Coventry City manager Steven Pressley been a busy boy over the summer as he recruited almost an entire new team and with eight debutants taking their bow versus Bradford City.
This is one of the highest mass debutants we have seen but not the highest so I looked back on the other occasions eight or more players made their debut. So does this mean it’s, as the Specials sang “A Dawning Of A New Era” lets look back previous mass debutants.
1919 Vs Spurs (h) lost 5-0 (11 players)
Technically being our very first season as a league club, the first game saw eleven debutants but seven did play for City in pervious season so first off the players brought in pre-season by manager Will Clayton.
They all seemed to be good signings with plenty of top flight experience the players were Fred Hawley, Horace Clarke, Fred Gibson and Alec Mercer.
Hawley was a centre back signed from Sheffield United for a “stiff figure” he played 60 games before the war for The Blades maybe in the eyes of the local press he was too old at 28 but he never appeared in a winning side he soon moved on to Birmingham to start a nomadic career but was still playing league football 13 years later. Clarke failed to break into the Sheffield Wednesday team before the war but at 25 seemed to be the right age he could play right or left half and play regularly until Harry Pollitt took over and Horace fell out of favour he was moved on and soon dropped out of league football.
Gibson was born in South Africa but grew up in Bedworth and attended Bablake School in Coventry before moving to Sunderland to work he sign for the team before moving to play in Scotland he made the dream move back to Coventry to add experience on the left wing and it seemed to be a good signing before injury cut short his career two years later and after 54 games for City he dropped into non-league football. Mercer scored ten league goals for Bury in Division Two before the war so seemed to be a good buy for City.
He could play anywhere along the front line and was the third highest in our first season and was the first player to score a league goal in a 4-1 defeat away to Spurs in fact he scored City’s first three League goals but his greatest contribution came against his old club at Highfield Road were he was “allowed” to score twice to keep City out of the re-election zone in the infamous game against Bury. He failed to score regally again and dropped out of the game when a few years later.
The other seven all played for City in what was called “The English League Midland Section” this league started four days before the end of the First World War and was a bridge until the League could get up and running again the following season it was made up of 16 teams from the league including some non-league teams that the League thought could join one of them was Coventry City.
Albert Lindon, a Birmingham born keeper signed from Birmingham during the war first played away to Grimsby in a 1-1 draw in the Midlands Section were he was impressive he was first choice keeper for the rest of the season before making his League debut against Spurs and conceded five it didn’t get much better letting in 61 goals in 31 games he was dropped and replaced.
He moved to Merthy Town who were a Division Three side and here he settled down playing 250 times and even scoring a goal he is a legend at the club still and recently was included in their “Hall of Fame” he later became their player manager before leaving to be player manager at Charlton he returned to Wales to help to re-launch the club as Tydfil after dropping out of the league.
Dick Roberts was a fullback from Rhyl and City signed him from Leeds City in 1914 and played in the 1914-1915 season the last before Football stopped before the war. City played in the Southern League Division Two and Roberts made his debut at home to Pontypridd one of many Welsh sides in the division. Richard played more games then anyone that season before football was suspended. He was still at the club and playing at the back but he wasn’t expected to play when City hit the League but he did but his quick pace was used in the first season before the club looked for better fullbacks and he returned to Rhyl United to play.
George Chaplin, the fullback was signed by City after he recovered from tuberculosis! He first played in the Midlands Section in a 3-0 away defeat to Wednesday but quickly established himself as a fine player and became captain. He became one of the few regulars in the first season but he will always be remembered as the captain that handed over the bribe money to Bury at the end of the season.
Chaplin played for City for another three and a bit seasons before the League banned him for bribery after playing 113 times for the club.
John Allan was a goal scoring right half and signed by manager Scot-Walford from his old team Leeds City for the Southern League Division Two season Allan then played as a centre forward and scored an incredible 21 goals in 24 games including three hat tricks. He rejoined City after active service in the tail end of the Midland Section season and managed two goals in 11 games now a right half he played the first five every league games but was soon dropped and moved on.
