Sunday, 30 August 2015

Jim's column 29.8.2015

Coventry City's excellent start to the season came to an end at Walsall's Bescot Stadium last weekend but the result was overshadowed by the loss through injury of 18-year old starlet James Maddison. As I write, it looks like he is going to be out until the New Year in what is a serious blow to the club's promotion hopes. Nevertheless, the team's start to the season must be celebrated; I remind you that the club's best ever winning start to a season, five in a row in 1964-65, was followed by five successive defeats.

City have won their first two home league games, something they last did in 2010-11 when they beat Portsmouth (2-0) and Derby (2-1). You have to go back to 1989 for the last season that City won their first three home games. Under John Sillett the Sky Blues beat Everton (2-0), Manchester City (2-1) and Luton (1-0). Many of the 1987 Cup-winning side were still regulars, supplemented by players such as David Smith, Gary Bannister and David Speedie and the Man City win pushed City briefly to the top of the old Division One.

Like most City fans I was delighted to hear that Callum Wilson had scored a hat-trick for Bournemouth in their excellent 4-3 win at West Ham's Upton Park last Saturday. It is clear that Callum is going to the very top in the game and an England call-up must be on the horizon now with a big money transfer not out of the question. Several people speculated that it was the first Premier League hat-trick by a Coventry-born footballer and I am confident that it was. However, despite what Sky & much of the media would have us believe, football history didn't start when the Premiership was born in 1992. Cov-born Bobby Gould scored a top flight hat-trick for the Sky Blues against Burnley in December 1967. Gould had started the club's inaugural season in Division 1 on the substitute's bench but in the second game, at Forest's City Ground, he came on for the unlucky George Curtis who had suffered a broken leg after just four minutes. Gould scored twice as City held the previous season's runners-up to a thrilling 3-3 draw. He managed a further two goals in six games before suffering an injury at Newcastle. The injury kept him out for 11 games, of which City won only one and slid to the foot of the table. Gould returned for the home game with Burnley and no one could have expected the outcome. Ronnie Rees gave City an early lead and just before half-time Bobby smashed a 25-yard shot past Harry Thomson in the visitor's goal. Two early second half goals completed a 19-minute hat-trick for the returning striker with late goals from Burnley's Andy Lochhead & Ernie Machin completing the scoring. The rout was watched by 28,559, the second lowest crowd of that memorable season.
                                            Bobby Gould completes his hat-trick in 1967
Talking of hat-tricks, Dave Long read my piece last week about debutants scoring more than one goal & thought I had missed out Jim Melrose. He remembered Melrose scoring a hat-trick against Everton in a 4-2 win in 1982 but it wasn't his first game in a City shirt. The Scot, signed from Leicester in a swap deal involving Tom English, made his bow the previous Saturday at St Andrews, where he failed to find the net in a 0-1 defeat. Two other City players made their debut at Birmingham, Keith Thompson, brother of Garry, and Derek Hall, a young midfielder who never appeared in the first team again. Melrose had a stunning impact on arriving at the club – he followed up his hat-trick with a goal at Manchester City a week later, and both goals in a 2-2 draw at Fulham in the League Cup, to make it six goals in four games. Sadly his scoring fizzled out after that and he only managed a further four goals in 25 appearances.

John Coleman wanted to know more about a friendly the Sky Blues played at Luton in 1971. The game was played on the day of the fourth round of the FA Cup, as both teams had been knocked out in round three (City losing at Rochdale). City's boss Noel Cantwell and Luton manager Alec Stock got together and organised the friendly at Kenilworth Road. City won the game 2-1 with goals from Billy Rafferty & Jim Ryan (own goal) in front of 7,154. Cantwell picked a side comprising mainly of first team players along with several youngsters on the verge of the first team including goalkeeper Eric McManus, Mick McGuire & Rafferty.

The line-up was: McManus: Smith, Clements, Mortimer, Blockley, Parker, McGuire, Carr, Joicey, O'Rourke, Rafferty. Jim Holmes substituted for Clements and Colin Randell came on for McGuire.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Jim's column 22.8.2015

Three wins, nine points and Coventry City are top of the table. What a great start to a season that sees the club celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the 1935-36 Third Division championship side. I have been inundated with questions about the great start, Armstrong's scoring feats, etc.

The three-win run equals the start made in 1992-93, the inaugural season of the Premier League, under Bobby Gould. In August 1992, City followed up a 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough with two away wins in the capital at Tottenham (2-0) & Wimbledon (2-1) to become the first-ever leaders of the new 'Super League'.

