Sunday, 20 August 2017

Jim's column 19.8.2017

Fifty years ago today the Sky Blues took the field at Turf Moor, Burnley for the club's first ever game in Division One. After forty seasons in the Football League Coventry City had reached the pinnacle of the English game by winning the Second Division. Two days earlier however manager Jimmy Hill had dropped a massive bombshell, resigning on the eve of the club's biggest season. He was staying on however until the club appointed a replacement (a task that took almost two months) and he was in charge at Turf Moor. Over 7,000 City fans made the trip north to see if the Sky Blues could extend that 25-match unbeaten run against Burnley, but there was disappointment as the highly experienced and savvy Lancashire team defeated City 2-1 with goals from Willie Irvine and Frank Casper. A late own goal by Dave Merrington got City on the score-sheet but the hordes set off back home to the Midlands with the unusual smell of defeat in their nostrils.

There was an interesting kit worn by City that day. The slight colour clash between City's sky blue jerseys and Burnley's claret shirts with sky blue sleeves could have persuaded them to wear their change kit but that was all red and definitely clashed with the home side. From somewhere an all-white kit – believed to be the outfit worn by Jimmy Hill's International XI (his charity team) – was produced. City had worn it only once before, to my knowledge, at Huddersfield in the final away game of 1965-66 season, but it never saw the light of day in a Coventry game again. For Coventry City shirt collectors – and there are a growing number – this one must be the 'Penny Black' of the hobby.

Talking of Burnley I had an interesting question from Jon Ryder about a friendly game at Turf Moor in 1990, prompted by City's use of trialists in pre-season friendlies this summer. Jon remembers a Hungarian playing for City that day and wondered if I could confirm the fact.

The player in question was Zoltan Csucsanszky, a Hungarian International winger who manager John Sillett had brought to the club on trial. On 7th August 1990 City met Burnley, then a Fourth Division club with the following starting line up, which included six of the victorious 1987 team, was: Ogrizovic: Borrows, Edwards, Gynn, Kilcline, Peake, Csucsanszky, McGrath, Regis, Speedie, Smith.

The 24-year old Hungarian, who had won five full caps for his country whilst playing for Videoton, pulled up after 17 minutes and was carried off the field in what was his first public appearance for the club. I don't know what the specific injury was but it was serious and ended his brief trial with the club. The records say he didn't play professional football until he re-appeared the following season for Hungarian club Vac before a short spell with German lower-league club Jahn Regensburg. I believe he retired in 1993, possibly because of his injury at Burnley in 1990 and went into coaching and is currently under 19 coach at his old club Videoton.

Following the injury, Kevin McDonald came on for Zoltan and Dougie McGuire, Howard Clark, Tony Dobson and Steve Livingstone also came on as substitutes as City eased to a 2-0 victory in front of a crowd of 3,747.

A reminder that my latest book, Play Up Sky Blues, the story of the memorable 1966-67 season, is due to be published in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

If you have any questions regarding the club's history please contact me on and I will endeavour to answer them.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Jim's column 12.8.2017

 55 years ago this month Coventry City kicked off the first full season under the management of Jimmy Hill. The former Fulham player had been appointed in succession to Billy Frith the previous November and after a busy summer in the transfer market his new team were unveiled at the opening game, like this season, in a home game with Notts County.

The new all Sky-Blue kit made its first appearance in a competitive game and a complete new forward line was on view. Outside-right Willie Humphries had played one game at the end of the 1961-62 season and was joined against Notts by Hubert Barr, Terry Bly, Jimmy Whitehouse and Bobby Laverick. In defence JH stuck with the players he had inherited with the exception of another new signing, John Sillett, at right-back. Like Humphries, 'Sill' had arrived as the previous season ended but had had little opportunity to show City fans his Division One pedigree. Arthur Lightening was in goal, Frank Austin at left-back and the renowned half-back line of Farmer-Curtis-Kearns made up the eleven.

