Best Coventry City Welsh XI
Coventry City fan Phil Lambert, a Llandaf based artist, selects a Sky Blues XI comprising more than a few bona fide Wales legends.
It came as a surprise to realise while picking this how many Welsh forwards have played for Coventry; far more than defensive players. So in a gung-ho 3-4-3 formation expect a lot of goals from this lot.
GK: Bob Evans – Honestly, don’t know much about him beyond Jim Brown’s Coventry City Stats and Wikipedia. 127 appearances over four years between 1909 and 1913. He makes the team, because he’s the only Welsh international goalkeeper we have had, which is a little surprising. Already an international by the time Coventry City signed him, Evans won only ten caps mainly as back up to the great Leigh Richmond Roose.
CB: Robert Page – Ah, I so remember the days of wondering if we would complete a game with all eleven players, because Page was either sent off or would break one of our own. He made 70 appearances between 2005 and 2008, scoring one goal. Infamously sent off for fighting in a game against Southampton in his first season and even more famously knocking Michael Doyle’s teeth out in a fight on the Ryton training ground a year or two later. Not your obvious choice for Wales U21 manager based on his Coventry career…maybe he’s mellowed?
CB: Richard Duffy – more of a right back, but he did occasionally play centrally for Coventry. Duffy is an interesting one as he made 64 appearances but was never officially a Sky Blue. These appearances came in four separate loan spells while Duffy was on Portsmouth’s books. It is a surprising number given that he played at the sametime as Marcus Hall.
CB: David Pipe – Ok, definitely not a CB, but I’m struggling a bit….I remember him, but not that well. A product of our youth system, he was with Coventry between 2001 and 2004, scoring once. It was at the end of his breakthrough 2002-03 season that Caerffili-born Pipe won his solitary cap against the United States when Wales were down to the bare bones due to dropouts. Another player with a violent history: serving time for assault during which he captained his prison football team. His agent, friend and Coventry icon, Cyrille Regis, was instrumental in helping Pipe get his career back on track. Now a very muscular and tattooed full back at Newport County.
LM: Craig Bellamy – couldn’t resist sticking him out on the left wing, because he LOVED playing there so much for us! His time with us seemed to be just one big strop and he is not the most loved player at Coventry City. He had the difficult job of filling Robbie Keane’s shoes and scored only six goals in 34 appearances in our Premiership relegation season. His autobiography paints a picture of a pretty dispirited dressing room, so maybe he was unlucky…
CM: Dave Phillips – A Welsh/Cov legend and part of the FA Cup winning side in 1987. He scored eight goals (probably all long distance pile drivers) in exactly 100 games in three seasons between 1986-89. A utility player who tended to play wide for Coventry, but famously, I’m told, did an effective man-marking job on Graeme Souness for Wales at Hampden Park so I’m putting him central in this XI. His son Aaron came through the ranks at Coventry, but as much as we wanted him to, he never really became a regular.
CM: Terry Yorath – Welsh legend and captain of another one of the most iconic Coventry City sides, featuring the likes of Ian Wallace, Tommy Hutchison and Mick Ferguson. He played 99 games over three years with three goals, but most significantly captained the side when they only just missed out on European football after coming 7th in 1977/78 season.
RM: Ronnie Rees – Although I probably should have, I didn’t know of Rees before compiling this team. His family had already moved to the English midlands by the time Rees signed for Coventry as an apprentice, and went on to play in the 1960s sides under Jimmy Hill. Rees made 230 appearances, scoring 42 goals between 1962-68 as Coventry rocketed from the old third to the first divisions. Following his retirement from football he worked for Ford in Bridgend and Swansea before sadly suffering a pretty major stroke. Member of Coventry’s Hall of Fame.
CF: Simon Haworth – fondly remember watching Haworth at Highfield Road and wanted to put him in – even though there are plenty of better Welsh strikers to choose from – because, like the Australian John Aloisi,
Haworth was one of those players who I really rooted for as they were so hard-working and really deserved it. But it never really happened, just a single League Cup goal. Back-up for the 1997-98 season after joining from Cardiff City for £500k, he moved onto Wigan after one season and only 11 league appearances. Five Wales caps against diverse opposition: AScotland, Jamaica, Tunisia, Brazil and Malta.
CF: Freddy Eastwood (Snr) – Like Bellamy, another player who for whatever reason was never really able to give his best for Coventry City, despite being a legend at Southend. That said, Eastwood was the first player to score a hat-trick at the Ricoh Stadium and made over 100 appearances. He was brought to the club by Chris Coleman in 2008. But left in 2012 having only scored 17 league goals.
