Re-Publishing historical football content digitally

Beyond the Centrefold – Coventry 1964

By on 12 January 2018

A great result last weekend for Coventry City beating Stoke in the FA Cup. It might be a little premature to say that things might be on the up for the Sky Blues but they also find themselves third in League 2. As a result, SoccerAttic has chosen a bit of a Coventry theme this week. This team photo from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, November 1964, shows the squad that won promotion from the old third division the previous season under the vision and leadership of Jimmy Hill. They would go on to win promotion to Division One in 1967. Hover or tap the face of each player for more information.

Coventry 1964

Coventry 1964

George Kirby George Hudson Bob Wesson Dave Meeson John Mitten Brian Hill Hugh Barr John Smith Mick Kearns Jimmy Hill (Manager) John Sillett Billy Humphries Graham Newton Ronnie Farmer George Curtis Ken Hale Dietmar Bruck Ernie Machin Ronnie Rees

George Kirby


Born in Liverpool Kirby was a bit of a journeyman beginning his career at Everton but also represented Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle and Southampton before joining the Sky Blues for whom he only made 18 appearances and stayed only one season. Died in March 2000 aged 66.

George Hudson


Originally from Manchester he joined Coventry in 1963 from Peterborough Utd. He made 113 appearances scoring 62 goals before leaving for Northampton Town in 1966. After retirement from football he worked as a printer in the Manchester print room of the Daily Mirror.

Bob Wesson


Joined in 1958 and stayed until September 1966 when he was sold by Jimmy Hill for £10,000 to Walsall where he stayed for seven seasons. He is still considered a favourite at Coventry having made 156 appearances for the club. Retired in 1973 following a shoulder injury to run a pub.

Dave Meeson

Not a lot seems to have been written about Goalkeeper, Meeson. He Joined from Reading in 1962 and made just 28 appearances for Coventry before, it seems, retiring from the game in 1965. Died in June 1991 aged just 57.

John Mitten


Made the majority of his league appearances (100) for Exeter City between 1968 and 1971 but joined Coventry in 1963 from Leicester. Despite staying until 1967, he only made appeared 36 times before leaving to join Plymouth. He also played cricket for Leicestershire from 1958 to 1963.

Brian Hill


Not to be confused with another popular Sky Blue, Peter Hill, Brian played for the club from 1957 to 1971 making 246 appearances. Went on to play for Torquay Utd before retiring in 1973 where he admitted he got a pay rise to go and work the line at Jaguar. Died in October 2016 aged 75.

Hugh Barr


Northern Irelander, Barr, attracted Jimmy Hill’s attention with his goal scoring prowess at Linfield. He joined Coventry in 1962 and made 47 appearances before leaving for Cambridge Utd in 1964. He was capped three times for Northern Ireland and was also part of the GB squad for the 1960 Olympics.

John Smith


Londoner Smith played 127 times for West Ham before leaving for Spurs where he was part of the 1961 double team. He played 35 times for the Sky Blues from 1964 to 1965. He would later play for Swindon Town in their famous League Cup victory over Arsenal. He died in 1988.

Mick Kearns


A one-club man he made 382 appearances for Coventry from 1957 to 1968. Retired from football in 1969 to co-run a Bingo Hall with his father before returning to Coventry as a coach.

Jimmy Hill (Manager)

A man who needs no introduction. As a player he was a successful campaigner for the abolition of the minimum wage and it is his vision for Coventry in the 1960s that is attributed to their rise through the leagues. He died in December 2015 aged 87.

John Sillett


A Coventry legend, largely as a result of being manager when they won the FA Cup in 1987, he played 109 times for the club from 1962 to 1966 after joining from Chelsea. After retirement in 1968 he famously went into coaching and management and also did some scouting work for England under Sven Goran Eriksson.

Billy Humphries


Northern Irelander joined Coventry in 1962 and made 109 appearances before leaving for Swansea City in 1965 where he stayed until 1968 before returning to Ireland. He was capped 14 times for Northern Ireland.

