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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.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Jim's column 25.4.15

Trevor Lewis (6.1.1921- 12.4.2015)

Two weeks after the death of his great friend, Ken Jones, another former Coventry City player, Trevor Lewis has passed away, aged 94.

Welshman Trevor was born in Bedwelty, near Blackwood in South Wales, the eldest of 12 children. As a teenager he moved to Birmingham for work & early in the war was joined by several members of his family in Shirley. Trevor joined the Fleet Air Arm in late 1941 & was at sea, mainly on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, seeing service in the Mediterranean & the Pacific during the hostilities. He was awarded a number of medals including the Burma Star.

Trevor lost the best years of his playing career to the war & returned to 'civvy street' in the summer of 1946. He played local football for Catherine-de-Barnes near Solihull & progressed to Redditch Town where, in early1948, Trevor, now 27-years old, was spotted by a Coventry City scout and signed a professional contract.

A speedy forward who stood only 5 foot 6 ½ inches, and, according to his surviving brother Wilfred, was nicknamed 'Legger 'Lewis', because of his speed. He was also an excellent crosser of the ball in the days when all teams played a tall centre-forward.

Billy Frith was the manager when Trevor arrived at Highfield Road in January 1948 & gave him his first team debut in a 1-1 away draw with Sheffield Wednesday. The Coventry Telegraph match report was impressed:

Billy Frith had several reasons for being satisfied with City's display, not the least of these being the success of young Trevor Lewis, making his debut within a few weeks of leaving Birmingham Combination club, Redditch. The extraordinary feature – and perhaps the most satisfactory – of Lewis's display was the fact that he was included in the side at outside right when he is considered to be an inside-forward. As a right-winger he was in the middle of things all the time. He never tired, always disputed a Wednesday's player possession of the ball and might have scored a goal. Then, when injuries caused the City attack to be reshuffled, and he went inside-right, his brilliance faded. Nevertheless it was a most creditable performance.

A week later he appeared on the right wing in another 1-1, at home to Tottenham. His third & final game that season was at Millwall, where the Bantams got a 6-2 thumping from the already relegated home side. Trevor's switch to the right-wing became permanent but it was almost two years before Trevor played for the first team again, when he deputised for the injured Warner in two Christmas games against Leicester. Relegation clouds were gathering around new manager Harry Storer's team & the Foxes did the festive double, 1-0 at Filbert Street & 2-1 at Highfield Road. Two more games in March took his total for the season to four. City rallied after Christmas & finished seventh. Trevor could never cement a first team place owing to the form of legendary winger 'Plum' Warner and played only eleven first games in five years at the club. Amazingly he never appeared on the winning side but was a regular for the reserves throughout the period.
                                           1951-52 squad with Trevor second from right in middle row

It was almost another two years before his next opportunity - in the 1951-52 relegation season. Then he played three early season games before his last appearance in September 1952 in a 1-1 draw with Northampton. In January 1953, now aged 31, having played just 11 games in five years, he signed for Gillingham, another Third Division side. At Priestfield he went straight into the first team, playing 17 games that season. The following campaign he played seven games, including a return to Highfield Road where the Gills held City to a 1-1 draw, and scored in first league goal in a 3-3 draw at Torquay. In 1954-55 he played just two games as his professional career came to an end. In his final game he netted the team's goal in a 1-1 draw with Exeter.

Trevor moved back to the Midlands & played non-league football with Kidderminster Harriers, Banbury Spencer, Rugby Town and finally Bedworth Town in 1956-57 season. He went to work for Jaguar at Browns Lane, where he was a 'floater' on the production line, using his skills wherever they were needed on the production line. He earned a long-service watch from Jaguar & retired in the 1980s. He continued living in Coventry and was a member of the Former Players Association, attending the first Legends Day in 2007. At the time of his death he was the second oldest former City player, behind Colin Collindridge.

