Coventry City: Alive and Kicking (Part 5)
Vital Coventry's look back at the 1992/93 season, 25 years on from the start of the Premier League. Thanks to Jim Brown's book 'Coventry City - The Elite Era' for reference.
Blackburn Make a Splash
As Coventry had battled, successfully, against relegation, the final season under the Division One banner had seen Leeds United become champions, overhauling Manchester United in the last few weeks of the campaign.
Easter Monday had provided a crucial moment in the title race as, shortly after a win for Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford, Leeds kicked off their televised game at Elland Road against a Sky Blues side desperate for points to aid their survival bid.
Although they were still struggling for goals, Don Howe had made City tough to beat and they managed to frustrate Howard Wilkinson's team until the 53rd minute when Chris Fairclough opened the scoring. Gary McAllister`s penalty made it 2-0 and when Manchester United subsequently lost their game in hand away to West Ham Leeds' destiny was in their own hands.
The champions then were from Yorkshire but the main talking points ahead of the new campaign came from the other side of the Pennines.
Would Manchester United recover from being pipped to the post by their rivals from Yorkshire and finally end their long wait for a league title and would Blackburn Rovers make an immediate impact on the top-flight after breaking the British transfer record upon their promotion to the Premier League?
With £305m from BSkyB to fill the coffers of the 22 clubs, a busy summer of signings was expected and Blackburn manager Kenny Dalglish led the way, paying around £3.4m for Southampton striker Alan Shearer, former Sky Blues forward David Speedie moving in the opposite direction.
Sheffield Wednesday brought winger Chris Waddle back to England after his successful spell with Olympique Marseille, champions Leeds signed David Rocastle from Arsenal for £2m and Chelsea paid a similar fee for Norwich City striker Robert Fleck.
Alex Ferguson largely kept faith with the squad who finished as runners-up but did sign Dion Dublin from Cambridge United. The powerful forward had played a key role in one of the more notable success stories of recent years as the U's, managed by former Coventry midfielder John Beck and employing a style of football that attracted criticism for its directness, had risen through the divisions before just missing out on promotion to the top-flight.
City fans had seen the qualities of both player and team at first hand at the start of 1992, Dublin scoring in both FA Cup ties as Cambridge earned a replay at Highfield Road and then knocked the Sky Blues out in stoppage time at the Abbey Stadium.
Bobby Gould took his team to Scotland for three games in preparation for the new season with the Sky Blues looking to get used both to their new manager but also a significant change in the rules of the game which meant that goalkeepers would no longer be able to handle a deliberate back pass although they could handle a ball that was headed or chested back to them.
North of the border, A 2-2 draw at Morton was illuminated by Peter Ndlovu`s spectacular goal while also on the scoresheet was Stuart Bowen, an 18-year-old left back who had been at West Bromwich Albion with Gould and was now on a three month contract at Highfield Road.
Two days later, Sean Flynn scored the winning goal at Clydebank where Phil Babb made his debut, before a 1-1 draw against Airdrie.
Captain Stewart Robson linked up with the squad for the final match after the birth of his baby daughter but his future at the club was in some doubt as he struggled to sell his London home in order to put down roots in the Coventry area.
A 200 mile round trip for training was taking its toll and, writing his captain`s notes for the opening game of the season, Robson explained his situation and also provided an insight into City`s training 'boot' camp with the Army in Wiltshire which ended with a private friendly against Swindon Town and a last chance to impress Gould before the big kick-off.