My club Coventry City currently play their football in League One and at the time of writing are near the bottom of a table that in old money used to be known as the Third Division. How times have changed for the Sky Blues who once played 34 consecutive seasons in the top flight of football and won the FACup in 1987 beating Spurs at Wembley in a match that is included in the list of the ten best finals of all time.
I was a young boy when my father took me to my first ever match at Highfield Road back in the 60’s, the time of big rosettes, rattles, Beatles songs blasting out from the tannoy system, smell of cigar smoke, and when us small kids would be passed down the terraces to the safety of the front to stop us from being crushed by the crowd that was tightly packed in like sardines. I can’t remember who we were playing that afternoon, but what I do recall was I loved every minute of it.
I remember watching this team wearing a Sky Blue kit and every time they went on the attack other young lads who were standing by me would click their rattles loudly and shout at the top of their voices, “Come On City ” and when I saw my father’s team score a goal for the first time a couple of boys of about my age hugged me and threw my bobble hat in the air ! I think the Sky Blues won the game but I knew by the final whistle that I wanted to come to the next home match and all the ones after that as I felt I belonged to something special even at the young age I was at that time.
The manager of my newly beloved football team was Jimmy Hill who had come to Coventry in 1961 when they were a lowly Third Division club and in just a few seasons turned them into a First Division outfit and attracting gates of around thirty thousand and playing teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. Highfield Road was packed to the rafters when great players like Georgie Best, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Tambling, Roger Hunt and Geoff Hurst were showing off their skills.
My once little football club even got into Europe and played the mighty Bayern Munich in the Fairs Cup in 1970/71 who had in their side none other than Gerd Muller and the outstanding Beckenbauer and although the Germans thrashed the City 6-1 at home we won the second leg 2-1 and there aren’t many British clubs who have beaten Bayern so we are proud to have that down in our record books.
Yet fast forward to the present time and here we are back where it all started for me watching my team in the third tier of football but instead of Highfield Road it’s now the ultra modern Ricoh Arena where the Sky Blues play their matches. A stadium that can hold 32,000 but because of where we are the average attendance this season is a measly 10,000 and if we drop down to League Two the attendances will decrease even lower no doubt. Why has this happened to a proud football club that was formed in 1883 and has been part of the Football League since 1919 ? A club that has played top flight football but now instead of playing England’s big clubs it finds itself up against teams such as Yeovil Town, Scunthorpe,and Colchester and with no disrespect to these clubs it just shows how low the Sky Blues have fallen.
We the fans lay the blame totally on our owners who through bad management and dodgy dealings and who through their incompetence and their refusal to pay rent on the Ricoh Arena had us playing “home” games at Sixfields the home ground of Northampton Town for almost two seasons. This turned out to be a disaster as fans boycotted attending there and after countless meetings and marches attended by thousands of City fans they finally agreed to return to the Ricoh. But even though our return was welcomed by many there are still groups of supporters who will not attend matches while SISU the owners are there as they are detested and are seen as responsible for bringing our great club to its knees.
Outside the arena is a statue of Jimmy Hill who sadly is suffering from dementia and is in a care home. But when I look at it before going in to a match it saddens and angers me as to me he IS Coventry City. He started the Sky Blue revolution way back in the sixties, he put us on the football map, but all his hard work has been undone by a sleazy hedge fund who have no idea how to run a football club. If Jimmy was aware of what is happening to the club that he loves right now I’m sure he would be as angry as us fans who still follow his Sky Blues. So we owe it to the great man to keep on with our support and hopefully one day soon we will get owners who can sort out this mess and hopefully we can get back into the big time where Jimmy put us.
by Kevin Halls