Wednesday, 26 August 2015

My new book now out: Sky Blue Heroes : The Inside Story of Coventry City's 1987 FA Cup Win

On 16th May 1987 Coventry City won the first major trophy in their 104-year history. It was an extraordinary period for our city and its football club as we united to celebrate a fabulous success. Victories over Bolton, Manchester United, Stoke City, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United took 'George and John's Sky Blue Army' to Wembley, where they overturned the form book to inflict Tottenham's first ever FA Cup final defeat.

For the first time, the cast of '87 are reunited to tell their stories. Sky Blue Heroes: The Inside Story of Coventry City's 1987 FA Cup Win features exclusive interviews that I have carried out with all of the players, management, media, mascots, songwriters, club staff and supporters, documenting a magical time in Coventry City's history. Contemporary media reports appear alongside memories and retrospectives - and I conducted the first interview for 28 years with the 'mystery man' who appeared on the Wembley pitch photograph with the jubilant players. In 1986/87 we all sang together.


Here's the press release from Pitch Publishing with a sample chapter available...and a link to buy...



Friday, 14 February 2014

Life's a Pitch...from the Ricoh to Paddyfields

A fine stat was reproduced by Jim Brown last week: the last Sky Blues' home game to be postponed was the Spurs '02 FA Cup tie at Highfield Road. The Ricoh Arena during its seven season tenure had 100% fixture completion and coped admirably with the Midlands weather - it was a state of the art stadia after all wasn't it Mr Richardson?

We've all seen the state of pitches when teams share their ground, in a normal world its with Rugby League/Union. Leeds, Wigan, Huddersfield, Watford and Reading's pitches are ready for a breather by May. We don't currently exist in a normal world at Coventry City. I'm in a position where I can't attend an evening 'home' game because I'd arrive at 8:30pm due to the extra distance involved driving from Bristol. The Ricoh saw an arrival right on kick-off as we never risked parking at Tesco like the away fans did and all this with the foot to the floor.

It would be nice to have a choice in the matter, at Ashton Gate last week it was great to be under a set of floodlights again, evening games were always my favourite at Highfield Road/The Ricoh, memories aplenty attacking the West Terrace. Who can forget the 6-1 v Sunderland in '83, the 5-4 League Cup tie v Forest, the 5-0 thumping of Sunderland with 'Livvo' scoring four, the 4-1 v Preston inspired by Bjarni Gudjonsson and the Brian Kilcline winner vs Luton as he smashed home past Les Sealey with seven minutes remaining. There are countless other examples of magical nights which began walking up King Richard Street with hot dogs and cigarette smoke filling the air.

Step forward the wettest January for 250 years. The postponement of Walsall could be followed by Bradford as 'Paddyfields' struggles to cope with two sides playing competitive fixtures in a dire climate. Lower league grounds are renowned for postponements, the facilities don't match their top flight/second tier compatriots. We will now find our passing game bogged down for the rest of the season, it will take a summer like last year to restore the grass. In the meantime the Ricoh sits patiently waiting for its turnstiles to click and the Bovril tap to flow. No Carling or Carlsberg for me with the drive home but many others partake as part of their matchday routine...which many of us don't have at this moment....and it hurts like hell.

There are two quotes from City supporters that summise where we're at in my view. 'Trampbeater''s line below is my away day to Brentford mid-March.

'Why is it no party will compromise or budge an inch, yet supporters are expected to bend, twist, and flex to accommodate this crazy situation?'

The Brentford journey comprises three trains then a pub on each corner of Griffin Park. The return journey is similar but with Guinness involved the connecting trains might prove an issue. I'll be meeting, amongst others, our very own 'Sky Blues Blog', Neil Allison, whose train journey comprises a similar number of stops from Coventry. Last year he wrote in one of his many fine musings a line which has remained with me to this day:

'SISU have stolen the season from us'

Let's hope these egos see sense and relocate us back home. From a business perspective we'll linger in League One with a rice terrace for a pitch, you won't generate income on these crowds and there's only so long you can sustain the losses. I know its been written time and time again, you never know Tim and Joy might browse through 'Newsnow' and take a peep at this.........yeah right.

Play up Sky Blues

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

'We'll be Back'......update 13 years on...

Its nearly 13 years since the picture synonymous with our relegation at Villa Park was first seen on Sky Sports News. Later that night Gary Lineker closed 'Match of The Day' with a 34-year summise of our top flight years and the last credits rolled with City fan John Mullaney holding up his hand made sign 'We'll be Back'. This piece of wallpaper hastily scrawled upon prior to leaving for Villa Park made national headlines in the weeks following our relegation and is still a reference point after all these years of that day at the Villa.

There will be many City supporters who can see themselves in the above picture, there's not one smile amongst them, a trait familiar with many since July 8th last year when our club was moved out of Coventry. One thing that continues to stand out is City supporters' sense of humour in adversity. John Mullaney went on to write up his exploits following City home and away in the season post-relegation - the excellent 'We'll be Back' - he subsequently emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. 'Trampbeater' ,via twitter, updated John's picture with his very own 'Trampstagram' and you can see below the 2014 version...

