Happy New Year to everyone! It is amazing to think that
the awful cold we experienced at
Loftus Road on Saturday used to endure for weeks on
end. And what an heroic performance it was to come away from QPR with a point
after we had been reduced to ten men for so long.
The sending-off looked unfortunate. Wright had just
jumped for a header. He was off-balance as he landed and, as a result, his foot
was probably raised higher on Helguson than it could have been had he had time
to compose himself better for the challenge. What should the ref have done' He
was only a few feet away. How much did he allow effect to influence his
assessment of intent' Helguson was certainly pole-axed and, as Chris Coleman
says, that takes some doing with that player. We, naturally, think the ref
should have exercised discretion. But, if he had, wouldn't QPR then be bleating
about inconsistency if the ref later dismissed a Rangers player in a similar
situation' And pandering to 'consistency' wins more brownie points with the
assessor - and with everyone else for that matter - than encouraging the ref to
adopt a sense of discretion.
Another point: Danny Fox initiates a 'conversation' with
the linesman about his failure to give an off-side. The referee promptly books
Fox for dissent, putting Fox back on the road to further suspension. Now, the
officials - Messrs Stroud, Ganfield and Gosling - may or may not be incompetent,
but word will have gone round refereeing circles that Coventry's defenders,
their arms permanently thrust to the sky claiming off-side, are just about the
biggest arm-wavers in the Championship. So, given such circumstances, does Fox
think that the ref is going to give him more of the benefit of the doubt, or
Talking of Fox, what a wonderful dead-ball
specialist he is. Let's hope that we can use the transfer window, either this
month or in the summer, to add further such talented players to the squad. If we
are to swallow the official line we keep getting fed, City only ever invested in
clapped-out elderly players until the present regime took over. Does that mean
Jay Tabb, Leon Best, Robbie Simpson, Elliott Ward and Michael Mifsud'
And weren't Fox and Dann recommended by Dowie' And was Borrowdale, dare I
say it, obviously such a poor prospect when we signed him, aged 21 and with 98
Premiership and Championship appearances already under his belt' Nobody's a
guaranteed success. Don't be too sure that QPR have left leave of their senses
in signing Borrowdale. Remember our astonishment when we got more for Craig
Bellamy than we had paid for him.
The only difference in transfer policy between present
and past regimes at Coventry
is that it is no longer considered desirable to recruit highly-paid squad
players and loanees. As we are now seeing, that's fine so long as you don't get
injuries and suspensions.
Another contentious point has been scrapping
the Stiffs. Over the years, a lot of clubs have gone through a ditching the
reserve team phase. In many such cases, the Reserves have soon been restored.
But times have changed. Keeping fit and competitive these days depends on a more
scientific process than running around a non-league ground in front of a tiny
band of spectators. And if you need a game to test a trialist or an Academy boy,
you can always fix up a friendly.
The next few weeks will be crucial to the
end-of-term report. A good Cup run in prospect; a top-half finish or more -
there's plenty still to play for.
A very warm welcome to you all, and especially to those
who have travelled such long distances.
There is little doubt about the most significant moment
of Coventry City's season, and it came several months
before that galling performance at The Valley. 'The clock is ticking,' Joe
Elliott frequently reiterated, but the game he was referring to was over the
very existence of the football club. Few of us will forget the emotional relief
of hearing that the club's future had at long last been secured. No one fought
harder or worked harder to bring all the factions and their vested interests
together than Joe Elliott, and I texted him heartfelt congratulations on behalf
All Coventry City supporters can be grateful to Ray Ranson and Sisu
for securing the opportunity for a meaningful long-term vision for the football
club, a vision founded on the coalescence of Coventry City
and Arena Coventry Limited and of all the other parties involved.
It is important to understand the motivations behind the
involvement of Sisu in Coventry
City and how it affects
the club and, more indirectly, CCLSC. There is more to this than some fan or
philanthropist stomping up a few million quid to buy the right kind of result on
the field. The gentlemen at Sisu are
sympathetic but unsentimental in their desire to pursue a business plan that can
turn the football club into a profitable business concern.
CCLSC has already introduced itself to Ray Ranson at the
end-of-season social. The personal involvement of his predecessors, especially
Bryan Richardson, Mike McGinnity, Geoffrey Robinson and Joe Elliott, helped
nurture a uniquely close relationship between the football club and CCLSC.
Of course, CCLSC has been a major
customer down the years, with corporate and social events, match-ball
sponsorships, and the many thousands of match tickets sold by Colin. The
football club's support of CCLSC, therefore, is not just on account of us being
a nice bunch of people who happen to travel a long way supporting the team.
I point this out in order to emphasise the need for CCLSC
to continue making its presence felt at the football club One or two members
have misinterpreted CCLSC's policy over social events and it is worth pausing
here to say a few words about it.
