Tag Archives: Coventry City

Premier League Files: John Salako

Premier League Career: Crystal Palace (1992-1993, 1994-1995), Coventry City (1995-1997), Bolton Wanderers (1998), Charlton Athletic (2000-2001)

Born in Nigeria, John Salako’s first club and most prominent period of his career came at Crystal Palace. He gave a decade of service to the Eagles, experienced the utmost highs during this time of winning five England caps from Graham Taylor in 1991 and two crushing Premier League relegations in 1993 and 1995.

Salako’s game was all about pace and plenty of it. Defenders were often scared to face him with this trait. His imagination meant he had a good pass and decent dribbling skills too. He often linked up well with Chris Armstrong and his best Premier League season was arguably one that saw Palace relegated. In 1994-1995, Salako missed only three games and scored four goals. This included a fantastic double away at Highbury in October 1994 as Alan Smith’s side won 2-1. It was a pleasurable moment for Salako. A knee injury meant he had missed a huge portion of the club’s maiden Premier League season when they went down on the final day with defeat at Arsenal’s ground.

Pre-Premier League, John was part of the Palace squad that reached the FA Cup final in 1990. He started both games but ended up with a loser’s medal after the club were narrowly beaten in the replay by Manchester United.

After Crystal Palace’s second Premier League relegation, Salako moved on in the summer of 1995 to Coventry City. He was a regular in their team, making 72 appearances before a brief loan spell at Bolton Wanderers during the second half of the 1997-1998 season. After an unhappy 10 games with Fulham, Salako returned to the Premier League with Charlton Athletic in 2000. His last Premier League appearance came as a 10-minute substitute against Fulham in September 2001. He moved soon afterwards to Reading before ending his career with Brentford in 2004-2005.

Since retirement, Salako has done some television work for Sky Sports and returned to Crystal Palace as a first-team coach between August 2015 and December 2016 as part of Alan Pardew’s coaching staff. Since March 2017, Salako has been working as a Marketing Director for SME Business Finance.


Memorable Matches: Sheffield Wednesday 4-3 Coventry City (December 1995)

Goalscorers: Dion Dublin 18, 37, 55, Guy Whittingham 25, David Hirst 39, Marc Degryse 60, Mark Bright 73


Sheffield Wednesday: Kevin Pressman, Peter Atherton, Steve Nicol, Ian Nolan, Des Walker, Lee Briscoe, Marc Degryse, Chris Waddle (Graham Hyde 85), Mark Bright, David Hirst, Guy Whittingham

Coventry City: Steve Ogrizovic, Marcus Hall, Ally Pickering, David Rennie (Gordon Strachan 74), Richard Shaw, Paul Williams, Kevin Richardson, Paul Telfer, John Salako, Dion Dublin, Peter Ndlovu

Referee: Mike Reed, Attendance: 16,229

Both Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City were struggling in the Premier League table when the sides clashed at Hillsborough on a Monday Night Football in December 1995. The Sky Blues had won just one game all season, whilst David Pleat’s Owls were in the bottom six and looking to find some consistency. Both sides produced thrilling attacking displays which meant the neutral was in for an early December treat.

Coventry took the lead on 18 minutes. Their top goalscorer, Dion Dublin headed home from a corner which looked to have been cleared off the goal-line. However, referee Mike Reed correctly spotted the whole of the ball had crossed the line before it was hooked clear. The visitors’ lead lasted just seven minutes. Lee Briscoe got the better of Ally Pickering on the right-hand side and his cross into the box eventually fell to the feet of Guy Whittingham. Whittingham made no mistake to score his fourth goal in his last three matches against the Midlands club. Whittingham was enjoying this match and so too was Dublin. Eight minutes before the interval, he scored his second of the evening to put Ron Atkinson’s side back infront. Kevin Pressman failed to hold onto John Salako’s ambitious attempt and his spill gave Dublin the simplest of finishes.

