Sunday, 23 April 2017

Jim's column 22.04.2017

It's now official, Coventry City are relegated to League Two (tier 4). Good Friday's 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic meant that the Sky Blues were unable to catch the sides immediately above the four relegation places. The draw finally put City fans out of their misery – most of them have known for weeks that relegation was inevitable, probably before Mark Robins arrived to offer a small glimmer of hope. At least he got the team winning a few home games and showing a bit of passion. I think most fans realised that Robins was brought in to start the planning for next season and over the few weeks he has seen performances over a wide range of the spectrum – from gritty wins over Port Vale and Bristol Rovers to capitulations at Rochdale – to be clear where the problems lie.

So, next season the Sky Blues will play in the fourth tier of English football for the first time since 1959. That was the first season of that division and City were there through a reorganisation of the league and not as many believe through relegation. Up until 1958 the Third Division consisted of two regional leagues (North and South) and when the 92 clubs voted to reorganise these divisions into a Third and Fourth league, it was decided that the top half of the Third North and the Third South would comprise the new Third Division and the bottom half of the two old leagues would make up the new Fourth Division. City, by virtue of finishing 19th in Division Three South were put in the new Fourth Division. Strictly speaking therefore, City have never been relegated to tier 4 before!

In 1958-59 City, under the management of Billy Frith, had a poor start with only one point from their first three games leaving them in 23rd place. A run of 15 games with only two defeats saw City surge into the promotion race and in early December they hit the top. A slight dip in March saw Port Vale overhaul them and win the title with over 28,000 watching the teams meeting at Highfield Road. Frith's team finished runners-up with York City and Shrewsbury also promoted. The success was based on an excellent home record with 18 victories and just one defeat, and the best defence in the division with only 47 goals conceded against 84 scored.

Fans are already looking at the likely opponents next season and although Doncaster, Plymouth and Portsmouth have clinched automatic promotion, it's not clear who will be in the play-offs with eleven clubs still capable of qualifying for places 4 to 7. At the foot of League Two there is a scramble to avoid the trapdoor and any two of nine teams could lose their league status. So at this stage it's only certain that we will be visiting Chesterfield (already relegated from League One) and Notts County. However it's fairly clear that there will be first league visits for the Sky Blues to Barnet, Morecambe and probably Cheltenham and Wycombe. The whole picture will be a lot clearer after today's games but it seems that City will also be making their first league visit to Accrington since 1960 (when Stanley played at their former ground, Peel Park) and first time to Lincoln since an FA Cup game in 1963.

Easter Monday offered the Sky Blues an opportunity to end the Spotland curse but they spurned it, losing 2-0. They have never won at Rochdale in nine league and cup visits stretching back to 1920 when Dale were a non-league side and defeated Second Division City 2-1 in an FA Cup replay.

Several readers believed that City are the first team that has played in the Premier League to be relegated to the fourth tier but this is untrue – Bradford City, who were relegated from the Premier League with the Sky Blues in 2001, had four seasons in League Two and Portsmouth were in the Premier league as recently as 2010. The statistic that is true is that City are the first of the original members of the Premier League to be relegated to the fourth tier. Another original member, Oldham, seem to have done enough to avoid being relegated but Swindon, Premier members in 1993-94, are looking very precarious in 22nd place.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Jim's column 15.4.2017

I am writing this before Friday's game but if City have beaten Charlton yesterday it will amazingly be the first time since 2007 that the team have won four home league games in a row. That was the first four games of the Dowie era and although there have been numerous three-game runs in the intervening period the team have never won four. Back in October/November under Mark Venus the team won three league games plus a Checkatrade trophy game in a row, and we all thought the team would pull away from the foot of the table. It wasn't to be and now relegation is virtually certain – it may have happened yesterday or on Monday at Rochdale where the Sky Blues have got such a woeful record.

Long-suffering fan Dave 'Brammy' Bramwell attended the post-match party last Saturday and asked me a question about City goalkeepers. He wanted to know which 'keeper had made the most penalty saves during a season.

I'm pretty sure the answer is Joe Murphy who saved five penalty kicks from seven in 2013-14. Messrs Berrett (Carlisle a), Mooney (Leyton O h), O'Connor (Rotherham a), Lisbie (Leyton O a) & Judge (Brentford a) all had their spot-kicks saved by the agile Irishman. Information about penalty saves is patchy before World War 2 but since then several keepers have saved three in a season including Bill Glazier, Jim Blyth & Murphy himself in 2011-12. Glazier's saves were in that exciting but nail-biting 1967-68 season & his saves were all away from home & from stars of the day Denis Law (Manchester United), Charlie Cooke (Chelsea) & Francis Lee (Man City). Lee, especially, was renowned as one of the top penalty takers of that era & Glazier's efforts were outstanding. Jim Blyth saved three penalties in 1977-78, another exciting season when the Sky Blues scored 75 goals & narrowly missed out on a European spot. Jim saved from Liverpool's Phil Neal in a 1-0 victory at Highfield Road, from Leicester's Dennis Rofe in a 2-1 win at Filbert Street but his most crucial save was in the last minute of the 5-4 victory over Norwich City when he foiled John Ryan's attempt to make it 5-5. In 2011-12 Joe saved from Messrs Hunt (Reading), Martin (Ipswich) & Danns (Leicester).
                                                                    Joe Murphy

On Twitter this week Celebcelery asked if the Sky Blues had ever gone through a whole league season without scoring more than two goals in a game. With four games remaining (before the Charlton game) the team have failed to net more than two in a game and are closing in on a record they won't be proud of. The team has scored only 34 goals in 42 games and only Oldham (29) of the 72 Football League clubs have scored less.

Coventry City's record low number of goals in a season is 35, set in 1919-20 and equalled in 1991-92, but both campaigns were 42-game seasons. The club's lowest for a 46-game season is 41 in 2011-12, the Championship relegation year.

The low total number of goals is also reflected in the club's leading league scorers. Currently three players (Tudgay, Agyei and Sordell) are heading the chart with four goals. But with Agyei and Sordell no longer at the club and Tudgay's appearances, let alone goals, becoming as rare as hen's teeth, we have to look to George Thomas (3 goals) to try and overtake them in the remaining games and avoid another pitiful record. The lowest number of goals by a Coventry leading scorer is six. That was achieved in the club's Premiership relegation season when Hadji, Hartson and Bellamy all managed six. Two seasons ago Messrs Nouble, O'Brien and Samuel each scored six to top the scoring charts.

