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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Jim's column 21.2.15


Alan Clowes posed a good question to me after reading my piece about Coventry City's friendly games against Morton in 1964-65 that mentioned City's great goalkeeper Bill Glazier. Alan was a big fan of Bill & remembers him playing for Crystal Palace at Highfield Road & letting in five goals.

The game in question was the opening game of the 1963-64 season. City beat Palace (with Bill in goal) 5-1 with Ronnie Farmer bagging a hat-trick. Ron was playing at right half back & scored two penalties & from a direct  free-kick and still relates the tale that after the game he tried to claim the match-ball but Jimmy Hill wouldn't let him have it, arguing that it 'wasn't a proper hat-trick'.
Alan asked me to confirm that Ron only ever missed one penalty kick in his time at the club – it was at Millwall, later that season when he beat the 'keeper but the ball hit the post and in total scored 22 in league & cup games.

Bill Glazier joined City from Palace in October 1964 for a world record fee for a goalkeeper of £35,000. He had made over 100 appearances for Palace & had helped them to promotion to Division Two with the Sky Blues the previous season. He went on to make 402 first team appearances over a wonderful 10-year career at Coventry.

Talking about the 1960s, a golden period in the club's history, I have heard from Keith Ballantyne with his interesting memories of the catering at Highfield Road in that era.

He wrote: 'When I started going to Highfield Road with my parents around 1963, the 'Sky Blue Revolution' was well under way. Something we took for granted was 'Wal's Mobile Catering', which consisted of men in sky blue jackets and trousers with what I assume was an insulated container strapped to their back walking around the pitch before the game. You could buy hot pies from them and tea / coffee, there being a tap / spout arrangement either side of the container. To this day I have never seen anything like this at any type of sporting or entertainment event, and was wondering if it was one of the many minor yet pioneering and unique facets of the 'Hill Revolution', and when it was discontinued?'

I remember Wal's catering with his novel method of serving food & drink. It almost had a feel of an American sporting event in the way he went to the customers to save them going to the kiosks & queuing for their pie & hot drink. This week I was looking through some City programmes from 1975-76 season & came across an interesting snippet of news which goes some way to helping Keith's investigation. One programme states:

NEW LOOK FOR SKY BLUE CATERING

Cater Sport run by two of our old friends Wal & Reg Campbell (Wal is still mine host at the Sky Blue in Coundon) have taken over the catering on the ground bars and West Stand, and Sky Blue Stand. Wal & Reg have been connected with the club for many years and we feel sure they will again offer a second to none service. Catering in the Main Stand & Main Stand bars is still being organised within the club's own catering network.

Keith subsequently responded:

I think the hot tea and coffee tanks were in the lower part of the container they had strapped to their backs, and the pies kept warm above from the rising heat in their own container. A simple and ingenious arrangement, but I can't for the life of me remember how they got each pie out without unstrapping the whole contraption and lowering it to the ground, or maybe they did ? As he was a denizen of the licensed trade, I wonder if he was the same Wal who was running the Navy Club in Spon Street in the early 1970's?

Does anyone have anything to add to Wal's story?

Simon Shaw is one of the organisers of the Earlsdon Festival & has been in contact regarding a special match played at Highfield Road 100 years ago. On Sunday 26 April this year's Earlsdon Festival will be launched with a special event to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers being billeted in Coventry (11 January - 15 March 1915) and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli (25 April 1915) where most of them would sadly lose their lives.

The Lord Mayor of Coventry and Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's Ambassador to the UK, are attending the event as the guests of honour.

The battalion was almost 1,000 strong when it arrived in Coventry and most of the men made their way to billets in Earlsdon and Chapelfields. Despite their short stay, a strong and genuine bond was formed between the soldiers and their hosts.

The Munsters, playing in khaki shirts & white shorts and looking 'a tough lot', faced Coventry City in a friendly game at Highfield Road on Saturday 23 January 1915. The Bantams won the match 8-3 in front of a crowd of around 700 people with Allan (3), Dobson (3), Morris and Turner netting for City.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Jim's column 14.2.15

On Tuesday evening the Sky Blues' shrinking attendance fell to a new 50-year low with only 6,885 fans paying for the privilege of watching another poor home performance against Scunthorpe. The attendance was the lowest for a league game in the city since Easter Monday 1962 when 5,965 turned up for a 1-1 draw with Bristol City. The circumstances of that game are interesting however. Jimmy Hill had taken over as manager the previous November but his honeymoon period was over & his early impact on the team's fortunes had petered out. The side had won just once in six games & a final position well below halfway in the old Division Three was certain. A crowd of almost 14,000 had watched his first home game but the disillusioned fans had drifted away & only one of the previous five home games had attracted over 9,000. The Port Vale home game a week earlier had attracted 5,894.