Wednesday’s response was even quicker than their first equaliser. Mark Bright ghosted into plenty of space and his shot was saved brilliantly by Steve Ogrizovic. Unfortunately for the Coventry shot-stopper, it fell straight to David Hirst to restore parity. It was his sixth goal of the season as he was on the comeback trail from his most recent injury setback which had been a neck problem.

2-2 at the break, more goals were promised in the second half and sure enough, the entertainment continued on this wet Yorkshire evening. Coventry’s Achilles heel was dealing with crosses and it nearly led to embarrassment for defender Richard Shaw. A Hirst header back across the face of goal was diverted onto his own crossbar by Shaw. Maybe it was a sign that Coventry were going to win and Dublin was in peak form. From Kevin Richardson’s corner, Dublin flicked the ball into the net on 55 minutes to complete his hat-trick. However, Coventry’s defensive ineptitude would ensure the skipper’s goalscoring contribution would be on a losing cause.

Yet again, Atkinson’s side were caught out by a cross. Bright pulled off the back of Shaw from Hirst’s cross and Belgian international Marc Degryse followed up after another save from the unfortunate Ogrizovic. Hirst then went on to hit the post as the Owls definitely finished as the stronger side. The winner came 17 minutes from full-time. Ian Nolan escaped the attentions of Salako and drilled in a cross to the near post that was stabbed home by the excellent Bright. This was the start of Sheffield Wednesday’s most productive month of 1995-1996. They scored 14 goals in four matches and both clubs would avoid relegation but only in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Premier League Files: Peter Atherton

Premier League Career: Coventry City (1992-1994), Sheffield Wednesday (1994-2000), Bradford City (2000-2001)

Peter Atherton made 318 appearances during a Premier League career that lasted nine seasons. He scored nine goals during this time and is now part of the coaching staff at Wigan Athletic that is hoping to make a return to the Championship under the guidance of Paul Cook.

Working for his hometown club must be a joy for Peter and it was at Wigan where he started his playing career at. Signing as a trainee, he made his Latics debut in 1988 and spent three seasons with them before attracting the interest of First Division side, Coventry City. Atherton moved to the Midlands in 1991 for £330,000.

He featured regularly for the Sky Blues in the first two Premier League campaigns and even earned a single England Under-21 cap before Sheffield Wednesday paid Coventry £800,000 for his services in the summer of 1994. A capable player, who enjoyed his time at Hillsborough, he was an adaptable component of the Owls squad for several seasons. Whilst right-back was his most familiar position, Atherton could do a solid job as both a centre-back and central midfielder.

In November 1994, he scored one of the greatest goals of his career infront of the Sky Sports cameras at Villa Park against Aston Villa. Making the most of a dubious clearance by Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, Atherton took one touch to get the ball out of his feet before launching a dipping shot that flew into the back of the net beyond Bosnich’s desperate attempt to scramble back into his goal. It earned the visitors a fighting point.

He made over 200 league appearances for Sheffield Wednesday before moving in the summer of 2000 to Yorkshire rivals Bradford City on the Bosman ruling following Wednesday’s relegation from the Premier League. He started out as a regular fixture in the Bantams line-up too but Jim Jefferies sent him out on-loan to Birmingham City on his arrival as manager in November 2000. As he had already played in the League Cup that season for Bradford, he couldn’t play for Birmingham in their 2001 League Cup final defeat to Liverpool FC because he was cup-tied.

Released by Bradford in 2005, he finished his playing career at Halifax Town but played just 14 times for them over three seasons and retired from playing in 2008. By the time of his retirement, he was already getting a taste for coaching at Halifax, serving as assistant manager in 2007 and occasionally would put his boots on again to play in Masters Football tournaments for both Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic.

Atherton returned to Wigan as an Under-18 coach in 2014 before becoming Development Squad coach in 2015. He also had a brief role as interim assistant manager at the backend of last season when Graham Barrow had a spell as first-team boss.

