GROWING up I loved Coventry City Football Club, first in that sky blue home top and green and black away strip, later in the famous Admiral tramline kits. Sky blue, red and brown.
In my road, other kids were fans of Leeds, then Liverpool; of QPR, Man City and Arsenal. I was in the minority in my Cov tops. Only one club for me, regardless that my grandfather had played for Coventry City.
Except I also fell in love with the blue and white of the other Coventry football club. My memory is probably wrong, but I’m sure as the 5A bus took me past Coundon Road the legend was Coventry Football Club. After all, footballing skills are not solely the province of the 11-a-side game.
At one stage, both city football clubs – association and union – donned the same Oxford blue and white colours. A city united on the sportsfield. It was more than just about sport. It was about the city. My city.
When Jimmy Hill led a new era of success for the Highfield Road boys, the Coundon Road men were already head and shoulders above the rest.
How things have changed. Both have suffered in recent memory. Cov RFC have struggled for direction in the professional era and CCFC have been victim of profiteering and decision-making that would have left Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking confused. And SISU are not the only guilty party.
Out of the blue and white and sky blue, for the first time ever, both clubs have achieved promotion in the same season. The Sky Blues out of the fourth tier of English football, the rugby club into the second.
And it’s brought a wave of excitement that this Cov Kid sensed nearly 300 miles away in Cornwall. Excitement the like of which we haven’t enjoyed since 1987 on the Sky Blue front and back to the 1970s for the rugby side.
Except, while Coventry RFC is gearing up for the challenge ahead, CCFC owners SISU have already stated it will be business as usual for Sky Blues boss Mark Robins. No extra investment will be forthcoming bar a budget already decided on.
It is an echo of how Noel Cantwell and Gordon Milne were left walking a financial tightrope to survive in the old first division after money had been readily available to make it there.
Which of city’s star players might be the next sacrifice as the budget gets balanced?
It’s particularly galling, because of the way the hedge fund has treated the fans since it took over the Sky Blues a decade ago, after the ill-fated move from Highfield Road to the Ricoh Arena. I was still a reporter at the Coventry Evening Telegraph when the first plans for the former gas works site got everyone on board.
That included a 50,000-odd seater, with a sliding roof and also a sliding pitch. While it has managed to host a slew of international matches in various sports and pop concerts galore, as hoped for, the original plans were butchered and the city, as so often in the past, got second best.
Not that SISU seem to care. They’ve slashed budgets, overseen the worst period in the club’s history including relegation to the old fourth division and with no sign of anyone on the board giving a damn.
They botched the Ricoh deal, allowing a nomadic, erstwhile London-based rugby club to take pole position, soured relations with the city council and even did a Wasps, by taking the football club away from its roots, playing for a while at Northampton.
Now while SISU have waged anything but a popularity contest, the bosses there have a huge opportunity to make amends. The goodwill towards Coventry City is tremendous. Witness the turn out for the victory parade. Witness the fact that the Sky Blues took 37,000 fans to Wembley.
Success breeds success and both Coventry clubs will be hoping to attract better crowds in the coming season.
But while Cov RFC have made some exciting and eye-catching signings, the future for CCFC is less certain.
With people backing the club again, a club on the up and young players maturing, SISU have this chance to win some friends – and make some money, too.
Invest a bit, help this Coventry side push for Championship football next season and win at the turnstiles and the club shop.
Turnaround the evident hostility towards SISU from pretty much every area, from fans to press, to other football teams and owners; make money available to Robins and win the plaudits.
Take a leaf out of the Jimmy Hill model, or look to the rugby club, under the stewardship of Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter. Invest wisely, build, don’t overstretch, but understand the history, the club, the fans and most importantly the city.
That approach is paying dividends for the rugby club.
With so much goodwill towards the Sky Blues, SISU could well be on the road to Damascus. The bright lights of Wembley success and promotion are there for the owners to decide that they can make a success out of Coventry.
In more ways than one.