Gone But Not Forgotten
Obituaries are provided for the following former players of Coventry City Football Club (in order of death, most recent first):-
2015: Márton Fülöp (1983-2015); Ken Cornbill (1937-2015); Ernie Hannigan (1943-2015); Trevor Lewis (1921-2015); R.K.Ken’ Jones (1926-2015); Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone (1932-2015); Peter Hill (1931-2015); Ken Hale (1939-2015) and Alan Leather (1932-2015)
2014: Bill Gray (1931 – 2014); Bill Farmer (1927-2014); Don Bennett (1933-2014); Gordon Nutt (1932-2014); Tony Hateley (1941-2014); Albert McCann (1941-2014);
2013: Gerry Baker (1938-2013); Geoff Strong (1937-2013); Jimmy Knox (1935 – 2013);
2012: Dave Sexton OBE (1930 – 2012); Iain Jamieson (1928-2012); Stan Smith (1925-2012); Ernie Machin (1944-2012); Eddy Brown (1926-2012); Barry Lowes (1939 – 2012); Jack Evans (1926 – 2012); Harry Hart (1926 – 2012)
2011: Alf Setchell (1924-2011); Vernon Griffiths (1936-2011); Eric Dobbs (1920-2011); Jack Kendall (1921- 2011);
2010: Norman Smith (1919 – 2010); Barry Hawkings (1931 – 2010); Charlie Timmins (1922 – 2010); Charlie Ashcroft (1926 – 2010);
2009: Charlie Dutton (1934 – 2009); Ken Watkins (1923 – 2009); Tommy Capel (1922 – 2009); Neil Dougall (1921 – 2009); Terry Bly (1935 – 2009); Regis Genaux (1973 – 2009);
2008: Alan Moore (1927 – 2008); Alan ‘Digger’ Daley (1927-2008); Jack Barnes (1908-2008); Wilf Nash (1913-2008)
2007: Graham Paddon (1950-2007); Dennis Uphill (1931-2007);
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Márton Fülöp (03/05/1983 – 12/11/2015)
CCFPA is very sad to pass on the news that former Sky Blue Hungarian goalkeeper Márton Fülöp lost his battle with cancer at the tragically early age of 32. Márton who was capped 24 times for his country (and would have won more but for the form of Gabor Kiraly) was at the Ricoh in the 2005-06 season.
The Budapest-born goalkeeper joined Tottenham Hotspur in summer 2004 as a 21 year old after a couple of years with his first club, MTK Hungaria. However, before making a first team appearance for Spurs was sent out on loan first to Chesterfield at the back end of the 2004-05 season and then to the Sky Blues (from 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. With CCFC, Márton made 31 league and 2 F.A.Cup appearances for (now CCFPA member) Micky Adams’ Championship team before returning to Spurs at the end of the season. A loan spell with Roy Keane’s Sunderland in 2006 followed before he earned a transfer to the Stadium of Light in January 2007 where he made over 40 appearances, playing sporadically for the Wearsiders over the next four seasons, interspersed with loans at Leicester, Stoke and Manchester City.
The other light blues, Manchester City signed Márton on an emergency loan in April 2010 before signing a two-year deal with Ipswich in 2010 where he rejoined a past manager Roy Keane and made over 30 appearances being a regular in their Championship side. A one-year loan spell at the Hawthorns followed 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 Tripolis and he won a Greek Cup runner-up medal with them in 2013, before undergoing an apparently successful operation to have an malignant tumour on his arm removed. Speaking after his surgery in June 2013, Márton had said: ”I am sure that after a few months I will be ready both physically and mentally to continue playing football”. Tragically this was not to be!
On hearing the news CCFC said ‘Everyone at CCFC are saddened to hear of the passing of our former goalkeeper Marton Fulop, at the age of 32. Our thoughts and condolences are with Marton’s family and friends at this difficult time’. All the members and staff at the Association would wish to add their condolences.
Ken Cornbill (1937 – 13/04/2015)
It is sad 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 signed from Boldmere St Michaels in 1958. He 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 Jim Brown remembers seeing 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.
Ernie Hannigan (23/01/1943 – 21/05/2015)
Ernie Hannigan, who has died aged 72, was Noel Cantwell’s first signing as the Coventry City manager in November 1967. He was a key figure in the Sky Blues survival in that momentous first season in Division One but struggled to win a place in the team thereafter.
Born in Glasgow during wartime Ernie’s teenage talent on the football pitch was spotted by Queen of the South when Ernie was playing for Celtic’s nursery club, St Roch’s in Glasgow. He signed for the Dumfries club as an 18-year old & quickly became a regular. Soon after his arrival in 1961 the club signed centre-forward Neil Martin from Alloa Athletic & Ernie became the provider of many of Neil’s goals as the team won promotion to Scottish Division One. In 1964, after 147 games for the Doonhamers, Ernie joined Second Division Preston North End for £15,000 & had three good seasons at Deepdale playing 108 games and scoring 31 goals including a hat-trick in a 9-0 thumping of Cardiff in 1966. That season he came on to Cantwell’s radar when North End had a good FA Cup run with Ernie scoring the winner in a Fifth round tie with Tottenham & giving Cantwell’s team, Manchester United, a shock in the sixth round, holding them to a draw at Deepdale before losing the replay. Hannigan was one of Preston’s stars & although Cantwell wasn’t playing he probably watched the tie.
Noel Cantwell had taken over from Jimmy Hill as City manager at the end of October 1967 & chairman Derrick Robins had promised the new manager funds to strengthen the side which was struggling in the top flight. Ernie’s arrival from Preston for a fee of £55,000 (just short of the club’s record fee at the time) was followed the same week by Gerry Baker & Maurice Setters. At the time Ernie was described as a goal-scoring winger and ‘one of the trickiest wingers in Division Two’. A fast-raiding right winger with excellent ball control and a vicious shot, he had a interesting running style with his chest puffed out making him look larger than his 5 foot 8 inch frame. Hannigan’s debut was a depressing 0-3 home defeat to Fulham which pushed the Sky Blues to the foot of the table, but a week later at Elland Road Hannigan scored his first goal, a spectacular volley, to earn City a suprising but valuable point in a 1-1 draw. Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph described the goal as: ‘only a half-chance executed with power & grace. He moved into Leeds’ box for a (Ronnie) Rees pass and, in one movement, controlled the ball, turned, and hit it on the volley leaving (Gary) Sprake powerless.’
After only a handful of games however Ernie was involved in a bad car crash and for a few days his playing career looked in jeopardy but it turned out to be bad bruising & he was sidelined for just three games. In 26 League & Cup games that season he scored six vital goals including the winner in the first and only away win at West Brom, and a searing shot which proved to be the winner over Chelsea at home. In that Chelsea game he was reunited with Neil Martin who had been signed from Sunderland & the club named an all-Scottish forward line for the first time with Baker, Willie Carr & Ian Gibson making up the front line. In the final game of that season with City needing a point at Southampton to avoid the drop he was one of the eleven heroes who chased & harried all afternoon to secure safety with a 0-0 draw. He could however be frustrating, able to dribble past defenders, seemingly at will & then pass the ball to an opponent. On more than one occasion Nemo described him as a ‘bewildering player’.
His former team-mates Willie Carr & Dietmar Bruck have fond memories of Ernie & both remember the night of a Soccer Ball at the Hotel Leofric when Ernie, slightly worse for drink, decided to get a taxi to Glasgow. The taxi-driver took him to his mother’s house, he had a cup of tea, then got the taxi-driver to take him back to Coventry. Willie knew of Ernie from his Glasgow days: ‘He played with my older brother in Glasgow schools football & immediately made friends with me when he came from Preston. He was the life & soul of the party, a very funny man who could make the whole dressing room laugh’. Dietmar remembers playing against Ernie before he came to City & admits he was a fast & skilful winger who could beat most full-backs – but honours were even between them! He remembered City’s game at the Hawthorns in 1968 when Ernie scored the only goal: ‘Before the match, while we were having lunch, Derrick Robins came in & offered us all £100 a match each if we could stay up. With sixteen games to go that meant potentially £1600, a massive amount of money in those days. The incentive worked that day! John Tudor played at centre-half & didn’t give Jeff Astle a kick and Gibbo put Ernie away with a fabulous pass & he scored the winner’.
After three games of the 1968-69 season Hannigan was dropped and made available for transfer and thereafter was never a first choice player. He made 15 starts that season and only seven the next season, as Cantwell’s team headed for Europe. He had a brief loan period with Torquay United and was recalled to first team action in early 1970 for impressive performances against Arsenal (2-0) and West Ham (2-1). In the latter game he tied Bobby Moore up in knots with his direct running style but two weeks later his City career was over and he was left at home as the team flew off to the USA for a tour. In total he made 54 appearances for the club and scored seven goals. That summer he moved back to Scotland and spent one season at Morton, then had one game the following summer with New York Cosmos, before a brief spell in South Africa & rounding his British career off in 1972 at Queen of the South and Raith Rovers.
He emigrated to Australia around 1973 and after a short stay in Sydney moved to Perth to play for Stirling City. His skill won him many admirers in Western Australian football and he made the first of twelve appearances for the State in May 1974 against touring Scottish side Aberdeen at Perry Lakes Stadium. In 2012 he was made a member of the Western Australia Football Hall of Fame and a local internet site describes him as: ‘one of the best outside-rights Western Australian fans had seen during the mid-to-late seventies’. At the induction ceremony, an old friend of Ernie’s from Glasgow, Sir Alex Ferguson sent a moving message about their friendship.
Off the field Ernie became a successful businessman, setting up an industrial building cleaning business in Perth and it is believed he contracted asbestosis during this time. In 2010 he returned to Coventry for a reunion of former players & although he was a lifelong Celtic fan he kept abreast of City’s fortunes from Australia. His health deteriorated over the last few months & he died peacefully.
Trevor Lewis (06/01/1921 – 12/04/2015)
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.
It is sad to report the death of former Coventry City player Ken Jones, aged 89. Ken, a right-back, joined City from Llanelli AFC in 1949 and played 88 games for the club between 1951-56. He later played for Lockheed Leamington and 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 and 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 and accidentally slipped into one of baths, finding himself up to his waist in corrosive acid. A colleague immediately pulled him out and 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 and 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 and he was involved in the liberation of the country. After leaving the services he returned to work in the tin factory and played regularly for Llanelli AFC in the Welsh League.
He came to the attention of the senior Welsh league clubs and Swansea beat off the challenge of Cardiff and 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 and he continued his development. By 1949, Ken’s reputation was growing and eventually West Ham and Coventry were serious about their intentions. City’s South Wales scout, former player Ernie Curtis, recommended him to City manager Harry Storer and 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 October 29. 1949 Storer missed City’s league game at Blackburn to watch Jones at Llanelly and was so impressed he signed him after the game. His old contracts record that Ken was paid £7 per week and £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 1-0 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 3-1 home defeat to Leicester. City were having a tough time and 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 and 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’. City finished 14th in Division Three South but improved the following season to ninth despite lots of boardroom wranglings and changes in management.
Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone RIP (23/03/32-20/03/2015)
Sadly, whilst there were fun & games at the Ricoh and in the casino on March 21st 2015, 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!
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’.
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.
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.
Three men who played key roles in Jimmy Hill’s Sky Blue revolution in the 1960s have sadly passed away in the space of seven days or so at the turn of the year – former players Peter Hill, aged 83, and Ken Hale, 75, and Alan Leather, aged 83
Peter Hill RIP (08/08/1931-08/01/2015) “Sky Blue through and through”
Although Peter Hill was born and brought up in the Derbyshire village of Heanor he made his home in Coventry and gave his heart to Coventry City. Arriving in the city in 1947 as a 16-year old, he had a 16-year playing career with the club, followed by five years as the club trainer under Jimmy Hill. Later in life he returned to the club for a number of years as the kit-man at Ryton.
Educated at Heanor Grammar School, Peter was one of many Derbyshire youngsters brought to Highfield Road in the years following the war. His performances for Ilkeston team Rutland United caught the attention of several league clubs and Peter’s father urged him to reject Derby County and sign for Coventry. He cut his teeth with City’s nursery club Modern Machine Tools FC alongside many other talented teenagers and played in the Coventry Works League.
Lol Harvey, another son of Heanor, and four years younger than Peter, was a pal of Peter’s younger brother Eric, and speaks highly of Peter. “Growing up he was a natural sportsman and could have had a career in cricket he was that good. He was a very skilful footballer; in those days inside-forwards were expected to get up and down the pitch and needed lots of stamina, Peter had the skill and the stamina and scored more than his fair share of goals.”
His senior career started when legendary manager Harry Storer, recently back in the chair at Highfield Road after three years in charge at St Andrew’s, handed Peter his debut as a 17-year old at Sheffield Wednesday in a Second Division game in February 1949. Playing at inside-right, he was the club’s youngest debutant at the time, aged 17 years and 181 days. He was truly a boy amongst men in a side with an average age of over 30 with team-mates such as Alf Wood, George Mason and Ted Roberts, all who had played for the club before the war. City lost 2-1 to Wednesday that day but the match report in the Coventry Telegraph was complimentary about him: “Even under the trying conditions prevailing the five-man attack into which the 17-year old Peter Hill fitted so promisingly …. were much too good for the Sheffield defenders.