The club's best ever start of victories was in 1964-65 when Jimmy Hill's newly promoted side took the Second Division by storm with five straight victories. A 2-0 home victory over Plymouth was followed by away wins at Ipswich & Bolton (both 3-1) and further home successes over Ipswich (5-3 in front of over 37,000) and Middlesbrough (3-0).

In City's last Third Division promotion season, 1963-64, the team started with three straight wins, followed by a draw & three more victories to make it six wins out of seven. There was an identical start in 1954-55 with Eddie Brown notching eight goals in seven games. Another good start came in 1934-35, with four consecutive wins with nine goals scored and four clean sheets. The team finished third that season.

One statistic that went largely unnoticed this week was that the club notched its fourth consecutive league victory, following the win at Crawley on the final day last season. You have to go back to December 2002 to find the last four straight league wins by City. Under Gary McAllister the team won at Stoke and Wolves on consecutive Saturdays, and then beat Derby 3-0 and Reading 2-0 on Boxing Day. Sadly they won only one more game until the end of the season!

You have to go back 17 years to the last run of five league victories. That was in February 1998 under Gordon Strachan when City were buzzing and if you include FA Cup games including the famous win at Villa Park it was seven wins in a row.
Adam Armstrong has taken League One by storm with five goals in three games, the best start ever by a City striker. In 1992 Mick Quinn arrived from Newcastle & netted four in his first three games but Adam will have a battle on his hands to match Quinn's haul of ten goals in his first six starts.

Armstrong emulated Reda Johnson's feat on the opening day last season by scoring two goals on his debut & became the 93rd player to score on his City debut and only the eighth to score more than one goal on his first Football League appearance for the club. The previous seven are:-
1928 Tommy Bowen v Norwich (h) 2
1954. Jack Lee v Crystal Palace (h) 2
1963.  George Hudson v Halifax (h) 3
1992.  Mick Quinn v Man City. (h)  2
1999.  Robbie Keane v Derby County (h)  2
2013.  Chris Maguire v MK Dons (a) 2
2014. Reda Johnson v Bradford City (a) 2

That makes Adam the first to score a debut brace at home since Robbie Keane's arrival in 1999 & the first ever at the Ricoh. He has some way to create a record for successive scoring games. That record is held by the legendary Clarrie Bourton who scored in nine consecutive league games in 1931-32 on his way to a record 49 goals for the season. The afore-mentioned Quinn netted in six consecutive league games in 1992-93 and Terry Gibson managed seven in a row in 1985-86 but that included League Cup & Full Members Cup ties. The most recent run of successive scoring came two seasons ago when Callum Wilson scored in five games in a row & narrowly failed to equalling Quinn's total by missing a penalty in the sixth game.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Jim's column 15.8.2015

A few months ago I heard from Jonathan Miller from Whitley Bay in Northumberland. His good friend Billy Fenwick, who is now in his 90s played for Blyth Spartans for many years but told him that his father, Alfred (Alf) Fenwick, played for Coventry City in the early 1920s.

I was able to send Jonathan a team photo from 1920 containing Billy's father and promised to write about Alfred & son Billy in this column. I wrote about Alf a few years ago but more information has come to light.

Alfred Randolph Fenwick was born in the mining village of Medomsley, near Consett in County Durham on 26 March 1891. He was the son of a mining engineer and grew up close to the Hamsterley Colliery where his father worked. 

It is known that he played for local team Craghead United before joining Hull City in 1910. In 1914 just as war was about to break out he signed for West Ham. There is no record of his war-time activities but after the war he briefly played for West Ham again before signing for City in December 1919. When he arrived the Bantams were six points adrift at the foot of Division Two without a win in 18 games in their inaugural Football League season. He made his debut in a 0-0 home draw with Clapton Orient but five days later, on Christmas Day he helped the team to their momentous first victory in the league. In front of 19,000 at Highfield Road, Stoke City were defeated 3-2. The Potters got their revenge on Boxing Day, winning 6-1 in the return but the Bantams were on the rise. Alf's steadying influence at left half, where he was an ever present for the remainder of the season, helped the club pull out of the relegation places, although the club needed the help of bribes in their final game against Bury to finally slink out of trouble.

He made 53 appearances for City over two seasons and scored one goal. According to excellent Blyth Spartans historical website, Alf gave up full-time professional football on leaving City in 1921 and returned to County Durham to work in the thriving local mines playing amateur football for Leadgate Park in the North Eastern League. In 1922 Billy’s father was encouraged to join Blyth Spartans and he took up at job at the Isabella Pit near Blyth. The Fenwick family moved to Blyth after they were given help by the club to find a new house in Tenth Avenue, Blyth.