View photo 1.JPG in slide show

Today's opponents Bristol City were last in the top flight, old Division 1, in 1980. During their four seasons in the top tier we never beat them at Ashton Gate yet in 1982/83 they became the first English club to suffer three successive relegations. It was Dean Windass' goal for Hull which defeated them in the play-off final of 2008, its now 34 seasons since their last fixture in the top flight. After just four seasons in Division One their expectations of a return were maybe not as high as ours, what we both find now is the Premier League and its wealth a million miles away as we fight to get out of the third tier.

This season has brought many moments of jubilation for the travelling City fans, let's hope tonight is another as we travel, Leon less, to the West Country in need of three points. Away fixtures will prove key over the next month with Sixfields in such a state. Our free-flowing passing game may come unstuck on that gluepot of a non-league ground it looks like becoming next August so its imperative points are picked up away from home to leave us in the mix come Easter.

Play up Sky Blues

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Nobbled by the -10 ..again....Play up Sky Blues!

This hasn't been written in response to the Orient defeat last night, its been brewing for weeks. Each time I look at the league table I'm gaging the gap to the team in sixth which has gradually increased in recent weeks while keeping an eye on the cluster beneath us. There's no doubt conceding so many goals, and late ones at that, has turned victories into draws but our free-scoring strikers could only bail out the leaks in the rearguard for so long. Imagine where we would be with a watertight defence?

I don't believe there's  a City fan out there who expected Callum Wilson to make the impact he has this campaign. Seeing him strike that fine goal against Colchester last season was impressive but there was no way I expected to see him on 15 goals by the start of January. His sidekick, Leon, oh dear. It was all going so well, the second highest number of goals (27) in a calendar year by a City player (after George Hudson - ref Jim Brown) but as Jim also pointed out, Leon has moved club in four January transfer windows. A journeyman he is but there is a certain kudos to the way things are done and he'll leave (if Wolves fans will have him) having singed the relationship with City supporters. There's no doubting his quality but he'll be back in League One by the start of next season.

My concern was if these two were hindered in any way we'd suffer and Callum's injury has proved this. Franck Moussa and Carl Baker have chipped in admirably this season while messrs Thomas and Fleck have yet to trouble the scorers. As we all know their immense contribution has been elsewhere but we can only plug the gaps for so long. Looking back though, we replaced Marlon (eventually) with David McGoldrick then replaced him with Leon. I'm sure Mr Pressley has a gem up his sleeve, he's worked wonders so far with our starlets, whatever happens in the remaining 19 games we have  a base to build upon and you can't say that very often about our club.

Without sounding negative (and I'm an eternal optimist where Sky Blue matters are concerned) I have this 'orrible hunch the points deduction will prove a bridge too far...again. It hampered us at the tail end of last season and its looking like we may now struggle to close the gap on the last play-off place.
When I wrote 'January and the Season's Over' many years ago the title was chosen to reflect the fact we would not achieve glory in the season and could write off play-off/promotion chances by the end of the month. Its looking likely this title will come back to haunt me again, I'm hoping I'm wrong but we'll need 12 wins out of the remaining 19 to give us a chance. However, you never know, its been a memorable season at times on the pitch (MK, Rotherham, Barnsley,Franck Moussa at Port Vale, Callum Wilson with nearly every goal he's scored being sublime), has Steven Pressley got any further magic dust to sprinkle upon the City faithful?

Before I close there is a little message for SISU, ACL, CCC and all other clowns involved in this ridiculous situation....

View photo.JPG in slide show

Whatever happens to any of the above there will always be the supporters of Coventry City - we will always have this and no-one can take these four words away from us...

Play up Sky Blues!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Egos aplenty at Coventry City ..but not on the pitch.....

There has been so much written about the current situation at Coventry City, view and counter-view, attendance and non-attendance that every day there is yet more frustration for the sky blue faithful.
It is now 198 days - Monday 8th July - since the Football League ratified this crazy situation and approved this sodding groundshare. The simplest supporter comments speak the undeniable truth as GMK editor 'Knowl' stated at the time of the announcement:

'This just feels so utterly needless. There is a club and a ground but egos have stood in the way.'

Fast-forward to the present and Steven Pressley's stars are playing some of the best football seen in years, scoring fantastic goals, overturning deficits (unheard of for years) and have connected with the supporters in a Richard Keogh-style way. We have cult heroes for the first time since Keogh and Big Mo Konjic while Joe Murphy continues to defy the opposition with wonder saves in a Keiren Westwood/Oggy-esque way.

The last time I can recall such free-flowing football with a pattern of play was in 1999/00 as Robbie Keane and company worked their magic at Highfield Road, sadly the intervening years have offered little in terms of hope and achievement.

There isn't an ounce of common sense inside the boardroom walls of Coventry City and hasn't been for many years. The most clued up person is Steven Pressley - the man's a genius, initially for taking on the role, creating the 'bomb squad', then working his magic to transform our young side. His players give their all for the cause and have turned the -10 into a potential play-off crusade.

The other night I watched highlights of the two-legged League Cup semi-final defeat to West Ham in 1981. The average age of Gordon Milne's side was 21 and they played without fear, very similar to Pressley's starlets. Let's hope the squad stays together for the rest of the season and gives us just a little glint of success that we have craved for so long.

'Trampbeater', for me, has summed up the season with this tweet last week:

'Why is it no party will compromise or budge an inch, yet supporters are expected to bend, twist, and flex to accommodate this crazy situation?'

Wise words.....

Play up Sky Blues.