Great Goals: Darren Huckerby – COVENTRY CITY vs. Manchester United (December 1997)

Coventry City’s first-ever Premier League victory over Manchester United arrived in December 1997 through a dramatic late finale to this match at Highfield Road. Ex-Red Devil Dion Dublin had just levelled the scores at 2-2 with a penalty before Darren Huckerby’s individual brilliance would win the match for Gordon Strachan’s battling side.

After an advantage was played following a foul on Trond Egil Soltvedt, Huckerby took control of the ball and the destiny of the match. He went on a weaving run, shaking off Gary Neville’s tackle, deceiving David May and then, rolling the ball into the left-hand corner of the net past Peter Schmeichel.

It was the finest moment in Huckerby’s Premier League career. Manchester United had been humbled by some solo quality just three days before the end of 1997.

Iconic Moments: The decline begins for Coventry City (May 2001)

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.

Shock Results: Aston Villa 1-4 Coventry City (February 1999)

Goalscorers: John Aloisi 23, 75, George Boateng 51, 84, Dion Dublin 55 PEN


Aston Villa: Michael Oakes, Riccardo Scimeca, Gareth Southgate, Steve Watson (Gareth Barry 44), Alan Wright, Simon Grayson, Lee Hendrie, Ian Taylor (Mark Draper 29, Stan Collymore 55), Paul Merson, Dion Dublin, Julian Joachim

Coventry City: Magnus Hedman, David Burrows, Paul Williams, Richard Shaw, Roland Nilsson, Steve Froggatt, Paul Telfer, George Boateng, Gary McAllister, John Aloisi, Darren Huckerby (Gary McSheffrey 90)

Referee: Uriah Rennie, Attendance: 38,799

For a long period in the 1998-1999 season, Aston Villa were seen as genuine title contenders. They were top of the table on Christmas Day but by the end of February, they were wilting under the pressure. Three successive defeats had dropped them to fourth place in the table and they needed to get back to winning ways in this Midlands derby with Coventry City.

As with usual tradition, the Sky Blues were in the midst of a relegation tussle, so their chances of pulling off a victory at Villa Park were seen as slim despite the drop in form from John Gregory’s side.

Coventry took the lead in the 23rd minute. On his return to Villa Park, Steve Froggatt set-up a chance for Australian forward John Aloisi to score. Aloisi, making his first start in eight games, guided his shot past Michael Oakes, leaving Riccardo Scimeca rather flat-footed in the process.

That was the main highlight of a disappointing first half but Coventry’s desire to win seemed greater. As the sleet started to fall around the ground, the gloom began to deepen for Villa supporters. George Boateng powered a shot home at the near post after some careless possession play from the home side. Coventry, who had won at Villa Park in the FA Cup a season ago were closing in on a rare away win.

Gregory needed a response from his team. He got it in the 55th minute. Richard Shaw’s clumsy challenge on Julian Joachim saw Uriah Rennie point to the penalty spot. Former Coventry lynchpin Dion Dublin, who had transferred to the Villans in early November, emphatically dispatched the penalty beyond Magnus Hedman. It was his first goal of 1999.

Aston Villa had come from 2-0 down earlier in the season to earn a point away at Nottingham Forest and to beat Arsenal but this was going to be a different story. With 15 minutes left, Coventry regained their two-goal advantage. From Froggatt’s free-kick, Aloisi connected perfectly on the volley and struck the ball well beyond Oakes. Aloisi was only starting because injury had ruled Noel Whelan out. He’d taken his chance and in breathtaking fashion.

Boateng completely dominated the midfield battle and with six minutes remaining, he put the icing on the cake for the travelling fans. Gary McAllister chipped a ball through which horribly exposed Villa’s frail offside trap. Boateng ghosted past a rather static Alan Wright, then beat the onrushing Oakes to the ball, getting enough on the contact to lob the ball into the back of the net. Coventry’s joy was complete. This was their first-ever league victory at Villa Park and it was well worth the wait. They’d finish in 15th position whilst Villa only managed sixth and missed out completely on European qualification. Their season which had promised so much ultimately delivered so little.

