9th Dec, 2016

Coventry Sporting FA Cup triumph remembered 40 years on

Steve Carpenter 20th Nov, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

MANY football fans will see Sutton United’s shock triumph over Coventry City in 1989 as the biggest FA Cup giant killing, for others Hereford’s 2-1 win at Newcastle United in 1972 is up there too, but not many fans will be aware of Coventry Sporting’s famous victory over Tranmere 40 years ago in the historic competition.

There are still many experts who regard the Coventry Sporting’s 2-0 win over Tranmere in the third round as the pinnacle of the ‘David and Goliath’ act and this week it marks its 40th anniversary.

Coventry Sporting of the West Midlands League based in Canley had reached the first round of the FA Cup after what had already been an adventure in itself.

The Canley-based side had already beaten two higher league opponents having entered the preliminary round and overcome Bromsgrove Rovers, Oldbury United, Halesowen Town, Brierley Hill Alliance and Spalding United.

But on November 22, 1975 they came up against their hardest challenge in the shape of Division Four side Tranmere Rovers.

“When the draw was made for the tie my phone never stopped ringing,” said Sporting manager at the time Reg Matthews.

“The former Coventry and England international goalkeeper, and my assistant manager, and I were on national TV and in the national press.”

Sporting had already exceeded an attendance of 400 against Spalding so the club’s committee approached neighbours Coventry City and they allowed them to use Highfield Road as a venue for the third round tie.

And before the game against their Wirral opponents, the team decided that they would continue to carry out various rituals that had stood them in great stead in previous rounds.

Manager Kite insisted on wearing his lucky tie with its Coventry City goalkeeper Bill Glazier Testimonial Fund emblem, midfielder Tony Dunk wore his lucky gold crucifix, and all the players sat in the same places for the hotel pre-match meal, just like in all of the previous qualifying rounds.

Poached eggs followed the tradition, and Charlie Sorbie, the Coventry Sporting full back, said: “I hate poached eggs, but that’s what we had previously, so it had to be the same again.”

<b>The match

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Sporting failed to let the occasion get the better of them even though they were playing in front of a bumper crowd of 4,565.

There was a team full of heroes that day but perhaps two are worthy of a special mention.

Howard Jeavons was Sporting’s 29-year-old goalkeeper and had been with the club for 14 years. He had recently returned to the side after a double fracture of the leg, which was so severe that he told he may never play again.

But against Tranmere he produced a superb performance and was assisted by a sound back four of Sorbie, Derek Jones, Simon Skelcey and Bob Mundy.

They controlled Tranmere’s prolific marksman Ronnie Moore, who this year managed Hartlepool United, to only the occasional glimpse of goal.

Meanwhile Stuart Gallagher was making a name for himself at the other end. On 40 minutes he scored the opener and ten minutes from time he headed home a Jackie Manning cross, which started the celebrations for an unlikely, but thoroughly deserved victory.

“I dreamt on Friday night that I had played well and we had won,” said Gallagher after the game.

“Now I can hardly believe that we have actually done it. What a weekend it has been for me. I came out of my apprenticeship, it was my 20th birthday, and we are through to the next round.”

Although beaten by Peterborough in the next round in front of 8,556 spectators at Highfield Road again, the memories of the day when Coventry Sporting beat Tranmere Rovers 2-0 on November  22, 1975 will never be forgotten.

Tranmere went on to gain promotion, and were the second highest goal scorers of the 92 clubs in the Football League.

Kite added: “I like to think that we lifted the city at a time when it was going through a recession.

“Everybody appeared to be behind us, and the great day could not have gone better. After the game we had a great party at my house, and it seemed as though half of Coventry was there.”

Coventry Sporting folded in 1989, and the city was without a non-league side for four years  until Alvis became the first side to approach entry to the Midland Combination Leagye.

Many former players of Coventry Sporting were behind the application, and a few years ago they had added Sporting to their name, partly as a tribute to the non-league side who proved that in football the sky’s the limit.