“Many of the 608 inhabitants of the Derbyshire village of Heanor turned out to see Hill fulfil the highest expectations at inside-right. He had a real hand in City’s goal and his display all-through was another encouraging feature of his team’s display. He fitted in so well that in not a single instance did he fail as a necessary adjunct to the City’s scheme.” He played two more games that season, a 0-0 draw at Chesterfield probably watched by another big contingency from Heanor, and a home debut in a 1-1 draw with QPR. In the latter game Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph wrote: “Young Peter Hill was playing with the coolness of a veteran”
In between times he was honing his skills in the Football Combination with the reserves alongside players like Jack Evans, Iain Jamieson, Peter Taylor and Trevor Lewis as well as carrying out the mundane jobs that fell to apprentices in those days, such as cleaning boots and sweeping the terraces. Peter was a slight teenager – the City squad list that season showed him standing just 5 foot 5 ½ inches and weighing 9 stone 1lb. The following season, 1949-50, he played five first team games and scored his first goals, netting in consecutive games against Preston and Swansea, but in 1950-51 he was restricted to just one game because of the outstanding form of Welsh international Bryn Allen and Peter’s obligatory two-year spell in the Royal Artillery doing his National Service.
In 1951-52 City were relegated and Peter returned from the Army in the October and played five games before becoming a regular in Division Three South the following campaign. In September 1952 he scored his first hat-trick in a 3-0 home win over Leyton Orient, including two rare headed goals, and around this time it was common knowledge that Arsenal were interested in signing him. The years from 1952 to 1958 were dark days for the club with managers coming and going, boardroom disagreements and financial crises and Peter was the one constant through the period. Playing at either inside-right or left, he was never a prolific scorer but scored his fair share of goals and reached double figures on three occasions. During his time as a first-team player there were three other Hills at the club which often was a cause of confusion for the press-box.
Once, at Gillingham in 1958, three Hills played in the same team, Peter, Brian, a 16-year old debutant who scored, and Ray, a little-used forward. Peter and Brian both netted to increase the confusion. Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph commented: “Yes, there’s gold in them thar Hills!” Earlier Peter also played alongside Jimmy Hill, not the man later to become City’s manager, but a fellow product of Modern Machine Tools. The goals kept on flowing and he netted another hat-trick in a 6-0 victory over Aldershot in 1957-58. In 1958, after City were relegated to Division Four, manager Billy Frith switched Peter to the right-wing where his speed was put to best advantage – he was a natural on the wing and gave many full-backs a nightmare time
Injuries restricted him to 25 league appearances in 1958-59 but he was the creator of chances for the prolific scorers Ray Straw and George Stewart as the Bantams sealed promotion back to Division Three as runners-up. Ankle and knee injuries kept him out of the promotion run-in and would hamper his later career. Lol Harvey remembers Straw telling Peter that season: “Get that ball into the near post and I will score.” His crossing was a feature of his game. His 11 years service at the club was rewarded in 1958 with a testimonial and his former manager Storer brought his Derby County side to Highfield Road for the occasion.
Peter returned to the side to aid City’s attempt at a second successive promotion and scored a stunning goal from the right wing in the promotion battle with Norwich in April 1960, watched by almost 28,000 at Highfield Road, but they just missed out on promotion to Division Two. That season he also pitted his wits against First Division opposition as City became the first non-First Division side to lift the Southern Floodlit Cup (a pre-League Cup competition), beating top flight sides Fulham and West Ham on the way. The match report from the Fulham victory describes Peter as “outshining England captain Johnny Haynes” and in the final he came up against a young Bobby Moore.
The 1960-61 season was his last as a regular and he had his best scoring record with 12 league goals in a struggling City team. Injuries kept his first team appearances down in 1961-62 but in November 1961 he was a member of the City team humbled by Southern League King’s Lynn in the FA Cup, an event that sparked the arrival of Jimmy Hill as manager. His widow Barbara told me that he knew after the King’s Lynn game that it was time to pack in and Peter made one final senior appearance, at home to QPR in March 1962, before hanging up his boots at the premature age of 30.
A succession of bad knee injuries had taken their toll on him but Jimmy asked him to stay on and be the first-team trainer. He became the man with the ‘magic sponge’ and was the first man on the scene to tend the serious injuries of Ernie Machin, Bill Glazier and George Curtis Peter played 309 senior games for the club, the third highest by a City player at the time, and still the 14th highest of all-time. His 78 senior goals is second only to Ray Straw in the post-war period, and the fifth highest in the club’s history. After leaving the club in 1967 he went to work at the Morris factory at Courthouse Green alongside former City team-mate Harry Barratt but continued to be a regular at Highfield Road games with Barbara.
In 1988 manager John Sillett asked him to return and be the club’s kit man. He became a key man at the club, especially on match-days, responsible for ensuring that everything went like clockwork behind the scenes. Steve Ogrizovic has fond memories of Peter’s spell in the role: “Pete was very popular, down to earth and helped the club’s management keep players feet on the ground. Because he had played and been involved in football most of his life he knew what was required of his job and he could talk for hours about the old days – he must have described every one of his 78 goals!”
Peter finally retired around 1996 but not before he had groomed the current kit-man Andy Harvey as his replacement. Andy describes Peter as “very quick witted and at times he could appear to be cantankerous but underneath he was a loving man who loved watching and talking about football. He was totally dedicated to Coventry City.” I met Peter about 15 years ago and loved time in his company. He could talk about football for hours on end and had lovely stories of the characters from the game in the 1950s and 60s. He never had a bad word to say about anyone and was a lovely man. Lol Harvey, his teammate in the 1950s, sums up Peter as: “a terrific man, always helpful and a great man for getting you out of trouble on the pitch. A true gentleman.”
Ken Hale RIP (18/09/1939-05/01/2015)
Ken was born at Blyth in Northumberland in September 1939 and joined Everton as an apprentice on leaving school in 1955. His stay on Merseyside was short and he soon returned home when Newcastle, the club he had supported as a boy, wanted to sign him. A talented goal-scoring inside-forward, Ken made his first-team debut at White Hart Lane as an 18-year old at Christmas 1957.
He combined his football career with an apprenticeship as an electrician with the National Coal board. Competition for places at St James’ Park was tough, however, and in four seasons he made only eight appearances in First Division games, scoring two goals. It was only in 1961-62, after Newcastle had been relegated to Division Two, that Ken got a longer run in the first team scoring seven goals in 11 games playing alongside such luminaries as Ivor Allchurch and Ken Leek. Joe Harvey took over as manager of Newcastle in 1962 and although Ken had scored six goals in 11 games (including two past former City keeper Arthur Lightening making his debut for Middlesbrough) Harvey was happy to let him join the Sky Blues for £10,000 just before Christmas. In total he scored 16 goals in 35 games for the Magpies.
When he arrived at Highfield Road one City player already knew Ken well – Mick Kearns had played in the same British Army representative side doing their National Service. Ken and Mick went on a tour of the Far East with the Army and Ken played for a very strong Army XI against City in early 1962. Blond-haired Ken made his bow for City at Notts County on 15 December 1962, replacing Hugh Barr in a 1-1 draw, but his appearances were restricted by an Achilles injury in that weather-battered season that saw the Sky Blues reach the FA Cup sixth round.
On his home debut the following week he scored City’s second goal against Colchester but the game was abandoned at half-time because of fog and the goal didn’t count. He scored his first ‘official’ goal in the home win over Barnsley (‘a booming shot’ according to Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph) and hit the late equaliser (a ‘screamer’) in the 1-1 draw at Portsmouth in the fourth round.The following season Hale was first-choice at inside-forward and netted 16 league goals, 13 of them before the turn of the year, as City marched to the Third Division title. His understanding with winger Willie Humphries and centre-forward George Hudson seemed telepathic at times and he was undoubtedly one of the best players in the division that season.
Ken did not look out of place in Division Two and netted nine goals in 32 games as City consolidated their position in the higher league and in January 1965 he was the architect of their remarkable 5-4 victory over Newcastle, the then league leaders. He scored a penalty and had a hand in most of the goals against his favourite team. In 1965-66 his form dipped and along with Ernie Machin he became a target of unwarranted barracking from some sections of the Highfield Road crowd.
Jimmy Hill stood by him, however, and Ken returned to the side and scored a ‘stunning’ goal against West Brom in the League Cup. The arrival of Ray Pointer signalled the end of his Coventry career and on transfer deadline day in March 1966 (the same day George Hudson was sold to Northampton) Ken joined Oxford United for £8,000, after 111 appearances and 33 goals. In three seasons at the Manor Ground Ken made 72 appearances and scored 13 goals, played alongside Ron Atkinson and was in the U’s 1967-68 Third Division championship side.
He joined Darlington in May 1968 and made almost 200 appearances for the Quakers over five seasons before joining Halifax as a player-coach. In 1974 he was appointed manager of Hartlepool where he stayed for two and a half years. After retiring from football Ken and his wife Joan bought a newsagent’s business in Sunderland and later he went to work as an administrator in the NHS. They had two sons and a daughter with eight grandchildren. Ken was tragically struck down with Alzheimer’s a number of years ago and died peacefully aged 75 on Monday 5th January 2015.
Alan Leather RIP (1932-02/01/2015)
He played as an amateur for Enfield and Tufnell Park in the 1950s before becoming a football administrator first with the South East Counties League, and later as assistant secretary with Tottenham Hotspur during their golden period of the early 60s. In 1966 he was seconded to the World Cup organisation and was liaison officer to the successful England team
He replaced Paul Oliver as secretary at Highfield Road and during his time with the Sky Blues he saw the side win promotion to Division One as well as overseeing the building of two new stands and an increase in season-ticket sales from 5,500 to 11,000. After the Main Stand burned down in March 1968, Alan rallied the troops and somehow got the ground in a fit state for the visit of Manchester United ten days later dealing with all of the ticketing and other challenges with a cool head. The game – in front of a 47,111 crowd, City’s second biggest crowd of all-time –f went like clockwork thanks to Alan’s administrative skills.
He never really settled in the Midlands, however, and in 1968 the club released him and soon afterwards he became secretary at Crystal Palace with whom he had a long and successful career. He was the honorary secretary of the Football Secretaries and Managers Association, a fore-runner of the modern day League Manager’s Association, of which he remained an enthusiastic member until his death aged 83 in January 2015.
The Association is very sorry to report the passing of former Bantams defender Bill(y) Gray last week.
Although born in Scotland in 1931 Bill’s family moved to Coventry in his early years and he was first noticed at Binley Youth Club in 1944 before graduating in 1946 to Morris Motors Ltd (Modern Machine Tools) which became effectively CCFC’s nursery side. Billy was spotted playing football there and became one of Harry Storer’s early signings in 1948, joining a host of other talented youngsters at Highfield Road. A skilful wing-half, Billy got his chance in October 1951 as a stand-in for the injured Don Dorman but after just two appearances was back in the reserves. In 1954 he joined Southern League Kettering Town but was soon back in the city playing for his beloved Morris Motors.
Bill lived in the North East and joined the Association in December 2011 attending the following year’s Legends day celebrations. The Association sends sincere condolences to all Billy’s family and friends and will pass on funeral details as soon as we receive them.
Bill Farmer RIP (24/11/1927 – 02/07/2014)
The Association was sad to hear that former CCFC reserve goalkeeper (albeit for a brief time) Bill Farmer passed away last Wednesday in Corby, age 87. CCFPA would like to send its condolences to Bill’s friends and family, especially to Bill’s younger brother CCFC Legend (and Association member) Ron Farmer.
Born in Guernsey along with Ron, the brothers were one of the few professional footballers to have come out of the Channel Islands. Bill cut his footballing teeth there with both St Martin’s FC and St Aubin’s FC. He then spent three seasons at Nottingham Forest, along with Ron, eventually making 58 first team appearances between the sticks between 1953-56. He had signed for non-league Brush Sports in Loughborough when Oldham Athletic came in for him in summer 1957 but he only had five first team outings for the Boundary Park club by the time he joined Worcester City for the 1958-59 season.
In the meantime in November 1958 brother Ron had been signed up from Forest by Bantam’s manager Billy Frith. Billy was persuaded to take a look at Bill as potential additional goalkeeping cover for the awesome Arthur Lightening and therefore brought him to Highfield Road in August 1959. In the event Bill only made a handful of reserve appearances for CCFC and he soon moved on to Corby Town where he retired in 1960. Ron, of course, became a crucial part of Jimmy Hill’s transformation of the Club from the Bantams into the Sky Blues as they stormed the English league ladder during the nineteen sixties. Ron helped the Club out of the old Division Four in 1958-59 and continued to make his mark, building a reputation as a ‘penalty king’ right through to making his Division One debut in August 1967. In total he made well over 300 appearances for the Club before moving on to Notts.County in 1967, later returning to Highfield Road in a coaching capacity. Ron (at 78) still remains a very active member of the Association and we extend our sincere sympathies to him for his loss.