Over 22,000 rolled up to Highfield Road, the biggest opening home crowd for seven years, and expectations were high on a hot sticky day. A nervous City managed 30 shots on target but couldn't make the breakthrough. Then with 14 minutes left debutant Barr smashed home a right-foot shot and seven minutes later the same player set up Bly's header for number two. A 2-0 home win was just reward for a solid performance.

Last Saturday the Sky Blues went one better, winning 3-0, again with two late goals. Let's hope that's a good omen as 1962-63 became the launchpad for the Sky Blue Revolution.

After failing to score more than two goals in any league game last season, few fans expected three on the opening day, let alone a hat-trick from Jodi Jones. Jones wasn't the most consistent of players last season and scored only one league goal but he certainly came out of the blocks well this term. Jodi is still only 19 and although he's a year older than the youngest City hat-trick scorer, Adam Armstrong (v Crewe in January 2016) he is the fifth youngest. Tommy English, Willie Carr and Ronnie Rees all scored before their 20th birthday and were younger than Jones.

Mark Robins' overhaul of City's squad this summer was reflected on Saturday with two stats. There were seven debutants in the starting line up and two more came off the bench during the game. The total of nine (ten if you include the returning Michael Doyle) is the most in the club's history, beating the eight used by Gary McAllister on the opening day in 2003 which was equalled in 2014 by Stephen Pressley at Bradford. Some people have pointed out that there were no Academy players in City's line-up on Saturday. This was the first time in over seven years that this has happened. The last time was in April 2010 in a 3-0 defeat at Reading. That day Marcus Hall, Shaun Jeffers and Jordan Clarke were all on the bench but none of them used. On Tuesday night the academy boys were out in force with six of them playing some part in the League Cup tie with Blackburn, including two more debutants, Warwick-born Kyle Finn and Cov kid Jordan Ponticelli.

A reminder that my latest book, Play Up Sky Blues, the story of the memorable 1966-67 season, is due to be published in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

If you have any questions regarding the club's history please contact me on and I will endeavour to answer them.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Stats review of 2016/17

Most Coventry City supporters will be relieved that the 2016/17 season is over. Statistically it has been not just the worst season in living memory but the worst since the club was elected to the Football League in 1919. After a good 2015/16 season, spoiled by a poor recruitment programme in the January window, expectations were high that some shrewd transfer activity would see an assault on the top six but it never materialised. The team started badly and despite a good October lifting spirits, the wheels came completely off in December. There were few highlights with the majority coming in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy which the Sky Blues, rejuvenated by the arrival of Mark Robins, the fourth manager of the campaign, won in style on a magical day at Wembley. Most City fans however would have swapped that day for safety in League One but it was not to be and the club now faces fourth-tier football for only the second time in the club's history and for the first time since 1959. That sole season in the basement league ended with the club promoted and we can only pray for a repeat.

Games: Coventry City played 59 competitive games this season, 46 league, 3 FA Cup, 2 League Cup & 8 Football League Trophy (Checkatrade Trophy) .

Points: The Sky Blues gathered 39 league points during the season. This was thirty less than in 2015/16 and the lowest total since the club were relegated from the Premier League in 2001 when they collected 34 points (from 38 games). 25 defeats were suffered the highest number since the club joined the league. The club have the unenviable record of being the only FL club not to have reached 70 points in a season since that three points for a win was introduced in 1981.

Home Form: By City's standards, the home record wasn't that bad: won 8, drew 7, lost 8. The eight defeats came in a run of 10 games between November and March sandwiched between two unbeaten runs of eight and five games respectively. Amazingly Tony Mowbray was unbeaten at the Ricoh and Robins, after losing his first two home games was unbeaten in the final five. 31 home points were won – more than in 2012/13 and 2014/15.

Away Form: The away record: won 1, drew 5, lost 17, earned only 8 points, the lowest total since 1999/2000 (supposedly the season of the Entertainers) when Gordon Strachan's team failed to win away. The 17 defeats was the worst since 1925/26 when 18 losses were incurred. It was another depressing visit to Swindon (last league win there was in 1960), and Rochdale (where City have never won in ten visits now).