In 1924 he played briefly for Ashington Town, then in Division Three North & the following season joined Halifax Town briefly. The last record of him playing was with Bedlington United in1926-27, coincidentally another-ex-City man, Hugh Richmond finished his playing career with the same club. Alf worked as an overman at the pit until he retired and during World War II he continued at the mine, as well as being in the Home Guard. He died in Northumberland in 1975 aged 83.

Alf recommended his nephew Austen Campbell to Coventry in 1921 but he was released after one game and later joined Blackburn Rovers and became an England international.

 Alf's son William Randolph Fenwick (known as Billy) was born on 13th August 1920 at Shotley Bridge near Consett in County Durham. He was a plasterer by trade but inherited his father's football skills. He played for Blyth Spartans from 1937-1955 but had a spell at Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager (1938-39). During World War II he served in the RAF in India for four years. In 1946 he had trials at Blackburn Rovers and was offered a professional contract but chose to remain in Blyth where his wife Lily was expecting their only child, Jacqueline.

He later played for  Ashington, North Shields and Cramlington Welfare during a boom time for North Eastern Amateur football. After he hung his boots up he returned to Blyth Spartans to become trainer in 1957 and occupied various roles at the club over the next 40 years including a brief spell as manager. Billy was 95 this week & until he went into a care home recently, still attended Spartans home games.

Billy had an elder brother, Alfred Leslie Fenwick (known as Les), who spent time at Sheffield Wednesday before World War II & was transferred to Reading in the summer of 1939. Les made his Reading debut the week before war was declared and after the war was too old to play. He also gave good service to Blyth Spartans,.  

Unusually there were at least nine other players, apart from Alf Fenwick, who played for both Blyth Spartans and Coventry City's first team. The full list along with the year they signed for Coventry is:
- George Davison (1913)
  • Lance Swindale (1921)
  • Norman Findlay (1921)
  • Arthur Ormston (1922)
  • Hugh Richmond (1922)
  • Andrew Yorke (1923)
  • George Reay (1930)
  • John Watson (1934)
  • Brian Joicey (1969)

Jim's column 8.8.2015

A new football season starts today & every Coventry City fan will be hoping their side can put together a strong promotion challenge in order to regain their place in the Championship which they lost in 2012. To achieve a promotion place will require much more consistency than in the last three seasons & a much better home record. Last season the Sky Blues won only 27 home points, out of a possible 69, and in the 15 years since they dropped out of the Premiership they have only gained more than 40 home points once, in 2005-06 when Dennis Wise inspired an exciting home record. That season, under Micky Adams, City won 43 home points and a similar haul last season would have pushed them into the play-offs. Last season's automatically promoted clubs, Bristol City & MK Dons, won 53 and 51 points respectively, whilst the previous season Wolves (55) and Brentford (58) bettered that. In the new campaign manager Tony Mowbray will be hoping for a home points total close to 50 which, if achieved, would require only a slightly improved away record to get the team into contention for a top two placing. A good home record would almost certainly push attendances higher & allow Mowbray to invest more money on the pitch.

City will face seven different teams in this campaign. Bristol City, MK Dons and Preston were promoted & replaced by Millwall, Wigan & Blackpool. Notts County, Crawley, Leyton Orient & Yeovil were relegated & replaced by Burton Albion, Shrewsbury, Bury & Southend. City fans will be glad to see the back of Preston & face a trip to Deepdale, the team's bogey ground where City have never won a league game in 18 visits stretching back over 60 years. Today's opponents Wigan will surely be strong contenders for promotion & I also expect challenges from Sheffield United, Doncaster, Bradford City & Swindon. It seems only yesterday that Wigan & Blackpool were in the Premiership & whilst the latter club have unique issues with the club's owners, it still surprises me that clubs relegated from the top flight cannot manage their finances better despite enormous parachute payments that weren't available to the Sky Blues in 2001.

Burton Albion, who only joined the League in 2009, will be playing City for the first time in a Football league game. The teams did meet at the Ricoh in a Football League Trophy (JPT) game three years ago which City won 10-9 on penalties after a goalless draw. Albion were only formed in 1950 but City did meet their predecessors from the brewery town, Burton United, in the Birmingham League in 1907-08 (both clubs winning their home games). They also met Burton Swifts, then a League side, in an FA Cup tie in 1895 with Swifts winning 2-0 at Stoke Road. All of the other new opponents have faced the Sky Blues at some time over the last 5-6 years with the exception of Wigan, who last met Coventry in 2004-05. That season Wigan won promotion to the Premier League for the first time & beat the Sky Blues 4-1 at home and 2-1 at Highfield Road. In the four league meetings between the clubs City have never won, but did beat the Latics in an FA Cup replay at their old Springfield Park ground in 1991. Then a Third Division outfit, Wigan gave Terry Butcher's side a major fright & the performances of Ray Woods & Peter Atherton won them moves to Highfield Road soon afterwards.

