Sunday, 22 November 2015

Jim's column 21.11.15

Matt Kite reminded me this week that we are approaching the 40th anniversary of Coventry Sporting's famous FA Cup run which saw them get the scalp of league club Tranmere Rovers. Matt is the son of David Kite who was the manager of Sporting at the time and both father and son have been big City fans for many years.

After progressing through the FA Cup Qualifying rounds, Sporting reached the First Round proper for the first and only time in their history. The draw paired them with Tranmere and it was quickly clear that their small ground at Kirby Corner would be unable to cope with a sizeable crowd. Coventry City stepped in and offered to host the tie at Highfield Road. On 22 November 1975 Sporting pulled off a major giant-killing act, beating their high-flying Division Four opponents 2-0 with both goals scored by 19-year old Rolls Royce apprentice Stewart Gallagher. A crowd of 4,565 watched the tie and gave a massive financial boost to the part-timers .

In the second round Sporting, whose assistant manager was former City and England goalkeeper Reg Matthews, were given another home tie, this time the visitors were Third Division Peterborough United. The fans were dreaming of another victory followed by a tie with Coventry City in round three. Posh however, managed by former City boss Noel Cantwell, had other ideas and shattered the dream, winning 4-0 in front of over 8,500 fans at Highfield Road.

It's a massive game at the Ricoh Arena today with league leaders Gillingham in town for the top v second clash. With the teams level on points and separated by a single goal, the winners will be league leaders tonight. There was much speculation on Twitter this week about the last time the Sky Blues were the league leaders other than at the start of the season. In 2001-02 City were top of the Championship for one day at the end of October after a 10-match unbeaten run culminating in a 2-0 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday, remembered for a superb goal direct from a free-kick from Youssef Safri. The following day Wolves beat Burnley 3-0 to leapfrog City and Roland Nilsson's team never reached those heady heights again.

Prior to 2001 City had not been in top place in any league apart from brief spells in the early weeks of 1992-93 and 1989-90. You have to go back to the Jimmy Hill for the last time the club were in the top position for any length of time. In 1966-67, the Second Division Championship season the Sky Blues were slowish starters and did not hit top spot until a win at St Andrews on 7th January. They kept top spot until the end of March and only regained it during the final match of the season as they leapfrogged Wolves to snatch the title.

By coincidence, fifty years ago this weekend the Sky Blues hit the top spot in Division Two following a 1-0 win at St Andrews. They stayed there one week and missed out on promotion by one point, having to wait a further season to reach the First Division.

Another question, from Moz Baker, was: when was the last time that Sky Blues were involved in a top v second game in any division? My immediate reaction was to say the Wolves game at Highfield Road in 1967 when 51,452 watched City beat their West Midland rivals in the Second Division. Phil Fisk on Twitter reminded me that early in the 1992-93 season, second-placed City hosted league leaders Norwich City. Peter Ndlovu replied to an early Ian Crook strike by the Canaries and the game ended 1-1. In the Premier League's inaugural season Bobby Gould's Sky Blues never got as high as second again and finished 15th. There was also an early season game in 1978-79 when City, unbeaten in their first five games, were second and travelled to Anfield to face leaders Liverpool. City lost 1-0 to a Graeme Souness goal.

There was sad news last week that former City goalkeeper Marton Fulop had lost his fight against cancer and died at the young age of 32. The Hungarian joined City on loan from Tottenham in October 2005 after Stephen Bywater was recalled by West Ham. City were in the bottom three in the Championship when he arrived but he kept a clean sheet on his debut, a 1-0 home win over Luton. Dennis Wise is credited for City's remarkable turnaround that season but Fulop has to take a lot of credit too. He gave the defence great confidence and he was only on the losing side twice in 18 games at the Ricoh as the new stadium became a fortress for the only time. City finished eighth that season – their best finish in eleven seasons in the Championship – and Fulop played 33 league and Cup games under Micky Adams.
                                                    Marton Fulop

