Inevitably, with the FA Cup coming around again, the tie that received a disproportionate amount of coverage was Tottenham Hotspur v Coventry City. It seems amazing now – it was fairly incredible then – that Coventry won the FA Cup in 1987, beating Tottenham in one of the best finals ever seen at the old Wembley. In those days, Coventry had a comparable status to that enjoyed today by Newcastle, Everton and other teams outside that elite group that chases Champions League places.
Today, Coventry are in a sorry state. They were in decline when they fell out of the Premier in 2001. I was there to see their final game of that season at Highfield Road, a ground the mention of which brings tears to the eyes of Sky Blue regulars. Coventry were magnificent escape-artists, but they fell through the trap-door and it hasn’t shut yet.
The Ricoh Stadium, not a bad site, was the answer to their dreams, but they seem to have signed a deal that does not bring huge benefits to the club. Today, they are looking to move, unless they get a better deal from the landlords. What’s wrong with the Ricoh? It is not in the town centre and you need to take a bus or drive to the stadium. This is always used as an excuse by supporters when they talk of the inconvenience of a new ground. But if Coventry had been successful since they moved from their old home, nobody would complain about the inaccessibility of the Ricoh. Let’s face it, they had hardly been a rip-roaring success in the back doubles.
How many fans actually live in the centre of town? My observation of Coventry is of a run-down city with the central population largely derived from immigrant groups – people not normally interested in football.
Yet it does seem that the landlords have not been too generous to Coventry and already there is talk of a new rent that is around a third of the current £ 1.5m. Why wasn’t that tabled earlier?
Perhaps there is genuine concern that Coventry may move elsewhere. There were strong rumours in the press that the club was going to move to “Kettering’s ground” – that would be difficult given Kettering do not have a ground. The correct answer was “Nene Park”, the former home of defunct Rushden & Diamonds. This would be disastrous for Coventry City FC, terrible for the town and a real setback for football outside the Premier. Let’s hope that City and the landlords get a deal struck.
What Jimmy Hill – yes, he’s still with us – makes of the decline of a once proud club is anyone’s guess. He made Coventry into an innovative club that was never afraid to try something new and different. I hope the brown kit of the 1970s was not his idea, and do I recall a pink strip?
Coventry languish in League One and the City that was once a manufacturing powerhouse appears to be struggling. A successful club can help raise spirits and put the locality on the map – look what it has done for Stevenage. Keep Coventry in “Godiva Country”!