Thirty years after their FA Cup Wembley triumph of 1987 Coventry City returned to Wembley to face favourites Oxford United in the newly named CHECKATRADE TROPHY FINAL in front of over 75,000 fans-43,000 from Coventry at one end in sky blue and 30,000 from Oxford in yellow and black at the other end.
This was quite remarkeable since for the first time u21 teams from the Premier League and The Championship had been allowed to compete. Imagine if Swansea City u21s v West Bromwich Albion u21s had reached the final and what the attendance would have been. Fortunately none of these u21 teams got passed the last eight. Oxford United had lost 3-2 to Barnsley a year ago and were considered massive favourites..but it was not to be. Gael Bigirimana, a 23 year old refugee from Burundi in 2004 with his family, scored the opening goal for the Sky Blues. His wife Natalia had given birth to a baby girl earlier in the morning. George Thomas doubled the lead before sub Liam Seacombe reduced the deficit. Final score 2-1.
Leading out the City team were Mark Robbins, their 4th manager in a year and John Sillett and George Curtis, dual managers from their 1987 triumph. They are 13 points from safety at the foot of Division 1 and destined for the drop to Division 2, the fourth tier next month.
They are owned by a group called SISU and had to play a number of matches last season at Northampton Town's Sixfields Stadium and they have a tenuous hold on their current home Ricoh Arena in Coventry with horrendous off field problems with their current owners.
It was not always like this. I remember the remarkable Jimmy Hill, that giant of English football history, who had played for Brentford and Fulham and came to the old Highfield Road in the '60 and transformed the club as player, manager, chairman, union representative and more. They had the first all seater stadium and he was the first major promoter with innovative ideas. Radio Sky Blues, and even got sponsored sky blue cars to take the team on a pre season tour to Germany from a local car factory...Jaguar I believe.
In 1987 I was at Wembley Stadium with 96,000 fans to see them triumph over a star studded Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup Final. Spurs, with Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardilles, Chris Hughton and Ray Clemence in goal were firm favourites. They had won the cup in 1981 and 1982. Dave Bennett, Keith Houcher and Gary Marbutt.(own goal)in extra time after 95 minutes, had won the cup 3-2 for Coventry. Marbutt had in fact also scored earlier for Spurs along with Clive Allen.
I was also at Wembley the following year for an even more sensational result. Lttle Wimbledon, with a goal by Lawrie Sanchez from a Dennis Wise free kick which went past Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar for the only goal of the match.
Let us hope that the long suffering City fans can claim their club back from the present owners and climb back up the league ladder.