I had lots of interesting correspondence over the summer & will try & deal with it over the coming weeks. First of all, a fascinating picture sent to me by Dave Coulson. Peter Hill's widow, Barbara, gave Dave the photo, probably taken at City's training ground at Anstey around 1960. It shows, from left to right: Alf Wood (trainer), player hidden, Dietmar Bruck, Nelson Stiffle, Frank Kletzenbauer, Frank Austin, Ray Straw, Bill Myerscough, Ronnie Farmer & Peter Hill. The Indian-born Stiffle, who had made his name in Bournemouth's FA Cup giantkilling run of 1957, joined City in the close season of 1960 & Ray Straw left the club at the end of 1960-61, which places the picture sometime during that season. After being strong promotion challengers in 1959-60, it was a disappointing campaign which saw City finish 15th in Division Three.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Ernie Hannigan (23.1.1943 – 21.5.2015)

Ernie Hannigan, who has died aged 72, was Noel Cantwell's first signing as the Coventry City manager in November 1967. He was a key figure in the Sky Blues survival in that momentous first season in Division One but struggled to win a place in the team thereafter.

Born in Glasgow during wartime Ernie's teenage talent on the football pitch was spotted by Queen of the South when Ernie was playing for Celtic's nursery club, St Roch's in Glasgow. He signed for the Dumfries club as an 18-year old & quickly became a regular. Soon after his arrival in 1961 the club signed centre-forward Neil Martin from Alloa Athletic & Ernie became the provider of many of Neil's goals as the team won promotion to Scottish Division One. In 1964, after 147 games for the Doonhamers, Ernie joined Second Division Preston North End for £15,000 & had three good seasons at Deepdale playing 108 games and scoring 31 goals including a hat-trick in a 9-0 thumping of Cardiff in 1966. That season he came on to Cantwell's radar when North End had a good FA Cup run with Ernie scoring the winner in a Fifth round tie with Tottenham & giving Cantwell's team, Manchester United, a shock in the sixth round, holding them to a draw at Deepdale before losing the replay. Hannigan was one of Preston's stars & although Cantwell wasn't playing he probably watched the tie.

Noel Cantwell had taken over from Jimmy Hill as City manager at the end of October 1967 & chairman Derrick Robins had promised the new manager funds to strengthen the side which was struggling in the top flight. Ernie's arrival from Preston for a fee of £55,000 (just short of the club's record fee at the time) was followed the same week by Gerry Baker & Maurice Setters. At the time Ernie was described as a goal-scoring winger and 'one of the trickiest wingers in Division Two'. A fast-raiding right winger with excellent ball control and a vicious shot, he had a interesting running style with his chest puffed out making him look larger than his 5 foot 8 inch frame. Hannigan's debut was a depressing 0-3 home defeat to Fulham which pushed the Sky Blues to the foot of the table, but a week later at Elland Road Hannigan scored his first goal, a spectacular volley, to earn City a suprising but valuable point in a 1-1 draw. Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph described the goal as: 'only a half-chance executed with power & grace. He moved into Leeds' box for a (Ronnie) Rees pass and, in one movement, controlled the ball, turned, and hit it on the volley leaving (Gary) Sprake powerless.'

After only a handful of games however Ernie was involved in a bad car crash and for a few days his playing career looked in jeopardy but it turned out to be bad bruising & he was sidelined for just three games.

In 26 League & Cup games that season he scored six vital goals including the winner in the first and only away win at West Brom, and a searing shot which proved to be the winner over Chelsea at home. In that Chelsea game he was reunited with Neil Martin who had been signed from Sunderland & the club named an all-Scottish forward line for the first time with Baker, Willie Carr & Ian Gibson making up the front line. In the final game of that season with City needing a point at Southampton to avoid the drop he was one of the eleven heroes who chased & harried all afternoon to secure safety with a 0-0 draw. He could however be frustrating, able to dribble past defenders, seemingly at will & then pass the ball to an opponent. On more than one occasion Nemo described him as a 'bewildering player'.
                                                Ernie's stunning goal against Chelsea.

