Sunday, 4 October 2015

Jim's column 3.10.2015

How predictable that Leon Clarke should score for Bury against the Sky Blues at Gigg Lane last week. Once again, the immutable law of the ex, as the famous football writer Brian Glanville described it, struck, to consign City to a defeat they scarcely deserved on their second half performance.

Clarke went one better than most ex-players and scored twice, the second from a contentious penalty. He became the first former City player to score twice in a game against us since 1983 when Steve Whitton of West Ham scored a pair in a 5-2 hammering at Upton Park in what was his first game against his old club since his move that summer.

I can find two other instances of a former player scoring two. In 1973 in a League Cup tie at Bristol City's Ashton Gate Bobby Gould scored both goals in a 2-2 draw. Prior to that John Tudor netted two for Newcastle in a 4-2 win over the Sky Blues in early 1972. Tudor was never a prolific scorer but was a wonderful foil for Malcolm Macdonald who seemed able to score at will against Coventry in that era.

Back in those days there were far fewer instances of former players scoring against their old clubs – players just didn't move around as much – but Ronnie Rees scored for both Nottingham Forest & West Brom, after leaving us in 1968. The best ever effort by an 'ex' though was probably the famous England test cricketer Patsy Hendren. He left City in 1911 after a brief career but came back to haunt us fifteen years later as a veteran of 37 playing for Brentford. In a 7-3 thumping at Griffin Park Patsy helped himself to four goals in what was his final season as a player.

Jim McIlwaine sent me an interesting article in the summer about former City youth player John Matthews. The article states that John is regarding as one of the greatest players ever to play in the League of Ireland. After joining Waterford from the Sky Blues in 1966 he won seven championship medals (six with Waterford and one with Limerick) scoring 156 goals as a left-winger. Jim wondered if I had any more information on John and his father Horace who played for the club in the 1940s.

Horace Matthews (born 1913) was well known in local league football before he joined City in 1945. He was a member of a strong AWA Baginton side and was a logical signing when the club had so many players away in the services towards the end of World War 2. He played five games at outside left in the transitional season of 1945-46, scoring one goal – in a 3-1 home win over Fulham. His only officially recognised games were in the two-leg FA Cup third round ties with Aston Villa in January 1946 which City lost 2-3 on aggregate. I believe that in 1946 he returned to playing in local soccer. I wonder if Horace is in the picture of AWA Baginton's team from 1942-43. Please let me know if you can spot him.

Horace's son John joined City after being spotted playing for GEC and was in the same youth team as Mick Coop and Pat Morrissey. In 1966 Jimmy Hill was approached by Mick Lynch, the manager of Waterford, seeking a young player on loan. JH agreed for young John, who would have probably been released that summer, to go over for six weeks to gain some experience and in his first seven games he helped them clinch their first ever League of Ireland championship. John signed permanently for the club soon afterwards and the club won five more titles over the next six seasons and played in the European Cup against such sides as Manchester United and Celtic. After retiring Johnny, as he became known in Ireland, managed Limerick & Waterford United as well as becoming a referee & TV pundit.

Ron Dickinson was interested in my recent column regarding penalty takers where I pointed out the excellent record from the spot by Ronnie Farmer (1 miss from 23 attempts) and Gary McAllister (I miss from 16). Ron's memory goes further back – to Norman Lockhart, who played for the club from 1947-52 and was the regular penalty taker during that time. I checked the records and discovered Norman's record was 14 successful penalties from 17 attempts. The other great penalty taker for the club was Brian Kilcline. Killer's record doesn't match Farmer & McAllister but he did net 19 spot-kicks while missing five.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Jim's column 26.9.2015

Steve Cotterill wrote to me after my recent article about Bobby Gould scoring two goals at Nottingham Forest in 1967 after coming off the bench. He described his memories of that day:

I went with my neighbour to Nottingham Forest for City's second game in Division One, an evening midweek match,  but the crowd trying to get into the City Ground was so great in numbers that the gates were closed while we still in the queue outside. Then a mounted policeman told us that we should wait because they might open again, and after about ten minutes, to our delight the gates did open again. We moved forward, but just as we approached the entrance the gates were closed again for the final time, and were told to go home along with hundreds of others also locked out. So to our frustration we had gone all the way to Nottingham, could hear the noise inside the stadium, but we were locked out and missed the game. The annoying thing later for me was the fact the official attendance (if I remember correctly) was approximately 44,000, but on the following Saturday Forest played again at home, this time against Tottenham, and the attendance was given as over 48,000!

