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  • Phil

Giant Killers, Amateurs and Arabs

The start of the football season has seen the Sky Blues return to the now renamed Coventry Building Society Arena (still hard not to say "the Ricoh" with a pretty successful start having won three out of four league matches - hopefully the way of things to come!


The season's start sadly coincided with the loss of George Curtis who many will remember mostly for his role in the Sillett-Curtis management duo which led the team to the FA Cup win in 1987. Older supporters will remember him as the "Iron Man" captain of the Jimmy Hill era as the club rose through the divisions.


My memories of George are mainly around his days as commercial manager at Highfield Road where he was an ever- present around the ticket office, club shop and was always there to wave off supporters coaches to away matches, He had time for everyone and I would often be on the receiving end of "freebies" from George - little extras thrown in from the shop and programmes which he had given to me from his own "collection" including many from Maidstone from his home county of Kent as he had picked up that I was an avid programme collector.


Another memory of George was of him running our local chip shop on Ansty Road in the early 70's (during the time that he had moved from the Sky Blues to Aston Villa). Friday night was chippy night and I was particularly partial to the curry pies introduced during George's tenure!


The start of the season has also seen local non-league side Coventry United get through the early preliminary rounds of the FA Cup - still needing to win another four to reach the First Round proper at which point league teams from the lower two divisions take part.


United play in the Coventry civic colours of red and green (as did Coventry City for a period during the early 1900s), Another club to have shared that honour were the now defunct Coventry Sporting Club.


Sporting began their life as Coventry Amateurs a name they retained until the rise of semi-professionalism and an end to the line between amateur and professional football which saw the end of the FA Amateur Cup and amateur internationals. As a ten year old I witnessed the last ever amateur international which was held at Highfield Road between England and Scotland in 1974.


Just over a year later in 1975 I was fortunate enough to be at Highfield Road to see Coventry Sporting Club's biggest ever achievement - a 2-0 win in the First Round of the FA Cup against league opposition in the form of Tranmere Rovers. The game and second round match versus Peterborough United were switched from Sporting's small but neat Canley home which was eventually sold off to become the site of the headquarters of the National Grid by Sporting's landlords seeing the end of the club.


I do have some memories of that Kirby Corner ground which many would find quite strange now - I saw world cup winner Jimmy Greaves play there in a friendly for Weymouth for one but another friendly had a slightly bizarre feel to it! A pre-season friendly in 1976 saw Coventry Sporting take on Saudi Arabia and the entourage included some in full Arab regalia. The Saudis were managed by former Wolves manager Bill McGarry and were one of Jimmy Hill's international interests (also including investment into the Washington Diplomats club which ultimately failed). The match ended as a 0-0 draw and I have often thought back to it in subsequent years whilst watching Saudi Arabia compete in World Cup final stages.


I have a few more blog entries in preparation concerning many aspects of Coventry history which will be appearing in the coming weeks - stay tuned!