CF: John Hartson – In a muscular frontline, the biggest of big men is a man who must be a legend at every club he played for (maybe not West Brom….) and Wales. My fondest personal memory is seeing him smash Marcel Desailly into the advertising hoardings at Highfield Road when Chelsea visited. If only Gordon Strachan had been able to bring Hartson in sooner then things may have been very different for Coventry City in the 2000/01 relegation season. Although he apparently failed his medical, Hartson bullied defences and helped himself to six goals in 12 appearances, nearly single-handedly saving the club from relegation (as he had previously done for West Ham). If only we had had him longer…Remarkably, Hartson is one of five players in this XI to have captained Wales.
Leslie Jones (1934-37) – another Coventry Hall of Famer, Aberdare-born Jones was a goal-every-other-game forward for Coventry, whose goalscoring exploits took him to Arsenal where he won the league in 1938. Like Hartson, Page, Yorath and Bellamy, Jones captained Wales once, versus England in 1938.
George Lowrie (1939-48, 52-53) – the third and final Welsh member of Coventry’s Hall of Fame, Tonypandy-born Lowrie could have become an even bigger Sky Blue legend if his postwar strike rate of 44 goals in 55 appearances is anything to go by and had war not intervened. Joined Coventry as a 19 year old and made a single prewar appearance before hostilities put his professional career on hold. Nine wartime international caps (6 goals) for Wales were followed by a four cap, two goal, international career in his late twenties. He later played for the Lovells’ Athletic sweet factory team.
Bryn Allen (1950-52) – more an inside forward than centre forward, Allen is another whose career was interrupted by the war. Following a decent goalscoring record for Cardiff, Newport and Reading, Allen joined Coventry after which he won both of his two caps in the 1950-51 Home Championship. Member of Barry Town’s Welsh Cup winning team in 1955.
Donato Nardiello (1977-81) – 33 appearances in four seasons, Nardiello came through the youth set-up at Coventry, to where his Italian family relocated from Aberteifi when Nardiello was only six years old. Nardiello earned an international call-up less than a fortnight after his Coventry debut and won both his caps as a raw 20 year old. He never established himself in the first team though and later moved to the NASL and then non-league. Capped twice for Wales, his three-times Wales capped son, Daniel, was born in Coventry. Curiously, Nardiello played against Wales for England in police internationals in 1983 and 1984.
George Thomas (2014-17) – another Welsh product of Coventry’s youth system, Thomas’s full honours have come since leaving for Leicester City; but he won over 30 intermediate caps while at the Ricoh. Worth a mention for his breakthrough season in which he was part of the LDV Paintpot Checkatrade Wotsit Trophy winning team in 2016-17, was our player of the year, and topscorer in a season which signalled the start of the recent change in fortunes for Coventry under Mark Robins.
Paul Trollope (2002) – was still a current Wales international when he joined Coventry for a short spell (6 games) after being released by Fulham. Left at the end of that season for Northampton Town.
Chris Coleman (2008-2010) – the only Welshman ever to manage Coventry I was a bit gutted when he was sacked as I thought he was doing an alright job in bad circumstances; but I know a lot of other fans had lost patience, so my views are by no means representative.
I’d moved to Wales by then and so wasn’t going to as many games so perhaps didn’t have the best view on things. He came across very well, honest to a fault at times.
He managed 117 games over two years, winning 34, drawing 37 and losing 46. The signings he made in his first season were pretty good on the whole: Kieron Westwood, Aaron Gunnarson, David Bell, as well as Eastwood. Combined with Scott Dann, Danny Fox and Leon Best who were still at the club, made for a side that frankly should have been top half of the table, but finished 17th – mainly down to struggling for goals. Then Coventry lost Dann and Fox over the close season and the subsequent signings Coleman made were pretty awful. The team became frustratingly boring as epitomised by Sideways Sammy (Clingan) and No Goals Eastwood.
But the club was now being run by SISU and Ray Ranson, and they did not seem to have any ambitions to invest or understand what it would take to turn things around. Things aren’t much better now with the owners, but I think they have learnt some lessons.
Of the managers who came after, Cookie was a lot better than Andy Thorn and Richard Shaw, but that’s not saying a huge amount. The less said about Russell Slade the better. He fared similarly to Aidy Boothroyd and Steven Pressley; but it has been Tony Mowbray and Mark Robins who finally arrested the slide down the leagues.
I guess it’s hard to accept that he wasn’t that good when he’s clearly such a nice, straight-talking guy. I’m delighted that he managed to achieve what he did with Wales. Maybe international management suits him better than club management – in some ways he is not dissimilar to Gareth Southgate.