Next up for Norwich, a team that plays in sky blue but fortunately it’s not Manchester City. FA Cup winners in recent memory, once top-flight regulars and Premier League founder members, Coventry City have fallen on hard times recently. The last eight seasons have been spent homeless and bouncing around the lower leagues – yet another English club in disarray.
But the Sky Blues are on the up thanks to the stewardship of ex-Norwich striker Mark Robins and a League one title win secured in the most unusual of circumstances, the season being concluded with nine games to go following an Extraordinary General Meeting and a point’s per-game basis.
We have a long history of meetings with Coventry dating back to 1908 and a first meeting (and Norwich win) in the Southern League. We both progressed into the Football League and then, in the 1930s up together into Division 2.
Talking about those pre-war years, the 1930s certainly began with a bang for James Kerr’s Canaries. 15 March 1930 is a date etched in our history, it’s the day we recorded our record victory hitting double figures the first and only time in our history. Coventry were the victims that we put 10 (ten) past them, the final score in the Division 3 South fixture 10-2.
It was a bizarre score; we had lost 2-0 to that same Coventry side only three months earlier in the FA Cup. Coventry had also beaten us in the earlier league meeting (3.1) and finished two places above us.
In the 1933/34 season, both Norwich and Coventry were challenging for the title and more importantly the single promotion spot that came with it. The two met at The Nest on 21 April 1934 in what was, to date, Norwich’s biggest game in the club’s history. A win and they would reach the heights of Division 2 for the first time. We held our nerve and got the job done winning 3-1. In the end, Norwich were worthy champions finishing seven points clear of Coventry.
To ostracise somebody is to send them to Coventry. From the beginning of 2019/20 season, the Coventry football team had been sent to Birmingham, playing their ‘home’ fixtures at St Andrews. For 106 years Highfield Road was Coventry’s home ground. A classic compact, tight ground deep in residential Coventry and Norwich hated it.
Between October 1938 and October 1981, we lost on every visit – 19 defeats in a row (not even a draw for our efforts). The run finally ended, ironically in the season, Norwich were relegated (1980/81), when full-back Greg Downs scored in a 1-0 win. Downs would later join, and win the FA Cup, with Coventry.
When we visited Highfield Road the following season, it was in front of England’s first all-seater stadium an innovative idea that’s now standard practice these days. An idea before its time, the seats were soon removed, having been blamed for a lack of atmosphere and a limited capacity. For the record, Norwich had reverted to type losing in front of the seats.
Coventry had a reputation for being survival specialists. I lost count of the number of times during the 1980s and 90s that the Sky Blues pulled of ‘a little miracle’, on many occasions retaining their place in the top-flight on the final day of the season (I later read this happened ten times – that’s character).
For Norwich fans, 1984/85 will spring to mind, as this time we were the victims of Coventry’s late winning run, to pip us by a point, albeit in controversial circumstances after Coventry won their final three fixtures long after we had finished our season. Never again would this happen in English football.
In 1996/97 Coventry needed to win at White Hart Lane in another battle against the odds. Of course, they pulled it off winning 2-1. With a forward line of Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby, Coventry really shouldn’t have been in that position and the following season they finished 11th with Dublin winning the Premier League Golden Boot. Both, of course, would represent Norwich with distinction and both are members of our Hall of Fame. If only we had had them at their peak.
As a footnote, the Tottenham goal-scorer on that dramatic final day was another Norwich Hall of Famer – Paul McVeigh.
Turning the clock back to the opening Premier League season 1992/93: unusually for both clubs the first meeting that season, on 26 September 1992, was the day’s big game, a top-of-the-table clash! Norwich came into the fixture having lost just one of their opening nine Premier League games. Coventry with two defeats in their opening nine. Fittingly the game finished 1-1.
Another Norwich forward and Hall of Famer linked to the two clubs was Craig Bellamy. The exciting Bellamy made his breakthrough at Carrow Road, scoring regularly in the Championship. A big move was inevitable though City fans would have been disappointed that it was Coventry that signed him.
At £6.5m he was the Sky Blues record signing but one that never worked out. Bellamy scored eight goals in his single season with Coventry but 2000/01 ended, finally, in the club’s relegation after ‘hanging on’ in the top-flight for 34 years.
They haven’t been back since.
Our last meeting in the league was a memorable day. The final day of the 2010/11 season and a time to honour and celebrate Paul Lambert’s promotion heroes. There was also a chance to mock poor Sammy Clingan on his first return to Carrow Road since swapping Norwich for Coventry following our relegation to League 1. The 2-2 draw did little to dampen the party atmosphere.
Now it’s our turn to plunder Coventry’s talent with the signing of full-back Sam McCallum – a promising and exciting prospect he’s now in the Canaries squad and in Daniel Farke, has the best manager to develop and progress his career. Just ask Max Aarons.