It's every Sky Blues' supporter's ambition to play for their home-town side. Not many of them top 250 first-team appearances for the club and lie ninth in the all-time top scorers' list. No-one else has made their debut at Villa Park in the first-ever league win there thus becoming the club's youngest ever player. As well as finishing top scorer for the Sky Blues three seasons running he also took Player of the Year in 2006 and scored in the final game at Highfield Road. Step forward Gary McSheffrey.
Aged just 16 years and 198 days, he replaced Darren Huckerby at Villa in the emphatic 4-1 victory on his debut, there could be no better place and more significant event to make your bow. Following relegation in 2001 'Sheffers' spent time on loan at Luton, aiding their promotion campaign, and began to feature regularly at City in 2002/03. He bagged a treble in the 8-0 League Cup win over Rushden and Diamonds but came to real prominence under Eric Black's brief tenure as he partnered Julian Joachim in a fondly remembered era for City supporters. Top billing in terms of goal scoring came in 03/04, 04/05 and 05/06 before his big move to Birmingham City, a transfer hotly contested by the City faithful as yet another star was sold. The Sky Blues a selling club? Never. You can see his prowess in front of goal in the clip below with 'Mr Blue Sky' for musical accompaniment:
Gary McSheffrey's many goals in a City shirt
After four seasons and a taste of the top flight with the side from St Andrews, Aidy Boothroyd snapped him up in the summer of 2010 for a second spell, a popular move amongst the Ricoh faithful. Since his return, in main due to fan expectation following his first spell, it has been a frustrating time for the City fan himself. We expect so much from him as we know what he can produce, he has spoken himself how it frustrates him but the hope is that he can now build on an injury-free run alongside David McGoldrick and add to his goals tally.
Now level with Dion Dublin on 72 goals, he is also the club's leading scorer in their time at the Ricoh, currently with 25 strikes to his name. Mark Robins believes in his talents, at present he is keeping John Fleck out of the side and finding the back of the net. If McGoldrick does leave the Ricoh in January we will need goals from somewhere and 'Sheffers' contribution will be vital along with Carl Baker who is also finding the net with regularity in recent weeks. The goals have started to flow for the pair but we need them in the zone every week to keep the momentum going on the pitch. They should let Mark Robins sort out the shambles off the pitch also, he speaks more common sense than all the 'board' members put together, they could do no worse than sit down with Robins and listen to someone else's voice apart from their own for a change.
Footnote: this was written prior to kick off on Tuesday.
Thursday, 6 December 2012
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Saturday’s visit to Hartlepool United links two former Sky Blues’ midfielders who graced the top flight and whose curtain call came at the home of Jeff Stelling’s favourite side. One man missed out on our greatest ever day at Wembley through injury while, along with his compatriot, they both failed to register a single goal in sky blue. What they did bring was the ability to keep it simple, retain the ball and break down opposition attacks. They could be relied upon to deliver each time they stepped out onto the pitch - their names were Dean Emerson and Willie Boland.
Dean Emerson’s introduction to the top flight made one of the best ever impressions on the City support. Signed by John Sillett for £40,000 from Rotherham United after starring against City in a Littlewoods Cup tie he made 132 appearances for City between 1986 and the close season of 1991. Just two months prior to Wembley a reckless tackle by Sheffield Wednesday’s Gary Megson on an icy Highfield Road pitch began an agonising sequence of knee operations for the midfield kingpin as he returned time after time to appear in the Sky Blues' engine room. Eventually, the injury caught up with him and he moved to Hartlepool prior to the commencement of the Premier League. Always popular with the supporters it was Emerson’s pass that created the winning goal against Manchester City in August 1989 that took City top of Division One for the first time ever.
Willie Boland came through the City youth team and made his debut at the age of 17 during Bobby Gould’s tenure. Between 1993 and1999 he appeared 72 times and displayed an excellent engine dovetailed with the ability to retain possession and break up opposition attacks. Ever reliable, Boland made his full home debut in a 1-0 win against Liverpool and starred in front of the home faithful. After his time at City came to a close he transferred to Cardiff and again thrived under the management of Gould. He was a pivotal member of their successful late 90’s/early millennium promotion chasing sides and made his final appearance for the 'Bluebirds' at the Ricoh in their 3-1 defeat when Dennis Wise bid farewell to City. His final move took him to Hartlepool in 2006 but a knee injury led to his premature retirement in September 2009. Willie Boland never let the City down during his time at Highfield Road and, like Emerson, was an asset to the side he performed in.Last Friday's CWR phone-in was an entertaining and humorous hour as City fan of over 35 years, Matt Partridge, displayed a refreshing honesty talking with Clive Eakin and fellow supporters as the 'Fan of the Week' about the current situation. 'Joy Serpentine' was one of his highlights along with an honest assessment of Carl Baker's recent form. Matt received criticism for this while the programme was running and the following day online - his departure from the CWR studios you can see below.