His former team-mates Willie Carr & Dietmar Bruck have fond memories of Ernie & both remember the night of a Soccer Ball at the Hotel Leofric when Ernie, slightly worse for drink, decided to get a taxi to Glasgow. The taxi-driver took him to his mother's house, he had a cup of tea, then got the taxi-driver to take him back to Coventry. Willie knew of Ernie from his Glasgow days: 'He played with my older brother in Glasgow schools football & immediately made friends with me when he came from Preston. He was the life & soul of the party, a very funny man who could make the whole dressing room laugh'.

Dietmar remembers playing against Ernie before he came to City & admits he was a fast & skilful winger who could beat most full-backs – but honours were even between them! He remembered City's game at the Hawthorns in 1968 when Ernie scored the only goal: 'Before the match, while we were having lunch, Derrick Robins came in & offered us all £100 a match each if we could stay up. With sixteen games to go that meant potentially £1600, a massive amount of money in those days. The incentive worked that day! John Tudor played at centre-half & didn't give Jeff Astle a kick and Gibbo put Ernie away with a fabulous pass & he scored the winner'.
After three games of the 1968-69 season Hannigan was dropped and made available for transfer and thereafter was never a first choice player. He made 15 starts that season and only seven the next season, as Cantwell’s team headed for Europe. He had a brief loan period with Torquay United and was recalled to first team action in early 1970 for impressive performances against Arsenal (2-0) and West Ham (2-1). In the latter game he tied Bobby Moore up in knots with his direct running style but two weeks later his City career was over and he was left at home as the team flew off to the USA for a tour. In total he made 54 appearances for the club and scored seven goals. That summer he moved back to Scotland and spent one season at Morton, then had one game the following summer with New York Cosmos, before a brief spell in South Africa & rounding his British career off in 1972 at Queen of the South and Raith Rovers.
He emigrated to Australia around 1973 and after a short stay in Sydney moved to Perth to play for Stirling City. His skill won him many admirers in Western Australian football and he made the first of twelve appearances for the State in May 1974 against touring Scottish side Aberdeen at Perry Lakes Stadium. In 2012 he was made a member of the Western Australia Football Hall of Fame and a local internet site describes him as: ‘one of the best outside-rights Western Australian fans had seen during the mid-to-late seventies’. At the induction ceremony, an old friend of Ernie's from Glasgow, Sir Alex Ferguson sent a moving message about their friendship.
Off the field Ernie became a successful businessman, setting up an industrial building cleaning business in Perth and it is believed he contracted asbestosis during this time. In 2010 he returned to Coventry for a reunion of former players & although he was a lifelong Celtic fan he kept abreast of City's fortunes from Australia. His health deteriorated over the last few months & he died peacefully.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

2014-15 Stats review

Even by Coventry City's standards the 2014-15 season was depressing. Home fans saw only six league victories (five if they didn't go to Sixfields) and relegation fears hung over the club from February right through to the last ten minutes in the final game at Crawley. Over 27,000 turned out for the Ricoh return in September but it was a short-lived revival & crowds soon dropped to their lowest level for over 50 years. However the difference between success and failure in this division is quite small. If only half of the drawn games had been won, the club would have finished in the top six and in the play-offs. In an effort to remain positive & provide some hope I will end the season on that note!

Games: Coventry City played 52 competitive games this season, 46 league, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup & 4 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Points: The Sky Blues gathered 55 points during the season. This was six less than in 2013-14 but there were no points deductions this season. Last season's net total of 51 would have been just enough to survive this term but it would have been an even more nail-biting final day.

Home Form: The home record was won 6, drew 9, lost 8. Six wins equals the club's lowest for a 23-home game season, set in 2002-03 but is two more than the club's worst ever season (4 in 1996-97). Nine home draws is one short of the club's highest (10 in 1971-72).

Away Form: Ultimately it was the club's away form (7 wins, 28 points) which kept the club up. Whilst not up to the record-breaking 11 wins & 37 points from two seasons ago, it was still the third highest points total since three points for a win was introduced in 1981. The away record was won 7, drew 7, lost 9.

Biggest win: The biggest win of the season was the 3-1 home JPT victory over Exeter. In the league the biggest were the 2-0 wins at Port Vale & Walsall. At home in the league they failed to beat any team by more than a one-goal margin.

Biggest defeat: The 1-4 defeat at Oldham in October was the biggest defeat and the heaviest home league defeat was a 0-3 loss to Swindon.

Goals for: The goals for total of 49 was the fourth worst in the 14 years since the club left the Premiership and a far cry from the 74 scored in 2013-14. City failed to score in fourteen league games and only scored more than two goals on two occasions in the league.