I have to mention the immutable law of the ex, as the famous football writer Brian Glanville described it, which struck in last week's 2-0 defeat at Bramall Lane. Numerous ex-City players have scored against the Sky Blues but until the trip to Sheffield only three had managed it this season (Mark Marshall, Chris Maguire and Jacob Murphy). Then within five minutes Leon Clarke and John Fleck both netted for the Blades for a unique record – never have two ex's scored in the same game against the club.

Although John Fleck has had an outstanding season Leon has been unable to hold down a regular place and before the City game had netted only one league goal. Predictably however he came off the bench to score against City to follow up his two goals for Bury against us last season. Then on Saturday Clarke and Fleck were at it again, scoring the goals at Northampton that clinched promotion for the Blades.

It was another great Legends Day last Saturday at the Peterborough game with over 40 former players watching the Sky Blues notch their third home win in a row. The crowd, 10,441, was the second largest home crowd of this miserable season. There were several factors for the high attendance – cheap tickets, a post-Wembley euphoria and hopefully the draw of seeing our former players.

Six of the 1966-67 squad were in attendance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of winning the Second Division title – Bill Glazier, Mick Kearns, Dietmar Bruck, John Tudor, Ronnie Farmer and Dudley Roberts but Bobby Gould had to pull out at the last minute after his mother died. The CCFPA's thoughts are with Bobby, Trevor and the family.

The highlight of a great day was to receive an award recognising ten years as chairman of the Former Players Association from one of my heroes Roy Barry. To be recognised by my fellow committee members and the association's members was a very special moment for me. Thanks to everyone.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Jim's column 1.4.2017

Regular reader Keith Ballantyne wanted to know which Coventry City players had played in the World Cup Finals whilst at the club. He thought Tommy Hutchison was the first but wonders how many others there are.

Keith is correct about Hutch – he represented Scotland at the 1974 finals in West Germany and made two appearances, both from the bench, against Zaire and Yugoslavia. Four years later he wasn't included in the Scotland squad that went to Argentina, despite having an outstanding domestic season. Ian Wallace and Bobby McDonald were also surprisingly omitted but goalkeeper Jim Blyth was part of the squad but didn't appear.

Since then the following City players have made appearances whilst with the club:

1994 (USA): Phil Babb (Ireland) and Roy Wegerle (USA)
1998 (France): Viorel Moldovan (Romania)
2002 (Japan/S Korea): Gary Breen (Ireland) and Magnus Hedman (Sweden)
2006 (Germany): Stern John (Trinidad & Tobago)

In 1998 Gary McAllister would have gone to France as captain of Scotland but wasn't fit and the same year Dion Dublin who was joint winner of the Premier League's Golden Boot, was unfortunate to be left out of Glen Hoddle's final 22 having won three caps in the warm-up games.

I have recently been involved in a project run by the National Football Museum to find the Oldest living Football league players.

I received the results this week and former Coventry player Colin Collindridge has been confirmed as the sixth oldest.

Colin, who was born in Barnsley, joined Sheffield United as an 18-year old in 1939 but lost the best years of his career to World War II. After the war he was one of the top players in the league, top scoring for Sheffield United three seasons running as either a left winger or centre-forward. In 1950 he joined Nottingham Forest and helped them to the Division Three North title in his first season, playing alongside Tommy Capel. Jack Fairbrother signed him and Capel for Coventry in 1954 but the man renowned for his terrific speed and fierce shooting had lost his pace and his eye for goal. In 1956, after 35 games and three goals he moved to Bath City on a free transfer. He has lived in Nottingham for many years.

The eight oldest living Football League players are listed below. Number 8 is interesting; Dudley Kernick was manager of Nuneaton Borough at the time of their great FA Cup successes in 1967 and also was on the coaching staff at Highfield Road during the Jimmy Hill era.

1. Arthur Hoyle Smith. (Bury & Leicester 14 apps).    DoB  8.5.1915.  Age 101yrs 10 months.

2. George Haigh. (Stockport  7 apps).      DoB. 3Q 1915.  Age 101yrs 4 months approx.

3. Cyril William Bacon. (Orient. 121 apps). DoB  9.11.1919. Age 97.4. 

4. George Stewart. (Brentford, QPR, Shrews. 74 apps). DoB 18.1.1920. Age 97.2.

5. Joe Johnson (Lincoln & Workington.  52 apps) DoB 13.9.1920.  Age 96.7.

6. Colin Collindridge. (Sheff U, Forest, Coventry. 343 apps)  DoB 15.11.1920. Age 96.4.

7. Thomas Hubert Best (Chester, Cardiff, QPR). 81 apps).  DoB 23.12.1920. Age 96.3.

8. Dudley Kernick.  (Torquay 41 apps.)  DoB  29.8.1921.   Age 95.6.

To all my readers – have a great day out at Wembley tomorrow. It's been a long wait to return there and let's hope it's not another 30 years before we are back.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Jim's column 25.3.2017

A week tomorrow Coventry City are back at Wembley after a break of thirty years. As I have written previously, only City & Fulham of teams from the top three divisions have not appeared at the old or new Wembley in the intervening years. The circumstances however are very different. In 1987 City were having the club's best league season for almost ten years. Under the shrewd management of George Curtis and John Sillett they had been comfortably in the top ten all season, winning 14 out of 21 home games and since reaching Wembley by beating Leeds in the semi-final, they had lost just once in eight games. Confidence was high and although they finished tenth in the league they were only three points off sixth place.

Thirty years on it is a different story with the club in one of its worst runs ever with only two wins in 23 league games and on their fourth manager of the campaign. Relegation to the fourth tier is virtually certain and the team will struggle to reach forty points. There have been numerous nightmare games, home and away, and we can only hope that the team puts on a good performance at Wembley, win or lose. It would be a sad day if the players didn't perform on this big day for the club and the supporters who will turn the great stadium into a sea of sky blue. Have a great day City fans, you deserve it!

Arthur Warner, a regular reader from Binley wrote to me recently:

Your article about Christmas matches a few weeks ago brought back memories of the Liverpool Boxing Day match of 1967. I was there in the Sky Blue Stand at the Kop end which was the end that Gerry Baker scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw. I remember the sending off of Ian St John for the punch on Brian Lewis, a hard midfield player who gave no quarter. The that the company I worked for in the 1980's had a forum at Highfield Road, and after lunch there was a talk from Ian St John. He talked about his time with Liverpool and talked about his sending off against the City in 1967. He told us that the great Bill Shankly, the Liverpool manager at the time, told him to report the next day at the training ground. On reporting Shankly told him to strip off and proceeded to black him up in the lower regions. It appears that it was a Gascoigne/Vinny Jones moment that caused the sending off. Shankly then invited the press in to show them what Coventry had done to 'his boy'.

