Blast From The Remote Past: On This Day 1920: CCFC Survive In What Became ‘The Bury Affair’

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City Manager- Harry Pollitt

On this May Day (1st May 1920) Coventry City ended their first ever season in the Football League and they finished it with a win which was later regarded as highly controversial. It was also a season of three ‘Secretary-Managers’ as the combined position was often styled in those days. William Clayton passed the baton on to Assistant Sec. Harry Harborne in October 1919 until new gaffer Harry Pollitt took up the role on the 17th November. The club’s introduction to Division Two from their experience of the Southern League before WW1 proved traumatic. The Bantams lost their first nine league games and did not manage a win until their 20th game on Christmas Day with a 3-2 win over Stoke City. They then lost the Boxing Day return at Stoke 6-1!

Tommy Lowes

Results improved a little in the New Year and by March, Pollitt had lifted them off the bottom of the table for the first time. However, the club was still in dire trouble with only eight wins to their name all season. With the last two games to go City were in penultimate spot, a point behind Lincoln City with a game in hand. They had faced today’s opponents Bury at Gigg Lane four days earlier and managed a 2-2 draw with goals from George Wynn and Tommy Lowes. Bury were 5th and had nothing really to play for though points were crucial for the ‘Citizens’ or ‘Bantams’.

Alec Mercer

Today, in the return a massive crowd (a record to date) of 23,506 had turned up to see if the Bantams could stay in the League. They ended up winning by the odd goal in three, both from Alec Mercer after being a goal down and were safe in 20th position and did not have to apply for re-election (which they might well have not been)! Bury’s goal after half an hour by centre forward W. Lomas gave  them a 1-0 half-time lead. Alec Mercer grabbed CCFC’s equaliser on the hour and his winner came later in the game. Lincoln City were the team that had to apply for re-election instead.

The Bantams team that day was:-

Joe Mitchell; Louis Binks & George Chaplin (c), Benny Robinson, Reg Dalton & Alf Fenwick; Jimmy Dougall, Dick Parker, George Wynn, Tommy Lowes & Alec Mercer

A CCFC Team Group from Jan.1920

Harry Pollitt, who had previous experience as a civil servant and league referee based in Manchester resigned at the end of the season in May. Much later a scandal emerged with rumours of match fixing. It became clear that money (£200) had changed hands in the dressing room with the connivance of club officials for Bury to ‘go easy’ on CCFC in the two matches. An F.A. investigation was mounted and in close season 1923 ten officials and players from the two clubs were banned from football for life and the clubs fined £100 each. For CCFC the miscreants banned were Directors Jack Marshall and David Cooke and club captain George Chaplin. Harry Pollitt was also banned later in 1925. The ‘Bury Affair’ hung like a cloud over the club for much of the 1920s.

Thanks to CCFPA’s Mike Young for sourcing the photos.
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