Hill had his plans & was on the verge of the inspired signings of Willie Humphries & John Sillett but the fans had little or no inkling that the most exciting period in the club's history was just around the corner. Now, 53 years later, few City fans would dare to think things will change so dramatically at the club.

The even more worrying statistic is the club's average attendance this season. Even with the inflated crowd of 27,000 for the Gillingham game, the average is currently 9,320. With gates unlikely to improve between now & the end of the season, the final figure will be lower not higher. Leaving aside last season at Northampton, that average is the worst in the club's Football League history. Only twice since 1919 has the average fallen below 10,000, in 1925-26 & 1927-28 seasons. In 1925-26 the team were playing their first and only season in Third Division North, having been relegated from Division Two the previous year. They went from playing teams like Chelsea, Wolves & Manchester United to facing tiny clubs such as New Brighton, Ashington, Nelson & Durham City. Gates started at the 15,000 level but despite remaining unbeaten at home in 16 games up to the end of March crowds dwindled, especially after Christmas and there were several crowds under 6,000 with the lowest 4,744 to see a 5-2 victory over Hartlepool in the final home game. The average was 9,505. Two years later, with the team now switched to Division Three South the crowds peaked at 15,000 for the visit of Plymouth in September but were under 9.000 by Christmas. The average was skewed somewhat by a Monday afternoon game in February when 2,059, the lowest ever league crowd at Highfield Road, watched a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. The side won only five home games all season and finished 20th of 22 teams with a final average attendance of 9,388. At the moment that is the lowest average in club's league history (barring Northampton). That record will go this season.

Interestingly the lowest post-war average was in 1982-83 when, at the all-seater stadium Dave Sexton's side averaged 10,552.

Lifelong City fan Dave Long asked me to provide the details of the FA Youth Cup final game against Arsenal in 2000. It was his daughter Esme's first trip to Highfield Road.

It was the first leg of the two legged final & City were in the final for the second year running, having lost to West Ham the previous year. The game took place on 4 May 2000 and the teams lined up as follows:
City: Gary Montgomery: Richard Spong, Daniel Hall, Craig Strachan, Calum Davenport, Tom Cudworth, Lee Fowler, Robert Betts, Gary McSheffrey, Simon Parkinson (sub Jason Ashby), Craig Pead (sub Martin Grant).

Arsenal: Graham Stack: Israel da Silva, Nicolo Galli, Liam Chilvers, John Halls, Steve Sidwell, Rohan Ricketts, David Noble, Jerome Thomas, Jay Bothroyd, Graham Barrett.

Arsenal, coached by former City manager Don Howe, were without their star player, Jermaine Pennant, allegedly a £2m signing from Notts County the previous year, but still fielded eleven youth internationals. City, coached by Richard Money, started strongly but were undone by three Arsenal goals in 21 minutes after half-time. Thomas, Barrett and Sidwell netted & although Gary McSheffrey scored a late goal it was a comfortable victory in front of 10,280.

In the second leg at Highbury the following week Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from Bothroyd & Sidwell to lift the trophy 5-1 on aggregate. Messrs Bothroyd, Barrett & Ricketts all subsequently played for the Sky Blues. Of the excellent young Arsenal side only Barrett, Pennant & Ricketts appeared in an Arsenal league line-up – and none of them made more than 12 appearances – whilst only Bothroyd & Barrett won full caps for their country. Six of the Coventry side made it through to the first-team with McSheffrey & Davenport having successful careers.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Jim's column 7.2.15


John Woodfield, a City fan who has followed City since the 1950s & sits behind me at games, wanted information about friendly games played at Highfield Road in the 1960s against Scottish club Greenock Morton. In the 1960s Morton (as they were then known) were the up and coming Scottish club & often referred to as the Scottish Sky Blues because of their innovative ideas and modern thinking. In 1964 as the Sky Blues were winning the Third Division, Morton were winning promotion to the top flight in Scotland for the first time in 12 years & had a deadly striker called Allan McGraw who scored 51 goals.