Wins: In total therefore, only nine victories were recorded – equalling the total in 2011/12 as the lowest number since the club left the Premier League in 2001. In fact, if you count the Swansea penalty shoot-out as a victory, the team won more Cup games (10) than league (9).

Biggest win: The biggest league win of the season was 2-0 at home to Chesterfield and at Port Vale. In the Checkatrade Trophy they beat Brighton 3-0.

Biggest defeat: The 1-4 losses at Oxford and Bristol Rovers were the heaviest league defeats. In the League Cup however Norwich beat the Sky Blues 6-1. The defeat at Oxford was the biggest league loss for over two years and the first time they had been 0-3 at half time since 2013.

Goals for: The goals for total of 37 was the lowest since 1999/2000 when Strachan's team scored 36 but from only 38 games. For a 46-game season it was the club's lowest ever. City, amazingly, failed to score more than two goals in any league games for the first time ever. Of the 72 FL clubs only Oldham, with 31 goals, scored less.

Goals against: City conceded 68 league goals, less than the 77 let in during 2013-14 but the goal difference of minus 31 was the worst since 1919-20 (-38) . The team kept ten clean sheets in the league, better than three of the previous five seasons, but only two away from home. Reice Charles-Cook kept four and Lee Burge six.

Final position: The final position of 23rd was fifteen places lower than 2015/16 and confirmed the club's third relegation of the 21st century (after 49 years without one). The highest position occupied during the campaign was 18th following a victory over Chesterfield on 1 November. City are the only club, bar long-serving Premiership clubs and recent promotees from the Conference, not to have been promoted or reached the play-offs since the play-offs were introduced in 1987 nor to finish in the top six of a division. The club were bottom of the league table for 14 consecutive weeks from 14 January to 22 April – the worst run since 1919/20.

Leading scorers: George Thomas was leading scorer with nine goals, five in the league and four in the Checkatrade. Marvin Sordell was runner up with seven goals (4 league, 3 cup). Since 1919 no City league top scorer has scored so few goals. The previous lowest was six goals. In 2000/01 messrs Hartson, Hadji and Bellamy were joint top scorers with six and in 2014/15 messrs Samuel, Nouble and O'Brien were joint top scorers with six. Fifteen different players were on the score-sheet during the season.

Doubles: City achieved only one double- over Port Vale - but on the other hand seven clubs did the double over City (Swindon, Bradford City, Southend, Scunthorpe, Sheffield United, Fleetwood and MK Dons). This equals the record set in 1985-86 under Don Mackay. For Scunthorpe it was the second season running that they have done the double.

Appearances: For the sixth season running no outfield player was an ever present in the league – the last to do so was Richard Keogh in 2010-11. The two Jordans, Willis and Turnbull, started the most league games – 36 starts. They both also started 46 competitive games. Jodi Jones was involved in 34 league games (11 starts and 23 substitute appearances) and 45 games in total (15 starts and 30 substitute appearances).

Players used: Forty players were used in league and cup games - one more than in 2015/16, the fourth highest in the club's history and four short of the club record of 44 in 2002-03. Of the 40, 23 players made their debuts during the season (one less than the previous season) and one, Devon Kelly-Evans, only appeared in a cup game. Eight loan players were used (two less than in 2015/16). In addition to the 40 players used, two more, Corey Addai and Jordan Thompson, sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used. Michael Folivi, the loanee from Watford finally got his debut at Scunthorpe and came on for three minutes. This means he has the second shortest career of a first team player behind Lee Hildreth who played for one minute in the final game of the 2006/07 season. In the last three seasons 72 players have made their City debuts – that is more than the total number of debutants for the whole decades of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Home-grown players: Of the 40 players used 15 of them were home grown products of the Academy. It is now more than six years that a City team did not include a home-grown player. On two occasions in the Checkatrade Trophy eight academy products represented the club and at Wembley seven took part. Dion and Devon Kelly-Evans became only the second pair of twins to play for the club (Lee and Craig Middleton were the others) and they were the first pair to be on the pitch together when Devon came on as a substitute against Norwich in the League Cup.