Relating this story to friends in the pub before the Port Vale game someone suggested that in those days you had to do something pretty bad to get sent off, normally involving punches and fighting, and players rarely got sent off for bad fouls. I thought I would do some research into City's red cards over the years.

The first conclusion is that there were far fewer dismissals in those days; the chart below analyses City's 144 red cards since they joined the league in 1919.


Before the 1960s dismissals were very rare indeed and in the six seasons that Jimmy Hill was manager (1961-67) only one player, George Hudson, got his marching orders. 'The Hud' was sent off at Huddersfield in 1965 for flooring John Coddington with a punch. I can only find one dismissal before the 1970s that was not for fighting or raising hands – Frank Kletzenbauer was sent off for two bad challenges on QPR's Clive Clark in an FA Cup match in 1960. Older fans will remember Maurice Setters and Liverpool's Alun Evans being ordered off at Highfield Road in a nail-biting 0-0 draw that kept City up in 1969.

In the 1970s retaliation became popular and Chris Cattlin, Donal Murphy and Jimmy Holmes all got sent off for that offence with the real culprits (Bobby Gould, Kenny Burns & Francis Lee) all getting off scot-free.

In the 1980s it was still more common for players to be sent off for punches or, in Steve Hunt's case, a head-butt, and Steve Jacobs, Terry Gibson (twice), Gary Bannister & David Speedie all saw red for adopting Marquis of Queensbury rules. The 1990s saw a rapid growth in red cards for the Sky Blues with the peak being hit in 1996-97 when six red cards equaled the total of the 20 mid-war years. That was topped in both 2001-02 and 2002-03 when City had seven men sent off in each season. However there has been a downturn since 2010 with only one dismissal in 2012-13 and two the following season. The type of offences has changed too – of the 54 red cards since 2002 only three players have been sent off for striking an opponent, Michael Doyle, Marlon King and Reda Johnson, and there are far more dismissals for persistent fouling, dissent and foul language.

This season City have picked up five red cards, the highest number since 2002-03, with young players bearing the brunt. It was more the exuberance of Ben Stevenson & Dion Kelly-Evans rather than malice that got them sent off in their first season, and Willis, Turnbull and Page were probably let down by their relative inexperience.

Finally, we are only two weeks away from the 10th annual Legends Day organised by the Former Players Association (CCFPA). Already more than 40 Sky Blue stars of the past are lined up to attend & it promises to be another great day on 8th April. A large contingent from Scotland will be in attendance including Tommy Hutchison, Roy Barry and Ian Wallace. The 1967 Division Two championship side, celebrating their 50th anniversary will be well represented and include Bill Glazier flying in from Spain and John Tudor coming from the USA. It's also 30 years since the FA Cup victory and the 1987 side will be well represented. The football club are still taking bookings for the day and fans interested in being in the presence of our Legends should contact Suzette or Tynan at 024 7699 2330

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Jim's column 11.3.2017

Russell Slade's brief time as Coventry City manager came to an end last Sunday after just 74 days – easily the shortest reign by a manager of the club, a record previously held by Mark Robins who stayed for 148 days in 2012-13.

Slade was in charge for 13 league games and three Cup games and his league record of just one win in 13 is the worst ever by a post-war City manager (a 7.7% win ratio). The only manager with a worse ratio is William Clayton – City's first boss when they entered the Football League in 1919. Under Clayton the side lost its first seven games at which point he was sacked. However it should be pointed out that Clayton had been the manager the previous season in the unofficial War Legaue Midland Division and it was City's performances in that 1918-19 season that were influential in the club being elected to Division Two in the summer of 1919. If that season's results were included he would have a much healthier win ratio.

The previous worst post-war manager was Don Howe who took over from the sacked Terry Butcher in January 1992. Don, whose managerial exploits never lived up to his record as Bertie Mee's number 2 at Arsenal when they won the 'double' in 1971, won only three games out of 19 as City hurtled down the league table. On the last day of the season the Sky Blues looked down and out as they trailed 2-0 at Villa Park only for already relegated Notts County to have a second half rally and condemn Luton to the drop. If Slade's cup results, two wins and a draw in the Checkatrade Trophy, are added into his record he overtakes Howe's win ratio for all games!

                                                                    Don Howe

By Monday Mark Robins was back at the club – only the fourth City manager to have two stints in the chair, the others being Harry Storer, Billy Frith and Bobby Gould. His previous stint saw him lift the Sky Blues from 23rd place in League One to 8th place when he departed five months later. Under his stewardship the team won 13 out of 25 league games and four out of eight cup games – with a win ratio of over 50% - the highest by any City manager. Only one other manager has won more than 50% of games – Jesse Carver in his short spell in the autumn of 1955 when he led the team to 14 wins in 27 games before disappearing to Italy to manage Lazio.

Robins is full-time manager number 42 in the 91 seasons since the club arrived in the league in 1919 – an average of just over two seasons per manager. The average tenure of our managers has been falling however and Robins is the 15th in the 16 seasons since we left the Premier League- an average of virtually one season per manager, and that excludes caretakers. In that time only one, Chris Coleman, has lasted more than 100 league games.

Robins is the fourth man in charge this season after Mowbray, Venus and Slade but it's not the most in one season. In 2012-13 Andy Thorn started the season as boss but was sacked after four games, Richard Shaw & Lee Carsley took over as caretakers but failed to win a league game, before Robins arrived. When Robins was lured away by Huddersfield in February Carsley was caretaker again until manager number five, Steven Pressley, arrived from Falkirk.

Apparently the record for any FL club is six different managers, set by Swansea in 1995-96 and equalled by Blackburn in 2012-13 and Colchester last season. The six Blackburn managers that season include two with Sky Blue connexions. Steve Kean, Chris Coleman's assistant, started the season in charge at Ewood Park but was sacked after eight games despite being top of the Championship and replaced by his assistant, former City manager, Eric Black. Black was temporarily in charge for six games before Henning Berg, Gary Bowyer (caretaker), Michael Appleton and Bowyer again.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Jim's column 4.3.2017

Last week I mentioned the fact that Coventry City players with the same surname, Thomas, had scored in the same game. Kwame & George Thomas netted in the Gillingham victory two weeks ago and I did some research into other similar occurrences for the club.

