Objects of the Week: Coventry City Calendar
25 May 2023
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Luton Town and Coventry City, we take a look at some of the Sky Blues-related objects at the National Football Museum and within our Football Heritage Collection.
From Singers to Coventry City
They have won the FA Cup, were founding members of the Premier League and have lifted silverware in the second and third tiers of English football – but did you know that Coventry City were founded by a 22-year-old factory worker from Wolverhampton?
Willie Stanley was working as a machinist at Singer Bicycle Factory when he helped found Singers F.C., a works team that was formed after a previous club, Coventry Association, had folded. In 1887, the team moved to Stoke Road, and began to enjoy some success, winning the Birmingham Junior Cup in 1891 and again in 1892.
The club joined the Birmingham & District Football League in 1894, competing as Singers for a further four years before being rechristened as Coventry City. Within a year, they had relocated once more to Highfield Road, which would serve as their home for over a century.
Thomas Cashmore was a player for Singers in their formative years, also taking up the position of club secretary between 1895 and 1900: a significant transitional period for the club.
The museum recently received generous donations relating to Thomas’ career on and off the pitch, including the above team photograph from 1892, and this remarkable correspondence outlining the process of Coventry City’s eventual name change, approved by FA secretary Frederick Wall.
Second and Third Division champions
City joined the Football League in 1919, initially competing in the Second Division. The Midlands outfit struggled in those early seasons, and were ultimately relegated within six years. It was in the Third Division (South) that the club won its first Football League honours, lifting both the title and the divisional cup in 1936.
This time around, Coventry quickly established themselves as strong Second Division contenders, but their fortunes dipped not long after the Second World War. In 1952, they slipped out of the division once more, and dropped down to the Fourth Division six years later.
City bounced back up to the third tier at the first time of asking, and would undergo metamorphosis under their new manager, Jimmy Hill. The recently retired inside-forward transformed the club, leading them to the Third Division championship in his second full season in charge.
In his final year at Highfield Road – and what proved to be his final season as a manager – Hill led Coventry back into the top flight as champions, pipping Midlands rivals Wolves to the title by one point.
Top flight, old and new
Even without the instrumental Hill, the Sky Blues retained their First Division status, staving off relegation by the skin of their teeth in successive seasons, before gradually becoming mainstays at the top level.
In 1992, Coventry cemented their place in the newly-formed Premier League by just two points – at the expense of none other than Luton Town. Luton needed all three points at already-relegated Notts County to stand any chance of surviving, but a 2-1 defeat at Meadow Lane rendered Coventry’s loss at Villa Park inconsequential.
The Sky Blues would remain a Premier League side for the rest of the decade, finishing as high as eleventh in 1994 and 1998 respectively. During this period, former Manchester United youth striker Dion Dublin rose to prominence. During that 1997-98 campaign, Dublin became the first player to score more than 20 goals for Coventry since Ian Wallace twenty years prior.
The England forward was one of the few players immortalised by football figurine company Corinthian in 1995-96, alongside legendary goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, defender David Burrows and strike partner Peter Ndlovu. All four were rereleased in the 1996-97 kit the following year, alongside four new players: John Salako, Eoin Jess, Marques Isaias and Kevin Richardson.
By the turn of the millennium, all of the above had moved on or retired. After 34 consecutive years at the highest level, City eventually suffered relegation in 2001. The troubled club would drop down to League One in 2012, then down to League Two in 2017. During this period, the club wrestled with financial difficulties, were forced to groundshare with Northampton Town, and ultimately fell into liquidation.
Much like their play-off opponents, Coventry City have roared back through the divisions in recent seasons, recently putting ownership and stadium issues behind them. Could the Sky Blues be riding sky high come Saturday evening?