Coventry City 1992/93 - Alive and Kicking (Part 1)
Vital Coventry's look back at the 1992/93 season. This series was originally intended for publication as an e-book. Thanks to Jim Brown's book 'Coventry City - The Elite Era' for reference.
Coventry City's final match of the 1991/92 Football League Division One campaign was a local derby away to Aston Villa and, as had been the case many times since their elevation to the top flight of English football in 1967, the Sky Blues went into their last 90 minutes of a season knowing that they were still in danger of being relegated.
On every previous occasion they had managed to survive, either through winning their own game, with help from other results or a combination of both. Now though the stakes had been raised even further. The new, FA-backed, Premier League would come into existence over the summer of 1992 complete with a lucrative new television deal and the promise of a financial bonanza for its member clubs as they broke away from the Football League.
Coventry travelled the short distance to Villa Park knowing that they needed just a draw to make it impossible for Luton Town, two points behind and with an inferior goal difference, to take their place at the top table for the 1992/93 campaign. Visiting supporters were dotted all around the ground and as the teams warmed up the occasional fan made a dash for safety from one of the home stands towards a packed away end.
Those at the Witton Lane End and those who remained, without colours and tight-lipped, in the towering Holte End saw their worst fears realised within a minute of the game starting as City old-boy Cyrille Regis opened the scoring for Ron Atkinson`s entertaining Villa side, the home side having been gifted the ball from Coventry`s kick-off.
Regis had been allowed to leave Highfield Road on a free transfer the previous summer as then-manager Terry Butcher had attempted to put his own stamp on the club. Far from being deemed surplus to requirements in the top division, however, he had quickly been snapped up by Atkinson, the man who managed him at West Bromwich Albion where Regis had made his name.
Dwight Yorke's second goal all but wrapped things up for the hosts and attention turned to those Coventry fans with radios who were keeping in touch with news from Meadow Lane where Luton were away to already-relegated Notts County. From there, they heard an unlikely saviour come to Coventry's rescue. Loughborough University student Rob Matthews had been handed his chance in the Notts County side after their top-flight exit was confirmed and scored two goals to overturn Luton's early lead and earn himself an unlikely footnote in Sky Blues' history.
City had done it again but this was far from being the kind of 'great escape` that had earned them the reputation of being the First Division`s great survivors in the years preceding 1987`s FA Cup triumph when safety had been secured on the final day of the season in three consecutive season .
That famous day at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur was meant to springboard the club into the top echelons of the English game and for a while that had seemed possible. Manager John Sillett made good on his promise to 'shop at Harrods instead of Woolworths` and broke the club transfer record three times including twice in four months in the 1989/90 season.
There were brief hints at a title challenge (as well as some embarrassing defeats in the FA Cup) but relegation battles had been off the agenda with finishes of 10th, 7th and 12th. Butcher, it was hoped would provide the 'big-name` cachet to lure major signings with but he took over at a time of worsening finances and boardroom battles.
Sillett`s testimonial, scheduled for the day after the Aston Villa game, would still be taking place at a top division ground but when competitive action returned to Highfield Road in August it would be the Sky Blues who were favourites for relegation with the bookmakers.
Part 2 - Bobby is Back