During the 1950s City had several players with the surname Hill. Two of them, Brian & Peter, are fairly well-known, and both passed away in recent times. However Ray Hill and Jimmy Hill (no, not the bearded wonder) played for the club in the 1950s and on more than one occasion the club fielded three Hills in a game.

There are a few instances of two Hills scoring in the same game, the last being in April 1961 at Watford in a Third Division game. City lost 7-2 at Vicarage Road and Peter and Brian netted the consolation goals. The following season in the infamous FA Cup defeat to Kings Lynn saw the last appearance together of the two men. When JH took over the following week he told Brian that he wouldn't be playing as a forward in future; Jimmy spotted the defending potential of Brian and he became a key member of the defence that took the Sky Blues all the way to Division One. Peter, on the other hand retired at the end of the 1961-62 season and became the club's trainer.

The other occurrences of two Hills scoring in the same game were:
1955-56 Norwich (h) (won 5-3) - Peter & Jimmy scored as well as Denis Uphill!
1955-56 Millwall (h) (won 5-1) – Peter & Jimmy scored.
1957-58 at Gillingham (lost 2-3) – Brian's debut as a 16-year old. Peter also scored.

The game at Gillingham in April 1958 was the only time that City fielded three Hills with Ray making up the trio.

Several readers thought that in the early 1990s two Williams might have scored in the same game. City fielded four players with the surname Williams in the decade, three of them christened Paul and the other John (the Flying Postman).

Paul A Williams was a loan player from West Brom, signed by Bobby Gould in 1992. He made one start and one sub appearance without scoring and in both games appeared alongside John.
                                                               Paul A.Williams

Paul R C Williams joined City from Stockport in 1993 and made 19 appearances, seven from the bench over two seasons. He failed to find the net.
                                                        Paul R.C.Williams

Paul D Williams joined City from Derby County in 1995 and earned the nickname 'Willo'. He made 199 appearances for the club over six seasons and scored six goals. He never appeared with any of the other Williams.
                                                         Paul D.Williams

John Williams joined City from Swansea in 1992 and played 86 games scoring 11 goals (including City's first in the Premier League) over three seasons.
                                                                  John Williams

The next question this begs is – what is the most common surname of Coventry City players? The answer is Smith – there have been 12 Smith's appear in first team games for the club since they joined the league in 1919. However no Smith has appeared since the winger David Smith (1987-93). Other popular surnames are Jones (10), Clark(e) 9 and Williams 7.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Jim's column 25.2.2017

It is sad to report the death of former Coventry City & Gillingham player Roy Proverbs who passed away on 15th February aged 84. Born in the Black Country at Wednesbury on 8th July 1932, Roy attended Wood Green Junior and Kings Hill Senior Schools in the town. He was a talented schoolboy footballer, playing for his school team and selected for the town's schools team two years running.

After leaving school he worked as a wood machinist and continued his football with St Pauls Youth Club. He did his National Service as a rifleman in the North Staffordshire Infantry Regiment spending time in Trieste in Italy and playing football for his regiment. After being demobbed he began a career in sign-writing and played football for South Staffs Territorial Battalion team. He soon attracted the attention of Birmingham & District League team Stourbridge before moving to play one season at Stratford Town in the same league. It was whilst playing for Stratford that City chief scout Harry Barratt spotted his potential & recommended that City boss George Raynor sign him.

Roy arrived at Highfield Road in May 1956, sharing digs with goalkeeper Alf Bentley. By the time the 1956-57 season started Raynor had been replaced as manager by Harry Warren who had different ideas as to how Third Division sides should play. Roy, a defensive wing-half, made his City debut in an early season 1-1 draw at Southampton but only played 11 first team games. His last appearance was just before Christmas 1956 in a 4-2 defeat at Exeter which left City in 21st position in Division Three South. Proverbs was one of several players who filled the role vacant because of injury to Lol Harvey but he failed to make a big impression with Warren and left to join Bournemouth at the end of the season.

At Dean Court Roy was unable to break into a strong Bournemouth side and in February 1958 moved on to Gillingham, managed by Harry Barratt. He was a regular for the Gills for the next four years, earning the nickname 'Chopper', and played 154 games as either a full-back or wing-half, appearing alongside other ex-City men Ronnie Waldock & Bill Patrick.

In 1962 following Barratt’s departure he joined Canterbury City and later appeared for Tunbridge Wells, Banbury Spencer and Kings Lynn. His final game for Kings Lynn was in January 1965 when in the programme the club thanked him for his 'all-out effort in every game in which he has played' and wished him success in his 'new partnership'.

At this time he moved back to the Black Country and became a full-time sign-writer, a profession he continued for over 30 years until retirement.

His son Paul, whom I'm grateful to for supplying some of the information here, tells me his father fell out of love with football after his playing career and wasn't one to talk much about his days as a footballer even to his two sons.

After football his main interests were music (he was a lifelong devotee of jazz and classical to a lesser degree), reading (novels & non-fiction) and he also became very interested in left of centre politics. He was a stubborn character who eschewed many 'creature comforts' much to the frustration of his wife. He was also quite proud of never owning a car; hence he used to walk everywhere which probably helped him maintain a good level of fitness despite being a heavy smoker.

He lived in Willenhall until he had to go into a care-home a couple of years ago suffering from dementia. Roy was a member of the Former Players Association but was never well enough to attend events. A small funeral with family and close friends is planned.
Last Saturday the Sky Blues finally got a victory, beating Gillingham 2-1 to end the disastrous league run of 15 games since the last win on 1st November. The record books will have it as the third longest league run since the club joined the Football League in 1919, with only the 19-game run in that first season and the 16-game run without a win in 2003 under Gary McAllister topping this season's woeful record.

The victory was Russell Slade's first league win as a City manager in his tenth game in charge and he equals Noel Cantwell's similar run when he arrived in the autumn of 1967.

Many fans will have noticed that City's scorers against Gillingham shared the same surname, Thomas. Kwame Thomas netted his second Sky Blue goal in his third appearance, whilst academy graduate George Thomas scored his first league goal. George made his debut as a 16-year old at Leyton Orient in 2014 and has now made 28 league appearances (14 starts & 14 as substitute) – let's hope it's the first of many.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Jim's column 18.2.2017

I recently wrote about Joe Elliott's first ever Coventry City game against Preston North End in a friendly in January 1956 & several other City fans remembered the game including Rod Dean and John Woodfield (his first ever game too). But 48 hours after Preston had ripped City's defence apart there was more controversial game at Highfield Road when San Lorenzo, four times the champions of Argentina from Buenos Aires, played another friendly. It turned out to be anything other than a friendly game.

