SUPPORTING Coventry City has become something of a chore for even the most diehard fans in recent years, but one superfan who has who has seen all of the many highs and lows over almost seven decades has signed up for his 68th consecutive campaign.
Noel Tweed first got a taste of the Sky Blues way back in the 1940’s when as a chirpy 16-year-old he left a young date waiting outside the old Roxy Cinema on Foleshill Road and instead opted to watch the football on offer at Highfield Road.
It is a decision the 86-year-old from Coundon does not regret and that started a love affair with the football club that has lasted almost 70 years.
“It was a Thursday night and I’d arranged to take her to the pictures, but then I found out there was a game on at Highfield Road so I cleared off to the football and left her standing outside the cinema wondering where I’d got to,” joked Noel.
“I used to work in the market and I’d go straight from there to the football and I have been going ever since.
“I used to stand on the north bank corner at Highfield Road because that was the highest point – standing there I could see everything.
“I always stood in the same place at around 2pm but then when it got to 2.55pm I’d get pushed down the front towards the barrier so I said ‘sod this, I’ll get a season ticket.”
His love affair with the Sky Blues did not get off to the best possible start with the club languishing in the lower leagues and at one point they hit rock bottom in the Old Division Four.
But with the city’s car factory industry booming, the positivity tranferred onto the pitch too and 1960s saw the arrival of Jimmy Hill who guied the Sky Blues back up the leagues and into the top flight once again in what is now known as the ‘Sky Blue Revolution’.
Noel recalls: “We went from the First Division down to the fourth it was a real slump but Jimmy Hill came along and of course he got the crowds back.
“I can remember him riding around the pitch on a white horse! He was a nutcase was Jimmy, but he was a kid-and-a-half and he got us where we were.
“He bought two players over from Ireland (Hugh Barr and Willie Humphries) and that transformed the club. We started going up and sure enough we went from back to the top.
“We were in the doldrums but we then had a magic spell and the players he bought in were absolutely brilliant.
“When Jimmy Hill took over he booked up the coaches and I went with a fella from Binley we used to go all of the away games.”
The Sky Blue Revolution will go down as one of the most important in the club’s history, but for Noel nothing will ever top watching his beloved Sky Blues lift the FA Cup many years later in 1987.
“The Jimmy Hill years were my best years watching Coventry and I remember when we played Wolves the atmosphere was electric, but the climax was the cup win.
“We went to Manchetser United and beat them, that was unknown before and then we got to Wembley. 1987 has to be the highlight but to think we got to go to Wembley twice, those were the days.
“The atmosphere at Wembley back then is like it is now, it’s terrific.
“We got the coach down the London and I remember when we came out of Wembley we were looking at 10,000 coaches and there were all of these Coventry fans walking around trying to find their coach!”
The Premier League years soon followed but since 2001 Noel has been suffering like every other fan as the Sky Blues slipped back down to the third tier.
He has been attending matches with his Nephew Steven for the past 15 years and the pair even elected to travel over 35 miles to watch games in Northampton three years ago.
But despite last year’s disappointing end to the season, Noel has full confidence in current manager Tony Mowbray to get the Sky Blues back to where they belong, just as he witnessed 50 years ago.
“Tony Mowbray is a very good manager but we hit a bad patch last season,” added Neol, whose favourite all-time Sky Blues player is Willie Carr. “We were in the top six for quite a long time but we missed out on the play-offs. Everyone was disappointed.
“Hopefully Mowbray has been on the phone and he’s got a few players lined up. I think he can take us up next season if he gets the right players in. We’ve got a cracking defence but we couldn’t seem to score a goal when we needed it last season.
“We had the highest crowd in the league at one point last season, way above the rest in the division. That proves that Mowbray’s got the support if he can provide a winning team.
“As long as I can keep walking and my eyesight is okay I’ll keep getting a season ticket and supporting the team.”