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.
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Newly-promoted Coventry City had made a winning start to their first Second Division campaign for 12 years with a 2-0 home victory over Plymouth Argyle.
Three days later Jimmy Hill's men travelled to East Anglia to face newly relegated Ipswich Town. Just over two years previously Ipswich, managed by Alf Ramsey, had surprisingly won the First Division title but their playing style had been rumbled & Ramsey had been lured away to become England manager. A disastrous campaign the previous year under Jackie Milburn had seen them relegated.
With John Sillett still sidelined with lumbago Hill named an unchanged side whilst the home side fielded three men who had won Championship medals two years previously, Messrs Nelson, Bailey & Leadbetter. City's players wore black armbands in memory of Mr G H Smart, a director of the club who had died the previous day. Within seven minutes City were a goal down when Blackwood was given too much room and fired in a speculative shot from 20 yards. The ball seemed to bounce in front of Bob Wesson and the City keeper failed to stop it entering the net. The Sky Blues were level within a minute when Ken Hale's shot was blocked but the loose ball ran to Ronnie Rees who fired in through a forest of legs.
For the next fifteen minutes Town looked the better side with Gerry Baker bustling effectively & speedy winger Joe Broadfoot giving Mick Kearns a harrassing time on City's left flank. Hill, spotted the problem & gave instructions for his full-backs to switch sides & Brian Hill was able to control the troublesome Broadfoot with ease. Gradually City took the upper hand in the game & two goals within ninety seconds around the hour mark settled the game. Both strikes came from rapier-like attacks down the left, aided by deadly finishing. First, Hill put over a low cross and with the home defenders slow to turn Willie Humphries nipped in to flick the ball home off the outside of his foot to make it 2-1.
Before Ipswich could gather their wits, it happened again with Rees' cross allowing Humphries to set up Hale for a thunderbolt into the top right-hand corner for 3-1. The rest was exhibition stuff with City finding the lush Portman Road turf conducive to their passing game & barely letting Town get the ball. The thousand or so City fans were chanting 'easy, easy' long before the end & two minutes from time only a brilliant save from Roy Bailey denied Hale City's fourth goal.
The following Saturday City travelled north to Bolton to face the other side relegated from the First Division the previous May. City named an unchanged side for what was the club's first ever visit to Burnden Park but Bolton were without their star play-maker Freddie Hill who was in dispute with the club.4,000 City fans had made the trip in a crowd just under 15,000.
Bolton's 20-year old forward Francis Lee came close to putting the Trotters ahead in the 13th minute but Wesson pulled off a brilliant save. Two minutes later ironically it was Lee who gifted City the lead. He failed to look where his goalkeeper was whilst passing the ball back & looked on in dismay to find that Eddie Hopkinson was out of his goal with the ball lodged in the back of the net. From being the better team at the start, the young Bolton side suddenly looked lack-lustre with no confidence & although Wyn Davies had an effort cleared off the line by Mick Kearns it was City who extended their lead in the 33rd minute. George Kirby's header from Hale's corner needed a linesman's watchful eye to confirm it had crossed the line & the referee waved away the home side's protests.
For a while after half-time Bolton rallied & Davies pulled a goal back with one of his trademark leaping headers but with Hill & Curtis as steady as rocks the tide turned and when Kirby pounced again after 71 minutes, it was all up with Bolton. Hale & Rees set up the opening, George Hudson – who had played no small part in the victory – headed the ball on, and Kirby finished it off close to the line. City were rampant & should have scored more. John Smith smashed a shot against an upright, a Ron Farmer drive whistled just past a post & a Hale thunderbolt took the wind out of Hopkinson as he grabbed it in the nick of time. With ten minutes to go the gloomy Bolton fans started to leave the ground, disappointed with the result but they must have been mightily impressed by the Sky Blues who had won all three of their games & with the only 100% record in the division, stood top of the table.