Coventry City 92/93 - Alive and Kicking (Part 6)
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.
August - A Perfect Start
Beginning what he described as his 'fourth spell at Highfield Road` (having initially been dismissed as a youth player before getting a second chance under Jimmy Hill), Bobby Gould wrote in the matchday programme for the opening day game at home to Middlesbrough that he was hoping to learn the lessons of his first stint in charge of the Sky Blues.
'I was a young manager last time I was here and maybe I attempted to do too much myself. This time, older and wiser, I have brought in good quality people and I am sure they will instil the professionalism required into every individual player in the club from the first team to the YTS lads.'
The summer of 1983 had seen a huge turnover in playing personnel but this time around, Gould relied mostly on players who were already at the club with John Williams the only debutant in the following starting XI; Ogrizovic, Fleming, Sansom, Robson, Pearce, Atherton, Gynn, Hurst, Rosario, Williams, Smith.
Terry Fleming started at right-back with Brian Borrows injured while young midfielder Lee Hurst got the nod alongside Robson in the centre of midfield. Phil Babb began on the bench together with Sean Flynn.
Williams, having told the programme that he was 'still walking on air' after his summer move from Swansea City, took just nine minutes to score his first Coventry goal, reacting first to a typically marauding Stewart Robson run and cross to the delight of both the home fans and the assembled media, whose headlines for the day were written already as the former postman 'delivered the goods` for his new side. Left winger David Smith, who had burst onto the scene as a youngster in the latter part of the 1987/88 season but who was seemingly playing for his future, secured the three points following a defensive mix-up although Paul Wilkinson`s excellent goal for the visitors and a disallowed strike from Bernie Slaven caused some nervous moments.
'He's so fast it's unbelievable' was the fans chant for Williams and he was once again quick off the mark in an impressive midweek win away to Tottenham Hotspur, scoring twice in the opening 30 minutes of the game. Gould named the same starting line-up with Peter Ndlovu making his first appearance of the season as a substitute.
The Sky Blues could have won by more as Micky Gynn missed a penalty but the following Saturday the popular midfielder opened his account for the season against Gould`s former side Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. Robert Rosario was the beneficiary of poor goalkeeping from Hans Segers for the second and City held on despite a consolation goal from Dean Holdsworth. Only 3,759 watched the game but the away supporters present were in jubilant mood as, with nine points out of nine, Coventry City became the answer to the quiz question 'who were the first ever outright leaders of the Premier League?'
Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers then brought the Sky Blues back down to earth with wins at Highfield Road. Andy Impey scored the only goal of the game for the R`s, prompting Bobby Gould to make the first changes to his starting XI for the visit of Alan Shearer and Blackburn. Kevin Gallacher and Brian Borrows made welcome returns as John Williams dropped to the bench and Lloyd McGrath also started with Robson out through injury
A hard-fought game was in the balance until £3.4m man Shearer, scorer of two goals on his Blackburn debut at Crystal Palace on the opening day, won and scored a penalty with 20 minutes remaining, McGrath`s only blemish in an excellent performance at the heart of the defence. Mark Atkins scored a second as Rovers maintained their unbeaten start to life in the top division.
The Sky Blues slipped to sixth in the fledgling table but overall it was a positive start given their perennial status as bookmakers` favourites for relegation and the fact that Gould`s squad had changed relatively little from that which had struggled in the previous season. Williams` speed had been well-publicised upon his move from Swansea City but opposition defences had still found it hard to cope, the midfield partnership of Stewart Robson and Lee Hurst had clicked immediately and delivered a series of energetic displays while Robert Rosario looked a different player to the one who had been the subject of stick from fans in his first season at the club.
Elsewhere, the opening day of the season saw Brian Deane score the first goal of the Premier League era as Sheffield United defeated Manchester United at Bramall Lane. Alex Ferguson's side followed up that reverse with a heavy home defeat at the hands of Everton but eased the pressure on their manager with a win at Southampton where summer signing Dion Dublin scored the vital goal. Meanwhile, the man widely credited with saving Ferguson`s job in 1990, Mark Robins, made an immediate impact at his new club Norwich City. The £800,000 signing scored twice as the Canaries stunned Arsenal with a 4-2 win at Highbury on the opening day.
Part 5 - Pre Season Build-Up