Lance Sheldon, Lancelot was one of two unrelated Sheldons at the club and the fast tricky winger was signed from Notts County but wasn’t a regular in the Midlands Section playing only 9 times so it was a bit of surprise he started the season but didn’t last long and was soon axed being out of his depth like most of the team he moved into non league football.
Christopher Sambrooke a centre forward with a good pedigree after playing three times for the England Juniors before the war he signed for City for the Midlands Section scoring a hat trick on his debut in a 7-4 win at home to Grimsby. He carried on scoring knocking in 23 goals in 30 games including another two hat tricks he seemed to be the player that would score the goals in the League but the league proved to be far tougher and failed to score before being sold to Nuneaton.
Tommy Lowes was a inside right or left winger signed from Newcastle were he was a squad player he was signed for a whopping £50 but only played only seven times in the Southern League Division Two before being second highest scorer in the Midlands Section with 11 goals before making his League debut the next season he wasn’t a regular but was City’s second ever league scorer when notched one in the 8th game of the season a 2-1 home defeat by Leicester he only scored once more and it was import as he scored the equaliser away to Bury no doubt the Bury defenders gave he plenty of room and screamed “shoot”, he moved off to Nuneaton. So Mercer played his part in our history but Gibson and Chaplin seemed to be the only one of the debut boys to make any long term impact.
1926 Vs Northampton (h) lost 3-0 (10 players)
City where starting there first season in Division 3 South after being transferred from the Northern section the previous season. Manager James Kerr decided he wanted a brand new team as he signed up players left, right and centre mainly because City was
short of money and could only offer small wages, sounds familiar, only fullback Charlie Houldey didn’t make his debut on day one of the season the rest did they were; goalkeeper Jimmy Newton preferred to be called Jack signed from Halifax to replace the excellent Jerry Best the tall keeper had a lot to live up to but before he joined almost chopped his hand off with a chopper in his back garden but despite this
was ever present in his first season as City conceded 86 goals and finished 15th he conceded 59 in 28 games the following season before Tommy “Shadow” Allen replaced him he played once for Brighton before dropping out of league football. James Gay a left back played for seven Scottish and one Welsh side, Rhyl Athletic before City bought him it was soon apparent why he had so many clubs when in his 15th game City travelled to Exeter and lost 8-1, Gay took the bashing for the game and was dropped he only played 14 more times before moving on. Bill Daily sounds expensive but wasn’t as he was a semi-pro being employed as a teacher when not playing football maybe the fact he only played eight games in two years at Bradford Park Avenue should have rung the alarm bells as he only played five times being axed after the Exeter game where he was taught an important lesson. Peter Gaffney yet
another Scot this one was a centre half who was a played fairly well in the second half of the season at New Brighton no doubt impressing to two games against City were we only scored once. Big things were expected of him a player that we could build a side around but it took one game and one of worst debuts in our history as City lost 3-0 at home to Northampton and Gaffney took the blame for the loss he played once more before going to Ashington who were a league side then and failing to play before joining Aldershot and failing to play he then dropped out of league football. Jack Gardiner a left half was signed maybe for being Scottish but for once it turned out to be a successful buy as he settled into the role and chalked up 39 games in all in his first season. His second season however was not as successful as an injury made him miss the first few weeks of the season and when he got back into the side he couldn’t reproduce the consistency of his first. Surprisingly he moved to Wolves but an injury put an end to his career. Matthew Hopper was a surprise signing because he wasn’t Scottish but from Northern Ireland the outside right played for Millwall in the early Twenties before dropping into non-league football and even playing for a team called Catford South End maybe not even the best team in Catford but they almost merged with Charlton Athletic a year before Mat joined them. After a spell at Sittingbourne City swooped because he was cheap and he soon proved it being dropped after a game against Southend, maybe he thought he was playing against his old club, he soon moved on to hardly play for Ashington. John Dunn as in “you have been” was from Glasgow and scored six goals in thirteen games for Wigan Borough before manager James Kerr added him to what was to be nicknamed “Coventry Celtic”. Any hopes of his goal scoring form soon disappeared but he did make the inside right his own playing 29 times there being dropped near the end of the season just as he started to score goals he failed to play any more league games in England.