For the first time in many years, we did not have a Q and
A evening this season. I can tell you that both Ian Spriggs and Joe Elliott
worked tirelessly to set one up, but with the takeover crisis and yet another
managerial sacking, we were left with a guest list that simply made such an
event unviable even at rearranged times. Joe Elliott assures us that every
effort will be made to arrange a Q and A with us this autumn.
CCLSC is keenly aware of the need to promote social
events to suit the differing tastes and pockets of all its members, and Ian will
continue to strive to do this. Let me put right, though, any lingering confusion
over the Player of the Year presentation and the end-of-season social.
We do not have the cosy situation at the Arena that we
once enjoyed at Highfield Road.
Coventry City Football Club does not own the ground in which it plays, and until
just now has shared few of the profits. We have negotiated strenuously, since
the move to the Arena, for ACL to enable members to attend a POY presentation on
the pitch as at Highfield Road,
and to allow us to have the use of a room afterwards for a social gathering and
finger buffet. This has not been deemed possible by the authorities. The only
way round this was to continue, as we had twice done at
Highfield Road, to combine the POY presentation with
an end-of-season social. For those unable or unwilling to commit themselves to
the social, passes were issued to attend the presentation after the game. This
has continued to be the case at the Arena.
The only way, therefore, that we could continue to have a
POY event at the Arena - beyond one or two people being allowed to make the
actual presentation on the pitch before the game - was by combining it with an
end of season social. ACL were quite simply not prepared to offer CCLSC a
private room and to provide special catering arrangements in the way the
football club had done at Highfield
in the old days.
Let me say that the end-of-season social/POY event this
year was an outstanding success, despite the relatively small number of members
in attendance. Ian Spriggs put an enormous amount of work into this and, as
ever, we are extremely grateful to him. Barry Chattaway had successfully run the
POY voting throughout the season and produced the splendid trophy which was
presented to Jay Tabb. The player revealed himself as an outstanding ambassador
for the football club. The presentation was well publicised in the programme and
in the local press. The lunch, as I have already hinted, provided an excellent
opportunity to re-assert our support for the club in the presence of the new
chairman, and of Gary Hoffman and of Joe Elliott.
Ian and I are in close contact with Joe Elliott. Ian is
discussing ways in which we might promote a free social event, and I have been
discussing an idea floated by Joe about the possibility of CCLSC becoming an
active conduit for the football club with foreign supporters. I, myself,
continue to voice the interests of long-distance supporters in my capacity as
chairman of a working party on the reconstituted Joint Consultative Group.
We are very fortunate to have two such good friends as
Joe Elliott and Gary Hoffman on the club board, Gary being one of Jay's
predecessors as CCLSC secretary. However, there are wider - less intimate -
sympathies now involved at the Arena. This is not a criticism, merely to
highlight the fact that there have been a lot of changes in personnel behind the
scenes as well as the more direct involvement now in the football club of ACL.
Recent months have seen the departure of Paul Fletcher, Ken Sharp and Mal
Brannigan, the executive triumvirate appointed by Geoffrey Robinson. These three
did much to improve the efficiency, productivity and working atmosphere at the
club, but had been hampered by uncertainties surrounding the take-over. We wish
Mark Davies, the Customer Relations Manager, well in his new appointment at
Southend United. On a direct level with CCLSC, we were saddened by changes in
the Ticket Office whose staff, Colin will tell you, have always been so helpful.
One of the most regrettable losses at the club has been
Raj Athwal, until recently Commercial Manager. Raj has worked beyond the call of
duty over the years to enable CCLSC to maximise its social events at Highfield Road and
the Arena. We will be very lucky if we can foster such a personable and happy
relationship with anyone again in the future. In passing, I would like to put on
record our gratitude to Raj and to wish him all the very best in his terrific
new appointment at Watford.
I would like to thank members of the committee for their
all their efforts over the past year. I would also like to congratulate the Sky
Blue Trust, to which we subscribe, for its efforts during the take-over crisis,
and to thank Kevin Monks for his work with the CovSupport News Service. We are
grateful that Kevin will continue to bring us the match reports we read with
Rod's news updates.
It has been an open secret that Colin Heys would be
retiring from ticketing. For this, and so much more, all of us owe Colin an
enormous debt. Colin Henderson proposes, and I second it, that Colin should be
offered honorary life membership of CCLSC in recognition of his unique
contribution to the club and its membership.
I am relieved that Colin will continue to look after
merchandising. In this connection, I fully commend the new scarf that Rich
Woodfield has designed. Colin and CCLSC have been enthusiastic supporters of the
Save the Academy appeal and Colin made sure that CCLSC sent a further
contribution this season. CCLSC helped support the costs of Lionel Bird's book
One Man's Vision, the profits from
which have also gone to Save the Academy.
