Coventry City had spent 34 consecutive seasons in England’s top-flight. They had provided many with brilliant memories, winning the FA Cup in 1987 and producing many final day escapes, especially in 1997 with a victory at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur protecting them from relegation.
They weren’t so lucky four years later. The Sky Blues had struggled all season and went into their match at Villa Park needing to win to still hold a realistic hope of staying up. It started well as Mustapha Hadji scored twice before defensive frailties set in. In the closing stages, Paul Merson hit the winning goal for Aston Villa. Their 3-2 win coupled with Derby County’s 1-0 victory at Old Trafford meant Coventry City’s proud stay as a top-flight club was over. They were going down.
The decline was well and truly underway for one of England’s most recognisable clubs. Terrible ownership, a brief ground share at Sixfields with Northampton Town, regular managerial changes and three relegations have followed since that day at Villa Park in May 2001. A fifth round FA Cup run in 2018 has put them back in the conscious minds of some but they are now toiling in the fourth-tier of the English league pyramid system.
This was the moment where a little part of the Premier League disappeared forever.