OCT 01] THE JIM BROWN COLUMN
City's Managers :
1987 - NOVEMBER 1990]
John Sillett will always be
remembered for his part in the 1987
FA Cup victory but the other testament to his ability as a
manager is that under his charge Coventry City were never
involved in a relegation battle.
JOHN SILLETT WITH
THE 1987 FA CUP WINNING TEAM
The son of Charlie Sillett who
played for Southampton before the war, John and his elder
brother Peter grew up in the Hampshire village of Nomansland and
both were on Southampton’s books before joining Chelsea as
Peter won international honours
and played in the Chelsea championship side of 1955 and John
followed him into the first team partnering his brother at full
back and making over 100 appearances. After the arrival of Tommy
Docherty in 1961 John lost his place and in April 1962 he joined
Jimmy Hill’s Sky Blue revolution.
Whilst never a spectacular player
was a steadying influence on the Coventry defence and played a
big part in the 1963 FA Cup run and the 1964 Third Division
His fitness suffered after a
slipped disc problem and in 1966 he joined Plymouth. Then, after
retiring from playing, he moved into coaching with Bristol City.
In 1974 he became manager of Hereford United and two years later
led them to promotion to the old Division Two.
Bobby Gould brought Sillett to
Highfield Road as his coach in 1983 but he left a year later as
the team struggled. Don Mackay invited him back in 1985 and when
Mackay resigned in May 1986 ‘Snozz’, as he was nicknamed,
became chief coach with George Curtis as manager.
The Curtis-Sillett partnership
was immediately successful, bringing a breath of fresh air to
the club after years of struggling, with their happy-go-lucky
attitude and expressive style of football. Sillett got the best
out of Dave
Bennett and Cyrille
Regis and with a side largely inherited from Mackay and
Gould, but inspired by Curtis and Sillett, the Sky Blues roared
to the FA Cup final.
On that momentous day in May 1987
they put the smiles back on the faces of not only Coventry City
but also football in general in one of the most attractive and
exciting finals since the war. Big John was deservedly rewarded
with promotion to team manager.
Two months after the Wembley
triumph he made his first significant purchase signing David
Speedie from Chelsea for £780,000. His immortal quote at
the time was “Coventry City have shopped at Woolworths for too
long, from now on we’re shopping at Harrods”.
For the next three years Sillett
achieved a miracle. His team was rarely out of the top half of
the table and never had a relegation battle, they did however
suffer embarrassing Cup defeats at Sutton and Northampton and
many fans felt he should have gone after the latter.
His critics argued that he should
have broken up the 1987 side sooner and that his transfer
dealings were uninspiring. Despite this his cheery style always
shone through and he was an excellent ambassador for the club.
In retrospect he raised expectations to high levels in 1987 and
subsequently failed to live up to them.
In October 1990 he was relieved
of duties after indicating that he did not want to renew his
contract at the end of the season. Sadly, chairman John Poynton
dealt with his departure in an untidy fashion, negotiating with Terry
Butcher whilst John was on his sick bed and unaware of
John had a further spell as
manager of Hereford and spent a lot of time at Highfield Road
after the departure of Poynton in 1991. Many fans will remember
him for his rallying call on the arrival of Ron
Atkinson in 1995 when the reception he received was almost
as great as that given Big Ron.
He still lives in the Coventry
area and has been part of Sven Goran Eriksson’s scouting set
up working with other former City managers Dave Sexton and Noel
(h) : 2-1
(a) : 0-0
the FA Cup in 1987
defeats at Sutton and Northampton
128 : won 44, drew 37, lost 47
win ratio 34.4%