I’ve never been one to hoard things, much preferring a minimalist approach to life being a little OCD when it comes to clutter. Fortunately however, the same is not so true of my nonagenarian mum. In cleaning out her loft last week, fortuitously (for me) she came across a large number of Coventry programmes from the mid-70s to the early 80s, one of which was for the Coventry v London Welsh fixture during the 74/75 centenary season. March 1st to be exact.
I was 14 at the time and some of what I have written below might well be factually incorrect. Please do comment should this be the case or, indeed, if there is anything else you might like to add.
Now a number of things immediately struck me about the programme…first, it’s not the colourful, glossy £2.50 programme that we might recognise today; just 5p and epitomising the no-nonsense, practical approach to non professional, pre Murdoch, sport at that time. Secondly, somewhere between then and now the club badge changed. I’m sure a big thing would have been made of it, but I can’t for the life of me remember when the change took place; perhaps it was whilst I was studying away from home (using study there as something of a euphemism for all things ‘studenty’). I’m sure there will be those who who will recall it happening…
The next thing is the black and white photo of the Gloucestershire/Warwickshire match the week before. During the 70’s Warwickshire and Coventry were synonymous with each other, with very nearly the entire Warwickshire team made up of the Coventry squad. This, of course, is no longer the case and nowadays, whilst Coventry is of course affiliated to the WRFU, very few Coventry players represent the county in the senior side…I’m not even sure they are eligible to play.
Above all, though, the thing that stands out more than anything else are the teams themselves. I’m sure were any London Welsh supporters ‘of an age’ to see this, they would instantly recognise many of the names, I’m afraid I don’t. I’m guessing some of them would have been Welsh internationals – rather like in years gone by you had to be born in Yorkshire to play cricket for the county, I’m sure you had to be of Welsh extraction to play for the Exiles and there was always a contingent of Welsh caps on view. Certainly though, the Coventry team contained some of the true greats of the era, ‘Dai’ Duckham, Preece, Evans, Rossborough, Jim (I’ve broken every bone in my body’ Broderick and the like. Barry (?) Ninnes, I think, actually played for Wales.
’73 and ’74 had seen us the top team in England, winners of the John Player Cup and with several of the team picked for England and the Lions. Heady days. Interestingly however, whilst I can clearly recall the excitement that swept through the crowds when the likes of Duckham, Preece or Evans had ball in hand, for me it was two relatively low-key members of the team who were my heroes. Alan Cowman, a much underrated fly half and Robin Cardwell, who had flaming red hair and crossed his fingers every time we had a penalty or conversion attempt.
It was just the best of times to be a Cov fan especially if all your mates were Moseley supporters. But professionalism was just around the corner and it wouldn’t be long before Cov weren’t even in the second tier of English teams…
Oh…and the final score?
Coventry won 29-15.
If only history could repeat itself.