Morton boss Hal Stewart apparently rang Jimmy Hill to suggest that the clubs play a couple of friendlies & that someone might put up a trophy. Unfortunately it was impossible to get permission for another competition so JH called the game at Highfield Road in October 1964, the first leg of the unofficial 'Most Progressive Clubs Cup'. The game took place just a week after the signing of goalkeeper Bill Glazier for a world record £35,000. Glazier had made his debut at Portsmouth three days earlier but his first appearance at Highfield Road attracted a crowd of 17,029. Morton, despite being without the goal-machine McGraw, raced into a two goal lead & it wasn't until the last 20 minutes that City got their act together with John Mitten & George Hudson netting to rescue a draw.

The clubs had the re-match at Morton's Cappielow Park in March 1965, won 3-1 by Morton who included four Danish players including international Kai Johansen, a real novel signing in those days.

In November 1966 Morton returned to Highfield Road for another friendly. The Sky Blues were struggling to live up to their billing as Second Division promotion favourites & lay sixth in the table having already lost six out of 18 league games & exited the League Cup to Third Division Brighton. Three days earlier Hill had recalled Ian Gibson after six weeks in the reserves & the irrepressible Scot had dazzled in a 3-2 win over Cardiff. Only 4,098 fans turned up on a bitterly cold night to see a relatively young Sky Blues team inflict only Morton's second defeat of the season. JH gave debuts to Willie Carr & Trevor Shepherd alongside other inexperienced youngsters Peter Thomas, Mick Coop & John Burckitt. Gibbo was in devastating form, setting up the first two goals for Ronnie Rees & Shepherd with Bobby Gould heading the third in the 3-2 victory. The following Saturday the Sky Blues won 3-1 at Molineux & set off on a 24 game unbeaten run that went through to the end of the season & the club's promotion to Division One for the first time. John says that Morton playing in a fluorescent orange kit which was very unusual at the time & has stuck in his memory almost 50 years later.

My colleagues on the Telegraph Sports Desk unearthed a lovely old photograph of another friendly game from August 1983 against the Zimbabwe national team. It had been the summer of hell for new manager Bobby Gould since his arrival in May. Seven first team players, including Mark Hateley, Danny Thomas & Gary Gillespie, had rejected new contracts & left the club & Bobby had the task of rebuilding the playing staff. He signed eleven players & gave trials to several others. The game against Zimbabwe was fulfilling a reciprocal agreement following City's tour of the African country the previous May & gave the fans (around 3,000) an opportunity to see some of the new faces. As it turned out only three of the new signings started the game & one of those, Charlie George, would have his trial ended soon afterwards without playing a competitive game.
                                              City v Zimbabwe 1983

The Sky Blues lined up as follows: Perry Suckling: Peter Hormantschuk, Brian Roberts, Martin Singleton, Ian Butterworth, Steve Jacobs, Dave Bennett, Gerry Daly, Charlie George, Terry Gibson,
Keith Thompson. Goalkeeper Tim Dalton, Steve Hunt, Derek Hall & newcomer Graham Withey came on as second half substitutes & goals from Withey & George gave City a 2-0 victory. City fans would have to wait a little longer to see other new signings such as Ashley Grimes, Micky Adams, Micky Gynn, Dave Bamber & Trevor Peake.

The question on social media last Saturday evening after the 2-2 draw with Rochdale was when was the last time two loan players scored on their Sky Blues debut. I was amazed that so many people (including some of the local media men) had forgotten that it was just over a year ago that Chris Dagnall & Chris Maguire scored the goals in City's 3-1 victory at MK Dons. Both those players left soon afterwards and neither scored again for the club. Let's hope the same fate does not afflict Messrs Samuel & Odelusi. This season has now seen four players scoring on their debut with Reda Johnson (v Bradford C) & Frank Nouble (v Gillingham) the others.