Goals against: The goals against total of 60 was one of the best in the last 13 years and a big improvement on 2013-14 when 77 were conceded. The team kept fourteen clean sheets in the league, only four short of the club record of 18 set in 1938-39. Ryan Allsop kept eight, Lee Burge five & Jamie Jones one.

Final position: The final position of 17th was one higher than 2013-14. It means that the Sky Blues have finished in the top ten only once in the fourteen seasons since they left the Premiership in 2001. They 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 did slip into the relegation area once, following a draw at Sheffield – Steven Pressley's last game in charge.

Leading scorers: After last season when Callum Wilson scored 21 league goals, the highest by a City player since 1977-78, City found goalscoring difficult. Frank Nouble topped the lists with seven goals (6 league, 1 JPT). Two other players (Jim O'Brien & Dominic Samuel) also scored six league goals. Six league goals in a season equals the lowest in the club's history (in 2000-01 Messrs Hartson, Hadji & Bellamy all scored six goals). Blair Turgott emulated Mathieu Manset from last season by scoring a goal without making a first-team start. Others to have managed this in history include Zavon Hines, Wayne Andrews & Mick Harford.

Doubles: City achieved the double over two sides, Colchester & Peterborough. On the other hand three sides did the double over City (Preston, Doncaster & Crewe).

Appearances: John Fleck & Jim O'Brien made the most appearances for the club. They both started 43 league games & were substitutes on one occasion each. They both started four out of the five cup games. It was the second season running that Fleck has made over 40 league appearances and he was only missing through injury & suspension. Three players failed to start a first team game but made substitute appearances (Turgott, George Thomas & Kyle Spence).

Players used: Thirty-seven players were used in league and cup games -four more than in 2013-14 but one less than in 2012-13. Of the 37, 25 players made their debuts during the season, the most debutants since the club's first Football League season in 1919-20. Twelve loan players were used. In addition to the 37 players used, four more, Ivor Lawton, Jake Richards, Charles Reece-Cook and Dion Kelly-Evans sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used. On the opening day there were eight debutants equalling the club record set in 2003.

Home-grown players: The team that finished the game at Wycombe in the JPT in September included nine players who came through the Academy. The club record for the most was set in 1981-82 when Dave Sexton fielded ten on a number of occasions.

Records: John Fleck took his total appearances to 139 & is now 92nd on the club's all-time appearance chart, one behind Ian Wallace & four behind Jordan Clarke who reached 143 before his move in the autumn. Only one other player, Conor Thomas, has reached the 100 appearance milestone – he has now played 112 games.

Substitutes: Simeon Jackson made the most substitute appearances (16 league & cup) – whilst Jim O'Brien was the most substituted player. Jim was ‘pulled’ on 17 occasions in 43 league starts and in one cup game. Six substitutes came off the bench and scored: Jackson (Yeovil h), Miller (Bristol City h), Turgott (Peterborough a), Odelusi (Port Vale h & Chesterfield a), Maddison (Crawley a) . Three substitutes were 'subbed' after coming on – Miller (Swindon a), Webster (Leyton O a) & Phillips (Notts County h). In the home game with Chesterfield, City did not use a substitute for the first time in almost three years.

Average attendance: Home 9,332 (2013-14 2,364), up 294% & the seventh highest in League One. Away 7,397 (2013-14 8,651), down 14%. The average since the return to the Ricoh was 9,999 but if the unusually high gate for the Gillingham gate is stripped out the average is 9,134. The club will be hoping that this average will rise next season.

Highest home attendance: The biggest league crowd was 27,306 for the first game back at the Ricoh against Gillingham in September. This was the highest City crowd for four years, since 2010 when over 28,000 watched Leeds play. It was also the biggest night crowd to watch City since 1978. The next highest gate of the season was the 13,983 that attended the final home game against Crewe.

Lowest home attendance: The lowest crowd of the season was 2,279 for the Sixfields game v Sheffield United in August. After the initial euphoria of returning to the Ricoh, attendances slid lower and the lowest league crowd was 6,885 for a midweek game versus Scunthorpe in February – the club's lowest crowd in the city since April 1962. Although with season ticket holders included whether they were present or not, it seemed that there were around 5,000 in the ground that night. The lowest Saturday home crowd at the Ricoh was for the visit of Rochdale in January when 7,606 were present. The crowd of 1,352 for the League Cup game v Cardiff at Sixfields was the club's lowest since the competition started in 1960.