It was the infamous Wembley World Cup quarter-final of 1966 — followed by the World Club Championship matches involving Manchester United, Celtic and Estudiantes — that established the reputation for conflict between teams from Britain and Argentina.
But there was a hint of what was to come at Highfield Road that night and shows Antonio Rattin was not the first Argentine footballer to refuse to leave the field after being sent off. That dubious honour went to José Sanfilippo, a 19-year-old forward with San Lorenzo on that cold January night.
San Lorenzo were on a tour of Europe, including matches in Spain, Britain, France and Italy. Before coming to Coventry they had played Brentford, Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Unused to the typical British pitches of that era — when most of the grass had disappeared by December — San Lorenzo blamed the pitches for four straight defeats and 21 goals conceded, nine of them at Hillsborough.
The previous Saturday 32,000 Wolves fans had watched their team beat San Lorenzo 5-1, but not before the Wolves players had to give protection to Mervyn Griffiths, the highly-regarded Welsh referee, after San Lorenzo players had threatened him when he awarded Wolves a penalty.
Another leading referee, Arthur Ellis, was appointed to take charge of the match at Coventry. He had experienced Argentine passions in 1953, when he was pelted with orange peel in Buenos Aires after he had controversially abandoned the Argentina v England international when torrential rain had turned the pitch into a quagmire.
San Lorenzo included Pizarro, Lopez and Benavidez, all Argentina internationals and City manager George Raynor named an unchanged side from the Preston game. The game was approaching half-time when the trouble started. Ken McPherson, a brawny centre forward who had scored five goals in nine games since signing six weeks earlier, had given the home side the lead after half an hour, only for Guttierez, the left winger, to equalise a minute later.
Just before half-time City's Dennis Uphill hit a post and, with the goalkeeper out of position, he was about to score when he was pushed off the ball by two San Lorenzo defenders. Ellis immediately awarded Coventry a penalty, which the whole San Lorenzo team disputed. Sanfilippo, the inside left, went further and kicked Ellis in a temperamental outburst. Ellis ordered him off and there followed five minutes of mayhem.
According to the Coventry Telegraph's reports of the evening’s events, “police were called on to the pitch to give Ellis protection and Sanfilippo was dragged from the pitch by his team’s reserve players and trainer, kicking and struggling like a wild tiger cat”. Ellis, meanwhile, had walked off the pitch and told officials of both clubs he was abandoning the game as he refused to continue under “impossible conditions”.
“The player kicked at my legs and I collared him, although all the Argentine players mingled in so that I could not get at the offender. I told him to get off but he refused to leave the field,” Ellis said.
After half an hour of appealing to Ellis to continue the game, the City chairman, Erle Shanks, told the crowd of 17,357 the game had ended as Ellis refused to continue and under FA rules a substitute referee was not allowed. The crowd, which previously had been whistling and slow hand-clapping, received the decision well and quickly dispersed from the ground.
After the game, Coventry officials and players mingled with their visitors in the boardroom and Shanks presented the chairman of San Lorenzo, Luis Traverso, with a plaque. Both clubs exchanged badges and Traverso, through an interpreter, expressed his deep regret for the incident. He said that Sanfilippo would be sent back to Argentina on the first available plane as his punishment and that the rest of the team would be severely censured.
Sanfilippo did not fly home until the team got to Paris a few days later. He went on to become a San Lorenzo legend, scoring 200 goals — a club record that stands today — and won 29 caps for Argentina, scoring 21 goals. His final international was against England in the 1962 World Cup in Chile, where he scored in the 3-1 defeat and one of his team-mates was a certain Antonio Rattin.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Jim's column 11.2.2017

Coventry City are Wembley-bound after Tuesday night's famous but nail-biting victory over Wycombe Wanderers at the Ricoh. City will face either Oxford United or Luton Town on April 2nd in the EFL Trophy final (aka Checkatrade Trophy). The match was the ultimate 'game of two halves' with the previously goal-shy Sky Blues scoring two early goals but surviving a Wycombe bombardment led by their heavyweight striker Akinfenwa after the break. The scenes at the end were memorable and the sound created by 11,000 City fans was incredible.

It has taken thirty years for City fans to get a return trip to the famous stadium, although Wembley has of course been completely rebuilt in the meantime. I thought I would do a bit of research into teams that have appeared at Wembley in the 30 years since City last appeared there. In that time the old and new stadiums have hosted FA Cup finals & semi-finals, League Cup finals, Play-off finals and Football League & FA Trophy finals. Amazingly the Sky Blues are one of only two teams in the top three divisions not to have played at either national stadium in those 30 years – the other being Fulham. There are also four current League Two clubs (Accrington, Crawley, Hartlepool & Barnet) who haven't been to either Wembley. Fulham's only ever appearance at the stadium was the FA Cup final in 1975 when they lost to West Ham but they have reached an FA Cup semi final in 2002 (played at Villa Park whilst the new Wembley was under construction) and the Europa League final in 2010.

It's back to league action today at Oldham and City, propping up the division, are now desperate for points to avoid a third relegation this century. Last Saturday's dire performance at home to Millwall increased the pressure on the Sky Blues. It was the thirteenth league game without a victory and one short of that dreadful run of 14 in 2012 that saw the club relegated from the Championship and start the following season without a win in eight. Coincidentally that run ended at Oldham with a late Cody McDonald goal. Manager Russell Slade has still to record a league victory and Saturday was his seventh without a win and only two short of the worst start for a Coventry manager set by Noel Cantwell in 1967. The glimmer of hope for Russell is that Cantwell, despite his poor start, managed to steer City out of seemingly certain relegation from Division One.

