|They are two men of football for whom I have the
greatest respect and they both had sensible words of comfort to
offer about Coventry City’s current loss of form.
is a former Sky Blues’ manager – Gordon Milne. Now Director of
Football at Newcastle United, Gordon enthused greatly over the
appointment of Jim Smith as City’s assistant manager.
The other is a former Spurs and England striker who has now a
familiar face on the media scene, Garth Crooks. He is of the opinion
that there is not much wrong with the Sky Blues team that a big
injection of confidence won’t put right.
I fell into conversation with Garth and Gordon after the FA Cup
3rd Round home defeat by Tottenham, a match which saw a host of
celebrities among the 20,000-plus Highfield Road attendance. The
Hero’s of ’87 were there, of course, and I was delighted, indeed
privileged, to be in their company once again and to introduce them
to the guests in four of the club’s hospitality suites and, just
before the kick-off, to the fans in the stands, as the Cup Winning
squad took to the pitch one more time.
For the record, the reunited line-up was Brian Kilcline, Steve
Orgrizovic, Brian Borrows, David Phillips, Trevor Peake, Greg Downs,
Dave Bennett, Michael Gynn, Lloyd McGrath, Nick Pickering, Cyrille
Regis, Keith Houchen and Steve Sedgley.
COVENTRY CITY'S FA
CUP 1987 WINNERS
[photograph supplied by empics]
Two members of the board from ’87 – John Reason, who is still
a Director of course, and Micky French, joined the guys for a drink
after watching the 2002 City squad succumb to a 2-nil defeat. John
was wearing the blazer, trousers, shirt and tie that he wore on that
great day at Wembley 15 years ago.
Also there was England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and FA
Director David Davies, two former Warwickshire and England
cricketers, father and son MJK and Neil Smith, and the much-travelled,
and I guess you could say, notorious, Stan Collymore.
Add to that the usual round of managers and scouts from other
clubs, including Archie Gemmell, who had parted company with Derby
County earlier in the day, and the Match of the Day team, led by
commentator John Motson, and it was a night of star-spotting and
autograph-hunting without any doubt.
So it was that I found myself talking to Garth Crooks. As someone
who has tried to make a living out of being a professional observer
of many aspects of life, but particularly sport, I am not a huge fan
of the player-turned-journalist brigade. The expert view of the
likes of Rodney Marsh, Chris Kamara and Alan Hanson as pundits
commenting on the game is fine and some, particularly the three I
have just mentioned, are excellent in their analysis and their
ability to express their views.
One or two – and it is only one or two – have become good
commentators but rarely have former professional sports men or women
turned into good presenters. There are some who have, but you can
count them on the fingers of one hand, with fingers to spare. Most
are unmitigated disasters that remain high on the hopeless stakes
even after hours of coaching and guidance.
Just because you can score goals or hit balls with a bat or
racquet, you are not necessarily a good radio or TV presenter.
That, as Rodney Marsh would say, is my opinion anyway.
Garth Crooks is a notable example of someone who has moved
successfully from one arena to another. Garth is a sensible man. He
knows his limitations and he knows his strengths. As a post-match
interviewer, facing either the jubilant or the dejected, Garth knows
just what question to ask and how to put it, without becoming either
patronising or aggressive.
Not having seen Coventry City play too often recently, he quickly
picked up on the home fans’ reaction to Magnus Hedman. During the
Cup-tie, whenever Magnus caught a high ball the Sky Blues supporters
offered a loud but ironic cheer.
“What he lacks right now is confidence in his own ability,”
said Garth. “He hasn’t become a bad goalkeeper over night.
Whether or not he is the best ‘keeper in the world, as one
tabloid newspaper reported that he had claimed, I questionable,
but he is certainly one of the best.
“All players have their weaknesses,” Garth added, “and
high balls may well be Hedman’s, but he is a fine ‘keeper and
the fans’ reaction won’t help him.”
He went on to say that you could see a similar problem throughout
the side, but that a few goals and a couple of solid wins would soon
have City back on song.
For his part, Gordon Milne, was keen to eulogise about the wisdom
that comes with experience and how football is all too quick to
discard old timers and place them in an archive labelled
“nostalgia”, rather than tap into their knowledge and take
advantage of it.
At Newcastle, Gordon sits alongside Bobby Robson as shining
examples of the benefits that can follow by a club having an
enlightened view about employing those who have been there, done it
and got several T-shirts.
That is why he is so pleased to see Jim Smith being brought in to
the Coventry camp to underpin the developing managerial skills of
There can be little doubt that Jim’s talents have never been
needed quite like they are right now. After a performance at Wolves
that was little short of embarrassing, the individual performances
of Carsley and Thomson apart, the Cup-tie at least saw a
considerable improvement in determination and effort.
A run of good results is urgently needed now if a season that
promised so much is to be salvaged, and if experience and confidence
are the keys, then we all have a part to play – coaches, players
and fans alike.
THE GAME WAS PLAYED ON WEDNESDAY16 JANUARY