Posted: 6/10/2007


     It was a thousand years ago and the Saxon leader Leofric, Earl of Murcia, married the widow Lady Godiva.  Although he was responsoible for building a Benedictine monastery at Coventry in the East Midlands of England, the local citizens were taxed unmercilessly by him.

    Lady Godiva promised to ride naked through the streets of Coventry if he would reduce the taxes. He said he would allow her to do so if all the doors and window shutters were closed. She rode, side saddle, as most ladies do today including Queen Elizabeth II, through the streets 'clothed only in her long hair'.  One resident called Tom opened the door to take a 'sneak peek' and turned blind. This is the origin of the 'Peeping Tom' legend.

    Yesterday, for the first time in almost 40 years I visited the city and there is a gigantic bronze statue of the Lady with her long hair on a horse in the city centre. I was visiting the new Riccoh Arena, home of Coventry City F.C. and the large exhibition hall that adjoins it. They were hosting a Grassroots Football Show with about 100 booths selling all sorts of aids for the budding player or coach, and some interactive games and exhibitions by Arsenal Ladies F.C. and others.

     There is a joke about The Sky Blues (named after their team colours) . What's the purpose of Coventry City? claim their rival fans, since they are  a yo-yo team that goes up and down frequently.  Actually they are one of the most innovative clubs in the land, and in the late sixties and early seventies had the fortune of having a giant in the history of the game in England, JIMMY HILL, as their innovative manager. He introduced Sky Blue radio, a readable match day programme, a Sky Blue philosophy that attracted fans, media attention and business sponsorships at their old stadium, Highfield Road, which was the first all seater stadium in England.   Their only big trophy was the F.A. Cup Final in 1987 which I was lucky enough to attend, at Wembley Stadium, when they defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3-2. They were founder members of the Premier League 1n 1992 but are now in The Championship, one tier below.

     I remember when he took the team on a pre-season tour to Europe, and instead of plane and bus he persuaded the local automobile industry to loan them a fleet of their best cars, painted sky blue and with sponsorship advertising, to travel in.  He was also instrumental, as chairman of the Professional Footballers Association, in getting a better deal for its members,abolishing the maxiumum wage of 20.00 a week and threatening to go on strike, and the owners backed down in 1961. He later was given the job of creating a football infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, where he spent some time in the mid 1970's which eventually paid off for a country that was to play in future FIFA World Cups, and he became a  commentator and presenter on television.  He was the presenter of Match of the Day on B.B.C.TV over 600 times and later Head of Sports on ITV.   He did actually play the game, over 300 times for Fulham F.C. for whom he later became Chairman, and once scored 5 goals away to Doncaster Rovers.  to my mind he is THE MOST IMPORTANT AND INFLUENCIAL FIGURE in the last century in British football.  With his long chin and distinctive beard he has become a legend.

     'Sent to Coventry',  is an often used phrase world wide. It started when Coventry, which was a Parliamentary stronghold, had lots of Royalist prisoners, followers of Charles I, kept in its prison in the 17th Century.  It later referred to people whose work mates or friends wouldn't speak to them and they were shunned. Often this was due to workers who were 'strike breakers', or who reported illegal activites.   Also for some reason, she has become the patron saint of Engineeers, and the University of Toronto in Canada have an annual  Godiva Week of fun and celebrations.