Goals have been hard to come by this season and Saturday's blank was the fourth league game running that the team have failed to score – the worst run since 2003 when they went six without a goal. For me that 2002-03 season was the worst ever. On Boxing Day Gary McAllister's side were sixth in the Championship & eyeing the play-offs. Their form fell off a cliff with only one win in 21 games but somehow they staggered to 50 points to finish 20th, four points clear of relegation. Goals were at a premium during the run – only 12 were scored in 21 – with players like Bothroyd, McSheffrey and McAllister all failing to net after Christmas. The team failed to score in the last five games and then started the next season with a 0-0 draw with Walsall.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Jim's column 4.2.2017

City suffered another bad defeat at Northampton last weekend in a game marred by several pitch invasions and flares on the pitch causing the game to be held up several times. City's chances of a result were not helped by a red card for Jordan Willis in the 19th minute – a somewhat harsh decision but one which was upheld by the FA. Jordan is the fifth City player to receive his marching orders this season, following Dion Kelly-Evans, Jordan Turnbull, Ben Stevenson & Lewis Page. In those five games City went on to win two (West Ham & Chesterfield) and lose three (Bradford, MK Dons & Northampton). The club record of seven red cards in a season is now under threat. That record was set in 2001-02, City's first season out of the top flight for 34 years when the following players 'saw red':

Lee Hughes v Bradford City (a)
Youssef Safri v Gillingham (a)
David Thompson v Millwall (a)
Marc Edworthy v WBA (a)
Lee Hughes v Grimsby (a)
David Thompson v Wolves (a)
Jay Bothroyd v Crystal Palace (a)

All seven were away from Highfield Road and City ended up wining three of them (Gillingham, Grimsby & Palace) with Hughes & Bothroyd both scoring before receiving the red card, and losing the other four. City finished nine points shy of the top six that season & whilst it's all hypothetical if those four games had been won, City would have been in the play-offs!

The following season that number was equalled when the following received their marching orders:-

Calum Davenport v Brighton (a)
Youssef Safri v Crystal Palace (h)
Craig Hignett v Burnley (a)
Dean Gordon v Sheff United (a)
Gary Caldwell v Nottm. Forest (a)
Youssef Chippo v Watford (h)
Gary McSheffrey v Wimbledon (h)

Another unwelcome stat from last Saturday was the third hat-trick of the season by an opposition player. Cobblers' Keshi Anderson followed Bristol Rovers' Billy Bodin and Cambridge's Luke Berry in scoring a hat-trick against the Sky Blues. That is the first time City have conceded three hat-tricks in a season since 1995-96 when Alan Shearer (Blackburn), Gary McAllister (Leeds) and Savo Milosevic (Aston Villa) netted three apiece. The worst season for conceding hat-tricks was in 1925-26 when five opposing players did it. It was City's only season in Division Three North and Fenner (Wigan Borough), Jepson (Accrington), Keetley (Doncaster), Cookson (Chesterfield) and McDonald (Bradford PA) all scored three.

Last week I wrote about Joe Elliott's first ever City game - a friendly against Preston North End in 1956 – and it prompted Rod Dean to write about his memories of the game.

Last week's piece on the Preston 1956 game was massive nostalgia for me. My father had purchased a brand new Ford Popular in 1954 for £390 (he paid in cash utilising my school satchel) - a basic black car with no heater, no indicators (my father added those himself). It was an exciting time for our family and we took trips down to the Cotswolds and travelled to my first City away match at Northampton in the Autumn of 1955 (attendance 20,000 - a bit larger than last Saturday).
 We stood on the 'famous duck boards' that were used in the football season and then removed for the cricket season (Northampton's ground was shared with the county cricket team). The only problem was that my father had yet to pass his driving test! He did eventually pass at his third try - a different world in those days when a lot of drivers had never taken tests!

The one thing I remember about the Preston game is the absolute run around Finney  gave the 'Ageing' Charlie Timmins - Charlie had been a real 'servant' to the club since the 1940's, was a real favourite with the fans but was coming to the end of the road. Such changes were rare in those days but as you said ' Raynor switched Charlie with Frank Austin at half time' - I can remember my father saying after the match as we walked to the car ' Frank did a real good job and kept Finney quiet' It's over 60 years ago but it only seems like yesterday - some matches you remember like it was yesterday others are a total blank! Yes Frank had a good day!
                                                           Tom Finney in action

I had been to Wembley the previous season to see England beat Scotland 7-2 but Finney had not been selected so it was my first and last view of this 'English Titan' - he and Stanley Matthews were the scourge  of Scottish Football  in the 40's and 50's.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Jim's column 28.1.2017

Coventry City's relegation-threatened team are just ninety minutes from Wembley after a successful penalty shoot-out at Swansea's Liberty Stadium on Tuesday evening. After a stuttering ninety minutes the young Sky Blues team made their experience count from the penalty spot with George Thomas, Gael Bigirimana, Kyel Reid and Ruben Lameiras all netting and Reice Charles-Cook saving two of the four Swansea efforts.

The penalty shoot-out success ended a run of three losses from similar sudden death endings. Last season they lost shoot-outs at Rochdale and Yeovil and in 2013 they lost at Leyton Orient, managed at the time by Russell Slade. The last victory from a penalty competition before Tuesday was a Football League Trophy game against Sheffield United in 2012 when a Joe Murphy master-class helped the Sky Blues to a 4-1 victory. City's record in all shoot-outs since their first at Reading in the Simod (Full Members) Cup in 1988, is now played nine, won four and lost five.

Saturday's league defeat to Fleetwood was manager Russell Slade's fifth league game in charge and he has still to record a victory. Several people asked me whether this is a record for a new Coventry manager. I've looked back at previous incoming managers (excluding caretakers) and Russell has some way to go to break the record, set in 1967 by Noel Cantwell. The Irishman, in his first management post, took over from Jimmy Hill before the Tottenham home game on October 14th and did not record his first victory until December 16th when a Bobby Gould hat-trick helped secure a 5-1 victory over Burnley. In his first nine league games in charge the team drew four and lost five.

Other incoming managers who had poor starts are Joe Mercer in 1972 – his team failed to win any of their first six games, and Terry Butcher who despite a thrilling 5-4 League Cup win over Nottingham Forest, similarly failed to win six league games after succeeding John Sillett in 1990.

On the flip side, the best incoming manager has to be Roland Nilsson who was unbeaten in his first 11 league games after replacing Gordon Strachan in September 2001. The great Harry Storer won his first five games at the start of his second stint as manager in 1948 – pulling the team away from the Second Division basement. In 1961 Jimmy Hill won four of his first five games in charge after replacing Billy Frith.

Chatting to former City chairman Joe Elliott recently he mentioned that his first ever City game was a friendly against Preston North End in 1956 and could I provide some details. The game took place on 28 January 1956, the day of the FA Cup Fourth Round. Both sides were out of the Cup so organised a friendly game at Highfield Road. First Division North End fielded 10 of the players who had beaten league leaders Manchester United 3-1 seven days previously, including one of the country's top stars Tom Finney.