In late 2006 Roy Keane signed him for Sunderland and he played sporadically for the Wearsiders over the next four seasons, interspersed with loans at Leicester, Stoke and Manchester City. In 2010 he rejoined Keane at Ipswich and was a regular in their Championship side for one season before a move to West Brom where he warmed the bench as back up for Ben Foster under Roy Hodgson for the 2011-12 season. His final move took him to Greek Superleague side Asteras Tripoli and he won a Greek Cup runner-up medal with them in 2013. Marton won 24 full caps for Hungary and would have won more but for the form of Gabor Kiraly.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Jim's column 14.11.2015

The less said about City's FA Cup exit to Northampton last Saturday the better. I will only point out that in Coventry City's three championship seasons of the 20th century they made early Cup exits. In 1935-36 under the legendary Harry Storer, City lost to non-league Scunthorpe United in a First Round replay – a major shock, but one that was quickly forgotten as the Bantams raced to the title. In 1963-64 City lost at home to Bristol Rovers in Round 2, following a simple 6-1 win at non-league Trowbridge. Three years later Jimmy Hill's team fell at the first hurdle in the FA Cup to Newcastle United in a classic 4-3 game at Highfield Road, after a humbling League Cup exit at home to Third Division Brighton. I'm not suggesting that City are going to win the League One championship but illustrating that Messrs Storer & Hill (our most successful managers of all-time) knew the importance of keeping the focus on the league when putting in a strong promotion challenge.

For a change this week I thought I would write about two books with Coventry City connections that have landed on my desk recently. Firstly, Steve Phelps has produced 'Sky Blue Heroes' which tells the story of the 1986-87 season which of course culminated in the Sky Blues winning the FA Cup. Using a combination of press cuttings and the personal stories from players, club staff, supporters and journalists, Steve uses a chronological timeline and it works really well. I thought I knew everything about that season, especially the cup run but there are some great stories never heard before. For example, the fact that Graham Hover, the club's secretary at the time, kept the club's Cup Final ticket allocation under his bed for safety. Then the story, related by Lloyd McGrath, of what happened in the dressing room at half-time in the semi-final at Hillsborough. City were trailing 1-0 to Leeds and had not performed in the first 45 minutes. Lloyd, not normally known as outgoing, started to sing 'Here We Go, here we go' and suddenly the whole of the dressing room had joined in. One can only imagine the effect the cacophony must have had on the Leeds players on the other side of the thin walls. There is humour: Geoff Foster's nightmare trip on a bus to Sheffield, and sadness: the tears of a young Lee Corden. The book is full of lovely personal stories and it will bring back lots of memories for Sky Blues fans everywhere.

Steve has managed to get several of the 1987 squad to attend his book signing at Waterstones in Coventry on Friday 27th November from 5.30 – 7.30. At the time of writing this, he is confident that Messrs Bennett, Regis, Ogrizovic, Peake & Gynn will there as well as 'Moxey' the mystery man who appeared on many of those memorable photographs taken on the Wembley pitch after the final whistle. 'Moxey' was in fact, Steve Cockrill, an apprentice who became John Sillett's lucky mascot during the Cup run.

The second book is very different. Bryony Hill, the wife of Jimmy Hill, has written a heart-warming book about her life with JH entitled 'My Gentleman Jim – A Love Story'. Jimmy, who has been struck down by Alzheimer's, has been in a care home for three years – his last public appearance was the unveiling of his statue at the Ricoh Arena. Bryony, who has published several books on gardening and cookery as well as novels, is a natural, easy-to-read author and reminds the reader of JH's varied and successful career as a player, manager, director, chairman, union negotiator as well as a consummate broadcaster. She describes funny and moving stories of their time together, the majority of which involve a host of celebrities from all sports and film and television. We also see another side of the multi-talented JH – a romantic, with a talent for poetry!

Bryony has had a terrific strain on her these last few years as Jimmy succumbed to the terrible disease but her love for him shines through. The section of the book on Alzheimer's is brief but superb. I have personal experience of the devastating effects of the disease and Bryony, from her gruelling experiences with Jimmy, has defined her 'rules' for coping with sufferers and it is something I wish I had read a few years ago.

Strictly speaking it is not a football book but is of interest to Coventry City fans of a certain age who recognise his enormous achievements in football in general and especially to the Sky Blues. He left his mark on football and our football club for ever.

