Club Historian Jim Brown looks back on the 1964/65 Second Division season in this PUSB programme feature...
Coventry City club historian Jim Brown contributes the 'The Sky Blues Story 50 Years On' feature to the PUSB match-day programme and during the off-season period, we're showcasing these great features on www.ccfc.co.uk.
For more features and content from Jim Brown, head to his website here: http://jimbrownsjournal.blogspot.co.uk/
City's 3-2 win at Middlesbrough, their fifth away win of the season had put the Sky Blues in good heart ahead of the FA Cup Third Round tie at Villa Park.
The local rivals hadn't met since a two legged FA Cup game in 1946 when Villa had triumphed despite losing the first leg at Highfield Road. The last league meeting had been in 1938 when Villa, heading for promotion to Division 1, had attracted a record crowd of 44,930 to Highfield Road & won 1-0. With the Sky Blues 11th in Division Two & Villa 21st in Division One, the clubs' league positions had not been as close since 1938 & City fans were confident that their team could pull off a famous victory in Birmingham.
It seemed that City's poor form of the autumn had been turned round with successive victories & Villa had won their two Christmas games including a vital 1-0 over relegation rivals Wolves at Molineux on Boxing Day before a 1-5 defeat at Blackburn the previous week. Ominously Villa had won six in a row at home despite their desperate position.
Villa, managed by Dick Taylor who had succeeded Joe Mercer the previous summer, made one change from the side at Blackburn, recalling tall blond centre-half John Sleeuwenhoek in place of Lew Chatterley. Tony Hateley, a thorn in City's side from his Notts County days, was at centre-forward. The tall striker had failed to score in his last six games, after netting 16 goals before the end of November.
Every City fan wanted to see the game & there was an unprecedented scramble for train tickets & coach seats with Red House Motors selling out all 23 coaches four days before the game. Six sold-out special trains would go direct to Witton Station (fare 6s 6d or 32p) & unlimited trains would be put on to meet demand on the day. Jimmy Hill urged the expected 20,000 City fans to congregate on the Holte End to concentrate their support most effectively – this was in the days before these parts of the ground became territorial.
The rain pelted down for 24 hours before the game & the pitch was covered in puddles. An hour before kick-off Hill made a strange & what would become controversial team selection - he dropped Ken Hale & brought in defender Brian Hill in the number 8 shirt.
City, urged on by their massive following, started well & Ronnie Rees hit the bar in the sixth minute but it was Villa who struck first in the 13th minute. Stobart miskicked Macleod's cross & the ball fell to the unmarked Hateley who ended his goal drought from 12 yards. Villa had the upper-hand for most of the first half & with Ernie Machin failing to stamp his authority on midfield, City looked unbalanced. JH quickly realised his plan wasn't working & ten minutes before half-time shuffled the formation, moving Brian Hill to a defensive position & pushing Dietmar Bruck upfield to play an unaccustomed attacking role. Just before the break City missed their best chance of pulling level. A loose ball ran across the Villa area from a free-kick & Machin had the goal at his mercy but his shot smacked against the post & was cleared. An equaliser then may have changed the complexion of the game but after half-time Villa, driven on by a great performance from wing-half Graham Poutney, dominated. City grimly held on but in the 66th minute Hateley struck again. Villa skipper Phil Woosnam side-footed on Gordon Lee's cross & 'Big Tone' had the ball in the net in a flash.
Macleod completed the scoring nine minutes from time with a floated shot & by the end it could have been 5-0 but for the agility of Bill Glazier. The Sky Blue Army left Villa Park in a depressed mood having their high hopes dashed by their deadly rivals from Brum.
After the game Hill explained that the wet conditions of the pitch warranted someone like Brian Hill, normally one of the best markers around, to counter the hard-running Poutney & that he sacrificed a forward, Hale, to do that. He recognised his gamble had failed & realised he would receive a lot of criticism.
The game attracted the biggest crowd of the Third Round, 47,656, and the share of the receipts of £10,612 would considerably help the club's coffers. Villa got as far as the fifth round before losing in a second replay to Wolves & comfortably avoided relegation by virtue of winning seven of their last eight home games.
Five days later the Sky Blues Youth team cheered the club up by progressing in the FA Youth Cup with a 2-1 replay win at Derby's Baseball Ground. John Chambers & John Burckitt, with a penalty, secured a fourth round tie with either Port Vale or Stoke City.