Away followings: For league games City’s away following averaged 1,002 – a decrease of 37% – but still the sixth highest in the division. Away followings were higher in 2013-14 because many fans boycotted home games & would only watch the team away from home. The best following of the season was 3,601 at Milton Keynes, where the team remained unbeaten for the third season running. However, two months later at Oldham there were only 223 City fans, the smallest away following since 2012. Champions Bristol City brought 3,794 fans to the Ricoh in October, the largest away following since March 2012 when Birmingham visited. At the other extreme, Fleetwood brought only 121 fans in December, the lowest following since the Ricoh opened in 2005.

Highest away attendance: The biggest away league crowd was at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane (20,314). Sadly there was no gates to match the 59,451 who watched City at the Emirates the previous season.

Lowest away attendance: The smallest away crowd was at Scunthorpe in September when 2,866, the smallest away league crowd for 12 years watched City slip to defeat. The Fleetwood midweek game in March attracted only 3,017. At Wycombe in the JPT there were only 1,685 present and 520 of them came from Coventry. It was the lowest crowd to watch the Sky Blues in that competition.

Won from behind: (2) City came from behind to win on two occasions versus Peterborough (h) (for the second season running) and in the final game of the season at Crawley. In the Peterborough game the side came from two goals down to win – the first time they have done that since a 3-2 League Cup victory over Tottenham, and 29 years since the last league two goal comeback. On four occasions the team came from behind to get a draw, three of them at home.

Lost from in front: (4) City lost four games from a leading position. In away games at Scunthorpe & Gillingham and at home to Port Vale & Doncaster. In a further four games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws. At Bramall Lane, in Steven Pressley's final game in charge the team let a two-goal lead slip. 26 points were lost from leading positions which was an improvement on last season's 33 lost points.

Best run: The Sky Blues went unbeaten in six league games in August & September. Ultimately it was the excellent away form under Tony Mowbray that kept the team up – they were unbeaten in the last six away games, with four wins & four clean sheets in a row (the best run of away shut-outs in the club's history).

Worst run: The season contained two disastrous runs of seven league games without victory. From mid-September to the end of October the team won only one point out of 21 & slumped from 5th to 20th in the table. The second poor run, in January & February, saw four out of 21 points gained & culminated in the departure of Pressley.

Hat-tricks: (0) No City player scored a hat-trick but there were 4 braces from Reda Johnson (on his debut), Jim O'Brien, Dominic Samuel & Aaron Phillips. Johnson became the first City defender to score two goals on his debut.

Opposing hat-tricks: (0) No opposing player scored a hat-trick. Several managed two including Bradford's James Hansen, Oldham's Jonathan Forte, Swindon's Andy Williams & Worcester's Sean Geddes. Former City loanee Danny Philliskirk scored in both home and away games against Oldham.

Own goals: For City: (2) Bob Harris (Sheffield U) & Anthony Grant (Crewe).

Own goals: By City: (2) Andy Webster (Fleetwood) & Ryan Haynes (Cardiff LC).

Penalties: For City: (1) City scored just one penalty from five attempts – the worst record in the club's history. Gary Madine was the only successful taker (at Gillingham). The misses came from Tudgay (Walsall a), Madine (Yeovil a), Johnson (Worcester h) & Proschwitz (Crawley a).

Penalties: Against City: (6) Six opposition players netted from the spot. Sheehan (Bradford a), Henderson (Rochdale a), Garner (Preston h), Williams (Swindon h), McDonald (Gillingham a) & Geddes (Worcester h). No opponent missed a penalty.

Fastest Goal scored: 4 minutes: Three players scored in the fourth minute. McQuoid (Barnsley h), O'Brien (Port Vale) & Samuel (Doncaster h).

Fastest Goal conceded: 2 minutes: Doncaster's Andy Butler scored after two minutes in the Christmas away game.

Red cards: Coventry: (5): Johnson (Scunthorpe a), Finch (Crewe a), Barton & Maddison (Doncaster a) & Burge (Worcester h). This is the highest number since 2010-11 but short of the record seven set in 2001-02 & 2002-03. The double sending off at Doncaster was the first since Doyle & Suffo saw red at Preston in 2003-04 & only the fifth time that two City men have been sent off in a game.

Red cards: Opponents: (1) Sheffield United's Jose Baxter was the only opponent sent off, in the game at Bramall Lane.

FA Cup: The embarrassing FA Cup 1st round exit to Worcester City was the first home defeat to a non-league side since Kings Lynn won 2-1 at Highfield Road in 1961.

Bookings: Most yellow cards award went to John Fleck (9) for the second season running, followed by O'Brien (7), Johnson (6) & Conor Thomas (6).

Television: The Sky Blues appeared live on television on three occasions, once at Sixfields against Cardiff in the League Cup, and twice at the Ricoh, against Gillingham & Swindon.