Don Bennett RIP (18/12/1933 – 12/06/2014)
A prodigious cricketer in his youth in West London Don joined the Lords groundstaff on leaving school and at the age of 16 made his first-class debut for Middlesex. He went on to make almost 400 appearances for the county over 18 seasons as a right-handed middle order batsman and medium fast bowler. Football was his second love and he spent eight winters as a regular in Arsenal’s reserve team as a full back or left winger before Billy Frith signed him for Coventry City in 1959. He made his City debut on the wing in a 4-0 home win over Bournemouth but soon moved back to become first-choice right-back as City went close to promotion in his first season. Don always started the season late owing to his cricket commitments and was never photographed in the pre-season team picture but apart from the first half dozen or so games of the season he was a regular until early 1962, making 77 appearances. After Jimmy Hill became manager in late 1961 Don lost his place & was released the following summer enabling him to concentrate on his cricket. In the 1960s he regularly supported Coventry players’ testimonials by bringing a Middlesex team to the Wellesbourne 6-a-side tournament. After retiring from cricket in 1968 he became a coach, and was responsible for a very successful Middlesex first XI until 1997, later becoming the club President.
Don did not become a member of the Association. We send our sincere condolences to Don’s family and friends.
Gordon Nutt RIP (08/11/1932 – 26/02/2014)
It is sad to report the death this week of former Coventry City player Gordon Nutt. Gordon, a home-grown player, played 82 games for the club between 1951-54, scoring 11 goals. Sadly he was one of the many good young players sold by the club to balance the finances in that era.
Born in Birmingham on 8 November 1932 Gordon was the eldest of five children & grew up in South Yardley. He starred as a schoolboy footballer & represented Birmingham Schools. After leaving school he joined CoventryCity as a 16-year old apprentice and quickly became a regular in the Modern Machines team, which was actually the club’s ‘A’ team. Gordon was a skilful right-winger who loved to take on his full-back and have a crack at goal. He was one of a number of outstanding youngsters being groomed by the club for the future. His team-mates like Reg Matthews, Frank Austin, Lol Harvey, Peter and Jimmy Hill and Ray Sambrook could have formed the nucleus of the club for ten years but sadly the majority were later sold to bigger clubs.
The club’s regular right-winger was the veteran Leslie ‘Plum’ Warner and Gordon’s first-team chances looked slim. However at Christmas 1951 with Warner injured Gordon was given his first team debut and scored in a 1-2 home defeat to Blackburn. In the Pink match report Nemo described Nutt as ‘the pick of the home forwards’ and ‘gave the English international full-back (Bill) Eckersley quite a busy afternoon’. He obviously impressed the manager too because he retained his place & played a key role in City’s 4-1 FA Cup third round win over Leicester in mid-January. City lost at First Division Burnley in round four & Gordon was back to the reserves after six first team games. With Gordon called up for his National Service with the Army. There he befriended the future Manchester United & England centre-forward Tommy Taylor and represented the Army at football. Army duties however restricted his appearances for City and his opportunities were few and far between. City were relegated to Division Three in 1952 and the veteran Warner retained his place on the wing until early 1953 when Gordon was promoted again & quickly made the number 7 shirt his own. In 1953-54 Gordon scored one of the fastest goals in the club’s history when in a 2-0 home win over Walsall he netted after just 30 seconds.
He was a virtual ever-present for the next eighteen months & became a very popular player with the fans. City however failed to bounce back into Division Two & with gates falling economies were forced on successive of managers. The bright young players seen as the club’s future had to be sold to prop up the club. Gordon was one of the first to leave in December 1954, signing for First Division Cardiff for £18,000. In the summer of 1955 he was selected in the FA touring party to the West Indies and played alongside future City manager Jimmy Hill & future England manager Bobby Robson. He failed to fulfil his potential at NinianPark however and after 17 games (and three goals) he was on the move again. In September 1955, after impressing for Cardiff reserves against Arsenal the Gunners boss Tom Whittaker decided to sign him and Mike Tiddy for a combined fee of £20,000.
Within hours of signing Gordon made his Arsenal debut in a 1-3 defeat at Sunderland but a week later scored the winning goal in a 1-0 home victory over Aston Villa. Over the next five years he made 51 appearances including the famous 4-5 defeat by Manchester United just a few days before the 1958 Munich disaster when he faced his old army friend Tommy Taylor. Gordon played alongside many Arsenal greats including Jack Kelsey, David Herd, Cliff Holton, Tommy Docherty & Dave Bowen.
After leaving Arsenal in 1960 he had a season at Southend (18 games – 2 goals) followed by a year in Holland with PSV Eindhoven before returning to England to play non-league football with Hereford United, Rugby Town & Bexley United. In 1965 he emigrated to Australia and after briefly playing for Sydney Croatia & Manly FC he set up a successful film lighting company in Sydney. Nutt & his family moved to Tasmania in 1991 and he was president & head coach of the Tasmanian Soccer Schools for a decade, passing on his wealth of experience and skill to players and coaches across the state. He also used his contacts with English football to send talented Tasmanians for trials with Arsenal and other clubs.
He returned to Coventry in 2008 for the first time for many years and attended the Legends Day where despite suffering from dementia he enjoyed the company of many old colleagues. I have fond memories of his joy at being reunited with former City colleagues Charlie Timmins, Barry Hawkings & Lol Harvey. Described by everyone who met him as a true gentleman, Gordon is survived by his wife Jennifer and son Asher. He also has two surviving sisters, one of whom Shirley Shakespeare still lives in Birmingham and helped me with information about Gordon. His funeral took place in Cygnet, Tasmania yesterday (28/02/2014).
Tony Hateley RIP (13.6.1941 – 1.2.2014)
Tony Hateley who passed away last weekend was from the old school of centre-forwards in the mould of Tommy Lawton & famed for his heading ability. He played for seven Football league sides, including two spells at NottsCounty & his transfers generated fees of £400,000, then a British record. He only spent one year at Highfield Road but left his mark on the club’s history.
Born in Derby he attended NormantonJuniorSchool where he towered above his class-mates. His height helped him win the Derbyshire Schools High jump title & become a formidable centre-half in schools football. Joining NottsCounty as a 17-year old apprentice he was converted to a centre-forward after netting five goals in a reserve game and soon after scored on his first team debut. Towards the end of the 1959-60 season he became the regular centre-forward and eight goals in ten games helped clinch County’s promotion to Division Three.
In the higher division he excelled & netted 70 goals over the next three seasons but scored only twice in six games against Coventry. His tussles against the City captain George Curtis were legendary & generally George came off on top except for a 2-0 defeat at Meadow Lane when ‘Big-Tone’ scored both goals. In 1962-63 he was paired up-front with another young striker, Jeff Astle and between them they netted 30 goals in the final 25 games. A move to a higher level was inevitable & in the summer of 1963 First Division Aston Villa, managed by Joe Mercer, paid £22,000 for his signature. Ironically his replacement at County was Terry Bly, jettisoned by Jimmy Hill to make way for George Hudson. Bly turned out to be a flop & County were relegated that season.
At Villa Park Tony was an immediate hit, returning to Nottingham to score a debut winner at Forest & netting 19 goals in a poor Villa team in his first season. In 1964-65 he & Curtis came face to face again as SecondDivisionCity travelled to Villa Park for a Third round FA Cup tie. Villa were again struggling in the league & 20,000 City fans made the short trip anticipating a Sky Blue victory. Hateley had other ideas & scored two goals in the 3-0 victory. The following season he was amongst the goals again & netted four second half goals as Villa came from 5-1 down at Tottenham to draw 5-5. Tony’s 86 goals were the main reason for Villa staying in the First Division for those three seasons & it was no surprise when they were relegated the year after he left.
In 1966 Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty paid a club record £100,000 to sign him as a replacement for Peter Osgood who had broken his leg. Osgood’s stylish play suited Chelsea’s skilful passing game & Hateley struggled to adapt his game where he wanted the crosses and long balls for his deadly forehead. As a result he scored only six league goals but did score the winning goal (what else but a header) as Chelsea beat Leeds in the FA Cup semi final at Villa Park. At Wembley a Dave Mackay inspired Spurs were too good for Chelsea & Tony had to be content with a loser’s medal.
After just one season he was on the move again as Liverpool manager Bill Shankly paid a club record £96,000 for the big man. Shankly didn’t make the same mistake as Docherty and adapted Liverpool’s game to accommodate Hateley and wingers Ian Callaghan & Peter Thompson gave him such good service that he scored 28 goals. Shankly’s one-liners are legendary but one, possibly apocryphal, is when Docherty defended Hateley with the line: ‘You have to admit Bill he was good in the air’. Shankly supposedly replied: ‘Aye, so was Douglas Bader & he had wooden legs’.
Whilst the Kop loved his towering headers, Shankly ultimately decided that Hateley wasn’t for Liverpool and when Noel Cantwell was rebuffed in his efforts to buy Newcastle’s Wyn Davies he paid £80,000 for Tony. His one -year stay at City started badly; the day he signed his wife was involved in a car crash that left her uninjured but shaken up & his arrival was delayed. He wasn’t fully match fit & took seven games to score his first goal, a trademark header in the last minute to rescue a League Cup tie against Swindon. The fans waited patiently to see if Hateley would mesh well with City’s other centre-forward, Neil Martin, who had been dogged by injuries, in a twin strike force. The two got their chance at Stoke’s Victoria Ground in early November in a thrilling 3-0 victory. Tony scored two first half goals including a stunning header described by Derek Henderson thus: ‘Hateley’s …. opener projected the ball with such force from Machin’s diagonal cross that even a man of (Gordon) Banks’ calibre was left helpless’. That game apart the partnership failed to gel & by ChristmasCity languished in the bottom two. An ankle injury kept Tony out for six weeks & in his absenceCity’s form improved dramatically. Once he was fit he couldn’t get into the side & played just one more game in a Sky Blue shirt. In August 1969 he joined SecondDivisionBirminghamCity for £72,500 with City grateful to only lose a small amount after a less than productive five goals in 20 games. He stayed just over a year at St Andrews, before moving back to NottsCounty, now in Division Four, for £20,000. The prodigal son had returned to Meadow Lane and over 21,000, more than double the average crowd, watched his debut. His scoring touch returned and he netted 23 goals as County won the Fourth Division title.
In 1972 he joined Oldham Athletic, his final English club although he did sign for Boston Minutemen in 1974 but managed just three games before his knees gave in & he was forced to retire. He did play some non-league football until 1979 but was unsuccessful in finding a coaching job & became a sales rep for a brewery firm. He settled on Merseyside & worked for the Everton lottery as well as watching with pleasure as his son Mark came through the Sky Blues ranks to play over 100 games & go on to play for England in the late 1980s. Later Mark’s son, Tom, became a professional footballer and was in the Tranmere squad that played at Sixfields earlier this season.
Tony suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease later in life possibly not helped by heading all those sodden leather balls in the 1960s. His career record was as follows:
Notts County 139 games (79 goals); Aston Villa 148 (86); Chelsea 33 (9); Coventry City 20 (5); Birmingham City 30 (6); Notts. County 86 (46) and Oldham 5 games 1 goal
Albert McCann RIP (01/11/1941 – 09/01/2014)
Gerry Baker RIP (11/04/38 – 24/08/2013)
Last Saturday evening I received the sad news that former City player Gerry Baker had passed away earlier that day at the age of 75. It seems only five minutes since I laughed and joked with him at the last Legends Day in March when he was full of beans and posed for pictures with his fellow ex-City great Scots such as Stein, Carr, Hutchison & Wallace.
Gerry was born on 11 April 1938 in New Rochelle in New York State, where his English father ( a sailor) and Scottish mother had settled, but after a year in the States, the family moved to his father’s native Liverpool, so that he could assist the war effort by joining the Merchant Navy. During their time on Merseyside, his younger brother Joe was born and the two brothers both had outstanding football careers. Gerry & Joe both won international caps for the countries of their birth despite their broad Scottish accents.
A few weeks after Joe’s birth, the family were evacuated to Scotland and the football mad brothers were brought up in Motherwell, playing football first for his school sides of Park Primary and St. Joseph’s Secondary, as well as Craigneuk Boys Club.
Gerry’s skills soon brought him to the attention of local side Larkhall Thistle, and after only six games, the 15 year old headed south to join Chelsea where he starred in their youth, third and reserve teams (scoring four goals in six starts), before making one appearance for the Chelsea first team, against Luton Town in a Southern Floodlight Cup match in September 1956. He returned to Scotland later that year suffering from homesickness, and was quickly snapped up by his home town team of Motherwell.
Gerry’s first team chances were limited at Motherwell and he was regularly played at outside left, which was not his favoured position. A move to St. Mirren in early 1959 kick-started his career and he scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over a Hibs side which contained his brother Joe. He also helped the Saints to the Scottish Cup final, scoring seven goals en route, and then netted the third goal in the clubs 3-1 final win over Aberdeen at Hampden.
The following season, Gerry made history by scoring an incredible ten goals in a Scottish Cup tie against Glasgow University, which St Mirren won 15-0. (Unbelievably brother Joe scored nine against Peebles Rovers for Hibs a year later.)