Thomas Murden asked me what the highest number of drawn games in a season is for Coventry City. He wonders that with nine draws already whether the tem might be close to a record. The answer is we are some way off the record of 17 set in 1962-63 (Jimmy Hill's first full seasonin charge). Those 17 came in 46 games but the highest percentage of drawn games came in 1997-98 when Gordon Strachan's side drew 16 out of 38 games. The Sky Blues finished 11th that season, their highest final position in the last 25 years & if just half of those drawn games had been won they would have finished fifth, one point outside the Champions League places.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Jim's column 31.1.15

Fellow Coventry City historian Dean Nelson posted an interesting picture on Twitter this week. He had acquired an aerial photograph of Highfield Road taken in 1953 & there are no sign of any floodlights. Dean wondered when the club first installed lights & who were the opponents for the first game under them.
                                               Aerial photo of Highfield Road 1953

The club unveiled their first floodlight system in October 1953. It consisted of wooden poles, each topped with a pair of large bulbs, and pairs of similar bulbs attached to the roof of the two stands parallel with the touchlines. In total, approximately 48 lights illuminated the pitch. According to the club’s accounts, published in April 1954, the system cost £3,967. Floodlights were all the craze, and City were one of the first clubs outside London to install them. In the same month several other clubs inaugurated their lights, among them Manchester City, Luton, Wolves and Bury. For their first floodlit game, City invited Scottish club Queen of the South to Highfield Road. The programme makes quaint reading: ‘Opinions differ regarding the permanency of floodlight football, but we believe there is a great future in this type of entertainment. And why not? Does it not give us the opportunity of allowing our supporters to see the best teams, not only in Great Britain, but also Continental teams of repute. We realise that only the best will continue to attract, and it will be our endeavour to bring teams that under normal circumstances would not be seen in Coventry. What a start we have made! Queen of the South, Wolverhampton Wanderers and East Fife.’
                                            City's first floodlights from a game in 1956-57

Such opponents would not inspire awe today, but back then all three were attractive teams. Wolves led the First Division at the time. Queen of the South had been fixtures in the Scottish First Division (the top division) for almost twenty years and were current League leaders. East Fife had finished third in the Scottish League two years running and recently lifted the Scottish League Cup. For both teams it was their first experience of playing under artificial lights. In his match report in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, ‘Nemo’ wrote: ‘the players had no difficulty in following the flight of the ball under the artificial lighting, and the spectators found it equally easy to follow the play.’ Queens manager, however, said his goalkeeper had occasional difficulty with high crosses. A crowd of 16,923 paid to watch, several hundred more than had attended the previous league game at the ground. The game ended 1-1, with a fourth-minute Don Dorman header being the first goal under the lights, and a Scottish equaliser three minutes later.

A week later 18,680 attended the second floodlit match, against Wolves. The First Division leaders, playing in their famous old gold shirts, fielded eight of their previous Saturday’s First Division side, but the three absent were their England international stars, captain Billy Wright and wingers Jimmy Mullen and Johnny Hancocks. Wright was no doubt resting ahead of the forthcoming international with Hungary which would prove to be a pivotal game in English football history. Wolves took things gently but City wanted a big scalp and won through Iain Jamieson’s penalty.

The lights soon became superceded technically and in 1957 they were replaced by four giant pylons at each corner of the ground.

Chris Lambert posed an interesting question. He had acquired a copy of former Leeds & England manager Don Revie's book (Soccer's Happy Wanderer) published in 1955 & sent me a picture of Revie scoring against City. Chris says that the book claims it is the only goal at Highfield Road, which makes it sound like the winning goal, but Chris thinks it is Hull's only reply to four City goals, in 1950-51. Chris is correct, the game took place on 10 March 1951 & City won 4-1 with goals from Bryn Allen (2), Ken Chisholm & Ted Roberts in front of 22,650.

Chris wondered how many other future England managers have scored against City at Highfield Road. He thinks Kevin Keegan & Glen Hoddle managed it.

Revie actually scored three goals at Highfield Road, for Leicester in their 2-1 win in 1948, the above goal and again for Hull in 1951-52 when the Tigers won 4-1. Alf Ramsey, Ron Greenwood & Terry Venables all played at Highfield Road but never scored.

Glen Hoddle scored a penalty for Tottenham at Highfield Road in Spurs' 3-2 victory in 1985-86.
Kevin Keegan scored there for Liverpool in a 1-1 draw in 1974-75 & for Southampton in 1981-82 in a 2-4 defeat to the Sky Blues.

