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.