One of many photographs in her book was of JH and the Third Division championship trophy, won by the Sky Blues in 1964. I've never seen this picture before and wondered if anyone knew the relevance of the garden gnome in the picture.

Bryony has a book signing at next Saturday's home game with Gillingham. She will be signing copies of her book in the Family Zone between 1.30 and 2.30.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Jim's column 7.11.15

Two home wins in four days have lifted the Sky Blues to within one point of the League One leaders, Walsall, and excited the Ricoh faithful. Six points, seven goals, with four of them from the goal machine Adam Armstrong. He just cannot stop scoring at the moment and is setting new records every week. He has now netted 12 league goals in his first fourteen games, the most impressive start to a Coventry City goalscoring career since Mick Quinn scored fourteen goals in his first fourteen games in 1992-93. The legendary Clarrie Bourton netted 1eighteen goals in his first fourteen games in 1931.

His two doubles in the past week have taken his total to five doubles in the league already and emulates Quinn's feat that season. You have to go back more than 50 years to find the previous scorer of five League doubles – in the 1963-64 promotion season George Hudson netted six, one of which was a hat-trick, something that Armstrong must surely score soon. In the intervening years several players have scored five doubles in League & Cup including Leon Clarke two years ago, David McGoldrick in 2012-13 and Michael Mifsud in 2007-08.

On Saturday against Peterborough he became the first City player to score 10 league goals before the end of October since Mick Ferguson in 1977-78. In 1963-64 the legendary George Hudson had scored 14 by the end of October and added a further six in November!

City fans are just praying that his club, Newcastle, don't recall him to St James' Park and instead perhaps consider letting him stay for the season.

The Sky Blues are one point of automatic promotion pace. I believe an average of two points a game (92 points total) will ensure a top two finish and therefore avoid the risky play-offs. Only once in the last twenty seasons would that total have failed to get automatic promotion. After 16 games played and 31 points gathered, City are close to that target.

Poor old Peterborough must dread playing the Sky Blues away. For the second season running they lost after leading 2-0 at half-time. Last season goals from Ryan Haynes, Jim O'Brien and Frank Nouble gave City the points with the first two goal turnaround for 19 years. Almost a year to the day City repeated the feat, but left it till injury time to secure the points. Two years ago at Sixfields Posh also lost 4-2 to the Sky Blues after leading 2-1 at half-time.

Tuesday night's game was another thriller with some vibrant attacking, four great goals and a somewhat scary period in the second half when a desperate Barnsley team threw everything at a tired City. The final score of 4-3 was the first such scoreline in a City match since 2001 when in Roland Nilsson's first home game as manager following the departure of Gordon Strachan, the Sky Blues beat Manchester City 4-3. It was also the first time City fans have seen seven goals in a game at the Ricoh since the first season when on Dennis Wise's debut the Sky Blues beat Derby 6-1.

In Derby's defence that day was a youngster called Lewin Nyatanga who must dread playing at the Ricoh. He was in Barnsley's back four on Tuesday night in what was his eighth visit to the stadium- more than any other player other than Jobi McAnuff. Thanks to Geoff Moore for that fact. In eight visits the Welsh international has been on the winning side just once (for Bristol City in 2010) and he has conceded 23 goals (almost three a game) with Derby, Bristol City and Barnsley).

It is sad for me to report the death of former City player Ken Cornbill. Birmingham-born Ken passed away on 13th October, aged 78. He was on City's books for 3-4 seasons in the 1950s and although he never appeared for the first team, was a regular for the reserves in that period. Ken, a speedy right-winger with a great cross, was released by City in 1960 and joined Lockheed Leamington. According to Leamington historian Paul Vanes he made a winning debut at Hednesford on December 3rd when the Brakes triumphed by the odd in five and he played at least 17 games scoring 4 goals that season. With another ex-City man Ernie Ward playing at the top of his form, Ken had to settle for a place in the Reserves. The following season he appeared at least 16 times and netted a solitary goal and as a boy I saw him play at the Windmill Ground. In 1963 he joined Tamworth and it is believed he also played for Hednesford & Kidderminster. Away from football he had jobs selling cigarette machines to pubs and as a fork-lift driver in a carpet factory. In retirement he lived in Telford and attended City's Legends Day in 2013.
                                                         Ken Cornbill in 1959

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Jim's column 31.10.2015

On Saturday at Swindon, Reice Charles-Cook broke Steve Ogrizovic's post-war Coventry City record for the most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal. He passed Oggy's record in the 78th minute and at that stage it looked like a good day all round for the Sky Blues as they led 2-0 and looked on course for another away victory. Then, as so often happens at the County Ground, the home side roused themselves & with five minutes to go, netted once before scoring an added-time equaliser from the penalty spot.