Peter Hill's funeral service takes place at Canley Crematorium this coming Monday 2 February at 11.15am.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Jim's column 24.1.15



Coventry City's under 18 team came a cropper in the FA Youth Cup at Manchester City last week, losing 8-2 to an expensively put together team of well-paid teenagers. Several readers wondered if it was the club's worst defeat in the competition. Since the Youth Cup was inaugurated in 1955 City's youth team have a fairly good record, winning the trophy once (in 1987) & being runners up on four occasions (1968, 1970, 1999 & 2000). The club's record prior to 1968, when the fruits of Jimmy Hill's emphasis on developing young talent started to emerge, was very patchy. Before this the club regularly had one or two outstanding youngsters but found it hard to put out consistent winning teams.

The worst defeat in the competition occurred just a few weeks before JH took over in November 1961. Aston Villa's juniors came to Highfield Road & inflicted a 9-1 defeat on Billy Frith's youngsters. Ralph Brown, a young Villa forward, netted seven of the goals with Fencott & a young George Graham scoring the others & Alan Cowin netting the consolation for City. City's team included just two youngsters who would break through to the first team – within a year left winger Ronnie Rees was a first team regular & a year later Bobby Gould was given his first team chance. Villa fielded five players with First Division experience & a further three also later made the first team.

By 1968 the conveyor belt of talent was beginning to churn out some excellent players & Jeff Blockley, Trevor Gould, Graham Paddon & Willie Carr were all in the class of '68. Carr's omission from the final – he was required for the first team's relegation battle – probably cost the club victory in the two-legged tie against Burnley.
                                                 1968 Youth team


City have also lost 6-1 on two occasions in the competition, in 1979 to Everton and in 1990 to Manchester City, both at home. The Everton result, in a quarter-final tie, was a surprise. City had a strong side with 10 players who would go on to represent the club at first team level & two, Danny Thomas & Mark Hateley, who would win full caps for England. City had scored 27 goals to reach the last eight with Tom English, Steve Whitton & Clive Haywood scoring for fun but came up against a very good Everton side including Kevin Ratcliffe & Steve McMahon. The match report says that Ratcliffe scored the sixth goal with a sol run from his own penalty area.

In 1990 the Manchester City side that hit six at High­field Road included several Mike Sheron & Michael Hughes, the latter whom played briefly for the Sky Blues in the Dowie era.

City's biggest victory in the competion came in 1957 when they defeated the then non-league Peterborough United 8-1. The goalscorers were Brian Hill (2), Mick Walters (2), Shropsall (2), England  & Charley. Hill & Walters went on to play for the first team & the side also included a young Arthur Cox who had to retire from playing soon afterwards & was later manager of Derby County.

A senior member of the City staff told me after the game at the mini Etihad stadium that the City lads froze on the night but that the game was part of the journey in football that can be brutal at times.

Keith Ballantyne wrote in after my recent tributes to the late Peter Hill & Ken Hale. He wrote:

I was too young to see Peter Hill play but I will always remember him dashing onto the pitch in a sky blue tracksuit with his bucket and sponge whenever someone was crocked. As for Ken Hale, my enduring memory of him was getting off the No.7 bus at Gosford Green with my Dad & I on a match day wearing a check sports jacket. I also remember his consolation goal in the 1-2 Cup defeat against Bristol Rovers, my second ever game at Highfield Road, my first having been the 3-0 win against Wrexham some weeks earlier.


Keith also wanted to know how many top flight clubs had been knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league sides since Sutton dumped City out in 1989. I'm pretty sure there has just been one, in 2013, when Luton Town pulled off a great victory at Norwich City's Carrow Road.

Tom Dentith, former chairman of the Coventry City Diamond Club, was saddened to read of the passing of Peter Hill. He wrote:

Your piece on Peter took me right back to the time I first became a City supporter and I remember him vividly. When the players returned to their football clubs after the war they were all experienced players in their twenties and thirties. It was quite a shock to see a player only seventeen years of  age looking so young  playing in the same team as much older men, Peter was the first teenager I saw  play for the City, other young players ,as you mentioned, soon followed from the Modern Machine Tool's Company  junior teams. Many thought at the time football  was a man's game until we saw the first teenager, Peter Hill, turn out in his blue and white CCFC shirt.



Sunday, 18 January 2015

JIm's column 17.115

Peter Hill (8.8.1931 – 8.1.2015)

A one-club man for all seasons.

