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End of Days? But what about the Football?

In recent years I had worked as a volunteer at Coventry's Priory Visitor Centre at the site of Coventry's first (and most magnificent) Cathedral and associated Priory. The Cathedral was the first of three in Coventry - the second (bombed St Michaels) and third "new" Cathedral (icon of the City rising from the "ashes") are internationally renowned. Our first Cathedral and Priory were destroyed under the reign of Henry VIII at the disolution of the monastries. The complex was extremely important during medieval time and English parliaments had been held in the Priory's Chapter House during the reign s of Henry IV and Henry VI.

It is believed that ornate stained glass fragments found at the site of Coventry’s Priory were the work of John Thornton - local glazier famed for his work on York Minster's east window and at Westminster Abbey The apocalypse theme was rife in 14th & 15th century glasswork and murals. Also found during excavations at the Priory site was a large fragment of masonary from the chapter house decorated with a mural showing apocalyptic themes.

I have been wondering how the monks who once took up their places in the chapter house in the priory which was ornatlely decorated with apocalypse images, and the congregation at neighbouring Holy Trinity (adorned with a large "doom" apocalyptic painting believed to have been inspired by a local earthquake) would have reacted to the world's present day predicament.

Following on from all of the environmental tribulations of the last year or so the past few days have witnessed large balls of hail falling on California, wildfires across large areas of Europe - Ukraine (including the area around Chernobyl, which in English is translated to "Wormwood" - mentioned in Revelations!), Poland, Southern Netherlands and Siberia, continuing plagues of locusts across North Eastern Africa and into the Arab nations, and of course the global virus pandemic which has affected all aspects of life - not least football! Not important? Some would disagree - read on!

The first match which I attended at Highfield Road was as a nine year old in 1973 with a victory over Liverpool (how things have changed!). Liverpool's manager at the time was the legendary Bill Shankly who is famously quoted as saying, "some people treat football as if it is a matter of life and death - it is more important than that!". I must admit to be amongst those to have watched streaming of Belrussian football recently to fulfill my missing "fix".

In his book, "Staying Up", Rick Gekowski describes how he spent a whole season 1997-8 as an insider with Coventry City's premiership squad, management, owners and backroom staff. It is essential reading for any Sky Blues fan. One of the chapters is entitled "Life & death in the FA Cup" and describes how one supporter suffered a heart attack and tragically lost his life at the FA Cup quarter final replay at Sheffield United. His theme was that most ardent football fans will compartmentalise their lives (to some extent) through football seasons and wouldn't under normal circumstances consider and the injustice of mortality not succumbing to the conclusion of a season! This observation and Bill Shankly's words certainly have reverberations where the current football season is concerned! Like all aspects of life at the moment the big issue is uncertainty with the distinct possibility that the current season could be abandoned. Normally as night follows day the league season starts in August, ends in May and everything is concluded until next season.

Only a few weeks ago I was beginning to get increasingly confident of a Sky Blues promotion - a points cushion and games in hand sitting pretty at the top of League 1 (the only realistic chance of us winning any league at this point in the season in all that time that I had been a supporter since that match in 1973). Playing well, solid, confident, despatching close rivals and widening the gap - what could go wrong? Then along comes the apocolypse.......

Coventry's (current) leading non-league club are also worthy of a mention. Coventry United (tenants of Cov RFC) were also top of their league and looking good for promotion - but the there was no accounting for the impact of the end of days on the Midland Football League Premier Division!

Coventry City's first ever season in the football league was the 1919-20 season coinciding with the conclusion of the Spanish flu pandemic (considered to have "ended" by December 1919) which accounted for millions of lives around the world. League football in England had returned to normailty after WW1 in August 1919 and wasn't halted by the pandemic. Coincidently however the club didn't record its first ever league win until Christmas but miraculously manged to avoid relegation (with underhand methods suspected and later confirmed!). There will be more about this story another time.

Football in England was not suspended again until the outbreak of WW2. Like all other citizens footballers were subject to conscription and teams were often put together on an ad-hoc basis for the makeshift regionalised war leagues. One team to famously benefit was Aldershot - being based in a military town housing a large proportion of the British Army the club was able to call on some of the country's most famous footballers (including Arsenal and England star Joe Mercer who went on to be part of the Mercer / Milne Coventry management team who were in charge at the time of that match against Liverpool in '73)

Let's hope the apocolypse can be averted for the time being and the Sky Blues will be celbrating "end of days" in League 1 to regain a Championship place.......

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