I’m writing this while keeping an eye on the FA Cup scores. The team I’ve supported since I can remember is Coventry City. They have a famous history in the oldest national football competition in the world.
In 1987 we won it, 3-2 in a classic final against Tottenham Hotspur. Some 18 months later, while still a top-flight team, we were dumped out by non-league Sutton United in one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history.
After one of the longest runs in the old Division One – from 1967 to 2001 – we went into a gradual decline with three relegations in 16 years. Now, despite the ignominy of having to play our home games at the Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground we’re back on the way up.
Following a promotion two seasons ago we’re riding high in League One and have made it to the Third Round, when the big teams enter, of the FA Cup. We’re away to Bristol Rovers who sit just a few league places below us. When I last checked we’d equalised only to go behind again so we’re trailing 2-1.
Although the Cup is not what it used to be certainly for the top teams, it’s exciting when you’re at Coventry’s level hoping to get into Monday’s draw when you might end up playing the likes of Liverpool or Man City.
PUSB – Play Up Sky Blues I’m thinking – as the Jimmy Hill-written club song plays in my head. If only we had multi-talented Jimmy running us now – amongst other talents he was a manager, chairman, TV presenter, coach, referee, trade union leader and song-writer – we’d be up there in the Premiership not hoping for giant-killing feats in the FA Cup.
It’s amazing the impact football continues to have on my life as I approach my 60th year. Some of the scenes from that Cup will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my days.
Returning to Coventry on the supporters’ coach after the semi-final win, I remember there were already make-shift banners on bridges on the A45 welcoming the team home. The sight brought a tear to my eye and was the start of weeks of looking forward to the final which saw what felt like most homes’ windows in streets both in and around Coventry decorated sky blue.
The final home match of that season with the sea of sky blue flags waving and the deathly quiet when one of our key players got injured and had to miss the final.
The great day itself and the magical moment when winger Dave Bennett equalised after we’d fallen behind after just two minutes. Above anyone else Benno was the hero of that cup run. Then, of course, cheering the final whistle, watching the Cup being raised aloft by captain Brian Kilcline.
The next day there was the crazy, celebratory open top bus tour from Coventry’s main hospital to the city centre.
I can see it all now as if it were yesterday. Despite feeling like I’ve had a very full life I would count moments from that Cup run amongst the happiest of my life. We’re still losing but amazing things happen in the Cup so I live in hope, PUSB.