Premier League Files: Kevin Richardson

Premier League Career: Aston Villa (1992-1994), Coventry City (1995-1997), Southampton (1997-1998)

Kevin Richardson was one of the unsung heroes of many high-profile clubs. He won the FA Cup with Everton in 1984, the league with the Toffees in 1985 and also with Arsenal in 1989. In 1994, he was a big part of the Aston Villa team that defeated Manchester United to win the League Cup final.

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he turned professional in 1980 and spent six seasons at Goodison Park. A versatile midfielder, Richardson moved to Watford in 1986 – the team Everton had defeated at Wembley in the FA Cup final two seasons earlier. He only experienced one campaign at Vicarage Road as Arsenal paid £200,000 for his services in 1987. He operated on the left-wing for the Gunners and played all 90 minutes in their dramatic title-winning success at Anfield in 1989. Despite featuring nearly 100 times for Arsenal, he never enjoyed the greatest relationship with manager George Graham and he moved to Spain in 1990 to play for Real Sociedad.

After one season in Spain, Richardson returned to English shores, signing for Ron Atkinson at Aston Villa. His leadership and knowhow was crucial to an exciting Villa side that seriously challenged Manchester United for title honours in the very first Premier League season. He was skipper that season but Villa faded in the run-in to ultimately finish 10 points behind the Red Devils. The Villans got their revenge in March 1994, defeating them 3-1 in the League Cup final. It would turn out to be Kevin’s final major honour as a player and he won Man of the Match honours with his commanding display in the middle of the park that afternoon.

It was whilst he was at Aston Villa when he won his solitary England cap which arrived in a 5-0 friendly victory over Greece in May 1994. When Atkinson was sacked by Doug Ellis at Villa and eventually turned up at Midlands rivals Coventry City – his first signing was to bring his former captain to Highfield Road. Richardson spent the next two seasons helping the Sky Blues avoid relegation. One further Premier League season followed at Southampton before ending his career with stints at Barnsley and Blackpool. He retired in 2000.

He has been a coach ever since, having spells as an assistant manager at Stockport County and Darlington. Since 2009, Kevin has been an Under-18 coach at Newcastle United.

Premier League Files: Mick Quinn

Premier League Career: Coventry City (1992-1994)

Mick Quinn made 64 Premier League appearances for Coventry City and his return of 25 goals in that time is very impressive figures.

He was born in the Everton area of Merseyside but grew up as a Liverpool FC fan. He began his career in the late 1970s as an apprentice at Derby County but would turn professional with Wigan Athletic in September 1979. He made 69 appearances for Wigan, scoring 19 times for them as they were toiling at the time in the old Fourth Division.

Despite helping Wigan to promotion in 1982, he was given a free transfer and moved to Stockport County, before a spell at Oldham Athletic. At both of these clubs, he started to become a prolific goalscorer.

Totals of 54 goals in 121 appearances for Portsmouth and 57 strikes in 110 appearances for Newcastle United showed his instincts of finding the back of the net. Between 1985 and 1992, Quinn was one of the top strikers outside of the top-flight. He did have one season with Portsmouth in the First Division in 1987-1988 but it ended in relegation. During his Pompey spell, he also spent two weeks in jail after breaching a driving ban which had been handed down to him for a drink-driving charge.

At Newcastle, he scored 34 times in the 1989-1990 season, including four on his debut against Leeds United. Quinn ended up as the Football League’s top goalscorer for that season. Newcastle’s form in the Second Division dropped off after 1990 as they missed out on promotion via the play-offs. He fell out with Kevin Keegan on his arrival as manager and was sold to Coventry City in November 1992 for £250,000.