Harold Raynor was unusual as he was born in England but James Kerr must have seen something in the forward who managed a mere one game for Rochdale before signing for City he was considered a good passer but had a weak shot something you might have thought a manger would have checked before signing him he only played four times in his first season but was given another chance the following season by caretaker manager
Albert Saunders in midfield but was released by the next manager James McIntyre and moved out of the league. Jimmy Heathcote was a centre forward but at 33 seemed too old to play for a league team and then drop down to non-league and was largely living of scoring plenty of goals for Notts County six years previously but for once the gamble paid off but it took a while he didn’t open his account until his 8th game where he scored a ha trick in a 6-2 at home to Bournemouth, he carried on scoring including six league games in a row and hitting two on several occasions he ended the season with 22 goals and was second highest scorer that season. By game 20 the following season he had already scored 15 and was on course for another 20+ until injury halted his progress after he couldn’t find his touch and was sold to Accrington Stanley.
Finally, Robert Ferguson, another Scot but at least the left winger proved himself in a practice match pre-season so much he was signed and thrown into the 1st team but he didn’t disappoint with excellent ball control and pace he sounded the ideal wide man he played in all but two games that season more than any other outfield player but near the end of the season his pace started to deteriorate and City accepted the first bid for him but they would have been stupid to turn down the £50 offered by Fulham! So out of the ten players none had a long term impact only Heathcote could be described as a successful signing.
2003 Vs Peterborough (h) League Cup 1st rnd won 2-0 (8 players)
Gary McAllister rang the changes, with no money to play with all new players came on a “free”. City’s first game away to Watford was called off after a tragic accident resulted in a death of one of their youth players meaning for the first time in history City kicked of the season with a cup game. The players were Scott Shearer a keeper from little Albion Rovers in Scotland maybe a touch out of his depth and was replaced by a series of loan keepers in his second season spent the rest of his career in the lower leagues, Stephen Warnock a loan player from Liverpool equally at home in midfield or at fullback looked a class above most players that season and was voted player of the season before moving back to Liverpool and played for England. Michael Doyle signed from Celtic the hard tackling midfielder became popular with the City fans mainly because he was at the club for such a long time he played just under 300 games in 8 years only 15 players played more times. Claus Jorgensen was signed from Bournemouth and the winger that went on to play for Faros Islands took his time to establish himself only playing 8 times in the first season. It was only the last quarter of the following season he started to play regularly. His third season the Danish born player wrote his name into City folk law by scoring the first goal at the Ricoh. He lost his place in the team at the end of the season and was shipped out to Blackpool.
Graham Barrett was a young forward from Arsenal who came in to play wide right and he scored on his debut but things didn’t go to plan and only lasted half that season before he was replaced. He started next season n the left but soon lost his place again and was sold at the end of the campaign.
Patrick Suffo, impressed in a pre-season friendly against German side Wiesmann City strolled to a 10-1 win with Suffo scoring twice on the strength of that City signed the controversial forward. He played 27 times in the first season but only scored 7. The following season was worse for the skilful player as he came off the bench 19 times. At the end of that season he was released by new manager Micky Adams asked if anyone doesn’t want to play for City come and see me and he did.
Dele Adebola was a real Marmite player (smells of beef should be kept in a fridge) on his day he was a real handful big, strong and powerful but despite a debut goal he had trouble settling he lost his place early in the season and ended up with a mere 2 league goals. He went out on loan to Burnley to play football but when he returned he was a better player as he scored 20 league goals in the following two seasons before falling out of favour when Chris Coleman took over. He scored a goal every five games which was not very good.
Andy Morrell was top scorer in what is now called League Two and he was top by a landslide so the signing of him seemed to be a coup but it seemed from the start manager Micky Adams didn’t rate him that much but he opened his account in his 5th League Goal as a sub an injury disrupted season saw him end up with 9 League goals. He only scored ten in the next two seasons he averaged a goal in just under every six games, so only three players had any longevity at the club.
So on average one in four players that make their debut en masse stay for over a year at the club and make any impact so only two of the eight that made their debuts at Bradford will be here long into next season I wonder which two?