New Grounds: City played at two grounds for the first time, both within four days in March, and won both. They had never visited Chesterfield's new ground, the Proact Stadium, before. The last time City played in the town was in 1960 when Chesterfield played at Saltergate. Four days later City visited Fleetwood's Highbury Stadium for the first time.

Man of the Match: Jim O'Brien won the most of Andy Turner's Man of the Match awards. He won the accolade on seven occasions, John Fleck was second on six, with Aaron Phillips third, with five. Although he started 20 games, Reda Johnson won only one Man of the Match award. His record was amazing- the side only lost three of those 20 games, and we leading in one of those until he was sent off! The team's record in those games was won 8, drew 9, lost 3.

Immutable Law of the Ex: This expression was used many years ago by football writer Brian Glanville to describe the tendency of players to score against their former clubs. This season six former City players have netted against the Sky Blues – which is probably a record. Danny Philliskirk scored in both games for Oldham whilst Jonson Clarke-Harris scored for the second successive season & Michael Doyle, Mark Marshal, Gary McSheffrey & Cody McDonald all hit the mark. The large number of ex-players scoring is symptomatic of the modern game at this level with large percentages of playing squads changing every season increasing the number of ex-City players appearing against the club. Having said that no City players scored against a former club but the club had a large contingent of home-grown players who don't have a former club.

With many thanks to Paul O’Connor.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Jim's column 2.5.15

Tomorrow at Crawley, for the 16th time in Coventry City's Football League history the club's future is in the balance on the final day of the regular season. The Sky Blue Army will make the long trek to Sussex to see if their team will survive. On 13 of the previous 15 occasions the club has survived relegation on the last day (and re-election twice, in 1920 & 1928). Only in one instance has the club suffered relegation on the last day (from Division 2 in 1952 at Leeds). Let's hope City's final day record is maintained at Crawley's tiny stadium tomorrow lunchtime.

It is seven years since City had a last-day 'experience' when, Chris Coleman's team gave a lack-lustre performance at Charlton, losing 1-4, but were saved from the drop because Leicester could only draw at Stoke. Carlo Nash, the Potters' keeper made several fine saves to save Sky Blue blushes & send the Foxes down to League One. I have to say it was one of the worst days of my life as a City fan. We all knew after 20 minutes that we were going to lose & just had to pray that other team's results kept us up.

The full list of the 15 final day adventures is:

Bury (h)
Won 2-1
Re-election to League avoided.
Crystal Palace (a)
Drew 1-1
Relegation avoided
Northampton (a)
Lost 1-2
Re-election to League avoided.
Leeds (a)
Lost 1-3
City relegated.
Southampton (a)
Drew 0-0
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Liverpool (h)
Drew 0-0
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Bristol City (h)
Drew 2-2
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Nottm. Forest
Drew 1-1
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Norwich (h)
Won 2-1
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Everton (h)
Won 4-1
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
QPR (h)
Won 2-1
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Aston Villa (a)
Lost 0-2
Relegation from Div 1 avoided
Leeds (h)
Drew 0-0
Relegation from Premiership avoided
Tottenham (a)
Won 2-1
Relegation from Premiership avoided
Charlton (a)
Lost 1-4
Relegation from Championship avoided

It should be noted that in the 1925, 2001 & 2012 relegation seasons, City were doomed before the final day of the season.

The final home game against Crewe saw the Sky Blues fail to win & ensured one of the worst home records in the club's history. Only six home games were won – equalling the club low for a 23-game home season, set in that horrible season 2002-03 when the team didn't win a home game between Boxing Day & the season's end. There have been lower number of victories, but all in a shorter season. In 1927-28 only five of 21 home games were won and in both 1996-97 & 2000-01 (the Premiership relegation season) a miserable four games were won at Highfield Road.

I wrote about the changing statistics for home & away wins some weeks ago but came across an interesting statistic for the club. In the 31 league seasons between 1930 & 1967 City failed to reach double figures in home victories in only two seasons but in the last eight seasons the Sky Blues have not reached double figures once.

My piece on George Mason a few weeks ago prompted regular reader Keith Ballantyne to ask when George left the club. He remembers as a child, having a cigarette card of him with a write-up on the back where opposition players were quoted as saying 'keep the ball away from Mason'.

George left the club at the age of 38 in the summer of 1952 after a 21-year playing career. He went for a spell to Nuneaton Borough and later became a publican and worked at Jaguar Cars before retiring in 1978.

With the club's season over this weekend look out for my statistical review of the season next Saturday. Apologies if I haven't answered your questions. I shall endeavour to do so early next season.