Records: Jordan Willis took his total appearances to 127 & is now 109th on the club's all-time appearance chart, level with Brian Nicholas and Elliott Ward, and one behind John Sillett. No other player has reached 100 appearances for the club.

Substitutes: Jodi Jones made the most substitute appearances (30, 23 league and 7 cup). The league total is only one short of the record in one season, set by Andy Morrell in 2005-06. Kyel Reid was the most substituted player (15 times). Eight substitutes came off the bench and scored: Ruben Lameiras did it twice (Norwich LC a and Northampton CT h) and the others were Andre Wright (Wimbledon h), Andy Rose (Chesterfield h), Marcus Tudgay (Oxford a), Kwame Thomas (Oldham a), Ryan Haynes 2 (Wycombe CT a) and Gael Bigirimana (Wycombe CT a). Haynes is only the fifth City player to score two after coming off the bench and the first since Chris Maguire at MK Dons in 2013.

Average attendance: Home 9,203 (2015/16 12,570), down 26.7% & the eighth highest in League One. Away 8,163 (2015/16 7,665), up 6.5% & the sixth highest in the division. If away fans are stripped out, City's average home following was 8,243 down 29% from 11,633.

Highest home attendance: The biggest league crowd was 11,946 for the Bristol Rovers game in March but this was boosted by over 4,000 Rovers' fans. This is the lowest top gate in the club's league history. If away fans are stripped out the biggest crowd was for the opening home game v Shrewsbury when there were 9,766 home fans in the 10,296 crowd. There were seven home cup-ties and the largest crowd was 11,672 v Wycombe in the Checkatrade Regional final game.

Lowest home attendance: The lowest league crowd of the season was 7,646 for the Southend game in March. This was not the lowest league crowd at the Ricoh - in 2014-15 only 6,885 watched a midweek game versus Scunthorpe. Cup crowds however were generally very poor with 4,976 watching the League Cup-tie with Portsmouth, the club's lowest home attendance since the competition started in 1960. In November only 2,175 watched the FA Cup replay with Morecambe – the lowest home gate in the competition since before the First World War (Sixfields apart). In the Checkatrade Trophy there were three attendances just over 2,000 but the Crawley game attracted 1,338, the lowest crowd at a home competitive game (Sixfields apart) since 1985.

Away followings: For league games City’s away following averaged 814 (2015/16 1,339), a drop of 39% and the lowest since 2010/11. The best following of the season was 1,981 at Walsall, closely followed by 1,956 to Swindon on the opening day. Of course, City's following at Wembley surpassed everything with 43,268 the official number who attended. The smallest was 209 for the midweek trip to Bury which was the smallest since a Monday night game at Ipswich in 2011 when 185 brave souls attended. Bristol Rovers brought 4,069 fans to the Ricoh in March, the largest league away following since Birmingham brought 5,700 in March 2012. At the other extreme, Fleetwood brought only 121 fans to the league game while Crawley brought just 57 for the Checkatrade tie, the lowest away following since the Ricoh opened in 2005.

Highest away attendance: The biggest away league crowd was at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane (24,334).

Lowest away attendance: The smallest away crowd was 2,611 at Bury in March. and the fifth lowest away league crowd since the war. At Morecambe in the FA Cup the crowd of 1,732 (including 546 City fans) was the smallest away crowd in the competition since 539 watched City at Glossop in 1914. At Wycombe in the Checkatrade Trophy (FLT) there were only 912 present and 250 of them came from Coventry. It was the lowest crowd to watch the Sky Blues in that competition and the smallest to watch any City away game since April 1930 when 683 watched a 2-2 draw at Merthyr.

