THERE was a time when Forest Green Rovers, Barnet and Stevenage, respectively, were not on Coventry City’s fixture list.
There was also a time when Sky Blues fans were not constantly troubled by off-field goings-on, and could concentrate all their attention on the opposition, which for so many years meant Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal, respectively.
Younger fans may find this hard to believe, but it’s true, and the proof can be found in two new books focusing on far better days in the club’s long history.
Jim Brown has been a Coventry City fan since 1962 and the club’s official historian for over 20 years.
He has published seven books on the club’s history including The Elite Era, The Illustrated History, Ghosts of a Vanished Stadium, Seven-year Itch and Sky Blue Revolution.
His latest offering Play Up Sky Blues tells the story of the City’s finest season when they reached the First Division for the first time in the club’s history.
Under their charismatic manager Jimmy Hill, the Sky Blues had narrowly missed out on promotion in 1966 and, strengthened by the arrival of record signing Ian Gibson, were the favourites to go up the following season.
The story tells how, after a mixed start, the team had a crisis in October with Hill and Gibson falling out and the Scot asking for a transfer – at which point the team was dumped out of the League Cup by Third Division opposition.
For a time ‘JH’ was under pressure until he and ‘Gibbo’ settled their differences, and the fans’ hero was recalled. His return sparked a run of 25 unbeaten games and secured promotion.
With success guaranteed, the ‘Midlands Match of the Century’ with Wolves would decide the title. Over 51,000 watched as the Sky Blues triumphed and went on to clinch the Second Division championship.
Play Up Sky Blues is published by Pitch Publishing priced £16.99.
Steve Phelps is the author of Sky Blue Heroes: The Inside Story of Coventry City’s 1987 FA Cup Win, Coventry City Miscellany and Coventry City On This Day.
Steve was born in the city in July 1974 and began watching the Sky Blues in 1979/80. He lived in Coventry until the close season of 1996 when he transferred to the West Country along with his season ticket.
He turns his attention to what nearly was in 29 Minutes from Wembley: The Inside Story of Coventry City’s 1980/81 Season – when a League Cup run saw the Sky Blues get within touching distance of their first ever Wembley appearance in a major cup competition.
Players including Tommy Hutchison, Gary Gillespie, Mark Hateley, Steve Hunt, Garry Thompson, Andy Blair, Danny Thomas, Paul Dyson, Gerry Daly, manager Gordon Milne and more tell the story of their time at Highfield Road, and the heartbreak of losing out to West Ham in the semi-final.
The book also turns the spotlight on everything from the the prolific striking partnership of Ian Wallace and Mick Ferguson to Clive Allen’s wonder goal that never was at Highfield Road.
An updated version of The Coventry City Miscellany now takes in the Checkatrade Trophy triumph at Wembley in last May. The trivia book, packed with stats and anecdotes, will tell readers how a lick of paint once keep City in the top flight and which star striker has been busy inventing a new sound.
29 Minutes from Wembley: The Inside Story of Coventry City’s 1980/81 Season is published by Pitch Publishing priced £12.99.
The Coventry City Miscellany is published by The History Press priced £7.99.