April 05, 2013

Sky Blues Blues


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY suffers from a neck affliction


I suppose everyone has a club who they find a pain in the neck.

Some don’t like Leeds on the grounds that they are supposed to have kicked their way to success in the 1960s and 1970s. (Being a Yorkshire pudding, I have to admit having a soft spot for them. And don’t forget that at the end of the 2008/9 season, Leeds beat Northampton Town 3-0 in the final game and thus helped to secure Pools’ place in League One.)

Some don’t like Millwall because of their supporters - “no one likes us and we don’t care” - yet I’ve had a good old natter with some of their supporters both on the message boards and when they’ve come to Pools.

Lots don’t like Man United because of their arrogance and in this they may be on to something. (Why do we always seem to have a national crisis when some referee gets up their nose?)

Having said all that, the club who get up my nose are Coventry City and my animosity is long standing. It starts with the 1976-77 season when Coventry were in the old First Division.
The situation was that on a Thursday night in May, Sunderland were away to Everton and Coventry were at home to Bristol City. The bottom of the table before those games read as follows:

18   Sunderland  34 points Goal Difference -6
19   Bristol City 34 points Goal Difference - 10
20  Coventry      34 points Goal Difference - 11
21  Stoke City   34 points  Goal difference  - 23
22  Spurs           33 points  Goal difference  -24

With Stoke and Spurs already relegated, all that Sunderland needed to do was to get a draw at Goodison Park or hope that either Coventry or Bristol City would win. Yet, it didn’t happen that way. Sunderland were beaten 2-0 and Coventry and Bristol City drew 2-2. Yet it was the circumstances of that 2-2 draw that stuck in the throats of Sunderland supporters and I couldn’t blame them. Coventry got the kick off to their game delayed by about 15 minutes (supposedly because of crowd congestion) and the score at Goodison Park was relayed to the players on the pitch at Highfield Road. The result was that in the closing stages no player at Highfield Road put in a tackle as the players stroked the ball around waiting for the final whistle.
"Do I feel sorry? No chance - it couldn’t have happened to a nicer club"
Naturally, Sunderland fans felt they’d been cheated out of their First Division place and in this they were probably right. . Had the Football League had had any backbone they would have ordered the games to be replayed with a level playing field but that didn’t happen.

Fast forward to the 2005/6 season and Coventry moved to their new ground on the outskirts of  the city. At the end of the previous season, it looked as though Coventry City might be playing on their new ground in League One but they managed to survive in the Championship. The words coming out of Coventry City were that they were pleased to remain in the Championship and wouldn’t want to be welcoming teams like Hartlepool United to their new ground.

Yet, what goes around comes around. This season saw Coventry welcoming Pools and it was a trip I had to make. All I wanted was for Pools to rub their noses in it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as Coventry won 1-0 - despite Pools being the better side. It was the same old story of not being able to cash in on our superiority; even then, Coventry’s goal came in rather dubious circumstances, many Poolies at the game believing that Peter Hartley was fouled in the build up to the goal. John Hughes said after the game that he was proud of his players and I wouldn’t disagree with him. Coventry were certainly made to work hard for their victory.

What of the new ground - the Ricoh Arena? For a start its around six miles from the city centre so to be sure of getting there on time my grandson Joe and I got a cab from the rail station - leaving me £11 out of pocket. After the match, I decided it would be a damned sight cheaper to use my bus pass and pay Joe’s half fare. And what a nightmare! To get to the bus stop for the trip to the city centre, we had to cross a main road, walk along a walkway, thorough an underpass and then through the Arena Shopping Centre - along with hundreds of other fans. Having hordes of fans going through a shopping centre would seem to indicate that the planners have had a brainstorm when developing the overall site.

Some years ago, I was having a natter with a sergeant at Hartlepool nick  and he offered the view that you shouldn’t mix footy fans with shoppers and town centres - simply on the grounds that they could be a recipe for trouble and the fact that women, children and old biddies would feel intimidated. Far better, he said, for grounds to be away from city centres and, of course, this is what happened at Middlesbrough where both home and away fans had to ply their way along Linthorpe Road to get to Ayresome Park.  I wouldn’t disagree with that logic but at Coventry they seem to have thrown that out of the window.

Having had to endure a twenty minute walk to the bus stop, we then had to wait another twenty minutes for a bus which duly dropped us in Coventry City Centre. And then there was a thirty minute walk to the railway station. All in all, it took us over two hours to get back to my grand daughter’s in Oldbury and my good lady and grand daughter were thinking of getting up a search party so late were we. (The real truth was that they were hungry and were waiting to go out for a meal). I was not a happy chappy and I said to Joe, “I don’t think I’ll be coming to this infernal bloody place again”. Joe couldn’t disagree - he was as p***** off as I was.

What of the ground inside? The gate for Pools’ game was just over ten thousand and its difficult to see how Coventry could sustain a 32,000 seater stadium in the long term. Their failure to pay the rent on the Ricoh Arena has been well documented and, frankly, the atmosphere inside the ground with all those empty spaces was non - existent. They even had one of those bloody drums to try and spark some atmosphere into the place but after a quarter of an hour the drummer gave up in despair.

As I write these words, Coventry have, of course, been placed into administration and deducted ten points. Prior to being placed into administration, Coventry City moved everything out of their offices and club shop and it seemed that a few of the Poolie faithful might have been present at the last game to have been played at the Ricoh Arena -  that, of course, didn’t happen. Do I feel sorry? No chance - it couldn’t have happened to a nicer club. As I have said earlier-  what goes around comes around.