Reice's record of 580 minutes left him 28 minutes short of the all-time club record, set, as I wrote last week, in 1934 by Horace Pearson.

During the debate over clean sheets, several people have asked me which City goalkeeper holds the record for the most clean sheets in a season. The most by the team in a league season is 18, achieved in 1938-39 and 1958-59. In the latter season, the Division 4 promotion campaign, City used four goalkeepers and three of them, Arthur Lightening (9), Alf Wood (5) and Alf Bentley (4), shared the clean sheets. In 1938-39 Bill Morgan set the record by keeping 17 in 41 games, the other being Alf Wood in his sole game between the sticks. Bill Glazier came close to equalling Morgan's record with 15 in 1968-69 and 16 in 1970-71. Oggy's best season was 1987-88 when he kept 15 clean sheets in 40 games.

Swindon's County Ground has rarely been a happy hunting ground for the Sky Blues and although they have two FA Cup victories there (1966 & 2001), they have failed to win a league game there in nine attempts since the last in December 1960. The Robins also love playing in Coventry – they have won all three encounters at the Ricoh and City last beat them in the league in 1964. Even in Swindon's one season in the Premier League, in 1993-94, in which they won only five games all season, they managed to thump City 3-1 at home and take a point home from Highfield Road with a last minute equaliser.

In the last four seasons City have thrown away a lead at Swindon and squandered nine points in the process. Definitely one of City's hoodoo grounds.
2012-13 leading 2-0 with 13 minutes left – final score 2-2
2013-14 leading 1-0 with 14 minutes left – final score 1-2
2014-15 leading 1-0 with 18 minutes left – final score 1-1
2015-16 leading 2-0 with 5 minutes left – final score 2-2

The FA Cup draw paired City with old rivals Northampton Town for what will be the two club's first competitive meeting since the Third Round FA Cup tie in January 1990. That game resulted in an embarrassing 1-0 defeat for City who were 11th in the old First Division at the time and on the verge of a League Cup semi-final place. The Cobblers were 11th in Division Three & shocked John Sillett's team with the only goal coming from Steve Berry. The game took place on the Cobblers' old ground, the County Ground which they shared with Northamptonshire cricket team and which had only three sides.

The teams have met in the FA Cup on two other occasions, in 1930 and 1954. City triumphed at the County Ground in both games. In 1931 goals from Frank Bowden & Billy Lake gave City a 2-1 success, whilst in 1954 the game was won by a freak 80-yard shot by Roy Kirk that caught former City goalkeeper Alf Wood, off his line, and bounced into the net.

On the subject of freak goals at Northampton, regular reader Arthur Warner wrote to me this week concerning such a goal at the County Ground. Arthur wrote:
My memory took me back to when I was about 11 or 12 years of age and I witnessed a very bizarre and embarrassing own goal by Charlie Ashcroft who was in goal for City. It was in the mid fifties when my Dad took me to Northampton on the train to see the City play the Cobblers at the County ground,that they shared with the County cricket team. We were in the covered end, behind the goal, when Charlie Ashcroft took a goal kick, and Roy Kirk was standing in the centre half position with his back to the goal. Charlie's goal kick hit Roy on the back of head and went into our net for an own goal. I know that the City lost 4-0, so could you please research the details to see if I am dreaming or not. 
                                                              Roy Kirk

