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/
Everywhere is the busy sound of workmen each with his own task of completing the finished article. In the midst of all this apparent chaos the lush green pitch is being watered to make it perfect for the re-entry into Second Division football.
Most Second Division clubs were pleased that the Sky Blues had achieved promotion for with their huge following and attractive style of play it would be a welcome shot in the arm for a division that had lost two big clubs, Leeds and Sunderland, both promoted to Division One. That is not to say that some other big clubs were waiting for the Sky Blues in Division Two – Newcastle United and Manchester City had fallen on hard times in the early 1960s but were showing signs of emerging from their slumbers. Another former giant, relegated Bolton Wanderers, would face Coventry for the first time in league football and old rivalries from Division Three South would be renewed with Northampton, Southampton, Swindon, Ipswich and Norwich.
Southampton manager Ted Bates summed things up during the close season: ‘Coventry’s impact (on Division Two) will be a great one. With their enthusiastic approach, and the wonderful support of their fans, they will be welcomed with open arms.’
There was little news of playing matters in the close season with one low-key arrival – Belfast youngster David Clements joining for ‘a small fee’ from Wolves, where he been a reserve-team player. 18-year old Clements had come to Hill’s attention during ‘A’ team games against the Sky Blues third team the previous season. Another low-key arrival was 28-year old physiotherapist Norman Pilgrim. He moved from London to join the club and would be a valuable and popular member of the Sky Blues ‘team’ over the next few years and involved with the serious injuries sustained by George Curtis, Bill Glazier, Ernie Machin and others.
Three days before the start of the season the club announced that Charles Harrold, a former Midlands journalist, had been appointed as Manager of Administration. Amongst his roles would be to develop the Radio Sky Blue and build up the club’s money-raising activities. Jimmy Hill’s title became General Manager.
Highfield Road was buzzing with activity and with two weeks to go before the season started Nemo reported that the improvements made to the ground since April were ‘staggering’. He described the now completed Sky Blue Stand as ‘giving an atmosphere of a big, thriving football club that was lacking before’. He continued: ‘…equally praiseworthy have been the quickfire alterations to the facilities in the main stand, including the promenade for easy admission, the new bars, and offices and boardrooms underneath, which have been increased in size and modernised.’
As he looked around the ground Nemo found it difficult to believe all the work would be ready for the first home game two weeks hence: ‘But then I had only to realise what had been achieved since a previous “inspection” made in mid-May to convince myself that where Coventry City are concerned, almost anything is possible.
‘Everywhere is the busy sound of workmen each with his own task of completing the finished article. In the midst of all this apparent chaos the lush green pitch is being watered to make it perfect for the re-entry into Second Division football – a prospect that has excited the footballing populace of Coventry to such an extent that over £60,000 has been taken in season tickets. The Sky Blue colour scheme pervades everywhere. I must say it is most agreeable, and lends splendour to the whole place’.
On the field the pre-season was a frustrating one with a 4-2 defeat at Southern League Cambridge United followed by a 0-0 at another Southern League club Wellington Town. They wound up their preparations with a 1-0 win at Watford, the team they had pipped for promotion in April. Ernie Machin had returned from injury and played a big part in the first two games but limped off at Watford with a recurrence of his knee problems. It was going to be another frustrating season for Ernie. His substitute replacement John Smith scored the second-half winner at Watford and earned his place in the opening league game, at home to Plymouth Argyle.
On a hot day over 34,000 turned up for the game, the highest gate outside the First Division & the sixth highest in the country. John Sillett was suffering with a back problem & Brian Hill moved to take his place at right-back with John Smith playing for the first time at wing-half. Manager Hill selected his twin centre-forwards Hudson & Kirby in a line up which was almost identical to the final game of the previous season. Plymouth's new manager, Malcolm Allison, adopted ultra defensive tactics & City had the lion's share of the first period with goalkeeper Dave McLaren keeping the visitors in the game with several good saves.
City finally broke the deadlock on 57 minutes when a Willie Humphries centre struck full-back Cobb's hand near the post & the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Cobb & his teammates protested but to no avail. Farmer duly slotted home the spot-kick. Six minutes later it was 2-0 when Smith was on hand to score from a Kirby knock on. Finally Argyle had to come out of their defensive shell but showed little in the final half hour. At the final whistle City's players sportingly lined up to applaud McLaren off the field.