Trevor's funeral takes place on Friday (1st May) at 11.15 at Canley Crematorium. The family would prefer no flowers but donations to the Macmillan Trust can be made via the funeral directors, Henry Ison & Co, 76-78 Binley Road, Coventry CV3 1FQ.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Jim's column 18.4.15

Coventry City's 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic on Tuesday night has probably ensured their safety from relegation from League One. It is difficult to see five clubs overhauling them with the games running out & several of the teams seemingly unable to buy a win. It was the Sky Blues' ninth home draw in what has been a frustrating home season, and fifteenth draw in total, the highest number in the division along with Walsall. With three games remaining the club record for the highest number of drawn games in a season, 17 set in 1962-63 (Jimmy Hill's first full season in charge), could come under pressure. A positive statistic is that if just eight of this season's 15 drawn games had been won, City would be in seventh place & challenging for a play-off position.

With one home game left, against Crewe a week today, the club may equal their highest number of home draws in a season of 10, set in 1971-72 – the season that saw Noel Cantwell sacked in March after a second successive FA Cup exit to a lower division club, Hull having knocked City out at Highfield Road.

Fellow historian Paul O'Connor tells me that the draw was the 1000th drawn game since the club joined the Football League in 1919. The complete record over 89 seasons is now:

Played      Won       Drawn       Lost
3801        1327        1000         1474

Tuesday night's draw was the first time since December that the team had come from behind to gain a result. The last time was the 1-1 home draw with Fleetwood when Simeon Jackson equalised an early Andy Webster own goal. This season the Sky Blues have only come from a goal down to gain a point on three occasions, and have once gone on to victory (Peterborough at home).

Geoff Moore came up for an amazing statistic after the Leyton Orient home defeat recently. He pointed out that Orient's winger Jobi McAnuff has played eight times at the Ricoh Arena & never been on the losing side. Since 2005 he has played there for Crystal Palace, Watford, Reading & Leyton Orient & incredibly been on the winning side six times with two draws. He has scored twice, for Palace in a 4-2 win in 2006-07 & for Reading in a 3-1 win in 2009-10. It backs up the theory that the Sky Blues have struggled badly at home since the move to Longford. In fact this season will be the eighth season running that they have failed to reach double figures in home wins.

McAnuff must love playing against the Sky Blues – in the same period he has not been on the losing side to City for his home teams. Prior to 2005 his record is not so good. Between his first game against City for Wimbledon in 2001 ,he appeared against the Sky Blues for the Dons, Cardiff & West Ham on seven occasions, winning once, drawing three & losing three. Jobi is now 33 & his career is tailing down but since 2001-02 he has never played less than 35 league games in a season & will top that figure this campaign. It's an impressive record that Reda Johnson must envy!

City fan Ed Blackaby asked me recently about locally born players who have never appeared for the Sky Blues. He named his XI of players born in Coventry & Warwickshire who he feels could have done a decent job for the City:

Goal - Ben Foster
Defenders- John Curtis, Nigel Winterburn, Ian Evatt, Ricardo Scimeca
Midfield- Graham Alexander, Jamie Paterson, Peter Whittingham, Mark Bridge - Wilkinson
Strikers - Matty Fryatt, James Collins

substitutes: James Quinn & Dean Thomas

I thought of a few others from bygone eras. Leamington-born George Green signed for Sheffield United from Leamington Town in 1923 & went on to play over 400 games for the Blades and won eight full England caps. Then there was David Woodfield, another Leamington lad, who played over 250 games for Wolves in the 1960s. I remember as a boy, being excited to be calling at his house in Tachbrook Road, Leamington, to get the autograph of a First Division star. David is still alive & lives near Cambridge. Finally, there was Graham Parker, an outstanding Coventry Schools player who also played for England Schoolboys in the early 1960s. Graham, a wing-half turned down City to join First Division Aston Villa & was Villa's first ever substitute in 1965. He made only 21 appearances in five seasons for Villa but subsequently had a long career with Exeter & Torquay.

If you can name any other Coventry or Warwickshire players who City missed out on please drop me an email.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Jim's column 11.4.15

It is sad to report the death of former City player Ken Jones, aged 89. Ken, a right-back, joined City from Llanelli AFC in 1949 & played 88 games for the club between 1951-56. He later played for Lockheed Leamington & Rugby Town. With the help of his daughter Jayne Prosser I have been able to get a better idea of Ken's life.

