Being ‘sent to Coventry’ was something of a traumatic experience when I was at school, with nobody talking to you for some trivial reason doubtless inspired by the ‘Schoolboy Code’. As a footy fan, though, any visit I made to Coventry usually ended up with – as the say in Eurovision land – nil points.
Initially as a youth with Leicester, and then into maturity with Forest, I’d journey with like-minded souls to this nearby city where they all seemed to speak like Brummies, and we’d inevitably come away with very little to show for it. Even the season that Forest won the League, they had to thank Shilts for the solitary point we were able to glean. That’s not to say we didn’t play our part in some good tussles. Who can forget the 5-4 League Cup tie where the Reds were 0-4 down within 30 minutes? Half the Forest ‘faithful’ had disappeared off to the nearest pub by then, and missed a stirring fightback led by Nigel Clough’s first half hat-trick. Still ended in defeat, though.
The last time I was in ‘Cov’ was a couple of seasons ago when Amy Fearn made history as the first female to officiate in a Football League game. We lost again, of course. Tonight I’m driving down there because I’m intrigued by a top-of-the-table clash. But this time it’s the ‘other’ team in the city I’m heading for, the splendidly-monikered Coventry Sphinx. They are second in the Midland Football Alliance table, and entertain leaders – on goal difference only – Westfields, who hail from Hereford.
Sphinx’ ground – on the eponymously-named street – is a couple of miles east of the city centre, and is very much in a residential area. An ex-works side, they share their green space with the local cricket team, and there seems to be quite a bit of room for expansion, with the area behind the main stand currently – so I’m told by a native – being redeveloped to provide a second pitch. The stadium itself is modest, with predominantly flat-standing on three sides (the fourth adjacent to the cricket pitch being a no-go-area) with the only cover being a small stand, half-seated and the other standing.
The clubhouse is a large brick complex outside the ground, and boasts several hospitality rooms, with one set aside as a public bar. Sadly the choice of beer is predictably limited, with no cask or craft bottled on offer. Otherwise it’s well kitted out with a football table, pool table and Live TV footy, and there is a tray of rolls behind the bar.
A nice warm Spring day is followed by a rapidly-cooling March night, and there are several youths sporting shorts and flimsy t-shirts who probably wished they’d arrived better prepared for the next 90 minutes. Sphinx make the early running without creating too much in the way of clear-cut chances and the visitors don’t really show too much in a frantic but chance-less first half where both defences are dominant. Even a red card for a wreckless Westfields challenge just on half time doesn’t affect the game too much, as the second period starts off pretty much as the first finished, with a lot of pinball football in midfield.
Sphinx go close a couple of times, but nearer the end it’s Westfields who fancy nicking the points and become a little more adventurous. But it ends 0-0, it hasn’t been anything like a classic, and the league table status quo is maintained.
My ‘native’ friend who I was speaking to earlier has doubts about any aspirations Coventry Sphinx might have to go further up the football pyramid. A fair bit of work would probably be needed on the ground, and – he points out – with an average gate of around 60, there just wouldn’t be the level of support. Still, look on the bright side though, potentially it means one less Coventry team for Forest to get beaten by!
Programme: £1.50 on the turnstile. Quite a lot for your money, but if I was to be really pernickety, I’d say the level of spelling, grammer and punctuation – and proofreading – is extremely poor. For example, visitors Westfields are refered to as Westfileds several times in one article, whilst the header on the Player Profiles page calls them Westfeilds. I rest my case.
Floodlight pylons: 6
Club shop: No
Toilets: Back in the clubhouse
Music the players run out to: Nope
Kop choir: err, no
Visiting Supporters: A fair few in a season’s best crowd of 255
What’s in a name? Nothing inspiring…..