Although Peter Hill was born & brought up in the Derbyshire village of Heanor he made his home in Coventry & gave his heart to Coventry City. Arriving in the city in 1947 as a 16-year old, he had a 16-year playing career with the club, followed by five years as the club trainer under Jimmy Hill. Later in life he returned to the club for a number of years as the kit-man at Ryton.

Educated at Heanor Grammar School, Peter was one of many Derbyshire youngsters brought to Highfield Road in the years following the war. His performances for Ilkeston team Rutland United caught the attention of several league clubs & Peter's father urged him to reject Derby County & sign for Coventry. He cut his teeth with City’s nursery club Modern Machine Tools FC alongside many other talented teenagers and played in the Coventry Works League. Lol Harvey, another son of Heanor, and four years younger than Peter, was a pal of Peter's younger brother Eric, and speaks highly of Peter: 'Growing up he was a natural sportsman & could have had a career in cricket he was that good. He was a very skilful footballer; in those days inside-forwards were expected to get up and down the pitch & needed lots of stamina, Peter had the skill & the stamina & scored more than his fair share of goals.'

His senior career started when legendary manager Harry Storer, recently back in the chair at Highfield Road after three years in charge at St Andrews, handed Peter his debut as a 17-year old at Sheffield Wednesday in a Second Division game in February 1949. Playing at inside-right, he was the club's youngest debutant at the time, aged 17 years & 181 days. He was truly a boy amongst men in a side with an average age of over 30 with team-mates such as Alf Wood, George Mason & Ted Roberts, all who had played for the club before the war. City lost 1-2 to Wednesday that day but the match report in the Coventry Telegraph was complimentary about him: 'Even under the trying conditions prevailing the five-man attack into which the 17-year old Peter Hill fitted so promisingly.... were much too good for the Sheffield defenders. Many of the 608 inhabitants of the Derbyshire village of Heanor turned out to see Hill fulfil the highest expectations at inside-right. He had a real hand in City's goal and his display all-through was another encouraging feature of his team's display. He fitted in so well that in not a single instance did he fail as a necessary adjunct to the City's scheme.' 
                                 The bus ready to go to Sheffield in 1949. Peter is far right.


He played two more games that season, a 0-0 draw at Chesterfield probably watched by another big contingency from Heanor, and a home debut in a 1-1 draw with QPR. In the latter game Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph wrote: 'Young Peter Hill was playing with the coolness of a veteran'. In between times he was honing his skills in the Football Combination with the reserves alongside players like Jack Evans, Iain Jamieson, Peter Taylor & Trevor Lewis as well as carrying out the mundane jobs that fell to apprentices in those days, such as cleaning boots & sweeping the terraces. Peter was a slight teenager - the City squad list that season showed him standing just 5 foot 5 ½ inches & weighing 9 stone 1lb

The following season, 1949-50, he played five first team games & scored his first goals, netting in consecutive games against Preston & Swansea but in 1950-51 he was restricted to just one game because of the outstanding form of Welsh international Bryn Allen & Peter's obligatory two-year spell in the Royal Artillery doing his National Service. In 1951-52 City were relegated & Peter returned from the Army in the October & played five games before becoming a regular in Division Three South the following campaign. In September 1952 he scored his first hatrick in a 3-0 home win over Leyton Orient, including two rare headed goals & around this time it was common knowledge that Arsenal were interested in signing him.

The years from 1952 to 1958 were dark days for the club with managers coming & going, boardroom disagreements & financial crises & Peter was the one constant through the period. Playing at either inside-right or left, he was never a prolific scorer but scored his fair share of goals & reached double figures on three occasions. During his time as a first team player there were three other Hills at the club which often was a cause of confusion for the press-box. Once, at Gillingham in 1958, three Hills played in the same team, Peter, Brian, a 16-year old debutant who scored, and Ray, a little-used forward. Peter & Brian both netted to increase the confusion. Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph commented: 'Yes, there's gold in them thar Hills'. Earlier Peter also played alongside Jimmy Hill, not the man later to become City's manager, but a fellow product of Modern Machine Tools. The goals kept on flowing & he netted another hatrick in a 6-0 victory over Aldershot in 1957-58.
                                                  Peter as a player in the 1950s

In 1958, after City were relegated to Division Four, manager Billy Frith switched Peter to the right-wing where his speed was put to best advantage – he was a natural on the wing & gave many full-backs a nightmare time. Injuries restricted him to 25 league appearances in 1958-59 but he was the creator of chances for the prolific scorers Ray Straw & George Stewart as the Bantams sealed promotion back to Division Three as runners up. Ankle & knee injuries kept him out of the promotion run-in & would hamper his later career. Lol Harvey remembers Straw telling Peter that season: 'get that ball into the near post & I will score'. His crossing was a feature of his game. His 11 years service at the club was rewarded in 1958 with a testimonial & his former manager Storer brought his Derby County side to Highfield Road for the occasion.