Born in the Welsh steel and tin town of Llanelli during the depression in 1926, young Ken was always destined to work in one of the numerous works around the industrial town. Aged 15, he left school & went to work in the Tin plating works but within a year suffered a serious industrial accident that strangely signposted a football career. He was working close to the acid baths used in the tin plating process & accidentally slipped into one of baths, finding himself up to his waist in corrosive acid. A colleague immediately pulled him out & immersed him in cold water. When they got the teenager to hospital they cut his skin off 'like nylon stockings'. His injuries caused him to spend over a year in hospital and as part of his recuperation he was encouraged to kick a football to strengthen his legs.

His hospital stay meant his call-up to the services in 1944 was delayed & when he finally joined the Army he was able to impress his regiment with his football talent, helping his squad to win a Lichfield League championship. His army service saw him sent to Norway & he was involved in the liberation of the country.

After leaving the services he returned to work in the tin factory & played regularly for Llanelli AFC in the Welsh League. He came to the attention of the senior Welsh league clubs & Swansea beat off the challenge of Cardiff & Newport to sign him on amateur terms but Llanelli, who had ambitions to become a Southern League side persuaded him to sign professional forms with them & he continued his development. By 1949, Ken's reputation was growing & eventually West Ham & Coventry were serious about their intentions. City's South Wales scout, former player Ernie Curtis, recommended him to City manager Harry Storer & Ken's preference was for City because the booming car industry of Coventry offered a back-up in case things didn't work out in his football career. On 29 October 1949 Storer missed City's league game at Blackburn to watch Jones at Llanelly & was so impressed he signed him after the game. His old contracts record that Ken was paid £7 per week & £6 in the summer with a £2 bonus if he played for the first team. In the close season he would take casual work for a Coventry builder Ted Smart to supplement his income.

Ken had to be content with reserve team football for almost two years but in September 1951 he got his chance in a Second Division game at Barnsley. The Bantams lost 0-1 but Nemo, writing in the Coventry Telegraph noted his debut: 'Jones...had no reason to feel he had let the side down. He improved with every minute of the game, and, if he can tidy up his work in the air, his value will increase considerably'.

His next chance came the following March when he deputised for flu victim Dick Mason in a 1-3 home defeat to Leicester. City were having a tough time & were relegated to Division Three that season but Ken was improving slowly in the 'stiffs'. After just one first team game the following season, Ken became a regular at right-back in 1953-54. His performances were outstanding & according to a press cutting he was 'the most improved player at the club that season', with 'his standard of play surprising even his friends'.
                                                        Ken receiving treatment from Dick Hill

City finished 14th in Division Three South but improved the following season to 9th despite lots of boardroom wranglings & changes in management. Ken was a virtual ever present in 1954-55 and was a member of the City team that held First Division Huddersfield Town to a draw in the FA Cup, only to lose the replay at Highfield Road.

Jesse Carver took over as manager in 1955 & after Ken lost his place after 10 games he sought a transfer. He was briefly recalled to the first team towards the end of the season but it was insufficient to win him a further contract & he was put up for sale. Birmingham League Lockheed Leamington stepped in and signed the 30 year-old Ken and immediately appointed him captain. He missed just one game in his two seasons with Lockheed playing a total of 92 games and in both campaigns the team reached the Birmingham Senior Cup final. In 1957 they beat Redditch 2-0 at St. Andrews and in 1958 they lost 0-1 to Moor Green at Nuneaton.

In 1958 he joined Rugby Town & made 32 appearances in their Southern League side and meanwhile Ken had gone to work at the Jaguar factory in Brown's Lane. Later he moved to the Standard Triumph at Tile Hill & he lived in that area until his death.

When the Former Players Association was formed in 2007, Ken enthusiastically joined & attended the first Legends Day, along with his old team-mate, fellow Welshman, Trevor Lewis. He loved meeting his old Bantam pals from the early 1950s. Sadly, there are few of them left now.

Ken's funeral takes place on Tuesday (14th April) at 11.15 at Canley Crematorium and his family would be pleased to see his friends afterwards at Lime Tree Park Club, Templar Avenue, Tile Hill Lane CV4 9BQ . Flowers can be sent to Grimmett & Timms, 118 Albany Road, Earlsdon, Coventry CV5 6NG.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Jim's column 4.4.15

George Mason was a giant for Coventry City in the 1930s & 40s. In a twenty-year career, interrupted by the war, he made over 350 appearances at centre-half for the club. His son John, was on City's books in the 1960s & regularly attends Legends Day. This year John kindly presented me with a great photograph for the club's archives.