In 1960 Gerry caught the eye of Manchester City who paid £30,000 for his signature and he crossed the border again, playing alongside the great Denis Law, but once more did not settle in the south and a year later he was on the move to Hibernian. He was a regular scorer for Hibs for two seasons & once again attracted the English scouts. In November 1963 former Newcastle legend Jackie Milburn paid £25,000 to sign Gerry for Ipswich Town. He was unable to stop Ipswich being relegated from Division One that season but was a regular at Portman Road for four seasons scoring 58 goals in 135 games.
Noel Cantwell signed Gerry for the Sky Blues two weeks after taking over from Jimmy Hill as City’s manager in October 1967, paying Ipswich £25,000. He made his debut in a disastrous 0-3 home defeat to Fulham which sent the team to the foot of the table. Fellow Scot Ernie Hannigan made his debut the same day. Gerry netted his first goal for City in a 1-1 home draw with West Ham on a snow-bound pitch with his speed unnerving the normally calm Bobby Moore.
Gerry was small for a striker but he was good in the air. His real strength however was in his speed and finishing. He scored further goals at home to Liverpool, Newcastle and Charlton but his most memorable goal came in a 2-1 home win over Chelsea in February 1968. The previous week City had won their first away game of the season and only their second league win since September & the first of many great escapes was underway. Cantwell had signed centre-forward Neil Martin and he made his debut in an all Scottish forward line of: Hannigan, Baker, Martin, Ian Gibson & Willie Carr (Baker always considered himself a Scot despite his US passport). City trailed the high-flying Londoners 1-0 at half time but Gerry headed an equaliser before Hannigan clinched a vital win with a searing shot.
Gerry played 22 games that season, scoring five goals & helping the Sky Blues avoid the drop. The following season he lost his place to Ernie Hunt and made only 11 appearances scoring a solitary goal, against Newcastle at home. That season he did however make himself available for the U.S.A. team as it began qualifying matches for the 1970 World Cup. His first cap came in a 4–2 World Cup qualifying defeat to Canada on 17 October 1968.
Over the next month, Gerry started six games with the U.S.A. and scored twice in a 6–2 victory over Bermuda. His seventh & last cap came in a 1–0 loss to Haiti which put the U.S.A. out of contention for a spot in the finals.
His final first team game for Coventry came in September 1969 when deputising for the injured Hunt he won one of two penalties in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. The following month he joined Brentford on loan where he scored two goals in eight games before being released by the Sky Blues at the end of the season. In total he played 34 games and scored six goals.
Gerry then signed as a player-manager with Southern League Margate, but was limited by several injuries, first a dislocated shoulder in August 1970, then broken ribs in the November. Despite these injuries, Gerry played a total of 48 games (16 goals) before leaving the club in September 1971. He joined Nuneaton Borough and played 30 games (9 goals) under David Pleat for one season, followed by spells with Bedworth United, Worcester City & Racing Warwick.
Brother Joe, who won eight caps for England in the early 60s, passed away 10 years ago.
After retiring from professional football Gerry worked for Jaguar Cars in Coventry, and took up golf. His late wife Ann was a champion sprinter in her heyday, and daughters, Karen and Lorraine, were both international athletes. Lorraine represented Great Britain in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics, finishing fifth in the 800 metres in 1984. Gerry & Ann returned to live in Scotland some years ago & Ann passed away last year after a long illness. Gerry’s funeral took place in Motherwell yesterday (30th August) .
Geoff Strong R.I.P. (19/09/1937 -17/06/2013)
The former Coventry City defender Geoff Strong died on 17 June 2013 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Geoff was one of the country’s top players in the 1960s and but for his versatility in numerous positions he would have probably won international honours. His time at Coventry was quite brief – from 1970-72 – but his experience & defensive ability was instrumental in the Sky Blues’ outstanding defensive record in 1970-71.
Born in Kirkheaton in Northumberland in 1937, Geoff’s first club was Stanley United where his goalscoring ability was spotted by Arsenal. National service delayed his league debut until he was 23 years old but over four years he was a regular goal scorer in an unimpressive Gunners side. In 1963-64 he scored 31 goals and formed a formidable partnership with Joe Baker, the pair netting 62 goals between them. Arsenal were going through a period of transition and were not in the hunt for honours. Geoff was ambitious and in 1964 sought a transfer. Liverpool manager Bill Shankly paid £40,000 to take him to Anfield and after just 16 appearances in a red shirt Geoff, deputising in midfield for the injured Gordon Milne, won an FA Cup winners’ medal as Liverpool beat Leeds United 2-1 at Wembley.
A year later Geoff was a member of the League Championship winning side but missed out on a European Cup Winners Cup final through injury sustained in the semifinal against Celtic when, despite limping with his injury, he scored a stunning headed goal to win the tie. Over six seasons at Anfield he played almost 200 games and in virtually every position before finally settling at left back. In 1970 after a shock FA Cup defeat to Watford Shankly rang the changes & Strong found himself out of favour.
Noel Cantwell signed him for a £30,000 fee as a replacement for the injured Roy Barry who was expected to miss most of the season following his broken leg. Strong made an inauspicious debut in central defence at Nottingham Forest in a 0-2 defeat but quickly developed a good understanding with Jeff Blockley. City had qualified for Europe by virtue of finishing in sixth place the previous season & it was always going to be difficult to improve on that achievement. The defence however was the strong part of the team, conceding just 38 league goals, a club record which still stands. Geoff played 40 games that season including three of the club’s European games and the 6-1 defeat to Bayern Munich. However after the disastrous FA Cup defeat at Rochdale he was one of a number of senior players who were dropped by Cantwell. He later returned to the side at left-back. In 1971-72 with Roy Barry fit again & young defenders Bobby Parker & Jimmy Holmes emerging, Geoff’s first team opportunities were limited & his solitary appearance was in a 0-4 defeat at Manchester City. At the end of 1971-72, aged 35, he decided to retire.
Post-football he became a successful businessman from his base in Southport, running a hotel furnishing business & later co-owning a pub with his former Liverpool team-mate Ian Callaghan. As Alzheimer’s took its toll in recent years Geoff was in a care home in Southport but still managed the occasional trip to Anfield. In a poll to find 100 players who shook the Kop, Geoff was voted in at number 98.
Jimmy Knox RIP (26 /11/1935-24/12/2012)
It is with deep regret to announce the death at the age of 77 of former Coventry City player and member of CCFPA, Jimmy Knox. Coventry took a chance when they signed Jimmy Knox a young inside-forward from Raith Rovers in 1957 but he failed to make the grade in league football and played just two games in one of the most depressing seasons of City’s history.
He left the club to join Rugby Town in 1958 and had a successful playing career in non-league football with Rugby, Lockheed Leamington, Corby Town and Banbury Spencer. In his first season at the Windmill Ground (1964-65) he captained the Brakes to the Midland League title. Jimmy was even more famous in non-league circles for his management feats with AP Leamington in the 1970s and VS Rugby in the 1980s. He took Leamington into the Southern League Premier (1976) and then in 1978 into the inaugural Alliance Premier League (now the Conference) as well as five appearances in the FA Cup First round. Moving to Rugby in 1980 he repeated his success, leading the club to two promotions to the Southern League Premier Division as well as victory in the FA Vase (1983) and the FA Cup Second Round in 1988.
Jimmy’s younger brother Archie was assistant to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford and Rangers and briefly at Highfield Road under Eric Black in 2004.
Dave Sexton O.B.E. RIP (06/04/1930-25/11/2012)
Dave Sexton, who passed away last Sunday aged 82, will be remembered as one of the outstanding manager-coaches of his generation. Prior to coming toCoventryCityas manager in 1981 he had built a first-class reputation as one of the country’s top managers with Chelsea, QPR and Manchester United. In his two-year stay at the club he helped the development of a golden generation of City players and left the club a fine legacy.
Born in Islington,North London, the son of Archie Sexton, a middleweight boxer of the 1930s, his playing career started at Newmarket Town and progressed via ChelmsfordCity, LutonTown, West Ham, Leyton Orient and Brighton to Crystal Palacewhere a knee injury ended his playing career. He was a good lower division player whose only honour was a Third Division championship medal with Brighton in 1958. His best period as a player was probably at Upton Park where he was a member of a group who immersed themselves in football coaching and tactics. The group, fathered by Ron Greenwood, included Noel Cantwell, John Bond, Malcolm Allison and Frank O’Farrell, would spend hours analyzing the game at a café opposite the Boleyn Ground. All were destined to become top managers.
In 1965 after a coaching job under Tommy Docherty at Chelsea he landed his first manager’s job, at Leyton Orient but lasted less than a year. Successful coaching at Fulham and Arsenal (where he was promoted to assistant manager under Bertie Mee) enhanced his reputation in the capital and when Chelsea sacked Docherty in October 1967 he was handed the Stamford Bridge job. He inherited a strong but under-performing squad but with some shrewd signings (David Webb for £25,000 and Ian Hutchinson for £5,000) he built one of Chelsea’s finest teams. He won plaudits for his mixture of neat passing and attacking flair (with players like Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke and Alan Hudson) backed up with steely ball-winners (like Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Webb). For a time Chelsea were the most attractive side in the country. In 1970 Chelsea finished third in the league and won an epic, engrossing and ill-tempered FA Cup final against Leeds United, after a replay which was watched by 28 million people on television. In February of that year they gave a dazzling display at Highfield Road, beating one of the best City teams of all-time, 3-0. A year later Sexton led the team to victory in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Real Madrid, once more after a replay.
After losing the 1972 League Cup final to Stoke City,Chelsea went into decline, hampered by the cost of their ill-conceived ground developments and wranglings between Sexton and some players. He was sacked by Chelsea in 1974 but within weeks he was appointed manager at Queens Park Rangers. Espousing his football philosophy he developed a side that was unlucky not to win the League Championship in 1976 – they were pipped by a point by Liverpool on the final day. He got the best out of talented players such as Gerry Francis, Don Masson and Stan Bowles with an exciting attacking brand of football. Dave was a keen fan of Dutch total-football and would often fly to Holland at his own expense to watch games and learn.
In 1977 he resigned from QPR and was on the verge of rejoining Arsenal as coach when Manchester United persuaded him to replace Docherty again. He lacked the charisma required for the Old Trafford job and despite an FA Cup final appearance in 1979 and League runners-up the following year he failed to end United’s long wait for the championship and was castigated for some questionable signings including Gary Birtles. In 1981 he was sacked by United, despite the Reds winning their last seven games of the season. Jimmy Hill persuaded him to come to Coventryto take over from Gordon Milne who moved upstairs.
His first game in charge for the Sky Blues was against United and he tactically out-thought his successor, Ron Atkinson, to give City a 2-1 win. During his time at Highfield Road City’s style became more cultured but it rarely set the world alight, although in Sexton’s defence he was never given the freedom to spend like other City managers. His first season in charge went well until Christmas then City picked up just three points in twelve games including a 5-1 home defeat to NottsCounty. However, just as things were at their blackest, and fans wondered where the next league win was going to come from, City mounted a tremendous revival. Buoyed by Sexton’s inspired signing of his former QPR lieutenant Gerry Francis, the young team went on a run of thirteen games with only one defeat, including a never-to-be-forgotten 5-5 draw at the Dell, and a 6-1 win over Sunderland, that took them well clear of relegation. Players such as Steve Whitton, Mark Hateley, Danny Thomas, Steve Jacobs and Gary Gillespie blossomed under Dave’s mentoring. Garry Thompson describes Dave as being ahead of his time: ‘He had a massive influence on the team and individuals. He made me a much better player by concentrating on the smallest parts of my game as well as encouraging me to watch the best players in my position – he had us watching videos of the best players in the world in the early 80s. After I left City it was like going back into the dark ages.’
In his second season with gates falling under 10,000 he had to survive with a squad of 14-15 players. After Thompson was sold over his head in February 1983 the team’s form fell away disastrously and 13 games without a win took them to the brink of relegation. They survived by the skin of their teeth but Sexton was sacrificed for the return of Bobby Gould much to the disgust of his young players. Whilst at Coventry he also managed the England Under-21 side to victory in the 1982 European Championship and continued in that role for several years, winning the trophy again in 1984, as well as being assistant manager of the England team under Bobby Robson. His depth of knowledge and the respect he was held in within the English game was such that he was utilized by a succession of England managers including Terry Venables, Glen Hoddle, Kevin Keegan and he was still heavily involved with Sven Goran Ericsson’s scouting network into his 70s. He played a leading role in the setting up of the FA’s School of Excellence but never managed at club level after leaving Coventry. Away from football he was a fascinating character, relishing other aspects of life, taking an Open University degree in philosophy during his fifties, appreciating modern poetry and art, and being receptive to new ideas. His love of sport even extended to American Football and I am told had a fascination for the tactics and plays. He continued to live inKenilworth where, in 2008, a building was named in his honour. Sadly in latter years dementia took its toll. Dave Sexton was an unassuming and highly intelligent man, always placing the greatest emphasis on technique and progressive football rather than the long ball and a big boot. He never sacrificed those principles.
