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Take in on the Chin, Jimmy

Call me vindictive, call me nasty, call me unforgiving

But don't call me unmoved by news that Coventry City are sliding towards football's financial version of Armageddon.

Days after being relegated to the Third Division (we're already back in 1977 here, folks) news seeps out that the club is so far in debt it could implode.

The usual suspects are rolled out but in the end it generally boils down to one thing: paying players more than you can afford in a vain bid to hang onto top flight football.

In Coventry's case they managed it for a good chunk of time in the last quarter of the last century.

But that sowed the seeds of their current financial implosion. It eventually caught up with them.

Wonderful.

Because so often life is not fair. Those who don't deserve it get ahead while others, who play by the rules, get left behind.

Or, in the case of Sunderland, get relegated.

Now, given the number of ups and downs we've experienced as a club in the last 50 years then really what is one more relegation?

To understand you had to be there, back in that less than wonderous year of 1977.

By Christmas we were doomed, game after game - ten on the trot, I think - we couldn't even score never mind win. Until a Friday night game - the only one I can ever recall at Roker - when we edged out Bristol City by a second half Mel Holden goal.

It was followed by three more home games on the trot. Games those who saw them will never forget. Scores of 4-0, 6-1 and 6-0. And suddenly we were watching a remarkable team of young talent : Rowell, Arnott, Elliott. Real hope for the future.

The winning continued and, in the penultimate match, two late goals salvaged a draw away at Norwich before thousands of red and white fanatics. We would not be denied.

A point at Everton away or a result at the other drop contenders who played each other that same night, Bristol City at Coventry, and we were safe and those youngsters would lead us to glory the following season.

Until Coventry's big-chinned, pontificating, TV-hogging, gasbag of a chairman, Jimmy Hill, pushed back the kick off because of "heavy traffic" and our two rivals played pass-about for a quarter of an hour after we'd fallen (as always, it seems) to Everton.

We went down. Coventry stayed up.

Yet sometimes things do get set right. Maybe we have had to wait more than three decades. But the pain of that night will always linger. Except now I will hold onto the knowledge that ultimately staying up cost Coventry. Might even cost them their very existence. A mental stretch, admitedly. But one I, and thousands who saw that remarkable revival end in tears, will gladly make.

So today in Coventry there's more heavy traffic. Only this time it's a line up of those wanting to be paid: banks, councils, taxmen, creditors.

What to do, what to do? How much time, ask fans, will they give us?

I'd suggest 15 minutes.

Sharkey's Shadow
(Our Canadian Correspondent)

April 27, 2012


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