The photo shows George shaking hands prior to the kick-off at a game between City & Luton Town. Rod Dean confirmed that it was the Third Division South game at Kenilworth Road on the penultimate Saturday of the 1935-36 season. The two teams were battling for the one promotion place & went into the game level on 53 points with three games remaining. Luton entertained the Bantams & the clubs were due to meet again at Highfield Road on the Monday evening (a re-arranged game owing to a weather postponement in December). The two games would decide who would be promoted to Division Two.

The meetings generated an enormous amount of interest & Luton closed the gates with a ground record 23,559 inside the cramped stadium. In the picture one can see the crowd has spilled on to the touchlines to get out of the terrace crushes & similar scenes were seen at Highfield Road on the Monday evening. George is shaking hands with Luton skipper Billy Fellows before a tense game which ended 1-1. Clarrie Bourton netted for City whilst Joe Payne, an emerging goal-machine for the home side, netted for the Hatters. Luton's shirt has a large badge with a straw hat on it representing the club's nickname which came from a major industry in the town in bygone years.

Two days later in the return at Highfield Road, a crowd of 42,809 – 11,000 more than the record set six years previously in an FA Cup tie with Sunderland – squeezed in to see a goalless draw. The result left the promotion issue in the balance until the final day of the season when City came from a goal down to defeat Torquay at home & Luton could only draw at QPR. City won the title & the promotion place by a single point.

Mason, sadly, was injured in the first Luton game & had to sit out the final two games. He often told the story that he was so nervous during the second half of the Torquay game that he had to leave the ground & have a walk around Gosford Green.

After Wednesday night's home defeat to Leyton Orient the Sky Blues have now won the same number of points at home as away (23). Once again the team have had a dismal home season & we can only hope that the recent good away form continues until the end of the season as it doesn't look like we can rely on decent home results. Only Yeovil & Notts County have won fewer home games in the division. The latter's home record of 4-4-11 gives a bit of hope for Monday.

City's home/away record has sparked discussions amongst fans & the local media as to whether generally it is easier to win away than at home in these days as opposed to earlier eras. I gleaned some stats from the English National Football Archive which seems to back up that theory. The table below shows the percentages of home wins, away wins & draws in all Football Leagues (including Premier League) by decade, since the 1920s, as to calculate it on a points basis would make comparisons pre & post the introduction of three points for a win in 1981 difficult.

decade    home    draw    away
1920s    55.7%    23.6%    20.7%
1930s    57.2%    22.4%    20.4%
1940s    51.0%    24.5%    24.5%
1950s    53.6%    23.1%    23.3%
1960s    52.3%    25.0%    22.7%
1970s    50.3%    28.6%    21.0%
1980s    48.8%    26.7%    24.5%
1990s    46.4%    27.6%    26.0%
2000s    44.9%    27.3%    27.8%
2010s    43.0%    27.1%    29.9%

There has definitely been a trend towards a higher number of away wins in football since the 1920s with, a 50% increase over that period. When you look at City's home record in the 2010s it makes for even sicker reading. The percentage of Sky Blue home wins for that 5-year period is under 34%. It is hardly surprising that no City manager has achieved a 50% home win ratio since Roland Nilsson.

Between 1919, when City joined the League, and 1969, they never won fewer home points than away & between 1929 & 1947 never won less than 50% of home games. In 1969-70, arguably one of the best seasons ever, the club finished sixth in the old First Division, won 10 away games & racked up one point more on their travels than at home. Since then they have repeated this on six occasions: 1987-88, 1992-93, 1996-97, 2002-03 & 2012-13. In most of these seasons the difference was one or two points but two years ago Mark Robins' won 28 points at home and a massive 37 on the road. Nine home games were lost that campaign, two more than the team have lost this campaign.

By the way the English national Football Archive ( is a wonderful resource for football stats. For a small subscription you have access to a database of every League & Cup match since 1888 including line ups & scorers, together with a database of every footballer who has ever played a first-class game.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Jim's column 28.3.15

What an amazing day at the Ricoh last Saturday as 35 former Coventry City players attended the eighth Legends Day. The former players all had a great time & many partied well into the night as the drinks flowed at the G-Casino who kindly hosted the post-match party. Once again the sight of all the former players singing the Sky Blue Song on the stage in the casino brought lumps to the throats of many of those present.