Peter returned to the side to aid City's attempt at a second successive promotion & scored a stunning goal from the right wing in the promotion battle with Norwich in April 1960, watched by almost 28,000 at Highfield Road, but they just missed out on promotion to Division Two. That season he also pitted his wits against First Division opposition as City became the first non-First Division side to lift the Southern Floodlit Cup (a pre-League Cup competition), beating top flight sides Fulham & West Ham on the way. The match report from the Fulham victory describes Peter as 'outshining England captain Johnny Haynes' & in the final he came up against a young Bobby Moore.

1960-61 was his last season as a regular & he had his best scoring record with 12 league goals in a struggling City team. Injuries kept his first team appearances down in 1961-62 but in November 1961 he was a member of the City team humbled by Southern League Kings Lynn in the FA Cup, an event that sparked the arrival of Jimmy Hill as manager. His widow Barbara told me that he knew after the Kings Lynn game that it was time to pack in & Peter made one final senior appearance, at home to QPR in March 1962, before hanging up his boots at the premature age of 30. A succession of bad knee injuries had taken their toll on him but Jimmy asked him to stay on & be the first-team trainer. He became the man with the 'magic sponge' & was the first man on the scene to tend the serious injuries of Ernie Machin, Bill Glazier & George Curtis.
                                                   Peter as trainer in the Jimmy Hill era


Peter played 309 senior games for the club, the third highest by a City player at the time, and still the 14th highest of all-time. His 78 senior goals is second only to Ray Straw in the post-war period, and the fifth highest in the club's history.

After leaving the club in 1967 he went to work at the Morris factory at Courthouse Green alongside former City team-mate Harry Barratt but continued to be a regular at Highfield Road games with Barbara. In 1988 manager John Sillett asked him to return & be the club's kit man. He became a key man at the club, especially on match-days, responsible for ensuring that everything went like clockwork behind the scenes. Steve Ogrizovic has fond memories of Peter's spell in the role: 'Pete was very popular, down to earth & helped the club's management keep players feet on the ground. Because he had played & been involved in football most of his life he knew what was required of his job & he could talk for hours about the old days – he must have described every one of his 78 goals!'

Peter finally retired around 1996 but not before he had groomed the current kit-man Andy Harvey as his replacement. Andy describes Peter as 'very quick witted & at times he could appear to be cantankerous but underneath he was a loving man who loved watching & talking about football. He was totally dedicated to Coventry City'.

I met Peter about 15 years ago & loved time in his company. He could talk about football for hours on end & had lovely stories of the characters from the game in the 1950s & 60s. He never had a bad word to say about anyone & was a lovely man.

Lol Harvey, his teammate in the 1950s sums up Peter as: 'a terrific man, always helpful and a great man for getting you out of trouble on the pitch. A true gentleman'.

The Funeral will take place on 2 February at 11.15 am at Canon Hill Chapel, Canley Crematorium. Barbara has requested no flowers but donations can be made to the Salvation Army & the British Legion via the Co-op Funeral Service at 184 Ansty Road.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Jim's column 10.1.15


Three men who played key roles in Jimmy Hill's Sky Blue revolution in the 1960s have sadly passed away in the last week. Former players Peter Hill, aged 83, and Ken Hale, 75, and Alan Leather, the club secretary from 1966-1968, died aged 83.