I, too, remember that night. I missed the Priory coach from Leamington and had to persuade my mother to give me a lift to Leicester Forest East services, where I managed to get a lift from some City fans. The traffic into Nottingham was horrendous and I finally got to the turnstiles at the Trent End of the ground at around 7.20. I didn't realise it, but this was the end reserved for Forest fans but I had no trouble getting in and worked my way down to the front of the terraces where the 'Boys section' was very sparse. I can only imagine that there were so many City fans attending the game that the terraces along the side were full and the police closed the turnstiles. The official attendance was given as 44,951 and I believe at the time was the second highest league gate at the ground. It was topped two months later when Manchester United's visit attracted over 49,000.

Steve asked me if I knew of any other City matches, home or away, where some of the crowd couldn't get into to see the game.

The only City game I failed to get into was the FA Cup Fifth round replay at QPR's Loftus Road in 1974. I arrived twenty minutes before the kick-off & the away end turnstiles were already closed with a crowd of 28,010 inside. City lost 3-2 with Stan Bowles scoring a late winner after extra time looked on the cards. The frustration was that QPR had had several larger crowds that season and managed to squeeze in over 34,000 for the sixth round tie with Leicester.

Older fans will remember that the gates were locked at Highfield Road for the games against Sunderland (1963) and Wolves (1967). Neither game was all-ticket and the majority of the crowd just paid at the turnstiles. The Sunderland gate was officially 40,487 but thousands gained entry without paying after at least two gates were broken down. The Wolves attendance was 51,452, a record for the club's old stadium, and the ground was too full for comfort with hundreds of youngsters accommodated on the edge of the pitch. In 1936 thousands were locked out of the vital promotion match against Luton Town. That night the official attendance was 42,309 but an estimated 5,000 failed to get in.

I attended last week's Diamond Club lunch at the Ricoh Arena and the large gathering was entertained by special guest Chris Cattlin. I bumped into former Diamond Club chairman Tom Dentith and we discussed my piece about Arthur Warner's memories of a game against Southend in 1955. Tom told me he had happy memories of a Southend game too as City played the Shrimpers on his wedding day in 1959. Although he didn't attend the game – he was holed up at the reception at the City Arms - he remembers news of goals being relayed amongst the guests during the celebrations. He asked me to give him the details of the game which City won 2-0.

City's scorers were Ken Satchwell (10 mins) and Ray Straw (80 mins) the attendance was 14,114 and the line up was:

Arthur Lightening: Roy Kirk, Frank Austin, Brian Nicholas, George Curtis, Ron Farmer, Jack Boxley, Ray Straw, Ken Satchwell, Reg Ryan, Alan 'Digger' Daley.

The win lifted City to fifth place in Division Three & they finished the season in fourth place, missing out on promotion after a dismal Easter programme. The win was the third in a run of nine consecutive home league wins – the second best run in the club's history. What would Tony Mowbray give for that sort of run now?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Jim's column 19.9.2015

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about City's inability to beat Southend United at home. You have to go back to the early 1960s to find the last time City beat the Shrimpers in a league game, although the teams have only met on a few occasions in the intervening years. Arthur Warner of Binley wrote to me with his memories of an earlier game against the Essex club:

Your article took me back to when I was about 9 or 10 in the mid 1950s a Third Division South game against Southend. It had been raining heavily all that Saturday morning, so dad said we'll go into the covered end (West End), behind the goal. He always went   on the Kop so it was a bit of a treat for me to go in the covered end. I seem to remember that the game was played in heavy rain and the pitch was a mud bath. I remember City had former England cap Jack Lee at centre-forward. He could have had a hat trick but the ball kept sticking in the mud in the goalmouth. I remember little Peter Hill playing and two of my favourites, Alan Moore and Reg Matthews. The game was abandoned I think half way through the second half with the City winning 3 or 4-1. What brings me to remember this game was that the City lost the rearranged fixture 3 or 4-1 later in the season. Hopefully you can put the record straight for me. Another game I remember against Southend when they upset the apple cart, was played on a Friday night - can't remember the reason why -in our 1964 promotion year and they beat City 5-2 . Can't remember whether it  rained or not that Friday night though.