You aren't dreaming Arthur. The game in question was in August 1957 and City got a 4-0 thumping from the Cobblers. They conceded two penalties in first twenty minutes, both scored by Maurice Robinson, then late in the first half, 'keeper Ashcroft's woeful kick hit full-back Kirk and, as you thought, rebounded into the net to make it 3-0. Poor Kirk, the hero with his 80-yard goal three years earlier, was now the unluckiest man on the pitch but no blame could be put at his door.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jim's column 24.10.2015

What a week for Coventry City's goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook who wrote himself into the record books on Saturday against Blackpool with his third clean sheet in a row. He becomes the first City keeper not to concede a goal in his first three league games for the club. When you consider the great custodians the club has had over the years, from Jerry Best in the 1920s, through Bill Morgan in the 1930s, Alf Wood in the 1940s, Reg Matthews in the 1950s, Bill Glazier in the 1960s and of course Oggy, for what seems like forever, none of them matched Reice's record. Then, at Rochdale on Tuesday evening, he proceeded to do it again in a 0-0 draw. If you include the clean sheet at Yeovil in the JPT game then Charles has played five and a half games (or 495 minutes) since he conceded a goal to Donal McDermott on his debut at Rochdale in the League Cup.

On three occasions since the war City have achieved five consecutive clean sheets. In October 2001 Roland Nilsson's team won four and drew one without conceding, in early 1992 Steve Ogrizovic was between the posts as City's defence was not breached in five games and in October 1982 Les Sealey achieved the feat. In 2001 two 'keepers shared the honours with Magnus Hedman playing in the first two games and Andy Goram in the latter three. In total the team went 491 minutes without conceding.

In 1992, under the managership of Don Howe, the run included four 0-0 draws and a solitary 1-0 win. After Manchester City's David White netted the only goal of a defeat at Maine Road on 18 January, the Sky Blues won 1-0 at Crystal Palace (David Smith scoring), then drew four goalless games in a row – Liverpool (h), Southampton (a), Manchester United (h) and Norwich (h). On 7 March City travelled to Hillsborough and there were only seven minutes remaining on the clock when Viv Anderson scored to equalise Kevin Gallacher's earlier goal. That added up to 572 minutes without a goal past Oggy. So another clean sheet at Swindon would take Reice past Oggy's post-war record. (Stop press: Reice went 85 minutes without conceding at Swindon, setting a new post-war record of  580 minutes without a goal going past him)

Oggy's effort just pipped Sealey's record of 558 minutes in 1982 with five clean sheets: Notts County (h) 1-0, Watford (a) 0-0, Fulham (League Cup) (h) 0-0, Norwich (h) 2-0 and Aston Villa (h) 0-0. The Fulham game went to extra-time and the run came to an end somewhat abruptly with a home defeat to lowly Second Division Burmley in the League Cup.

For the club record you have to go back to 1934 when the club kept six clean sheets in a row, straddling two seasons. Harry Storer was the manager at the time and the goalkeeper was Horace Pearson. After a 3-1 defeat at champions-elect Norwich had ended their promotion hopes, Storer was determined to finish as runners up to the Canaries (only one team promoted in those days). A week later City ripped Bristol City apart, with a club record 9-0 victory and Clarrie Bourton netted four goals. A week later the season ended with a 0-0 draw at Clapton Orient. The 1934-35 season started with four consecutive clean sheets: Northampton (h) 2-0, Clapton (a) 1-0, Bournemouth (a) 2-0 and Clapton (h) 4-0, before on September 8th at Highfield Road, Pearson was beaten by Watford's Jimmy Poxon in the 43rd minute in a 1-1 draw. In total Pearson went 608 minutes without conceding.
                                               Horace Pearson in 1934

So the leader board looks like this:

608 minutes Horace Pearson
572 Steve Ogrizovic
558 Les Sealey
495 Reice Charles-Cook
491 Magnus Hedman/Andy Goram

Finally, before I leave the subject of clean sheets, Richard Home asked what is the club record for clean sheets in a season. The record was set in 1958-59, the Fourth Division promotion season under Billy Frith. The team kept 18 clean sheets out of 46 league games, 15 of them at home. This season Mowbray's team have kept seven out of 13 games, an average which, if were to be continued, would break the record.