Sadly, whilst there were fun & games at the Ricoh & in the casino, news came through that Steve 'Kalamazoo' Mokone Had died in Washington DC, four days short of his 83rd birthday.

Mokone was not only the first black South African to play first-class football in England but also the first to play outside his native country. Although he only played a handful of games for Coventry City his story is an amazing one that has been the subject of two books and a film!
                                                         Mokone with Charlie Buchan
Older fans will remember the buzz in the mid 1950s when Mokone arrived at Highfield Road. He hailed from Doornfontein and played for Durban Bush Bucks FC, also appearing for the Natal Province XI and the South African Bantu XI- the highest honour at the time for a non-European in the country.

He apparently wrote to City for a trial after seeing their name in his local newspaper and Charlie Buchan, the legendary Sunderland, Arsenal and England player, put up £100 for his fare. It took the South African authorities almost a year to issue Steve with his passport. At the time South Africa were under an apartheid regime and any black person wanting to travel overseas was considered a threat. When the passport was finally issued he was told, “Stay out of politics, or else.” Mokone was not overtly political but he knew some senior ANC figures, including Dr William Nkomo, a close associate of Nelson Mandela. He gave up his job as a clerk in a Pretoria Government office & left his wife and six month old son to come to Coventry for an extended trial in August 1956.

‘Kalamazoo’, as he was nicknamed, impressed City's coach, the legendary George Raynor, who had led Sweden to great feats on the world stage. Steve had wonderful dribbling skills and devastating pace and his touch and trickery was something rarely seen in English Division Three. He took some time to adapt to English pitches – he had never played on grass before – but scored in a practice match at Highfield Road a day after arriving & two weeks later scored the winning goal on his Reserve team debut at St Andrews. Meanwhile he was given part-time work in the offices of City director Phil Mead & lodging with two other City players, Roy Proverbs & Alf Bentley. Former City player Lol Harvey remembers him well: 'We called him Kal & he was a lovely man, always happy with a big smile & everybody who met him liked him. I played in his debut in the reserves at St Andrews & he didn't have any shin pads. We told him he was mad playing without them but he insisted they would hamper his style & wanted to play with his socks rolled down'.
                                                           Mokone with George Raynor

His first-team debut came on 13 October 1956 at Highfield Road against Millwall. Playing at outside left, Mokone was in dazzling form & Nemo wrote in the Coventry Telegraph: 'Mokone's form was a revelation.... he created opening after opening only for his colleagues to fritter them away. He showed excellent ball control and positional sense, and was always ready to shoot first time.' The match report said that Mokone's selection had added 5,000 to the gate & he set up City's goal in a 1-2 defeat.

Two days later he set up two goals in a 3-2 Floodlit friendly victory over Nottingham Forest & the following morning signed a professional contract. Against Brighton a week later he came up against Jim Langley, the best left-back in the division who would play for England within eighteen months, and Kal found the full-back 'too much for him'. His first goal came in a 4-1 home win over Gillingham a week later but Nemo's report was not as flattering: 'foot-fluttering over the ball may look very good to the spectators, but not always to his colleagues who have run into position for a quick pass or centre'. With friendly matches virtually every week that autumn, Mokone struggled to keep up his form & he was disappointing in a defeat at Swindon. After four league games & three friendlies he was rested.

November 1956 was a traumatic month for the club, even by City's standards. Coach Raynor left 'by mutual consent' as manager Harry Warren sought to turn the team's poor form around. His replacement was former England & Arsenal hard-man Wilf Copping, who had a reputation for being a tough taskmaster on the training ground. Then, the club's England goalkeeper Reg Matthews was sold to Chelsea for a record fee of £22,000.
Lol Harvey remembers how, after training at Highfield Road, Mokone would lay bets with Matthews, that he could score penalties against him, and usually won handsomely. He also recalls a practice match between the first team & the reserves at Highfield Road when Mokone took a penalty & started his run up from the halfway line!
Mokone was back in the reserves, scoring goals & doubling attendances for reserve games but was unhappy, In early January 1957 the Coventry Telegraph reported that he had asked for a transfer saying that ' he had not been given the chances for the training he expected' and that 'the club does not seem to be interested in developing me'. The club refuted his allegations but agreed to waive his contract & gave him a 'free' transfer. He continued to play for the club's reserves & A team & in February netted four goals in three reserve games prompting a call-up for the first-team's floodlit friendly with Akademisk Boldklub of Copenhagen. He scored the only goal against the Danes and according to Nemo: 'it was his colourful dashes down the wing which drew most of the applause'. Later that month he played in a Benefit match against an All-Star Managers XI. Sadly that would be his last first-team game & at the end of the season he left the club but not before a gracious farewell message for the fans: 'I am deeply grateful to them for all their support & encouragement, which has meant so much to me. I shall take with me many happy memories of the Coventry people.'