City, fifth in Division Three South, had recently lost their manager, Jesse Carver, who had returned to Italy just months after arriving with a fanfare. His number two George Raynor was in charge and named the following team:

Reg Matthews: Frank Austin, Charlie Timmins: Iain Jamieson, Roy Kirk, Noel Simpson: Eric Johnson, Denis Uphill, Ken McPherson, Peter Hill, Ray Sambrook.

The weather was dismal with driving rain turning the pitch into a muddy quagmire and keeping the crowd down to 13,700. Many of the crowd came to see Finney – in those days before television was saturated with football, top stars had to be seen in the flesh and Finney had never played before at Highfield Road. They weren't disappointed as the England international right-winger turned on a magical display and Nemo wrote in the Coventry Telegraph: 'try as they might, neither Charlie Timmins nor Frank Austin, who swopped with his full-back partner in the second half, could do a thing with the Preston wizard'.

McPherson gave City a second minute lead following a 'gigantic goal-kick by Matthews' but Finney equalised from the penalty spot soon afterwards. Evans made it 2-1 for the visitors just before the break but in the second half North End were the superior side described by Nemo 'playing some of the best precision passing I have seen on a heavy pitch'.

Finney and Foster scored further goals with 'unstoppable shots' as Preston ran out 4-1 victors. Poor old Timmins failed to stop Finney once, 'I had not enough energy left to even shake hands with Finney afterwards', laughed Charlie after the game.

Two days later City hosted another top side in a friendly, San Lorenzo of Argentina. That, however, is a story for another day.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Jim's column 21.1.2017

Most City fans are aware of City's poor recent record for headed goals but Geoff Moore has been researching it and has come up with some frightening statistics. He tells me that City have scored only two headed goals in league games this season. Both were scored by Marcus Tudgay (v Northampton and Bolton) and came from open play rather than from a set piece. According to Geoff this is the lowest number of headed goals in the league.

Last season we scored with six headers, all from set pieces and none from open play. Geoff tells me
that before Tudgay's efforts this season you have to go back to April 2015 and Marcus' header at Crawley for the last one. By Geoff's reckoning that is two headed goals from open play in 72 league matches!

On the flip side City are very vulnerable to headers. Last season we conceded 13 headed goals, but surprisingly only two of them were in open play (Fleetwood at home and Doncaster away). This season there have not been as many but I can recall at least three or four.

Geoff puts this in context by saying that you would expect about one in six goals to come from headers, although it obviously varies according to style of play. He adds, 'Sobering to note that Dion Dublin scored 45 headed goals in his Premier League career, many of them for the Sky Blues'.

Over the years Coventry City have had some superb headers of the ball – attackers and defenders – who scored dozens of headed goals, from Ted Roberts and George Lowrie in the 1940s through to Neil Martin (1960s), Mick Ferguson and David Cross (1970s) and the diminutive David Speedie who on two separate occasions netted a hat-trick of headed goals. What would we give for a header of the ball like those?

Keith Ballantyne wrote to ask questions about the original Premier League members in 1992-93 and how many of them have been ever present members. He also wanted to know if any of those original members had fallen to the fourth tier (Obviously anticipating a relegation for the Sky Blues this season).

Of the 22 original members the following six have never been relegated:
Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton.

Only four other original members are in the current PL: Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Southampton.

Nine clubs have fallen to tier three at some stage: Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City, Sheffield United, Southampton, Leeds United, QPR, Oldham and City.

None of the original members of the Premier League have fallen below the third tier so if the Sky Blues and/or Oldham get relegated this season it will be a first. Wimbledon, PL founder members in 1992-93 no longer exist in the same form. Two teams who were in the First Division in the last season prior to the formation of the Premier League have been lower. Notts County are now in League Two as are Luton Town, who have been out of the Football League.

Since 1992 three clubs have been promoted to the PL for the first time but never relegated:
Stoke 2008 (now in 9th season)
Swansea 2011 (6th season)
Bournemouth 2015 (2nd season).

Steve Pittam is a long suffering City fan – he was one of the 30 or so supporters who travelled to watch the Sky Blues in Plovdiv in their Fairs Cup campaign in 1970. He's spent many years working and living in Dubai only managing to catch the Sky Blues once a year if that. He emailed me last week to say he is retiring and hoping to get to see his team play a bit more often. He liked my article last week about Christmas games and wrote:

'your piece brought back huge memories for me. I had never heard of football until the vide-printer was on at my grandparents house on Boxing Day 1958. Torquay 1 Coventry 1 printed and I was hooked - all I knew was that I lived in Coventry, I didn’t have a clue about football (still don’t some would say!) and pestered my Dad until he took me in March to see us play Workington.'

Happy retirement Steve and look forward to seeing you in the near future.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Jim's column 14.1.2017

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!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Jim's column 7.1.2017

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some postcards of old Coventry City teams given to me by John Feeney and they generated some interest amongst readers. Fellow historian Mike Young confirmed that the 1904 picture was taken 'behind the grandstand' before the home game with Walsall on 17th September. Mike was also able to shed more light on G. Beale who was dressed in civvies in the team picture. He believes it is George Beale, a centre-forward from Walsall who played (and scored) in the second pre-season public trial match on 27th August when his team (the Stripes) lost 6-3 to the 'Blues'. Beale wasn't signed on by the club so Mike is mystified as to why he should still be knocking around for the photo more than a fortnight later.

'Eli' Juggins was the club's trainer in the postcard of the 1912-13 team picture and I had a lovely email from Laurie Bird of Rugby regarding his ancestor.

Congratulations on an interesting article on Coventry City's history. I was pleased to see my uncle got a mention as trainer in the 1912 photo. You refer to him as ‘Eli’ Juggins, whereas his full name was Eleader Juggins. Apparently his mother named all her kids from the Bible! He was in fact the brother of my mother’s mother, so I guess that makes him my great uncle?

He was born 15 June 1880 in Darlaston, near Walsall and initially played for Wolves. He was transferred to Coventry in 1907 and went to live in a club house at 78 Nicholls Street. The employment situation was such that all the family moved with him to Coventry, as he was the main earner. The house later passed to other landlords and was occupied by other members of the family until they actually bought it in the 1950s and eventually sold it around 1970.

Family folklore has it that when he was first transferred to Coventry he used to cycle from Darlaston for training, then hide his bike as footballers weren’t allowed to ride bikes as he use to say ‘it slows you up’!  Whether he did this just a few times or on a regular basis I’ve no idea, but if it was even once it shows the era they lived in.