Won from behind: (4) In league games City failed to come from behind to win but managed it on four occasions in cup competitions – Morecambe (FAC) h, Portsmouth (LC) h, West Ham (FLT) h, Wycombe (FLT) a. On four occasions the team came from behind to get a draw Northampton h, Wimbledon h, Morecambe a, Swansea a. Only 2 points were won from losing positions, 13 less than last season.

Lost from in front: (3) City lost three games after being in front: at Bradford, Gillingham and Scunthorpe. In seven games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws. 23 points were lost from leading positions.

Best run: The Sky Blues went unbeaten in four league games in the second half of October and when including cup games, extended the run to six games before losing to Scunthorpe at home on 12 November. The team were unbeaten in league and cup games at home until the Scunthorpe game, a total of 11 home games and 14 including the previous season.

Worst run: City failed to win any of their first 10 league games - the worst start to a season since 1919 and included five consecutive draws (the first time since 1957/58). They also failed to score in their first three league games for the first time ever. Then from 1 November to 18 February they failed to win any of 15 games – the worst run since Gary McAllister's team in 2002/03 who went 16 without victory. They also lost seven league games in a row in November and December, the worst run since 1972-73 and just two short of the club record set in 1919/20.

Hat-tricks: (0) No City player scored a brace in a league game let alone a hat-trick. Three players managed two in Cup games: Sordell (Morecambe h), Turnbull (West Ham h) and Haynes (Wycombe a).

Opposing hat-tricks: (3) After not conceding a hat-trick for three seasons, three opposing players managed one. Billy Bodin (Bristol Rovers a), Keshi Anderson (Northampton a) and Cambridge United's Luke Berry who scored four in the FA Cup game. Berry is the first player to score four against City since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in 2001 and the first ever in an FA Cup tie.

This season there were four former players netted against City, Jacob Murphy for Norwich, Chris Maguire (Oxford), and Leon Clarke and John Fleck for Sheffield United. The Sheffield United game was the first ever instance of two ex-players netting in the same game.

Own goals: For City: (1) Adnan Maric of Swansea was credited with an own goal in the Checkatrade Trophy game, although some sources credited the goal to Jordan Willis.

Own goals: By City: (2) Jamie Sterry (Oxford a) and Kevin Foley (Oldham a).

Penalties: For City: (2) City's poor penalty record ended and there were two successful penalties – by Ruben Lameiras (Norwich (LC) a) and Marcus Tudgay (Oxford a) – and no misses. In addition City won the penalty shoot-out at Swansea in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Penalties: Against City: (8) Seven opposition players netted from the spot - Maguire (Oxford a), Bodin (Bristol Rovers a), Clough (Bolton a), Berry (Cambridge FAC a), Main (Portsmouth LC h), McBurnie (Swansea FLT a) and McMahon (Bradford a) who scored two penalties.

Two opponents missed penalties – Lee Burge saved Shrewsbury's Roberts and Peterborough's Mackail-Smith's penalties.

Fastest Goal scored: 20 seconds: Daniel Agyei scored after twenty seconds of the home game with Northampton in the Checkatrade Trophy. It was the fastest goal at the Ricoh and the fastest by a City player for 14 years.

Fastest Goal conceded: 59 seconds: Marc Richards equalised Agyei's goal against Northampton before one minute had gone. This is probably the first time in a City game that there have been two goals within the first minute of a game.

Red cards: Coventry: (5): Turnbull (Bradford a), Page (Chesterfield h), Stevenson (MK Dons h), Willis (Northampton a) and Dion Kelly-Evans (West Ham FLT h). It was the first red card for all five players. Turnbull became only the second player to be sent off on his debut, the other being David Thompson v Middlesbrough in 2000.

Red cards: Opponents: (1) Walsall's O'Connell in the game at the Ricoh was the only opponent to be sent off.

FA Cup: For the third season running the Sky Blues were knocked out by a club from a lower status, League Two Cambridge United. They did at least win a game in the competition for the first time since January 2014.

Bookings: Jordan Turnbull looked to have the award for most bookings wrapped up at Christmas with eight yellow cards but he kept out of trouble in the second half of the season and was overtaken by Gael Bigirimana by the season's end. Gael finished on nine bookings.