Steve joined Dutch club Heracles of Almelo, a small town near the German border. In the 1957-58 season he helped them win the championship of Division 3 B and was voted player of the season by the fans. He played for Heracles for two seasons becoming a local legend, even appearing in a friendly game against Santos of Brazil for whom Pele appeared. His time at Almelo was recounted in detail in De Zwarte Meteoor (The Black Meteor) written by Dutch football journalist Tom Egbers in the late 1990s and the book was later made into a film. There is a street named after Mokone in Almelo and one of the stands in Heracles’s Polman Stadion is dedicated to him.

In 1959 he tried his luck in the Football League again and joined Cardiff City, then a Second Division side. He played only two games for the Welsh side, including a 3-2 win over Liverpool when he scored the opening goal. The club tried to force him to play through an ankle injury and Mokone refused; he was not selected for the first team again.

Next stop was Barcelona who loaned him out to Marseille. He never appeared for either club but in the south of France he ran a small factory manufacturing ‘Mokone’ football boots. In 1961 in a spell with Barnsley, he made a solitary appearance.

He married South African Joyce Maaga in 1961 and after a year in Rhodesia they moved to Italy where he had a brief period with Torino. In one match he scored four goals against Verona and was hailed as the new Eusebio (then the top African player in the world).

At the time the Italian football writer Beppe Branco wrote: 'If Pele of Brazil is the Rolls-Royce of soccer players, Stanley Matthews of England the Mercedes-Benz and Alfredo di Stéfano of Argentina and Spain the Cadillac of soccer players, then Kala of South Africa, lithe and lean, is surely the Maserati.'

After a brief spell in Australia in 1964 playing for Sunshine George Cross in Melbourne, he moved to the USA and became a mature student in Washington, ultimately gaining three degrees and qualifying as a Doctor of Psychology. His marriage was in trouble however and there was a custody battle over the daughter of the marriage, Thandi. Three violent assaults took place. First, Steve was attacked by three unknown assailants. Next, his wife’s lawyer was attacked with acid. Then Joyce herself was similarly attacked. Mokone was arrested and despite maintaining his innocence was jailed for 12 years. Later Tom Egbers would discover evidence that made the verdicts questionable and that South African authorities had asked the American CIA to bring Mokone, who had been increasingly political with the anti-apartheid movement in the US, to heel. Egbers would later write a second book, Twaalf Gestolen Jaren (Twelve Stolen Years), which, like the first book, was only released in Dutch.

After leaving prison in 1990 – where he ran the library and the football team – he took up his psychology again before retiring some years later with heart trouble. In 2003 he became the second South African sportsman to be recognised as a member of the Order of Ikhamanga, for exceptional achievement in the field of soccer and an outstanding contribution to the development of non-racial sport. He joined the Former Players Association (CCFPA) a few years ago & enjoyed hearing news of his former colleagues, especially Lol Harvey, George Curtis & Roy Proverbs.
                                                    Mokone proudly wearing his FPA tie

Ironically CCFPA’s Mike Young had only just put Steve in touch with a Ed Aarons, a Guardian journalist who was preparing a book on the contribution and history of Black African footballers to the game.

Mokone had a brief but memorable time at Highfield Road. His fall from grace at Coventry coincided with George Raynor's departure from the club & one is left wondering what might have happened if Raynor had stayed & coached what was undoubtedly a great talent. That someone with Kalamazoo's talent couldn't get into a poor City side that struggled to avoid re-election that season almost sixty years ago is a mystery.