Graham Newton


Joined from Walsall in 1964 but left soon after making just eight appearances. Had a couple of spells for Atlanta Chiefs in the US but never really settled anywhere. He finished his career at non-League Worcester City in 1973 where he was also player/manager for a while.

Ronnie Farmer


Born in Guernsey, he made 311 appearances from 1958 to 1968 scoring 52 goals after joining from Nottingham Forest.  After retiring he coached at the club briefly before going to work for Massey Ferguson.

George Curtis


A club legend, he Joined in 1955 and was club captain throughout their rise from Fourth to First Division. He made 487 appearances, before leaving in 1969 to join Aston Villa - then a club record until Steve Ogrizovic later overtook it. He later co-managed the club with John Sillett to the FA Cup win in 1987.

Ken Hale


Joined from Newcastle Utd in 1962 and made 99 league appearances before he left to join Oxford Utd. He went on to manage Darlington in 1972 and Hartlepool in 1974. He died in January 2015 aged 75.

Dietmar Bruck


German born Bruck was the first substitute ever to be used by Coventry in September 1965. He made 189 league appearances between 1961 and 1970 before he left to join Charlton. In 2003 he survived a car crash in which his partner Sue sadly died.

Ernie Machin


Joined in 1963 and made a total of 289 appearances and was a crucial part of the teams that won promotion in 1964 and 1967. He left to join Plymouth in 1972 and was so popular that he was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2004. He coached with the club after retirement in 1976. He died in 2012 after some years of poor health.

Ronnie Rees


Welsh born Rees began his career at Coventry in 1962 and stayed until 1968 making 230 league appearances for the club. After spending a very brief period at West Brom, he went on to join Nottingham Forest. He was capped 39 times for Wales before retiring in 1975 to go and work for Ford in Bridgend.

By way of a bit of background, we’ve also re-published here an article by Geoffrey Green from CBFM magazine in March 1964 where he explains why, and how, Coventry were a team very much on the rise. He shows no reservation in highlighting Jimmy Hill’s not inconsiderable part in that success.

Click or tap the pages to read the original article or you can read the extracted text in blue

Coventry City article from Charles Buchan's Football Monthly

Coventry City article from Charles Buchan's Football MonthlyUP! UP! UP! Coventry Rise Again

The character of great clubs is formed by the atmosphere of the district in which they play, and by the spirit of those who support them. Britain’s most distinguished football writer, GEOFFREY GREEN, captures that character. The subject this time: Coventry City.

To the country in general, the name Coventry is synonymous with cathedral and bicycles and cars. But more recently a fourth force has arisen.

It is the City football club. Indeed, this new, virile element stands as proud and erect as the modern cathedral. Each, in different ways, has emerged like a Phoenix from the ashes of the past.  The old cathedral was the victim of a direct wanton destruction by enemy bombs; the football club was allowed to run to seed.

But the old order has changed in every direction. The community as a whole has been fired by a new inspiration—of which its modern cathedral and rebuilt city centre have become the symbols of a new life and hope. Into the heart of the revival has marched Coventry City football.

Born of the young factory hands of the Singers Bicycle Company, their first name was Singers’ FC, in the year 1883. By 1898 the title was changed to Coventry City, yet it was not until 1919-1920 that their life began in the extended Second Division of the Football League. Since then it has been a game of snakes and ladders—up one minute, down the next, with a taste of football not only in the Second Division but the Third (North), Third (South) and Fourth as well.

For much of those years of hope and frustration the club were allowed to lie fallow, unattended by men of drive. Certainly, there came two seasons, in 1938 and 1939, when the glittering vision of the First Division lit their eyes as they fought into the promotion zone—only to end each time in fourth place. Yet it was only a brief upsurge at a time when the Midlands were dominated by clubs like Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa. The glitter was a mirage, and by 1953 poor Coventry were back in the Third Division and heading for the Fourth.