Iain Jamieson RIP (14/10/1928-19/10/2012)
Iain Jamieson, who recently died in Scotland aged, 84, juggled careers in football and business, achieving great success in both fields. He is unique in having been a Coventry City player as well as a director and, for one momentous year, chairman of the club. Simultaneously he rose through the ranks of textile company Courtaulds to become one of its managing directors.
The Dumbarton-born son of a Glasgow shipyard electrician, his talents on the pitch were first evident at Dumbarton Academy where he also excelled in the classroom. In 1946 Iain won a place at Aberdeen University to read modern languages and had ambitions of becoming a school-teacher. He was approached by Aberdeen FC and agreed to play as a part-time professional to help fund his studies. He played just one first-team game for the Dons before he received his National Service call-up papers and was whisked off to Dover to do his Army ‘square-bashing’.
It was during his time in the services that he flourished as a footballer, playing in Army teams with stars of the age such as Ivor Allchurch, Bobby Johnstone and Harold Hassall. During that period he witnessed a horrifying incident when two of his fellow players were killed in a lightning strike. The tragedy, in April 1948, happened during a re-play of the Army Cup Final at the military barracks at Aldershot. Reports at the time described all the players being thrown to the ground by the force and witnesses speculated that the lightning bolt had hit the referee’s whistle.
Having been posted to Uttoxeter his performances for the Army XI attracted the attention of several league clubs and Coventry City’s manager Harry Storer was impressed by the young Jamieson. When Iain’s National Service was completed he decided to take up Storer’s offer of a full-time contract. Many years later he said: ‘I really liked the atmosphere of theMidlands, especiallyCoventrywhich to me was a lively go-ahead industrial area and a good stopping off place when my football career ended’.
As it transpired Iain made the right choice. He quickly settled down in Coventryand soon became established as a firm crowd favourite. His debut was against Leeds United at Highfield Roadon15 January 1949 and Iain, playing at inside-right, scored in a 4-1 victory. Over the next five seasons Iain, whilst a regular for the reserves, was unable to become a first-team regular and played only 37 first team games. After switching position to wing half in 1953 he became a regular in the first team and played alongside some famous City players of that era including Reg Matthews, Roy Kirk, Peter Taylor and (CCFPA Members) Peter Hill and later George Curtis. On a number of occasions he captained the side
One of his playing colleagues of that time, (CCFPA Member) Lol Harvey, remembers Iain well: ‘He was a talented player, good on the ball and very fast. He was a clever man and the banter in the dressing room between him and his good friend Eddy Brown was amusing to us working-class boys. Iain was a great help to me and the younger boys at the club and nothing was ever too much trouble to him.’
Iain was determined however to secure a future beyond football, and he decided to further his academic studies and attended Coventry College whilst pursuing his career on the pitch. In 1955, the same year that he married Harry Storer’s daughter Ann, he joined Courtaulds as a sales executive while still playing for Coventry. In 1958 his professional football career ended when he left City after 184 appearances and 6 goals, although he went on to spend a spell as player-manager, on a part-time basis, for Southern League side Rugby Town. In his business career he was quickly on the promotion ladder rising swiftly through the ranks to become the general manager of Courtaulds commercial division,
In 1973, following the retirement of Derrick Robins, Iain was invited to join the board at Coventry City and served alongside Joe Mercer and Jimmy Hill. After Hill’s departure in 1983, he was appointed club chairman. It was a difficult time for the club with severe financial problems following the introduction of the all-seater stadium in 1981 and losses from the investments in the NASL at Detroit and Washington and virtually the whole first team squad out of contract. Iain’s first job was to sack Dave Sexton as manager and recruit Cov kid (and CCFPA member) Bobby Gould as his replacement.
Bobby remembers Iain with great affection: ‘At the time he illegally tapped me up to become City’s manager – something he was very uncomfortable about. I was manager at Bristol Rovers at the time and we had a clandestine meeting in a field near Banbury at which we agreed terms. We only worked together for a year until John Poynton bought the club, but he was incredibly supportive to me. I had watched him play from theHighfield Road terraces and admired his elegance as a footballer. He understood football, something rare in football boardrooms and he was very kind to me in a stressful year at Coventry. There was never any histrionics from Iain and he was a true gentleman who was a great representative of Coventry City Football Club.’
In his year as chairman he is credited with re-establishing strong links with the fans and the people of Coventryafter a period during which many believed that those links had been severely stretched. He left the City board in 1984 and continued his career in the textile industry until retiring in 1989. He ended his working life as managing director of Sperrin Group, sports clothing. His job had taken him across Europe, to Australia and the United States and travel remained a key interest for him in retirement when he visited family inCanada and Australia. A Rotarian and keen follower of current affairs, his lifetime love of sport was undimmed and also extended to golf which, at one time, he played off a handicap of six.
Married three times, to Ann Storer, Ann Hansen and Jane Shaw, he spent his last few years in Dumfries and Galloway, latterly in Kirkcudbright, where he is remembered as a good humoured and engaging conversationalist.
Stan Smith R.I.P. (24/02/1925 – 06/10/2012)
Born in Coventryon 24 February 1925 Stan attended South Street School and Cheylesmore School and was a talented rugby player as well as excelling at the round ball game. In 1942, aged 17, whilst playing for Nuffield Mechanisation, he was spotted by a Coventry City scout and invited to play a couple of wartime games for the club. With many first team players in the armed forces the club often played promising youngsters from local football and Stan did not disappoint, playing right half in home victories over Walsall & Northampton Town.
Stan’s cousin, Rob Smith, told Jim Brown about Stan’s wartime experience. Stan joined the Navy in 1943 and trained as a telegraphist or ‘spark’. He was on board the American-built aircraft carrier HMS Nabob on escort duties in the North Atlantic escorting troop and cargo convoys. After further duties in the North Sea supporting coastal attacks on Norway, HMS Nabob was assigned to find and sink the German super battleship Tirpitz (Operation Goodwood). On August 22nd 1944 while returning from a strike on Tirpitz, HMS Nabob was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Barents Sea and sustained heavy damaged with 21 killed and many injured. In spite of a further attack by the same U-boat she managed to steam into Scapa Flow under her own power, however the ship was judged not worth repairing and was decommissioned.
Stan then joined HMS Hunter and took part in the reoccupation of Malaya and Singapore from the Japanese. In particular she provided air support in the Andaman Sea hunting the cruiser Haguro, one of the last surviving major Japanese warships, which was eventually sunk off Sumatra trying to return to Singapore. HMS Hunter entered Singapore harbour on September 10th 1945 and Stan fondly told the story that he was the telegraphist who took the message that the Japanese had surrendered and was given the honour of personally informing the captain.
On demob from the Navy Stan signed professional forms with City but could not break into the first team owing to the form of right-half Jack Snape. Then on 10 September 1947 he got his first team debut in a 1-3 defeat at West Bromand made 27 first team appearances in Billy Frith’s Second Division side that season, either at right or left-half. During that time he faced some of the top players of the era including Len Shackleton and Jackie Milburn (Newcastle) and Alf Ramsey (Southampton). His cousin Rob tells me that Stan told the story of his meeting with Shackleton, one of the most talented players of the period. ‘Shack’, who had been shadowed everywhere by Smith went up to Stan at the final whistle and said: ‘I’m going to have a bath now, are you going to follow me in there too?’
Stan only made four appearances the following season but was a regular in a strong reserve team until 1950 when he joined Swansea Town. He failed to win a place at Vetch Field and was soon reunited with his old City boss Billy Frith who was manager at Stafford Rangers. In early 1951 however he was back in the Coventry area and signing for Nuneaton Borough. Over the next four years he made around 150 appearances for Borough and he was captain of the side that pulled off a major FA Cup shock in 1953, defeating Third Division Watford 3-0. In the next round they held QPR to a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road but lost the replay 1-2 at Manor Park in front of 13,000 fans. Later that season Stan returned to Highfield Road as ‘Boro’ were guests in a floodlight friendly, losing 0-4. His final game for the ‘Boro’ was in 1955 when he suffered concussion in a game against Brierley Hill. It is believed he may have played for Bedworth Town after this time.
In later years Stan became an FA Coach and had success at Nuneaton, Coventry City (with the B & C teams) and coached on many FA courses. He also qualified as a physiotherapist and ran a practice from his home for many years as well as continuing his involvement with local football. He leaves a widow Stella.
To see Stan interviewed a few years ago talking about war damage at Highfield Road and the goal machine that was Clarrie Bourton have a look at http://oldcoventryonfilm.vidmeup.com/view?q=50c47e044cc7d.flv
Ernie Machin R.I.P. (26/04/1944-22/07/2012)
The Association is extremely sad to report the death of Coventry City legend Ernie Machin who passed away in Coventry last Sunday (22nd July 2012) aged 68. Ernie made 289 appearances for the Sky Blues, scoring 39 goals and will be remembered for taking over the club captaincy from another legend George Curtis in 1967 when George suffered a broken leg. His inspiring leadership on the pitch was a key factor in City surviving relegation in their first two seasons in the top flight.
Born in Walkden, Manchester on 26th April 1944, Ernie had trials alongside Alan Ball at his local club Bolton but was not considered good enough. Instead he played for Nelson FC and was spotted by City’s North West scout Alf Walton in 1962. Walton called Jimmy Hill and said ‘you need to sign this boy up before others do’ and Hill hot-footed north to watch Machin and was besotted before half-time.
Hill recognised something special about Ernie. In his autobiography Hill describes watching the young Machin: ‘he looked extremely slow, but nevertheless when he was in possession of the ball he hardly wasted a pass. He didn’t seem to be an outstanding athlete, nor did he have the confidence or the luck to do something special …I said later that the real reason I took him on was because I liked the look in his eyes …. He had a bright eye and he said, ‘if you give me a chance, I won’t let you down’. Hill wasn’t going to pay a huge fee for Ernie and offered the chairman of Nelson £50. To Hill’s amazement he agreed and ‘for decency’s sake he quickly added that if Ernie made the first team he would bump it up to £200.
His comment about his eyes was misinterpreted by many fans who called him ‘Jimmy’s blue-eyed boy’ especially when his form temporarily dipped after his return from injury. After a year in the reserves Ernie got his first team chance in April 1963 as City’s FA Cup heroes were ploughing through a fixture backlog owing to the Cup run and the worst winter of a generation. 18 year old Ernie deputised at inside-forward for a tired Jimmy Whitehouse and immediately impressed the Sky Blue faithful. He played alongside new signing, fellow Lancastrian George Hudson in a 2-0 win over Millwall.
Despite playing just six games the previous campaign Ernie was the first choice in the number 10 shirt from the start of the 1963-64 season and was outstanding as the team raced to the top of the Third Division and threatened to clinch promotion in a record time. Then in November in a home game with Watford he suffered a bad knee injury just days after England manager Alf Ramsey had told JH that Machin was on his radar for an under 23 call and missed the rest of City’s Third Division promotion campaign.
He ended up having several operations and it was eighteen months before he was fully recovered. He returned to play a pivotal role in the club’s charge to the Second Division title in 1967 and netted eleven goals including memorable late goals to get vital results againstNorwich, Preston and Carlisle not to mention the first of City’s goals in the famous 3-1 victory over Wolves watched by over 51,000 at Highfield Road.
When skipper George Curtis broke his leg in the club’s second game in Division One there was only one candidate for the captaincy and Ernie, converted to an attacking wing-half, was proud to lead the team out. He missed only three games in those first two years of struggle and older fans will remember his stunning goal in the 2-0 victory over European champions elect Manchester United in March 1968. His never-say-die attitude won him the respect of all his playing colleagues and the fans. He continued to be a regular, when fit, right up to the time of his departure in 1972 but a bad car accident put him out for three months in 1970 and his ‘dodgy’ knee continued to trouble him.
In 1972 he became the first English football player to successfully challenge a fine and suspension by the Football Association in the courts. He was sent off in a game at Newcastle for allegedly kicking an opponent, however TV evidence showed that he was innocent; nevertheless the FA noticed something else which he had done and upheld the disciplinary action on the basis of that without allowing him to present a defence. The courts ruled against the FA, and the PFA subsequently established the rights of players to legal representation in disciplinary cases.
In October 1972 Ernie was sold to Plymouth Argyle for £35,000 by new bosses Joe Mercer and Gordon Milne keen to raise money to buy Tommy Hutchison and Colin Stein. He had ten great years atHighfield Roadmaking 284 appearances and scoring 39 goals and but for injury would have reached the 400 mark. After eighteen happy months at Plymouthwhere he helped them to promotion and became a cult hero, he had two years at Brighton. In 1977 Jimmy Hill, by now the chairman atHighfield Road, persuaded Ernie to return to CoventryCityas youth team coach. It didn’t work out however and he left football and worked for Car Bodies and Massey Ferguson.
Ernie had suffered poor health for a number of years but he had attended a reunion of the 1967 promotion team in 2007 as well as the last two Legends’ Days organised by the Former Players Association. In 2008 he was one of thirty former players inducted into the club’s Legends Group for services to the football club. The epithet Legend is a word used too often about mediocre players in the hyperbole-driven modern media however Ernie Machin was a true Coventry City Legend.