Ken Hale was born in Northumberland at Blyth in September 1939 & joined Everton as an apprentice on leaving school in 1955. His stay on Merseyside was short & he soon returned home when Newcastle, the club he had supported as a boy, wanted to sign him. A talented goal-scoring inside-forward, Ken made his first team debut at White Hart Lane as an eighteen-year old at Christmas 1957. He combined his football career with an apprenticeship as an electrician with the National Coal board. Competition for places at St James' Park was tough however and in four seasons he made only eight appearances in First Division games, scoring two goals. It was only in 1961-62, after Newcastle had been relegated to Division Two that Ken got a longer run in the first team scoring seven goals in 11 games playing alongside luminaries such as Ivor Allchurch & Ken Leek. Joe Harvey took over as manager of Newcastle in 1962 & although Ken had scored six goals in 11 games (including two past former City 'keeper Arthur Lightening making his debut for Middlesbrough) Harvey was happy to let him join the Sky Blues for £10,000 just before Christmas. In total he scored 16 goals in 35 games for the Magpies.

When he arrived at Highfield Road one City player already knew Ken well – Mick Kearns had played in the same British Army representative side whilst doing their National Service. Ken & Mick went on a tour of the Far East with the Army & Ken played for a very strong Army XI against City in early 1962.

Blond-haired Ken made his bow for City at Notts County on 15 December 1962, replacing Hugh Barr in a 1-1 draw, but his appearances were restricted by an Achilles injury in that weather-battered season that saw the Sky Blues reach the FA Cup sixth round. On his home debut the following week he scored City’s second goal against Colchester but the game was abandoned at half-time because of fog & the goal didn’t count. He scored his first ‘official’ goal in the home win over Barnsley 'a booming shot' and scored the late equaliser (a ‘screamer’ according to Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph) in the 1-1 draw at Portsmouth in the fourth round. The following season Hale was first-choice at inside-forward and netted 16 league goals, 13 of them before the turn of the year, as City marched to the Third Division title. His understanding with winger Willie Humphries and centre-forward George Hudson seemed telepathic at times & he was undoubtedly one of the best players in the division that season.
                                                   1964-65 team picture

In Division Two Ken did not look out of place and netted nine goals in 32 games as City consolidated their position in the higher league and in January 1965 he was the architect of City's remarkable 5-4 victory over Newcastle, the then league leaders. He scored a penalty & had a hand in most of the goals against his favourite team. In 1965-66 his form dipped & along with Ernie Machin he became a target of unwarranted barracking from some sections of the Highfield Road crowd. Jimmy Hill stood by him however and Ken returned to the side & scored a ‘stunning’ goal against West Brom in the League Cup. The arrival of Ray Pointer signalled the end of his Coventry career and on transfer deadline day in March 1966 (the same day George Hudson was sold to Northampton) Ken joined Oxford United for £8,000, after 111 appearances and 33 goals.

In three seasons at the Manor Ground Ken made 72 appearances and scored 13 goals, played alongside Ron Atkinson & was in the U's 1967-68 Third Division championship side. He joined Darlington in May 1968 & made almost 200 appearances for the Quakers over five seasons before joining Halifax as a player-coach. In 1974 he was appointed manager of Hartlepool where he stayed for 2 ½ years.

After retiring from football Ken & his wife Joan bought a newsagent's business in Sunderland & later he went to work as an administrator in the NHS. They had two sons & a daughter with eight grandchildren. Ken was tragically struck down with Alzheimer's a number of years ago & died peacefully on Monday.

Jimmy Hill brought Alan Leather to the club in October 1966 & he stayed in the role for two years. He played as an amateur for Enfield & Tufnell Park in the 1950s before becoming a football administrator first with the South East Counties League, and later as assistant secretary with Tottenham Hotspur during their golden period of the early 60s. In 1966 he was seconded to the World Cup organisation & was liaison officer to the successful England team. He replaced Paul Oliver as secretary at Highfield Road & during his time with the Sky Blues he saw the side win promotion to Division 1 as well as overseeing the building of two new stands & an increase in season ticket sales from 5,500 to 11,000.  After the Main Stand burnt down in March 1968 Alan rallied the troops & somehow got the ground in a fit state for the visit of Manchester United ten days later dealing with all of the ticketing and other challenges with a cool head. The game, in front of City’s second biggest crowd of all-time of 47,111, went like clockwork thanks to Alan’s administrative skills.
                                                             Alan Leather

Alan however never really settled in the Midlands and in 1968 the club released him & soon afterwards he became secretary at Crystal Palace with whom he had a long and successful career. He was the Honorary Secretary of the Football Secretaries & Managers Association, a fore-runner of the modern day League Manager's Association, of which he remained an enthusiastic member until his death.

I will write about Peter Hill’s career next week.