The Sky Blues appeared live on television on three occasions, in the league at home to Sheffield United (1-2) and twice in the Checkatrade trophy at home to Wycombe in the semi final and against Oxford at Wembley in the final.

New Grounds: City played competitive games at three grounds for the first time Oxford United's Kassam Stadium, Bristol Rovers' Memorial Stadium and New Wembley. In addition they played a league game at AFC Wimbledon for the first time and at Northampton's Sixfields Stadium for the first time as an away team.

Man of the Match: Bigirimana won top place in Andy Turner's Man of the Match awards with 10 MOM votes. Lee Burge (7), Ben Stevenson (6) and Jordan Willis (6) were the nearest challengers.

With many thanks to Paul O’Connor.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Jim's column 29.4.2017

It's very sad to report the death of former City player Ray Paul who passed away two weeks ago, aged 94. Ray only came on to the CCFPA radar last year when he attended Legends Day for the first time. Growing up Ray was an outstanding all round sportsman who, at the age of 16, was offered trials for the England Schools Rugby team but his father would not let him attend. He was also a talented gymnast, keen swimmer and squash player who at the age of 50 finished 4th in a national squash competition. Football however was his first love and as the son of Nuneaton Borough trainer George Paul he made his mark at Manor Park. A quick centre forward, Ray became a striking sensation with the ‘Boro’ scoring 42 goals in the 1941-42 season and 119 goals in 83 games up to the end of World War Two.

Ray turned out for Coventry City as a guest player in the wartime Football League North and scored 8 goals in his ten appearances. He made his debut in a 4-1 defeat for the City in September 1944 at the Hawthorns v West Brom. Two weeks later he scored a hat-trick on his home debut in a 4-3 victory over Port Vale and went on to score eight goals in ten starts for the Bantams. In the same Coventry side at the time were City stalwarts such as George Mason, Walter Metcalf and Billy Frith.

Ray also played as guest in six games for Nottingham Forest up to 1945-46. He finished his career with Atherstone Town in 1948 and later ran a wallpaper shop in that town.

His daughter Tessa Newbold contacted me to tell me the sad news: 'He had been in a nursing home following a serious health episode last August and his dementia and prostate cancer finally got the better of him, although he was still fighting and insisting that he still felt absolutely fine up to the last week.

'The timing of his invitation the Legends Day last year was perfect.  As I am sure you noticed, he was already in the grip of dementia, but he absolutely loved the day and didn't stop talking about it for weeks.  Many thanks once again for giving both him and us a very special time.  He remembered that when most other things left his mind immediately.  His programme for the day and his FPA tie were never far from his hand so he could show any visitor - usually several times!'

Ray's funeral will take place at St James's Church, Colwall, Worcestershire on 11 May at 2.30pm and all are welcome.

City's final home game against Walsall last week saw them sign off with another home win, making it four wins and a draw from their final five games. It is remarkable to think that the team didn't lose a home game until the second Saturday in November and were unbeaten in 11 home league and cup games (14 if you count last season!). Between November and March it all went wrong with one home league win and one draw in 10 games, despite three Checkatrade victories. The average league attendance for the season was 9,203, a drop of almost 27% on 2015/16, and the lowest average since the club were elected to the Football League in 1919, apart from the season at Northampton. When away fans are stripped out of the figures the average City fans attended home games was 8,243, a fall of 29%.

Two weeks tonight at Nailcote Hall, Berkswell, there is a reunion of the Boys of '87 to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our victory at Wembley. All of the '87 team bar Brian Kilcline and David Phillips will be present for what promises to be a great evening.

To buy tickets (£50 per person) ring Nailcote on 02476 466174 or email at Please consult the venue’s website for further details.

This is the final column of the season – next week will be my statistical review of the campaign. Keep the history questions coming – they will be dealt with next season. I hope all my readers have an enjoyable season and can forget about the woes of our football club for a time!

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.