Associate member Dean Nelson has put together a video tribute on Ernie’s career which can be found at: http://oldcoventryonfilm.vidmeup.com/view?q=500ebe2b51f96.flv
Edwin ‘Eddy’ Brown RIP (28/02/1926-12/07/2012)
The Association is very sad to report the passing yesterday (12th July 2012) of Association member and popular centre forward for C.C.F.C. Eddy Brown.
Preston born Eddy died in a home-town nursing home after a short illness aged 86. Almost lost to the Catholic Church (having trained with a view to taking Holy Orders) Eddy, instead, became a feared striker in a long career starting with P.N.E. in 1948 where he scored 6 times in 36 first team appearances before making an even bigger impact from September 1950 at his next club, Southampton, as a free scoring forward netting 32 times in 57 first team league games for the Saints.
However, he failed to settle at the Dell and Eddie was transferred to Highfield Road in March 1952 where he continued his free scoring ways, knocking in half a century of goals for the Bantams in only 85 first team League games (plus 1 goal in his 4 F.A.Cup matches) before being controversially sold to local rivals Birmingham in October1954 (precipitating the departure of City manager Jack Fairbrother). A cultured and intelligent man Eddy spoke Latin and fluent French, loved quoting Shakespeare and became a teacher after hanging up his boots. Eddy was a real footballing ‘character’ who made his enjoyment of the game obvious on the field and was credited with inventing the ‘after goal celebration’ -his trademark (amongst other manifestations of exuberance) being shaking hands with the corner flag after scoring!
Eddy became a firm favourite at St.Andrews scoring 74 times in 158 league appearances (and 16 in 27 other games)before finishing his top class playing career with Leyton Orient from 1959 and then becoming player-manager of non league Scarborough from 1961-64. Eddy was also associated with Stourbridge, Bedworth Town and Wigan Athletic before finally retiring from the game in 1964. However, in more recent years Eddy invested much time and expertise assisting a local football team – Broughton Amateurs.
He will be greatly missed by many professionals and administrators in the football game as well as the many older fans who remember seeing him play such an all action and effective centre forward game. The Association sends its sincere condolences to Eddy’s wife, four children and the rest of his family.
Barry Lowes R.I.P. (16/03/1939 – 08/05/2012)
It is sad to report the death at the age of 73 of former CoventryCityplayer Barry Lowes. Barry was a speedy winger signed from Bury for £13,000 in March 1967. He played just three games for the Sky Blues before being sold that summer toSwindonTown.
Barrow-born Barry showed his sporting prowess in his school years, representing Barrow Technical College at soccer, rugby, cricket and athletics. After school he played football for Holker Central Old Boys and while his pace meant he had the opportunity to sign for Barrow RL, he stuck to football and caught the eye of Barrow manager Ron Staniforth, the former England full back, who signed him after a couple of trial games.
He made his debut for Barrow, then a Football League, in early 1960 and was soon a regular and his blistering pace caused problems for many a Fourth Division defence. In season 1960-61 he scored in seven consecutive league games and started attracting the interest of bigger clubs. In November 1961 he transferred to First Division Blackpool for £5,500 fee but with stiff competition from Mandy Hill he failed to break into the first team. He did however achieve a childhood dream of training with the legendary Stanley Matthews, who despite having left Blackpool still trained there. In the summer of 1962 he moved to Workington where he played under legendary manager Ken Furphy and 34 goals in 121 games convinced Bury to sign him in 1966.
Lowes had impressed Jimmy Hill in his two appearances against the Sky Blues that season – ‘one of the few wingers in the division to give Dietmar Bruck a hard time’. When John Key injured his ankle in March and looked to be out for the season Hill wanted a replacement and swooped on Gigg Laneto sign the Cumbrian.
Lowes admitted a couple of years ago that when he arrived City were playing so well that he couldn’t get into their groove quickly enough. He played quite well in his debut at Northampton but the following week against Bolton he had a stinker against Sid Farrimond, the one full-back who always gave him a really hard time. Hill wasn’t prepared to give him time and realised he had made a mistake quite quickly.
Disaster struck in his first game for Swindon against Brighton. He suffered a serious knee injury after a nasty challenge from a young full-back called George Dalton, later to become the Sky Blues trainer. The injury ended his career and he returned to Barrow to work as an electrician on the submarines in Barrow shipyard. He did turn out for Barrow in their early non-league years and still possessed a good turn of speed. In latter years sea fishing became his hobby. He passed away on 8 May after a short illness.
Jack Evans R.I.P. (11/03/1926- 15/04/2012)
It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of former Coventry City footballer Jack Evans.
Jack who was 86 a few weeks ago was on City’s books between 1942-52 and was a regular in the reserve team for several seasons and made eight first team appearances between 1949-51. After leaving City in 1952 he had a long and successful career in local non-league football, playing at a high standard until the age of 36. He died suddenly after being taken ill on the golf course at Maxstoke Park last Sunday morning.
Born in Coventry on 11 March 1926, Jack was just too young to be called up for World War 2 but did his National Service in the army just after hostilities ended and was an accomplished glider pilot. He was signed by City after he wrote in asking for a trial and impressed the management staff. He played centre-forward and wing-half for Modern Machines (City’s Youth team) and in April 1949 after some good performances for the reserves he got his first team chance when injury ruled out Ted Roberts. The opponents in a Second Division match were Fulham at Highfield Road and a few years ago he told Jim Brown this story. He was getting changed in the dressing room before the kick-off and the tannoy announcer gave the team changes. He read out’ “Number 9 – Jack Evans” only to be greeted by a chorus of boos. Jack however had the last laugh, scoring the only goal of the game against the side who would be promoted later that month.
An interview with Jack done in 2004 (made available by Associate Member Dean Nelson) can be found at: http://oldcoventryonfilm.vidmeup.com/view?q=4f96f5fe7aeb6.flv
Nemo in the Coventry Evening Telegraph was complimentary about the new boy: ‘Evans is the nearest thing to (Ted) Roberts on the City books. Lionhearted, not knowing what it is to be beaten, he did the job entrusted to him with real credit. It was a joy to observe his 100% enthusiasm and get a goal’.
The following week, with Roberts fit again, it was back to the ‘stiffs’ and it was the following season (1949-50) before he got another opportunity. He made three appearances that season, two home 0-0 draws (v QPR andPreston) and a 0-1 defeat atCardiff. 1950-51 was a good season for Coventry City– they were in the Second Division promotion hunt until the last few weeks of the season, in fact they led the table at the turn of the year. Ted Roberts was a virtual ever-present but when he was injured Jack made four appearances without finding the net:- Leicester(h) won 2-1; Preston (a) drew 1-1; Cardiff (a) lost 1-2; Cardiff (h) won 2-1; Manager Harry Storer signed ace scorer Tommy Briggs the following week and Jack’s first team days were over.
Jack also told Jim Brown about a friendly game he played in in 1950 against the Turkish side Galatasaray at Highfield Road. They were probably one of the first Turkish sides to visit Englandand, according to the Coventry Evening Telegraph report, they created a wonderful friendly atmosphere at Highfield Road by carrying the Union Jack on to the pitch and throwing bunches of flowers to the crowd. A crowd of 9,350 saw City win 2-1 with goals from Jack and Noel Simpson. Jack told me that the Turks were extremely sporting on the pitch, and they picked City players up when they fell down. Then in the second half, when Ken Chisholm was floored, he was picked up, had his hand shaken and was embraced by the Galatasaray player!
Jack obviously realised he wasn’t going to be a top-class footballer and whilst on City’s books he worked at Daimler and trained to be a carpenter, playing football as a part-time professional. Later he worked at Rolls Royce at Anstey where he was also involved in union duties. He told Jim that in those days he could earn more as a skilled carpenter than playing football full-time.
In May 1952 he was released by City and joined Nuneaton Borough and the following season had short spells with them and also appeared for Bedworth and Rugby Town. He was back with Bedworth for the 1953-54 season but by March 1954 he was appearing for Banbury Spencer and was playing at outside right. In 1957 he joined Lockheed Leamington, where his former City colleague Les Latham was manager, and also a favourite grazing place for ex-City men. He played alongside several former City colleagues including Charlie Timmins, Ken Jones, Ken Brown and Mick Lane.
Moving back to wing-half he played his part in Lockheed’s golden era in the early 1960s and won championship medals in 1961-62 and 1962-63. In 1962 he returned to Highfield Road at centre-forward in the Brakes team that lifted the Birmingham Senior Cup by defeating Rugby Town 5-1 in what was Jim Brown’s first ever visit to Highfield Road. Jack scored twice and winger Ernie Ward (a former City apprentice) scored a hat-trick. As a young boy Jim remember Jack leading the Brakes’ forward line and winning virtually every ball in the air with his bald head!
Jack hung up his boots in 1963 at the age of 37 and was assistant manager at Leamington for a time before being granted a testimonial against NottinghamForestin 1964 for his service to the club. Jack was a keen golfer and played regularly until his death. After growing up in Cheylesmore he lived in Duncroft Avenue, Coundon for many years. In 2007, he attended the inaugural Legends Day but told me then that he was disillusioned by the modern game and had no interest in coming regularly to City games. According to his old friend John Green, who played with Jack in the Modern Machines team after the war, Jack didn’t even watch football on the television.
(Thanks to Paul O’Connor, Paul Vanes and John Green for their assistance to Jim Brown in preparing this obituary).
Harry Hart R.I.P. (29/09/1926-11/02/2012)
We have to report the sad news that former Coventry City player Harry Hart who played briefly for Coventry City in the early 1950s passed away on 11 February in Morecambe aged 85.
Harry was born in Sheffield and started his professional career with Rotherham United. He was spotted whilst playing for Woodthorpe Youth Club. As a 16 year old, he played for Rotherham Reserves against Gainsborough Trinity and Neil Franklin (later to be one of the best England centre-halves of all-time) was one of the guest players for Gainsborough!
Harry Storer brought the inside-forward to Coventry in 1950 but competition for places was tough and Harry managed only ten first team games in his two seasons at Highfield Road. His debut was in a 2-1 win atGrimsby in March 1951 and he scored his only goal in the final game of that season in a 1-1 draw atLuton. His final game was in that home game with West Ham in February 1952 when a minute’s silence was observed for the late King George VI.
During his time at City he was a regular for the reserves and on 29 December 1951 at Filbert Street he scored a goal and was sent off in the 3-2 defeat. Harry had lost his hair by the time he was 19 and therefore looked older than he was. He complained that, because referees assumed he was older, they thought he should know better and sent him off!
He joined Grimsbyin 1952, and played under the legendary Bill Shankly. Later whilst still living in Nuneaton, he played non-league for Frickley Colliery and Stocksbridge Works. Post football, he worked at Dunlop and then Massey Ferguson on the furnaces (for 16 years). The likes of Reg Matthews, Dick Mason and Alf Wood were there with him.
One of Harry’s former teammates at City, Lol Harvey, told Jim Brown a story about Harry. After one home defeat at Highfield Road Storer came into the dressing room and grabbed Hart by his football shirt collar and marched him out on to a mud heap of a pitch. When they got to the centre circle Storer turned to Hart and said, ‘Come on then Harry, show me the hole you’ve been hiding in all afternoon!’
Alf Setchell R.I.P. (29.10.1924- 11.2011)
We are sorry to report the recent death of 87 year old Alf Setchell,who had been one of Coventry City’s oldest surviving players, who succumbed to his injuries after being badly burned in a fire at his home in Holbrooks Lane in Coventry just over two weeks ago. The Association sends sincere condolences to Alf’s family especially his son’s John and Alan. Although not yet a member of the Association we had only just tracked him down when we heard the sad news.
Coventry kid Alf was on CCFC’s books in the period immediately after the Second World War after being spotted playing with Coventry Tile. He was one of numerous good local players who filled in during the war for City when many of the first team squad were on active service in the hostilities. He had made his debut as an eighteen year old in 1942 in a 1-0 home win over Walsall but his wartime service in the Royal Navy robbed him of what might have been a very successful football career. In addition to his 18 war-time appearances for City he also appeared as a guest in the war for Southport and Morton and possibly Rangers whilst on active service in the Navy.
He made 12 appearances on the left wing in the 1942-43 season playing alongside several City legends including George Mason, Alf Wood, Billy Frith and George Lowrie. City had a strong team – only three of his twelve games were lost – and Setchell managed one goal in a 2-0 win at Filbert Street. Another three appearances were made in 1943-44, with one goal in a 4-1 win at Notts County. After the war he was on City’s books until 1947 popping up in April 1946 and making three further appearances near the end of the transitional regional league season.
Alf must have been confident of being in the first team squad when the first post-war season kicked off in August 1946 but he never played for the first team again. However, he was a regular for the reserves in 1946-47 before joining Kidderminster Harriers, then a Southern League club. According to John, Kidderminster offered him more money than Coventry! Alf also appeared briefly for Hereford United, another Southern League side, before becoming part of a strong Bedworth Town team that won the Birmingham Combination in 1948-49 and 1949-50. The Bedworth team included several former City players including Stan Kelley (player-manager), Jack Evans and the late Norman Smith, with ex-City man Bob Ward as trainer.
