence and the fear he induced into defenders. Whilst John Sillett was in charge Cyrille was guaranteed a place and his post playing career seemed assured when John gave him and Trevor Peake coaching roles. However in 1990 when Sillett was sacked the new manager Terry Butcher wanted change. Several of the '87 boys were let go and in May 1991, to the surprise and disappointment of the fans, Cyrille was given a free transfer, a decision which turned out to be premature.

Ron Atkinson, by now in charge at Aston Villa, realised that Cyrille had more to offer and signed him. The move gave him a new lease of life and he was a first team regular. Then in May 1992 Cyrille scored a goal against City at Villa Park that, but for Notts County’s late winner, would have sent his old club down. After two years at Villa he joined Wolves on a free transfer and later played briefly for Wycombe Wanderers and Chester. He then took up a coaching role at West Brom but quickly recognised that coaching wasn't for him and moved to become a very successful player’s agent. In this role he mentored some big names in the game, passing on sensible advice to young players making their way in the game. In 2008 he was awarded the MBE for his services to the game and for his voluntary work.

The firm bonds of friendship and camaraderie between the players and management that helped carry the team to success in 1987 are as strong as ever and they met regularly. Their next get together will have a sombre atmosphere.

When the Former Players Association was formed eleven years ago Cyrille was one of the first to join, enthusiastic about meeting up with former colleagues, and he has been a great supporter attending most Legends Days. I often bumped into him in the Legends Lounge and was always struck by his warmth and kindness and his special presence. He never said a bad word about anyone and would engage positively with everyone he came into contact with. When he started talking, quietly mostly, about the game and players he was compelling and you hung on his every word. For his young clients his words and wise advice must have been invaluable and inspiring. Since becoming a born-again Christian following the tragic death of Laurie Cunningham in 1989, religion had played an important role in his life.

There were no signs of impending health problems when I last saw him in the autumn, in fact he looked fitter than most men half his age and that makes the news of his death all the more shocking. City fans will mourn him today but at the same time celebrate the passing of a great footballer and a great man. In Latin Regis means 'of the king' and Cyrille lived up to his surname on and off the field. To Coventry City fans he will always be a true King.

Jim Brown