No one has given more to Coventry City London Supporters'
Club over the years than Colin, and I make no apology for high-jacking my own
tribute to him in order to highlight one of his particular qualities. Colin has
continued to be immediately recognisable to everyone in CCLSC, to the young and
old, to newcomers and old-comers. He is his own man and he doesn't position
himself with any particular group. His overpowering concern has been for the
good of CCLSC.
I must tell you that I am deeply concerned about CCLSC,
and I fear that it is developing into a jig-saw of separate factions. Let me
say: when you support a team which for so many years has failed to enthral or to
prompt us into embracing one another, we are less likely to extend a hand to
unfamiliar members. And if CCFC had a winning team, more people would want to
join CCLSC and our problems would evaporate. All of this is perfectly clear.
It is also true to say that the days when, as a matter of
course, large numbers of members congregated on the concourse at Euston to
travel together - meeting and chatting with those they knew well as well as
those they knew not-so-well ' have become, despite the best efforts of Colin
Henderson and others, largely a thing of the past.
Therefore, it is inevitable - and more noticeable - when one group goes
into one room at the pub whilst the other goes into another.
What am I suggesting ' that we all get lovey-dovey and
buy drinks for people in the other room' No, I am making a different point: I
think there is a danger that being a CCLSC member becomes a habit rather than an
involvement. I am not suggesting that members should be campaigning on the
doorsteps, or forming a CCLSC synchronised swimming team. But I am saying there
is a certain apathy and that we need to participate more if CCLSC is to continue
to have reason to survive. As I say, nothing would galvanise more interest than
promotion or the play-offs and, yes, we are all busy people and, yes, a certain
complacency is inevitable, but is it too much to expect more people to
Let me change tack here for a moment. Recently, I
received an e-mail from a member saying that CCLSC was no longer
value-for-money. And, do you know, he is absolutely bloody right. What are we
selling to members; what is the nature of the product' Do you know that it is
much more expensive to belong to CCLSC than it is to most other comparable
Peter Reynolds did some research and looked at
twenty-nine other London
supporters' clubs. Out of those twenty-nine, twenty-three have membership fees
of less than ten pounds. I repeat: twenty-three have membership fees of less
than ten pounds, whilst only one club has a higher membership fee than CCLSC. I
am not usurping Charles' position or his expert advice about how we should be
setting subscriptions for the coming year. I am saying, though, that we need to
be very sure that we are offering value-for-money for what we are charging. And
I am asking you, and I am asking all members, to come up with proposals, with
ideas, over what we should be offering.
One of my correspondent's points was that we should be
publishing four jam-packed copies of the magazine a year. Rubbish! Do you know
something, we shouldn't be publishing a magazine at all! Brian does a wonderful
job, against all the odds, but he agrees with me that the magazine has outlived
its purpose. Do you know how many of those twenty-nine other clubs publish a
magazine' Let me tell you: None. What the vast majority do is to publish a
monthly newsletter. This is what we should be doing ' not waiting for mostly
non-existent contributors to fail to meet deadlines to provide fellow-members
with their opinions about long-forgotten events which we have already seen and
read about a hundred times. And so, I propose that the current magazine '
already overdue on account of the apathy and absence of contributors - should be
the very last one. Instead, we should start to produce a regular electronic
newsletter in the autumn which members would be able to download from the
website. Hard copies would continue to be posted to those who required them.
This would save nearly '900 a year and we could re-direct the savings that are
generated. My view is that the new format could help provide a more positive and
immediate contact with members, a contact which has become so sadly lacking.
I shall be putting together other suggestions about how
CCLSC operates and how it could or should develop, as well as about the need for
accountability. I invite your thoughts and opinions.
An organisation like CCLSC thrives on personal contact,
and this has been one of the things that I and so many members have so valued
about Colin, and that I have always esteemed about my predecessor, Rod.
Before I close, I would like to note the recent award of
MBE's to Mike McGinnity and Cyrille Regis. I texted our congratulations to Mike
McGinnity. Cyrille, for his part, is one of many ex City players who have become
a regular sight at the Arena, thanks very largely to the wonderful efforts of
Jim Brown's Former Players Association. Jim has continued to contribute his
Diary to the magazine, and I trust that he would continue to do so if there were
a different format.
What a stimulus it would be if more members emulated
Jim's example in contributing to the magazine by making even an occasional
contribution to the website.
How many, I wonder, will trouble to look at the minutes
or the accounts or read these humble words when they appear on the website. It
is time to shed the badge of indifference, to honour our individual commitments
and to start singing together. If we do not, Coventry City London Supporters'
Club has no future.
Thank you to every member, and let's look forward to a
Editions of Dear Jon