The book ‘Coventry – A Complete Record 1883-1991’ by Rod Dean (with your help) shows Eleader Juggins as playing for Coventry from 1907-08 season to 1911-12 making 110 appearances and scoring 9 goals. He played at right back and I believe he was a regular penalty taker. Of course in those days, even before the ‘stopper centre half’, the full backs were the main defenders. The photos on pages 12 and 15 show him first a player then trainer. The book incorrectly calls him Eleander Juggins and goes on to explain that in 1914 he went to Southampton. This would have been very brief as before long he returned to Coventry to keep a pub in Hillfields. Shortly afterwards he fought in World War 1 after which he returned, minus a finger. His younger brother, Sam, was less fortunate, losing a leg.

Apparently the pub was in a bad way when he returned and he moved into the fish and chip business. He set up a shop appropriately called ‘The Bantam’ situated in Caludon Road, overlooking the railway bridge and within sight of Cov’s ground. I remember the shop in the 1940s, when people used to queue for fish and chips right round the corner into Brighton Street. That’s all disappeared now, with the new road displacing the goods railway line. His son (also Eleader) took over the shop until a fire in the mid-fifties forced closure.

I remember he used to grumble about his knees, saying this is what came from “tecking all them penalties for Coventry City”! He later lived in another house in Nicholls Street, almost opposite no.78 and he died around 1960 when he would have been about 80.

A right full-back, Juggins was a stalwart in the City defence between 1907-1912 and is pictured in the team photograph from 1908 as City prepared for their first season in the Southern League.

On the question of Eli's name I wasn't convinced that Eleader was a biblical name and wondered if his christian name was perhaps Eleazer (definitely a biblical name). I sought the help of Michael Joyce, one of the leading people on footballers' ancestry who was able to support Laurie's view that he was definitely christened Eleader. Michael also advised that he was born in 1882 and all the available censuses confirm this as does his death record in September 1966. There is also no record of him appearing as a player for Southampton in 1914 but Laurie thinks he may have taken a similar role to the one he left at Coventry i.e. as a trainer, especially as his predecessor Jimmy McIntyre had moved to the Dell from Coventry in 1912. As wore broke out in the summer of 1914 he possibly never took up the position.

I also wrote about a City friendly game in Derry in 1948 and said that Wally Soden was probably the first instance of Coventry City using a substitute. Mike Young pointed out that that honour went to Dennis Simpson who replaced 'Plum' Warner in a friendly game against Danish club Aarhus during City's tour to Denmark in 1946. It seems Wally was the second substitute used in a friendly game.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Jim's column 31.12.2016

There was another disaster at Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day as City again capitulated to a more physical team in what is becoming a predictable occurrence this season. The defeat means seven straight league defeats for the Sky Blues since their last victory over Chesterfield on 1st November. It equals the run at the end of the 1972-73 season for Gordon Milne's team in Division One. Two potentially tough games face the team in the next few days with a trip to Peterborough today and a home game with Bolton Wanderers on Monday. There have been only two worse losing runs by the club since they joined the Football League. In 1924-25 City, then a Second Division outfit, lost eight in a row between early November and 3rd January 1925 when they managed a 0-0 draw at Stockport. Two weeks later they recorded their first victory for almost three months, a shock 1-0 victory over league leaders Manchester United.

If City lose today and on Monday they will equal the club's worst ever run set in 1919 when, newly elected to Division Two following World War One, they lost their first nine games in the Football League. It really doesn't bear thinking about!

City's first ever visit to Bristol's Memorial Ground and their first competitive game with Rovers since 1964 certainly showed new manager Russell Slade that there is a great deal of work to be done to keep the team in this division. If the defeat wasn't bad enough, to witness Billy Bodin score a hat-trick was truly embarrassing. The winger, who is the son of former Welsh international Paul Bodin, had scored only once in 21 appearances before Boxing Day. His penalty was the 23rd consecutive successful spot-kick by Bristol Rovers.

Bodin's hat-trick comes just three weeks after Cambridge's Luke Berry scored four in the FA Cup, and is the first league hat-trick conceded by the Sky Blues since Tranmere's Ryan Lowe scored three in the 5-1 defeat at Sixfields in November 2013. Since City left the Premier League in 2001 Bodin is one of only five players to score league hat-tricks against them, the others being Jamie Cureton (QPR), Vincent Pericard (Plymouth), Nahki Wells (Bradford) and Lowe.

Matt Partridge was surprised that the Sky Blues had two away games over the Christmas period but none at home and asked if this had happened before. In 2012-13 City played at Stevenage on Boxing Day and at MK Dons on 29th December, winning 3-1 at Stevenage and 3-2 at MK. City were in a golden spell at the time and the two wins made it 10 games unbeaten under Mark Robins. At Stevenage Richard Wood, Carl Baker and David McGoldrick scored the goals whilst Frank Moussa and Stephen Elliott (2) wrapped up the points at MK.

The previous occurrence was in 2001 when City won 1-0 at Grimsby on Boxing Day and lost 2-1 at Nottingham Forest on the 29th. City also played away twice the previous Christmas (Everton and Middlesbrough), in 1991 (Sheffield United & Wimbledon), in 1989 (QPR & Derby) and on various other occasions. Normally when this has occurred the fixture computer has given City a home game on January 1st.

Until the late 1950s clubs played the same opponents, home and away, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (unless one of those days fell on a Sunday) and often they weren't local derbies meaning long journeys for teams and supporters over the festive period. So, for instance, in 1950, City played at Cardiff on Christmas Day and entertained the Welsh side on Boxing Day, and in 1953 played Ipswich home and away in successive days. Most clubs played their Christmas Day home games with an 11 a.m. kick-off so fans could get home for their Christmas dinner. During the 1950s the appeal of going to a game on Christmas morning faded and attendances fell. In 1959 City were one of the last clubs to play on Christmas Day, beating Wrexham 5-3 in front of 17,000.

The tradition of playing the same opponents home and away over Christmas continued until 1967. City's final opponents in a Christmas double-header were Liverpool, who they were playing for the first time in the League. City entertained the Reds on Boxing Day in front of over 42,000, the sixth highest gate in the club's history at the time. World Cup winner Roger Hunt gave 'Pool an early lead before Ian St John got his marching orders for felling City's Brian Lewis with a left hook. Gerry Baker equalised before half-time and although Bobby Gould had several chances the game ended 1-1. Four days later City travelled to Anfield and lost the return to a solitary Ian Callaghan goal.
                 Bobby Gould challenges Liverpool's Tommy Lawrence in the Boxing Day 1967 game.