The abandoned game Arthur remembers so well is not part of City's official records but I do have the details. It was played on Saturday 26th March 1955 and City led 3-1 when the referee abandoned the game because of heavy rain in the 68th minute. Barry Hawkings, Colin Collindridge & Jack Lee netted the goals in front of a tiny crowd of 4,100. City's line up was as follows:
 Reg Matthews: Ken Jones, Roy Kirk: Iain Jamieson, Martin McDonnell, Frank Austin: Alan Moore, Barry Hawkings, Jack Lee, Peter Hill, Colin Collindridge. At the time the attendance would have been the smallest crowd to watch a City home game since the 1920s but it didn't enter the record books. Ten days later the gate dropped to 3,936 for the visit of Newport County.

                                                  Coventry City 1954-55

The Southend game was re-arranged for a midweek game in early May & Arthur's memory is good, City lost 1-4 with Jock Lockhart netting a hat-trick for the Shrimpers in front of a crowd of 7,303.

Arthur also remembers the game in 1967 when Bobby Gould became the first Coventry-born player to score a top-flight hat-trick.

I was at the Burnley game when Bobby got his hat trick and gave us a 5-1 win, and l can remember the story on the back page of the Telegraph on the Monday was that manager Noel Cantwell said that he would not sell Bobby for £100,000 on that performance. Big money back then, but as usual we could not keep him, and a couple of months later he was sold to Arsenal for £90,000. As you know the £90,000 was spent on Neil Martin from Sunderland who was a good replacement and scored many important goals for us.

The recent Southend home game saw City's two goals scored by central defenders, Reda Johnson & Sam Ricketts. Sam Gayton wondered when the last time that two central defenders scored in the same City game. It was a great question & I had to dig deep to find the answer. It was back on New Years Day 1997 when City drew 2-2 at home to Sunderland in a Premier League game. City went into the game on a four-game winning run but trailed to a 6th minute Michael Bridges goal. Dion Dublin (playing in defence) headed City level four minutes later. After 18 minutes Steve Agnew put the visitors ahead again from the penalty spot after Liam Daish brought down John Mullin. Ten minutes later Daish made amends as he headed an equaliser. City looked the more likely winners until Dublin was sent off by Graham Poll five minutes before the break after retaliating against Bridges.

After the game City were in 12th place in the table, and Sunderland one place higher. Both sides however struggled in early 1997 – Sunderland won only four out of 17 games – and on the final day of the season City saved themselves with that famous win at Tottenham, a result which sent Sunderland down.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Jim's column 12.9.2015

For Coventry City fans of a certain age, Mick Kearns is a true legend. Nuneaton-born Mick was the ultimate one-club man, making 385 appearances for City between 1957 and 1967. His career
spanned the whole of the immy Hill era & he had the honour of representing the club in all four
divisions of the Football League plus the old Third Division South. Mick is a great supporter of the
Former Players Association & has won the annual golf competition on at least two occasions.

During the summer he asked me to remind him of the club's overseas tours in which he took part & I was able to supply him with a list of the foreign tours during his time at the club.

1962 West Germany (3 games)
1963 West Germany (4 games)
1964 Spain (1 game)
1965 Iceland (3 games)
1966 European Tour (West Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium. 4 games)
1967 West Indies (5 games)

Mick informed me that he didn't go on the 1962 tour to West Germany as he was doing his National Service.

The full list of games the club played during those tours is as follows:

11-5-1962 Hanau won 3-2
13-5-1962 Hassfurt won 2-0
16-5-1962 Singen won 3-0
26-5-1963 Neumunster won 3-1
28-5-1963 Bad Neuenahr won 6-1
29-5-1963 Kaiserslautern won 2-0
24-5-1964 Onteniente won 5-2
24-5-1965 KR Reykjavik won 4-1
26-5-1965 Keflavik won 4-1
28-5-1965 Iceland XI won 3-0
25-5-1966 Offenbach Kickers drew 0-0
31-5-1966 FC Austria Vienna lost 1-4
3-6-1966 Young Fellows Zurich lost 2-3
6-6-1966 Union St Gilloise won 3-1
2-6-1967 Trinidad & Tobago XI won 5-2
4-6-1967 South Trinidad XI won 4-3
6-6-1967 Barbados XI won 3-2
12-6-1967 Barbados XI won 2-0
18-6-1967 Bermuda Police won 8-0

It is interesting to note that all the tours were post-season, unlike the modern trend to have pre-season tours. In 1964 and 1967 the club took the players away to celebrate winning the Division Three & Division Two championships and the game in Spain in 1964 was apparently organised at very short notice against a Spanish Second Division side near their resort of Gandia. The 1966 tour was an interesting one in that the Rover Car company provided the club with a fleet of Sky Blue Rover 2000 cars in which to travel Europe & the team did various marketing exercises for the company to promote sales of the popular car.

