Coventry City's under 18 team came a cropper in the FA Youth Cup at Manchester City last week, losing 8-2 to an expensively put together team of well-paid teenagers. Several readers wondered if it was the club's worst defeat in the competition. Since the Youth Cup was inaugurated in 1955 City's youth team have a fairly good record, winning the trophy once (in 1987) & being runners up on four occasions (1968, 1970, 1999 & 2000). The club's record prior to 1968, when the fruits of Jimmy Hill's emphasis on developing young talent started to emerge, was very patchy. Before this the club regularly had one or two outstanding youngsters but found it hard to put out consistent winning teams.
The worst defeat in the competition occurred just a few weeks before JH took over in November 1961. Aston Villa's juniors came to Highfield Road & inflicted a 9-1 defeat on Billy Frith's youngsters. Ralph Brown, a young Villa forward, netted seven of the goals with Fencott & a young George Graham scoring the others & Alan Cowin netting the consolation for City. City's team included just two youngsters who would break through to the first team – within a year left winger Ronnie Rees was a first team regular & a year later Bobby Gould was given his first team chance. Villa fielded five players with First Division experience & a further three also later made the first team.
By 1968 the conveyor belt of talent was beginning to churn out some excellent players & Jeff Blockley, Trevor Gould, Graham Paddon & Willie Carr were all in the class of '68. Carr's omission from the final – he was required for the first team's relegation battle – probably cost the club victory in the two-legged tie against Burnley.1968 Youth team
City have also lost 6-1 on two occasions in the competition, in 1979 to Everton and in 1990 to Manchester City, both at home. The Everton result, in a quarter-final tie, was a surprise. City had a strong side with 10 players who would go on to represent the club at first team level & two, Danny Thomas & Mark Hateley, who would win full caps for England. City had scored 27 goals to reach the last eight with Tom English, Steve Whitton & Clive Haywood scoring for fun but came up against a very good Everton side including Kevin Ratcliffe & Steve McMahon. The match report says that Ratcliffe scored the sixth goal with a sol run from his own penalty area.
In 1990 the Manchester City side that hit six at Highfield Road included several Mike Sheron & Michael Hughes, the latter whom played briefly for the Sky Blues in the Dowie era.
City's biggest victory in the competion came in 1957 when they defeated the then non-league Peterborough United 8-1. The goalscorers were Brian Hill (2), Mick Walters (2), Shropsall (2), England & Charley. Hill & Walters went on to play for the first team & the side also included a young Arthur Cox who had to retire from playing soon afterwards & was later manager of Derby County.
A senior member of the City staff told me after the game at the mini Etihad stadium that the City lads froze on the night but that the game was part of the journey in football that can be brutal at times.
Keith Ballantyne wrote in after my recent tributes to the late Peter Hill & Ken Hale. He wrote:
I was too young to see Peter Hill play but I will always remember him dashing onto the pitch in a sky blue tracksuit with his bucket and sponge whenever someone was crocked. As for Ken Hale, my enduring memory of him was getting off the No.7 bus at Gosford Green with my Dad & I on a match day wearing a check sports jacket. I also remember his consolation goal in the 1-2 Cup defeat against Bristol Rovers, my second ever game at Highfield Road, my first having been the 3-0 win against Wrexham some weeks earlier.
Keith also wanted to know how many top flight clubs had been knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league sides since Sutton dumped City out in 1989. I'm pretty sure there has just been one, in 2013, when Luton Town pulled off a great victory at Norwich City's Carrow Road.
Tom Dentith, former chairman of the Coventry City Diamond Club, was saddened to read of the passing of Peter Hill. He wrote:
Your piece on Peter took me right back to the time I first became a City supporter and I remember him vividly. When the players returned to their football clubs after the war they were all experienced players in their twenties and thirties. It was quite a shock to see a player only seventeen years of age looking so young playing in the same team as much older men, Peter was the first teenager I saw play for the City, other young players ,as you mentioned, soon followed from the Modern Machine Tool's Company junior teams. Many thought at the time football was a man's game until we saw the first teenager, Peter Hill, turn out in his blue and white CCFC shirt.