The Rochdale result was City's best outcome at Spotland in eight visits stretching back to 1921. Previously they had lost six and although they drew there in the League Cup earlier this season, they lost the tie on penalties. So maybe that is progress!

It was a very disappointing crowd at Rochdale of 2,495 - the lowest to watch a City away league game since 2002 and the third lowest in the post-war era. If you take the City following out the home crowd was less than 2,000.

Since the war there have been five crowds under 3,000:
2,077 v Wimbledon 2002-03
2,275 v Southport 1958-59
2,495 v Rochdale 2015-16
2,607 v Halifax 1961-62
2,866 v Scunthorpe 2014-15

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Jim's column 17.10.2015

Another great result at Fleetwood last week cemented City's place in the top six of League One. With Steven Pressley's appointment as Fleetwood's manager ahead of the game I was fearing the 'new manager bounce' but City finished the stronger side and snatched a deserved winner in the final minute courtesy of ex-player Richard Wood. The last former City player to score for us was Jon Stead against Bristol City in 2011-12 in the defeat at Ashton Gate that virtually condemned us to relegation.

City left it late at Fleetwood and it was the second time this season that a goal at the death has won them the points, the other being in the 3-2 home win over Crewe. In contrast City haven't so far gone down to a late defeat this term, something that has been very familiar in the last few years.

Keith Rogers who sits behind me in the East Stand and has been a City fan for around 50 years, has asked me if we have ever scored a winner so late in the game. Wood's goal was timed as the 90th minute and there are several examples of the team scoring in added time. At Crawley last season, James Maddison scored in the 91st minute, and in 2011-12 both Leon Clarke and James Bailey netted winners in the 94th minutes against Preston (JPT) and Oldham respectively.

Keith's question reminded me that it would be worthwhile updating my stats on late goals. The table below shows the number of goals scored and conceded after the 80th minute in games.

Goals scored after 80 minutes (all games)

By City
By Opponents
2009-10 (Coleman)
2010-11 (Bothroyd/Thorn)
2011-12 (Thorn)
2012-13 (Thorn/Robins/Pressley)
2013-14 (Pressley)
2014-15 (Pressley/Mowbray)
2015-16 (Mowbray)

The statistics disprove the theory that City concede more late goals than they score. It was certainly the case in the Championship and those goals hastened relegation, but since 2012 the Sky Blues have the upper hand, including this season where City have yet to concede a late goal. Another interesting fact is that of the 13 late goals scored last season eight of them were winning goals.

On the question of statistics, Craig Evans asked whether 22 points from the first 11 games of a season is a record. Craig, it is the best haul of points from 11 since a win was upgraded from two to three points in 1981. If three points had been awarded prior to 1981 then only two seasons better this term's figure. In 1963-64 the team would have won 23 points from 11 and in 1937-38 Harry Storer's team would also have reached 23 points. It's a good omen; in 1964 City won the Third Division title and in 1938 they finished fourth in the old Second Division. 

Two weeks ago I asked for help recognising former City player Horace Matthews from an old team picture of AWA Baginton taken in 1942-43. Regular reader Ron Dickinson contacted me to say that he was pretty certain that Horace is second from the left in the back row. Ron writes: 'The team captain was Bill Beaufoy, in the centre of the front row, behind the big trophy. Beaufoy was a leading player in junior soccer in the war and possibly played a few games for City's reserves.'
                                              AWA Baginton 1942-43

'Probably the best known member of the team was Bob Ward (front row, second from the right, behind the smaller trophy), who also went on to play for Coventry City and was later trainer at Bedworth Town and Lockheed Leamington. Bob was a jovial person yet regarded as a bit of a 'hardman'. I remember seeing him play at Villa Park in the mid week FA Cup game at Villa Park in 1946. It was an early afternoon kick off (no floodlights in those days) and the coach driver made a detour to pick up three of us from school at lunch time to take us to Villa. The City finished with ten men and the newspaper headline the next day referred to them as the "10 commandos". The player sent off was Bob'.

Ron is correct. The first FA Cup competition after the war was played before the Football League commenced and the FA decided to make all ties up to the semi-final, two legged. City were drawn against Villa and beat them 2-1 at Highfield Road on Saturday 5th January. The second leg, four days later, is the game that Ron remembers and Villa won 2-0 to make it 3-2 on aggregate.