Criticised for telling it as it is in my view - we can all run round and try hard but, like Gary McSheffrey, we all know they can both do so much better and that is one of the points Matt made. Baker and Sheffers were expected to be shining lights in League One yet they are currently fading stars. Matt's honesty I witnessed first hand in 1986 when, in the style of Geoff Boycott, he ran me out in school inter-house cricket. 'Sorry mate!!!' was shouted after me as I trudged back to the pavilion a year prior to the FA Cup final victory. Fast forward 26 years and we both still await that top six finish last experienced in 1970. A few honest words can do no harm, Mark Robins delivers similar each time he speaks, for too long the cracks have been papered over and it's time to tell it as it really is - SISU take note.
Wednesday, 7 November 2012
The opening day of season 1982/83 welcomed England’s World Cup goalkeeper to Highfield Road as Peter Shilton made his Southampton debut. At the other end of the pitch, due to an injury to Les Sealey, 16 year old Perry Suckling kept a clean sheet in the Sky Blues’ 1-0 win and belied his youth with a fine performance. He would go on to make 29 starts for City before joining Manchester City in the swap deal which brought FA Cup winner David Phillips to the club.
Mid-September saw Jim Melrose score a hat-trick on his home debut as Everton were defeated 4-2 in the same game which saw Garry and Keith Thompson take to the field – the first brothers for over 60 years to appear for City. Scotsman Melrose scored 10 times in 29 appearances during a brief stay before he moved to Celtic.
Spurs’ Garry Brooke scored a six minute hat-trick past Sealey weeks later as City lost 4-0 before Steve Whitton stepped up and smashed home unstoppable strikes from range against Luton and Brighton – on his 21st birthday in front of just 8,035 supporters . His shooting prowess was some of the best seen at Highfield Road (in my time) and following his summer move to West Ham he would fire an unstoppable effort past Perry Suckling the following September in the Hammers' 5-2 win at Upton Park.
Brian Roberts’ first ever goal for the club after 192 games inspired the side to a 3-0 win at West Ham before Peter 'Chukkie' Hormantschuk followed suit with a strike that Manchester United’s Gary Bailey fumbled into his own net as City defeated Big Ron's 'Red Devils' to triumph 3-0 just after Christmas. His own team-mates were in shock as you can see below at his only goal for City and he moved on to Nuneaton Borough, similar to Kevin Malaga, after 29 appearances for his home-town club following the arrival of fellow local lad Kirk Stephens.
The goals continued to flow into February as a classic from Mark Hateley was too good for Manchester City and a 4-0 thrashing ensued in front of the TV cameras.
One win in 15 games ensured safety was not guaranteed until the penultimate game as I came across the word relegation for the first time – like a bad smell it would not go away and still interrupts my sky blue thoughts on a daily (hourly) basis. Birmingham City won at Highfield Road in mid-April with a late winner – so bad was the performance a fan ran onto the pitch and threw down his shirt in front of the dugout. He was only venting what we all knew – we were in trouble and only a 3-0 win at Stoke kept our heads one place above the drop zone as Manchester City plummeted down the table and into the second tier.The season ended with a Les Sealey horror show at home to West Ham as Dave Sexton stepped aside amongst much discontent inside and outside the club. We would never believe what would happen during the close season of 1983...
Fast forward 29 years and...
From the side who took to the field at Yeovil on the opening day only Joe Murphy, Richard Wood, John Fleck and Callum Ball are holding down a regular role in the team. Jordan Clarke now faces fierce competition from the rehabilatated Cyrus Christie while Reece Brown has joined Adam Barton and Billy Daniels in being quickly removed from the first team picture. Carl Baker has frustrated the City faithful along with Gary McSheffrey - both a huge disappointment when we know they can do so much better. Perhaps the biggest victim of the mass change has been Cody McDonald - I wrote prior to the opening day how I expected him to reach 20 goals this season yet how wrong could I be. I still maintain he is a genuine goal threat but when you play as narrow as we were and have poor service from Clarke and Hussey (in the first ten games) then your goal output will suffer. We have the opportunity to move through the gears during the approach to Christmas, stay unbeaten and we could be in the mix come the new year. The signing of McGoldrick is key, let's hope plans are in place to make the move a permanent one.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
I’m breaking with tradition and moving away from individual heroes to remember past seasons from when I began watching the Sky Blues. ITV4’s ‘Big Match Revisited’ currently serves up a Saturday and Sunday dose of classic action in the days when football on TV was the exception and not the rule. The club we follow up and down the country doesn’t even feature on the ‘Sky Text’ index pages any more, we’re a miniature column in The Times’ ‘Game’ supplement every Monday morning and there’s a half hour wait on Sky Sports News for a five second clip of our goal action...but it never used to be like this.
It all started so well – for me anyway – 1980/81. Paul Dyson’s header past Ray Clemence in front of 31,000 at Highfield Road took the two points against champions Liverpool. A crushing 3-1 win over Arsenal in August 1980 with a majestic body swerve past Pat Jennings and finish from Gary Gillespie was followed a few weeks later by Everton winning 5-0 at City. Surely that wasn’t meant to happen, I didn’t think teams lost by that score at home – I was only six at the time.