Vernon Griffiths (1936-2011)
With sorrow the Association reports the death of former Coventry City player Vernon Griffiths who passed away on 27 April in Birmingham. Born in 1936 Vernon’s talent was spotted at an early age and he was on West Brom’s books as an apprentice after leaving school. He was playing for Sheldon Town when City spotted him and signed him in 1954. After two seasons as a regular in the reserves Vernon, a lively wing-half was given his first-team chance in Billy Frith’s first game in charge in September 1957, a 3-1 win at Brentford. A week later, on his home debut, he scored his only goal, the winner against Colchester. He kept his place for twelve games in the dreadful 1957-58 season but after a run of defeats he lost his place to Iain Jamieson. Vernon showed some promise but found the competition from the likes of Iain Jamieson, Brian Nicholas and Ron Farmer too great. After appearing on the right-wing in the opening two games of the 1958-59 season he was back in the reserves. In 1959 he signed for Rugby Town. Lol Harvey remembers Vernon with affection: ‘He was a quick player and loved to attack. We met up at the Legends Day a couple of years ago and had a good chat about those days. I was really surprised to hear he had cancer and I feel very sad.’
The Association was represented at Vernon’s funeral which took place at Lodge Hill Cemetery, Selly Oak, Birmingham on Tuesday 10 May 2011.
Eric Dobbs RIP (1920-2011)
It is sad to report the death earlier this week of former Coventry City player Eric Dobbs who passed away months after his 90th birthday. Eric, a full-back, played only five first team games just after the Second World War but played a good number of reserve games over three seasons in the days when the club had a professional squad of 30 or so players.
Eric was born in October 1920 in the rural Norfolk village of Hingham – in the Angel Inn pub, which his family ran. In 1926 the Dobbs family left Norfolk to come to Coventry -presumably to work in the booming industrial town. They lived in Aldermans Green but later moved to Bedlam Lane, Foleshill. Eric’s nephew Chris Wilson told Association chairman Jim Brown that their house would have been on the site of the Arena Park shopping centre, adjacent to the Ricoh Arena.
He attended Foleshill Church of England School but left at 14 to work as a painter and decorator with his father. In 1936 he was playing football for the Miners Arms team in Aldermans Green and from 1938 he was in City’s ‘A’ team as an amateur. In 1940 he enlisted with the Coldstream Guards, first as a PT instructor but later he saw action in North Africa and in Italy. In 1944 he was involved in the famous but bloody battle of Monte Cassino and was shot in the thigh.
He joined Coventry City as a professional in 1946, following his demobilisation, and played for the ‘A’ Team and the Reserves, occasionally playing at centre-forward. On Easter Tuesday 1947 he got a surprise call-up to the first team to play Swansea owing to injuries to Charlie Elliott and Billy Frith. Eric had to mark Swansea’s dashing winger Norman Lockhart, who later joined City.
On a wet afternoon City won 3-2 and Nemo commented on Eric’s debut: ‘Dobbs showed up prominently in conditions that did not help him at all’. Eric got another first team game before the season was over, playing in a 2-1 home win over Leicester. His further three games came the following season and he played right-back in home wins over West Brom (1-0) and Fulham (5-2) and a home defeat to Leeds (1-2). At the end of the season he was released and joined Bristol Rovers. Sadly he failed to break into Rovers’ first team and a year later was back in the Midlands playing briefly for Kettering Town before signing for Lockheed Leamington under his former City team-mate Les Latham.
Eric’s arrival at the Windmill Ground in 1949 coincided with the Brakes’ first season in the Birmingham Combination and the team finished last but one in the league. The following season however saw the team improve to ninth and win the Birmingham Senior Cup for the first time and Eric was in the team that beat Hereford United Reserves in the final after a replay. The first game, at Nuneaton, ended 2-2 but Lockheed won the replay at their own Windmill Ground 3-1 in front of a ground record 3,500. The team picture, kindly supplied by Chris Wilson, shows the successful Lockheed team of 1950-51 with Eric far left on the back row.
Former City player and director Micky French played with Eric both for City Reserves and later at Lockheed. He remembers Eric fondly and used to get a lift to training in Leamington on the pillion of Eric’s motorcycle. He remembered: ‘Eric and I hit it off at Coventry and played a few reserve team games together. When I finished my National Service in 1950 and went to play for Lockheed he was there and we took up where we left off. He was a popular but quiet man who was very kind and honest. But on the field he was a good footballer with an extremely hard tackle and it was best to avoid him in training. He was a real old-fashioned defender and took no prisoners’.
After he left professional football Eric became a painter and decorator and later joined the machine tool company Skelcher and Rowe where he worked as a maintenance man. He was a keen golfer and played at Cosby Golf Club in Leicestershire. He is survived by his wife Joyce. Eric was one of the early members of the Former Players Association when it was formed in 2007 and attended the first Legends Day. He will be sadly missed by his friends and former team-mates in the Association.
Jack Kendall RIP (1921-2011)
It is very sad to report the death of former wartime Coventry City player and local footballer and cricketer Jack Kendall. Jack, a member of the Former Player’s Association, passed away on 7 January 2011 aged 89 years. Born in Lentons Lane, Aldermans Green in 1921 Jack had outstanding ability at football and cricket and played cricket for Coventry Boys and football for Longford St Thomas as a teenager. When war broke out he was working as an engineer at Brico in the city and was excused a call up to the services because his job was vital to the war effort.
He was never strictly on City’s books and was playing football for Morris Engines in 1944 when manager Harry Storer called him up to play as a guest for City, covering for a regular who was away on service duty (many of the city’s top amateur players played for the club in this period). In 1944-45 season he made 10 appearances, at left half.
Jack made one appearance in 1945-46 season and also appeared as a guest for Leicester City earlier in the war. He was involved in local football and cricket for many years after the war, captaining and coaching the very successful Morris cricket team throughout the 1960s and coaching cricket at colleges until the age of 69. Friends put Morris’ success down to Jack’s ability and man-management skills. He was an amateur on Warwickshire C.C.’s books for a number of years playing mainly as a wicket-keeper for the Second XI and in 1948 played 4-5 first XI games. Jack was courageous behind the stumps, standing up for some very fast bowlers. His friend Alan Blackwell once asked the famous old England wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans whether he knew Jack and Evans’ reply was: ‘he was one of the best wicket-keepers I ever saw’.
He loved football and was always asking how the City had got on. He was involved in coaching Rugby Town under the famous Eric Houghton in the 1960s and continued working for Brico as tool-room foreman up until his retirement in the 1980s. He will be sorely missed by friends and family.
Norman Smith RIP (1919-2010)
The Association was very sorry to hear from his family that Association member Norman Smith (hitherto City’s oldest surviving player) had passed away on Thursday 18th November 2010 a few days short of his 91st Birthday.
Norman came to Coventry aged 15 to seek work in the motor industry escaping going down the pit a traditional job in his native North East. He played for City either side of WW2 (and was the last surviving player to have appeared in a Bantams shirt pre-war). He was quickly spotted in works football and joined the Bantams from Standard Apprentices in 1938. His modest 5ft 7in frame was not the best for the rugged style of play at that time in Division Two and he was restricted to three appearances in the number nine shirt in the 1938-9 season.
But his spirited, instinctive and pacy style of play, which often wrong-footed both opposition and his own team-mates, saw him chosen to captain Birmingham County FA in a junior international against Scotland at Highfield Road on April 1, 1939. It was a showcase for stars of the future.
However his career, like many others, was greatly affected by the Second World War. Though turned down by the Navy (his 1st choice) Norman joined the R.A.F. the day after war broke out and served with 64 Squadron fighter command where he flew Mustangs and Spitfires at a time when life expectancy was short for aircrew. During his funeral service at Holy Trinity Coventry it was stated that Norman was a complete gentleman, a modest man and never spoke too much about such achievements. He also captained various RAF sides during the war years.
On his return from hostilities he played twice in the number nine shirt in the 1946-7 season to cover for George Lowrie’s absence, and five times on the wing and another four successive games as centre forward in late 1947 before being transferred to Millwall for £3,000 in December of that year. In total therefore Norman was only able to make 15 appearances for City without scoring. His first appearance for the London club was practically a home game – a 1-0 away win for Millwall at Highfield Road. A desire to stay in Coventry saw him switch to Bedworth Town, where was part of the team that won the Birmingham Combination Cup in successive seasons (1948 and 1949) and then reach the final of the Birmingham Senior Cup in 1950.
When he finally hung up his boots he worked in several local factories including the Humber and for over 30 years at G.E.C. in Coventry retiring in the late 1980s as production manager.
The Association extends its deepest sympathy to Norman’s wife of 64 years Margaret (Peggy) and the rest of his family including his two daughters, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Barry Hawkings RIP (1931-2010)
Hawkings joined the Sky Blues in 1949 as part of a group of talented young players who came through the Sky Blues’ nursery club Modern Machines in the late 1940s and produced a very respectable strike rate of 12 goals in 34 appearances over three seasons for the club between 1953 and 1956 including a memorable hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Swindon Town.
Barry was transferred to Lincoln City in March 1956 and also played for Northampton Town and a number of non league clubs (including Rugby Town) before retiring in 1962. The Birmingham-born striker was also a member of the Coventry City Former Players’ Association and attended the CCFPA-organised Legends Day at the Ricoh Arena in 2008 (pictured).
The Association sends our condolences to Barry’s family and friends.
Charlie Timmins RIP (1922-2010)
We are very sad to report the death of former Coventry City player and Association Member Charlie Timmins. Birmingham-born Charlie died on Tuesday 13th April 2010, aged 87, after a fight with cancer and his family and many friends, ex colleagues and fans fondly said goodbye at Yardley Crematorium on 21st April 2010.
After many years away from Coventry he had in recent years become a regular visitor at City home games with his son, Charlie and grandson, Stephen, and could always be expected to brighten up the Legends Lounge with his impish sense of humour. He was a regular attendee at the Former Players’ Legends Day (though his illness prevented his attendance at the event last month) and loved mixing with his former City teammates
Jim Brown recalls the pleasure of meeting Charlie and his family some years ago when giving them a tour of the new stadium. Charlie could hardly believe his eyes at the facilities available at the Ricoh and spent more than hour reminiscing about his tn happy years at Highfield Road from 1948-58. For his age Charlie’s memory was remarkable. For example he talked about a famous game in the 1950-51 season when City beat Blackburn 6-1 to go top of Division Two – and he was able to rattle off the names of nine of the City team. He also remembered the day Preston North End, then a top First Division side, including the legendary Tom Finney, came to Highfield Road. It was in January 1956 and with both teams out of the FA Cup a hastily arranged friendly took place. Finney was at the time one of the top players in Britain, if not Europe, and he gave Charlie a real chasing in the mud. Charlie described the experience: “Finney played on the right wing that day but his left foot was stronger and whilst I could get close to most wingers, he was unorthodox and so fast. I was puffed out at half-time and the manager George Raynor had to switch Frank Austin and I to give me a breather. At the end I didn’t have enough energy to shake his hand”.
Charlie did service in the Royal Engineers in the war and was playing for a Birmingham non-league side, Jack Moulds Athletic, when City spotted him. ‘I was 27-years old and working at the Morris in Birmingham with no thought of playing football professionally. One night there was a knock on the front door and a chap called Harry Storer was there, saying he wanted to sign me for Coventry City. I played a game for the reserves on the first day of the season in August 1949. We won and I was picked for the first team game at Luton four days later. We lost 0-2 but Storer was pleased with me.’
Charlie played 23 times that season, at either right or left back and helped the Bantams to an eight-game unbeaten end to the season, lifting any relegation worries. The next season he was a regular as the team set the pace at the top of the Second Division. Promotion looked a strong possibility until the New Year when the team stuttered and finished seventh. Charlie kept a book of his press cuttings which made clear that his outstanding performances that season prompted the media to tip him for international honours with a big money move to Newcastle mooted at one time.
A loss of form cost him his place the following season and with City’s ageing team suddenly looking tired the team were relegated to Division Three. Charlie played a total of 165 games for the club between 1949 and 1958 and scored five goals for City, four of them penalties. He played under six managers Storer, Jack Fairbrother, Jesse Carver, Raynor, Harry Warren and Billy Frith. His only outfield goal came on Christmas Eve 1955 in a 5-3 win over Norwich. His final game was a 0-0 home draw with Brentford in February 1958. He was released at the age of 36 and joined Lockheed Leamington, managed by former City colleague Les Latham.
Charlie remembers travelling to Coventry from Birmingham every day for training on the Midland Red 159 bus with other Brum-based players like George Mason, Martin McDonnell, Gordon Nutt and Don Dorman. ‘Very few players could afford a car in those days and we had great fun on the bus every day. When I joined Lockheed I used to cycle to Olton station and catch the train to Leamington, taking my bike with me. At Leamington I would cycle up Tachbrook Road to the Windmill Ground in time for the kick-off.’