                                              Sky Blue Rovers set off for European tour 1966
Sunday's victory at Burton was impressive & lifted the Sky Blues to the heady heights of second place in the table. It was a rare away victory on live television. You have to go back to November 2008 and a 1-0 win at St Andrews, courtesy of a Clinton Morrison goal for the last away league victory 'on the box'. Since then the team had been 'live'  eight times away from home. The record up till Sunday was dire with six defeats & two draws:

2008-09 Reading lost 1-3
2009-19 Derby lost 1-2
2009-10 Scunthorpe lost 0-1
2009-10 Leicester drew 2-2
2010-11 QPR lost 1-2
2011-12 Ipswich lost 0-3
2011-12 Southampton lost 0-4
2013-14 Bradford C drew 3-3

Jim's column 5.9.2015

Monday night's home game with Southend was definitely two points dropped in my opinion. City had the lion's share of the play & deserved to win but not for the first time they failed to convert a penalty. They have now missed seven of the last eight penalties awarded, stretching back almost 18 months. Since 11 March 2014 when Callum Wilson & Carl Baker both scored penalties at Gillingham, the only successful penalty for Sky Blues has been Gary Madine at the same venue in January this year. The seven culprits to fail to convert are:

Callum Wilson (Stevenage home)
Carl Baker (MK Dons home)

Reda Johnson (Worcester FAC home)
Marcus Tudgay (Walsall away)
Gary Madine (Yeovil away)
Nick Proschwitz (Crawley away)

Jim O'Brien (Southend home)

It's a sad state of affairs when so many professional footballers cannot score from twelve yards, especially when you consider that City's penalty kings Ronnie Farmer & Gary McAllister had such good records from the spot. Farmer missed only one in 23 attempts & McAllister one out of 16.

After the game manager Tony Mowbray wondered why Adam Armstrong, as a man used to finding the net, didn't insist on taking penalties. He would have the added benefit of improving his goal tally, something all strikers, whatever they may say, desperately want to do. It set me thinking about some of City's successful strikers over the years & whether they were penalty takers. Some of the most prolific didn't go anywhere near a penalty including 25-goal Terry Bly in 1963 and George Hudson, another 20 goals -a -season man. Bobby Gould managed 24 goals in 1967 without being a spot-kick man and Ian Wallace, Mick Ferguson and Terry Gibson bagged lots of goals without penalties. Similarly only one of Mick Quinn's 17 goals in 1993 was a penalty.

In more recent times Dion Dublin had half a season in 1998 as penalty specialist when McAllister was injured. He managed six league penalties which when added to his twelve from open play made him the Premiership's joint leading scorer. Later Gary McSheffrey's goalscoring record was enhanced by his penalty goals. In fact, but for his spot kicks Gary would have struggled to reach double figures in any season and in 2004-05 six of his 12 league goals came from the spot. Mind you he did miss more than his fair share too.

Two seasons ago Callum Wilson became the first City player to score 20 league goals in a season since Wallace in 1978 but only two of them were spot-kicks & I remember his dreadful miss against Stevenage which would have meant he equalled Quinn's post-war record of scoring in six consecutive games.

The bottom line is that the manager must appoint a penalty taker and probably get Ronnie Farmer down to Ryton to give him some coaching on the perfect spot-kick.

Older fans will remember the visits of Southend to Highfield Road in the 1960s & City failed to break that hoodoo on Monday night. Between 1961-64 Southend visited the old ground three times, drawing 3-3 in 1961-62, and winning 4-3 in 1962-63 and 5-2 in 1963-64. The latter result stunned City fans as the Sky Blues were top of Division Three at the time & heading for promotion. Monday night's draw means that the Shrimpers have not lost in Coventry in five league visits going back to 1960.

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.