Tommy English scored my first live hat-trick in a 4-1 defeat of Leicester City, I’d see many more until the turn of the millennium until they began to dry up, we must have saved a fortune in match balls. At this point the image of Wembley reared its head with a terrific League Cup run which ended at West Ham in the cruellest of fashions – the last minute winner. A 1-1 draw with Cambridge in round four had seen my first night game sat in the front row of the West Stand. I missed the 5-0 thumping of Watford in the quarter-final and the semi-final epic against the Hammers but, never mind, I thought, we’ll get another opportunity next year.
Three points for a win arrived in 1981/82 along with our all-seater stadium as City beat Manchester United on the opening day. Two weeks later and Leeds ripped out the Sky Blue Stand seats as a once great force in English football struggled to cope with their decline – we’ve never ripped out the seats although we’ve felt like it many times. We knocked Swansea off top spot with a 3-1 win in October 1981 while it took us until December to win an away game, 2-1 at Spurs. A week later and I viewed the orange ball for the first time at Highfield Road - Manchester City with Ray Ranson, Bobby McDonald and Tommy Hutchison in their side conquered the frozen conditions with a 1-0 win in the only game I’ve ever left early – well I had forgotten my gloves.
Martin Singleton, fresh out of the youth team, scored on his debut past Everton’s Neville Southall before we turned on the style to wallop Sunderland 6-1, inspired by Gerry Francis in midfield. Then came two hat-tricks in four days through Mark Hateley in the 5-5 epic draw at Southampton before Steve ‘The Cannonball Kid’ Whitton smashed in a treble at Maine Road.
We had a quarter-final run in the FA Cup until Big Cyrille sent us packing 2-0 on a sodden day at the Hawthorns after we’d thrashed Roy Barry’s Oxford United 4-0 in the previous round.
West Brom 2 City 0 FA Cup quarter-final March 1982
January 1982's 'Goal of the Month' was Peter Bodak’s solo effort at Maine Road in the fourth round, definitely worthy of another watch, he had so much ability it was frightening, what a shame he fell out with Gordon Milne.
'Bodak's the name, scoring's my game'
A semi-final and a quarter-final, these cup runs were becoming the norm, I’d surely look forward to many more in seasons to come....
Next week...1982/83 and 1983/84
Thursday, 18 October 2012
The summer of 1983 brought an influx of lower league players to Highfield Road following the departure of the club’s famous youth policy of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bobby Gould brought hitherto unknown talent to the home of football and, as we all know, unearthed the likes of Trevor Peake, Michael Gynn, Dave Bennett and Micky Adams. He also introduced a duo from Bristol Rovers, his former club, who spent less than two seasons with the club but made an instant impact upon their arrival. Their names were Nicky Platnauer and Graham Withey.
Graham Withey appeared in a City shirt on 27 occasions and scored seven times. Signed as back up to Terry Gibson and Dave Bamber, his transfer fee was £5000 and he would score past Ray Clemence on his debut at White Hart Lane and made a substitute appearance in the famous 4-0 win over Liverpool. After two seasons he was sold to Cardiff City and went on have a distinguished career in the lower divisions with Yeovil, Bath City and Cheltenham Town amongst others.
Nicky Platnauer played 53 times for the Sky Blues and scored six goals following his £10000 move from Eastville. His debut came as substitute in the 3-2 win at Watford on the opening day and he would spend most of the time in midfield with his trusty left foot. Not only did he open the scoring in the first minute against Liverpool with a grass level diving header, he went on to be named the club’s Player of the Year at the end of 1983/84, no mean feat with Terry Gibson in the side.
His departure from City coincided with Bobby Gould leaving at Christmas ’84 and he transferred to Birmingham City from where he took in spells at Cardiff, Notts County and Leicester amongst others on his way to 450 senior appearances. Both men contributed to one of the most memorable days ever witnessed at Highfield Road in December 1983 and they will go down in history as part of the side who demolished the champions along with Raddy Avramovic, Brian Roberts, Stuart Pearce, Trevor Peake, Sam Allardyce, Dave Bennett, Michael Gynn, Dave Bamber, Terry Gibson and Gerry Daly.
On his visits to City with Forest and Southampton David McGoldrick was always on the periphery, used as a substitute or substituted. When we signed him I was sceptical but how wrong can you be. Six goals so far and we are still in October - last season’s top scorer scored just nine goals and it’s rare to see a Sky Blues’ striker in the goal scoring charts. Mark Robins will be planning for the new year, there won’t be any waiting until late December to sort out new deals for his loan stars, that mistake won’t happen again. A new idol may be forthcoming at the Ricoh, we have to rewind to big Mo for the last one. As the song goes: ‘he scores when he wants, he scores when he wants, David McGoldrick he scores when he wants’ - last season the team couldn’t score for love nor money, what a refreshing change.