After hanging up his boots he went back into the motor industry and joined Rover at Solihull in the Car despatch division where he spent 28 happy years before retiring in 1986 continuing to live in the Sparkhill district and continuing to follow the ups and downs of the Sky Blues with his friends in the Legends Lounge at the Ricoh.
Charlie Ashcroft RIP (1926-2010)
As a twelve-year old Chorley-born Charlie Ashcroft was already six feet tall and the natural choice to play in goal at school. Liverpool spotted him playing for Eccleston Juniors in the Preston & District League. His full debut for Liverpool was a 7-4 win over Chelsea in September 1946 and he went on to make 89 appearances over nine years for the Reds as well as winning an England B cap.
He joined Ipswich Town and played under Alf Ramsey but after two seasons at Portman Road manager Harry Warren signed the six-foot two-inch keeper for City in 1957. He had previously broken an arm, which had not healed properly and he could not straighten it properly. Poor Charlie was on a hiding to nothing at Highfield Road, having to replace the famous Reg Matthews especially during one of the club’s worst post-war seasons. He started the season as first-choice keeper but in the fourth game of the season, a home defeat to Newport County, he was badly at fault for one of Newport’s two goals. The Newport winger, Thomas, handled the ball which ran loose to Ashcroft. City players appealed for the free-kick but the referee waved play on as City had the advantage. Then Charlie, obviously thinking he had awarded the free-kick, inexplicably threw it straight to Thomas who gleefully lobbed it into the goal. After the game a fuming Ashcroft and several other City players were adamant they had heard a whistle.
In the following game Ashcroft was dropped and replaced by 17-year old Graham Spratt. Soon afterwards manager Warren was sacked and replaced by Billy Frith and after a horrendous 7-1 defeat at Southampton in February 1958 Charlie was recalled for the shell-shocked Spratt as the team slid towards Division Four. He played in most of the remaining games that season before being transfer-listed in the summer, joining Chorley where he played for four years. He worked at the Royal Ordnance factory at Euxton and lived in Eccleston,near Chorley, where he built his own house. A keen cricketer, he was playing cricket at the age of 56. Charlie passed away in mid March 2010.
Charlie Dutton RIP (1934-2009)
Charlie Dutton was a crowd-pleasing inside forward signed by manager Harry Storer from Derby County as an 18-year old in 1952. Storer loaned him out to Rugby Town almost immediately and he scored prolifically for the non-league side including five goals in one game against Sutton Town. He scored on his City debut as centre-forward in a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth in September 1953 and a week later scored the winner in a 2-1 victory at Millwall. Despite three goals in six games he was back in the reserves when regular centre-forward Eddie Brown was fit. That tended to be the story of Dutton’s career at Coventry. When he left to join Northampton in March 1956 he had made 28 appearances and scored nine goals.
His stay at Northampton was short and he was soon at Lockheed Leamington where he found his scoring boots and later enjoyed a successful career in non-league football with Bedworth, Rugby, Hinckley Town and Brereton Social. Charlie spent his later years back in his home town of Rugeley but died after a long fight against Motor Neurone Disease in October 2009.
Ken Watkins RIP (1923-2009)
We are sorry to hear of the death of another Bantam player of yesteryear. Ken, who passed away on 26 November 2009, aged 86, lived on Hipswell Highway.
Ken was a right-half who played for Humber FC during World War 2 and was one of many promising young local players called in by City when the first teamers were away in the war. Ken never played in a peacetime game for the club, his 14 appearances coming in the wartime period 1943-1945, eight of them in the transitional 1945-46 season when City played in a Southern regional league with many First Division clubs. In August 1945 Ken played at right half in a 2-0 win over Arsenal (the first ever competitive game against the Gunners) in front of the biggest League crowd of the season, 20,943. Ken also made one guest appearance for Port Vale in 1946 and later played for Rugby Oakfield before coaching Humber after the war. He was also a talented cricketer and we understand played the odd game for Warwickshire and was a top player for a number of years in the Coventry leagues.
Tommy Capel RIP (1922-2009)
It is sad to report the death in October 2009 of former City player Tommy Capel. Manchester-born Capel played as a teenager for local works team Goslings and then Droylesden before joining Manchester City in 1941. Military service in Burma with the Marines meant he made only a handful of senior games for City in war-time football. In 1947 he joined Chesterfield and later was briefly at Birmingham City before a move to Nottingham Forest in 1949. The dashing inside-forward was a regular scorer and played his best football at the City Ground scoring 72 goals in five seasons including 23 in Forest’s Second Division promotion campaign of 1950-51. Coventry City boss Jack Fairbrother pulled off a major coup signing Capel and his Forest colleague Colin Collindridge in 1954. In his first season at Highfield Road Capel, a ‘bustling’ inside-forward was top scorer with 22 league and cup goals including a brace in the surprise 3-3 FA Cup draw at First Division Huddersfield. The following season under Jesse Carver he was dropped after the first two games and sold to Halifax soon afterwards. After leaving senior football he worked as a travelling salesman for Trent Concrete and played non-league football with Heanor Town in the Midland League. Tommy continued to play for Padstow in the Nottingham Spartan League until past his 50th birthday.
Neil Dougall RIP (1921-2009)
We are sorry to hear of the death on December 1st this year of Cornelius ‘Neil’ Dougall a wartime guest for City ‘borrowed’ from Plymouth Argyle. Neil, a canny right footed inside forward, was perhaps unfortunate that his early career was shaped by the 2nd World War. He played 18 times and scored 7 goals in City’s 1944-45 campaign in the Football League North.
Born in Scotland (and capped for his country in 1946), Neil initially played in Birmingham as a schoolboy but started his professional career with Burnley in 1940 (5 appearances) before a short spell at Walsall (7). He then signed for Birmingham in October 1945 for £2750 for whom he made nearly 150 wartime and full league appearances scoring a total of 28 goals before being transferred to Plymouth Argyle for £13000 in March 1949. In a longstanding relationship with Plymouth Neil made a total of 289 appearances for the Argyle in 10 seasons scoring 15 times before moving up to coaching and scouting roles (and a short spell as manager). He retired from football in 1969 and ran a fitness club in Plymouth until 1986.
We send our condolences to his family.
Terry Bly RIP (1935-2009)
Bly, a prolific goalscorer with Norwich City and Peterborough, was one of five forwards signed by Jimmy Hill in the summer of 1962. He was a rumbustuous traditional centre forward best when bearing down on the goal with the ball in front of him – he possessed a strong shot.
Although he stayed only one season with the City he scored 29 league and cup goals in 42 games as the Sky Blue Revolution took off.
Hill, though, was not convinced and in a move that upset many City fans, signed George Hudson and sold Bly to Notts County for £13,000, a shrewd £3,000 profit. Terry’s best days were behind him and within two years he was playing non-league football for Grantham.
He ran a sports shop in that town for many years and managed Grantham in over 700 games. We offer our condolences to Terry’s family.
Régis Genaux R.I.P. (1973-2008)
We are very sorry to report that former City player Régis Genaux died suddenly on 8th November 2008, at his home in Chaudfontaine, Belgium at the early age of 35 (from a heart attack following pulmonary embolism).
A talented defender, whose career was blighted by injury, Régis was a Belgian International capped 22 times for his country and a Belgian cup winner for Royal Standard de Liège where he began his career. He signed for City in August 1996 for £750000 but only totted up 4 Premiership appearances that season – unfortunately never on the winning side – before being transferred in January 1997 to Udinese (for a similar fee). He spent a season there before returning to Standard Liège where he hung up his boots after yet another serious injury in 2004.
Prior to his untimely death Régis had done coaching work with Belgian teams RCS Verviétois and RFC Sérésien as well as doing TV work in his native country.
Alan Moore R.I.P. (1927-2008)
We regret to report that Alan passed away at the age of 81 in April 2008. From a family of footballing brothers Alan was a talented winger with plenty of skills on the ball when City signed him for £10500 from Nottingham Forest in December 1954. The 27 years old Hebburn born right-winger had failed as a teenager with Sunderland, drifted into non-league football with Spennymoor United but was spotted by Chesterfield in 1948 and started an 11-year Football League career starting with Hull City (1951). At Forest from 1952 he had the most fruitful period of his career scoring 38 goals in 104 League and Cup games.
City were managerless and in turmoil when he signed for them as a replacement for the transferred Gordon Nutt and made a scoring debut in a 1-1 draw with Southampton on Christmas Day 1954. He made 60 league and cup appearances for City scoring 14 goals.
Alan always gave 100% for the cause, was a regular during the brief Carver era the following season but his appearances were more sporadic under Harry Warren and in early 1957 he was suspended for ‘gross insubordination’ at a time when there was a lot of friction between the players and the manager. It was no surprise at the end of the season when Alan was released and he joined Swindon.
His final league club was Rochdale and his short spell there took his total senior appearances to over 275. He moved down to non-league football and played for Wisbech and was a very successful manager of Cambridge United for four years leading them to promotion to the Southern League Premier Division as well as the club’s best ever FA Cup run in 1963.
Alan settled in the Cambridge area and ran a sports shop in the city for many years. His health had not been good for a few years but he and his wife had recently celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.
Alan ‘Digger’ Daley R.I.P. (1927-2008)
It is sad to report the death yesterday (24 June 2008) of former Coventry City player Alan ‘Digger’ Daley. Daley, who was 80 years old, joined City in 1958 and played 60 games for the club including many in the Fourth Division promotion campaign of 1958-59 and scored 12 goals. A left-winger, Daley was a football nomad playing for numerous lower division clubs before arriving at Highfield Road from Crewe. In 1960 he lost his place to Stewart Imlach and in January 1961 joined Southern League Cambridge City. After retiring from the professional game he was a market trader in Bedford for many years and lived in the village of Renhold.
Jack Barnes RIP (1908-2008)
Jack Barnes, the oldest former Coventry City player who was a member of the CCFPA, has died four weeks before his 100th birthday. Jack, who played for City between 1927 and 1929 was also the oldest former professional footballer in the country. He died on 1st April 2008 in a Coleshill nursing home.
Wilf Nash RIP (1913-2008)
Wilf Nash, who played just two games for Coventry City during World War Two, died on 11 March 2008 aged 94. Wilf played for Bedworth Town before the war and was appearing for Morris Motors when City were short of players for wartime league games. He played on the right-wing away to Aston Villa a 0-4 defeat and away to Derby County a 1-2 defeat.
Graham Paddon RIP (1950-2007)
Former City player Graham Paddon died suddenly aged 57 at his Norfolk home on 20 November 2007. Graham was a product of the City youth set up and starred in the FA Youth Cup final in 1968. He left the club for Norwich in 1969 after just five first team games and went on to play over 400 games for the Canaries & West Ham and later was a coach at Stoke, Portsmouth and most recently in Brunei.
Dennis Uphill RIP (1931-2007)
It was sad to hear of the death of 1950s star Denis Uphill who passed away on 7 February, aged 75. Denis joined City from Reading in October 1955 and had an impressive time at Highfield Road despite the club’s turbulent history then.
Born in Bath in 1931 he joined Tottenham as a junior in 1948 after being spotted playing for Western League side Peasedown Colliery. Spurs loaned him out to crack amateur outfit Finchley before he turned professional in 1949.
A short, stocky but skilful inside-forward Denis never became a regular at White Hart Lane but was a valuable understudy to England international Eddie Baily. He made his debut during Spurs 1950-51 championship season, in a 1-1 home draw with Sunderland. He played only six league games in four years, scoring two goals before moving to third division Reading in 1953. He scored 42 goals in three seasons at Elm Park before City’s flamboyant manager Jesse Carver, under pressure to revert to English tactics after a run of poor away results, saw Uphill (his first signing) and another signing Ken McPherson as the ideal front pairing to pacify the critics.
He was signed after appearing as a guest player in a home friendly with First Division Burnley. He showed Carver enough in the 1-2 defeat to convince the manager to sign him.
After making his league debut in a 1-1 draw with Aldershot, Denis was soon on the score-sheet and scored 12 goals in 31 games as City made a vain attempt at promotion. He netted two goals in the 5-3 Christmas Eve win over Norwich and another brace in the 3-1 win over Ipswich later in the season. During that season the club had the unusual situation of a forward line including Denis Uphill, Peter Hill and Jimmy Hill.
In 1956-57, with Harry Warren in charge, Denis lost his place and scored only four goals in 19 games and was made available for transfer. After rejecting a move to Ipswich he signed for Mansfield in March 1957. In 1959 he returned south to play for Watford and in his first season scored an amazing 30 goals as the Hornets won promotion from Division Four. His partnership with Cliff Holton (who scored 42 goals) yielded 72 of Watford’s 92 league goals that season. In October 1960 Crystal Palace, managed by his former Spurs boss Arthur Rowe, snapped him up and he scored 21 goals in 74 games for the South London side, including one in their 2-0 win at Highfield Road which virtually sealed Billy Frith’s fate in 1961. He appeared alongside Bill Glazier and Brian Lewis, both who later joined City.
Palace were his last league club but he played Southern League soccer with Rugby Town, Romford and Dartford before hanging up his boots in 1964. He worked as a turf accountant after retiring and lived in Watford up to his death.