But hey-presto! Look at them now! The oracle has been worked. Once they were the Singers. Now they really, are the singers with their own rousing “Sky Blue Song” which is chanted all the way to the tune of the Eton Boating Song by regular crowds of 25,000 and more, the sort of support that leaves the rest of the Third Division standing—and even such neighbouring giants as Villa, Wolves, West Bromwich and Birmingham envious!

What has caused this exciting transformation which took Coventry to the last 8 of the FA Cup a year ago, into fourth position in their section of the League (missing promotion only because of an impossible backlog of matches which over-taxed their strength): and has now rocketed them to the top of the Third Division with so wide a lead that the Second Division must once more be their playground a year from now?  It is the happy partnership formed two winters ago by Mr Derek Robins, the new chairman at the club, and Jimmy Hill, the new manager and former inside-forward partner of Johnny Haynes, at Fulham. These two men have proved an ideal relationship. Their outlook, ideas and temperaments fit one another like a glove. Each is enormously enthusiastic; each possess dynamic drive: each sees football in new terms of an entertainment industry: each is a visionary, not content merely to dream dreams but to give body and effect to them.

On one side of the table sits Robins, former amateur county wicketkeeper for Warwickshire, who by drive and imagination in business has become a millionaire within the past decade. On the opposite side sits Hill, who knows his football inside out, a restless, driving buccaneer with his piratic beard, quick mind and ready laugh. A born strategist and negotiator, it was he who brilliantly led the Professional Footballers’ Association into a new world, winning a new deal of. He, indeed, was the architect of football’s New Deal in England.

It was Walter Winterbottom who recommended Hill to Robins. In a trice the two men recognised themselves as complementary to each other. Now theirs has become a relationship quite unlike that of any other chairman and manager in the game. They are brothers, and equal. There lies the basis of Coventry’s happy revival.

Now Highfield Road, the City ground, is a hive of activity. “Sky Blue” is the new watchword—”The Sky Blue” song which the animated crowds roar out at every match; the Sky Blue club down the corridor where the players, their wives and relatives have been welded into one, big, happy family; Sky Blue buses and a Sky Blue train which helps to transport part of the 5,000 supporters who regularly travel to every away match. Even the shining new city shopping centre has caught the sky blue fever as tradesmen cleverly adapt the gimmick.

Yet none of this basically is a gimmick, any more than the sky blue raffles and dances organised locally, or the regular Sky Blue disc jockey programmes given before the kick-off and at half-time to keep the crowds entertained. Robins and Hill see all this as a necessary new look in the presentation of football if the game is to survive in an age of high pressure counter entertainment. This is promotion; stage presentation. How different, indeed, to the apathy and down-at-heel atmosphere to be found at other places!

Once, a crowd of 44,930 filled Highfield Road for the visit of Aston Villa in 1938. Those figures have been approached again in the past two seasons, especially last March when mighty Sunderland and Manchester United arrived for the The FA Cup. And if plans now reaching the drawing board come to fruition then Coventry will one day have a home of which to be truly proud. A five-year rebuilding scheme, at a cost of £250,000, is envisaged. This will include a cantilever stand down one side of the pitch; a grand promenade on the other side enabling season ticket-holders to walk up to their seats instead of climbing stairs; a double-decker stand in place of the Spion Kop end under which it is planned to provide ample garage space; a bowling alley; sauna baths; and sub-soil electrical heating to keep the pitch fit at the height of winter.

How very different from the lazy old, apathetic days! There may be some nostalgic charm about them—the memory of players like Danny Shea and Patsy Hendren; of George Mason, J. Astley, Lockhart and the gravel-voiced, lively Chisholm; the swaying sight of those 44,000 gatherings for the visits of Aston Villa (a promotion battle, that), and West Bromwich in a 1937 Cup-tie. But all that seems like the wispy-thin smoke of a fire that seldom offered much comfort and heat. Today Coventry, in their sky blue shirts and sky blue support are a vital force.


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