Still on the subject of Horace Matthews, Bobby Gould kindly sent me a picture of the full Coventry City staff from 1965 with Horace's son John, who later became such a success in Ireland, pictured third from left in the third row.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Jim's column 10.10.2015

The Sky Blues bowed out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at League Two Yeovil on Tuesday evening after losing a penalty shoot-out for the second time this season.

It was the fifth penalty shoot-out City have been involved with in the last four seasons & after winning the first two (Burton and Sheffield United in 2012-13), they have now lost three in a row (Leyton Orient 2013-14 and Rochdale and Yeovil this season). Prior to 2012 the Sky Blues had only ever taken part in three penalty shoot-outs since they were introduced into domestic games in 1976. In 1988 City lost at Reading in a Simod Cup semi-final, in 1998 they lost to Sheffield United in an FA Cup quarter final replay and in 2001 they won a League Cup tie at Peterborough. Their overall record therefore is played eight, won three, lost five.

Admittedly on Tuesday night City had a much-changed line up from the sparkling win over Shrewsbury and were missing the speed merchants, Armstrong and Kent, but it was a poor outcome from the first hurdle on the road to Wembley. Many fans will say: 'at least we can concentrate on the league now' which is something Jimmy Hill did as manager in the 1963-64 and 1966-67 promotion seasons. In the former season, Hill, remembering how the previous season's FA Cup run had damaged the team's promotion hopes, was not unhappy to leave both major Cup competitions early on. Then in 1966-67 the team tumbled out of the League Cup at the first hurdle to Third |Division Brighton and left the FA Cup at the first attempt in a 3-4 thriller with Newcastle at Highfield Road. Hill never openly admitted to a lack of interest in the Cups in those seasons but it was common knowledge that he wasn't that upset about the defeats which enabled him to focus on promotion.
On Twitter the other day, someone posed the question: Did Coventry City ever have a player called Andy Williams, and the answer is yes.

Andy was born in Dudley in 1962 and was late coming into professional football after serving an apprenticeship at a local firm which gave him accountancy qualifications. He played as an amateur for Dudley Town and was appearing for Solihull Borough in his spare time when Coventry City spotted him in 1985. Don Mackay was the City manager at the time and Andy took two weeks off work to have a trial with the Sky Blues. A midfield player, he appeared in two reserve games and did enough to warrant an offer of a full-time professional contract.

Within a few months he was given his chance in the first team, as a substitute in a 0-3 home defeat to Liverpool, when he came on for Greg Downs in the 73rd minute. City had an injury crisis at the time and Graham Rodger also made his debut and young striker Gareth Evans played only his second game.
                                                          Andy Williams
Andy went back to the reserves but got another chance in early 1986 with his first start, at home to Aston Villa as a stand-in for the injured Dave Bennett in a 3-3 draw and he set up a goal for Cyrille Regis.

Andy played in a 1-0 win at Oxford and a 2-3 defeat at Newcastle however manager Mackay bought another midfielder Nick Pickering soon afterwards and Andy was unable to win a first team place, other than on the bench. The following season, after one further substitute appearance he was on his way to Rotherham United with Evans in exchange for Dean Emerson.

Rotherham, a struggling Third Division club at the time, were boosted by the arrival of the two youngsters and Williams scored the winning goal against Bolton on his debut, while Evans finished as the club’s leading scorer with 11 goals. Andy played 87 games over two seasons with the Millers before joining Leeds United in 1988. He was never a regular at Elland Road but over four seasons made 50-odd appearances including 15 games in the 1990 Second Division championship team alongside Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary Speed.

In 1992 he joined Notts County, then a First Division side, but couldn’t keep them in the top flight. He returned to Rotherham in 1993 but failed to have the same impact at Millmoor as the first time around and moved on to Hull City two years later. He returned to Coventry with the Tigers for a League Cup tie in 1995 but was on the losing side. His last league appearances were for Scarborough in 1996-97.

The last I heard, Andy was based in the Rotherham area and ran the local council rents arrears office, putting the knowledge he gleaned before his playing career to good use.