Coventry manager Bobby Gould got an immediate payment back on Quinn’s signature as he scored 17 goals in his first six months at Highfield Road. Nicknamed ‘Sumo’ by the supporters, he scored braces against Manchester City, Southampton, Liverpool FC and Aston Villa. The latter two sides lost heavily (5-1 and 3-0) respectively as the Midlands side reached the dizzy heights of fourth in the table. They couldn’t maintain their early season tempo and faded to 15th in the final standings.

Quinn made a rip-roaring start to the 1993-1994 campaign, scoring a stunning hat-trick on the opening day as Coventry stunned one of the title favourites, Arsenal 3-0 at Highbury. Another five goals followed as the Sky Blues improved to 11th under the guidance of Phil Neal, who had succeeded Gould in October 1993.

He started the first three games of the next campaign but his Coventry career effectively ended after an unnecessary red card at Ewood Park against Blackburn Rovers. When he left the field midway through the second half, the game was firmly in the balance at 0-0. By full-time, Blackburn won 4-0. Neal was furious with Quinn and signed Dion Dublin for £2 million in the aftermath of this defeat. He never started a game again for Coventry and made his final appearance on New Years’ Eve 1994 in a 4-0 loss at home to Tottenham.

Unproductive loan spells followed at Plymouth Argyle and Watford before a brief spell in Greece with PAOK. Shortly after his signature in Greece, his younger brother died at the age of just 25. He left the Greek club in February 1996 and decided to retire from the game with immediate effect.

Today, he has racehorse stables in Newmarket, does some scouting work for Wigan Athletic and covers football and horse racing for radio station talkSPORT.

Great Goals: Steve Froggatt – COVENTRY CITY vs. Everton (November 1998)

Not usually a regular goalscorer, Steve Froggatt produced a memorable strike at home to Everton in November 1998. The ex-Aston Villa player was impressing with his consistently strong displays for Coventry City in the early weeks of the 1998-1999 campaign. His form was so good; Glenn Hoddle was considering calling him up for the next England squad before his own sacking in February 1999.

Midway through the first half, he collected possession and went on an advancing forward run. The Everton players back off, tempting him to have a shot from distance. They paid the ultimate penalty. Froggatt launched a spectacular drive that flew into the top corner of the net. It was his first goal for Coventry and quite probably the greatest goal of his career. Coventry would record an impressive 3-0 victory.

The strike was voted the Premier League Goal of the Season for 1998-1999 by Sky Sports viewers.

Premier League Files: Gary Breen

Premier League Career: Coventry City (1997-2001), West Ham United (2002-2003), Sunderland (2003-2006)

Centre-back Gary Breen spent the whole of his footballing career playing in England. However, his story could have taken a totally different direction if he’d made the move to Inter Milan in 2002. The Serie A giants were seriously interested in Breen’s services after a stellar 2002 World Cup finals for the Republic of Ireland. Ultimately, three Premier League relegations on his CV might indicate his career wasn’t the best but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Breen was often a shining light in teams that would always struggle against survival in the top-flight.

Breen started his professional career at Charlton Athletic but never made the first-team grade with the Addicks. He would then join Maidstone United in 1991 and then followed a season with them with spells at Gillingham and Birmingham City. Gordon Strachan was impressed by his mature displays at Birmingham and it was the Sky Blues who would bring Gary into the top-flight, paying Birmingham £2.5 million. There was an embarrassing own goal in one of his first appearances for the Midlands side at Old Trafford but Breen settled down quickly and would form a strong partnership at the centre of the Coventry defence alongside Richard Shaw.

He would spend five seasons at Highfield Road and won Coventry’s Player of the Year in 2001, despite their relegation from the Premier League. Still one of the club’s top-earners in Division One, he was released to balance the books before the 2002 World Cup. His dependable performances were noted by several club teams. Breen played every single minute and even scored in the Republic of Ireland’s 3-0 victory over Saudi Arabia that sealed their place in the knockout stages. No fewer than nine clubs made offers for the free agent and it was Inter Milan who led the queue. Heartbreak though would follow for Breen. He admitted in a 2016 interview: “Prior to the Spain game, I had agreed a deal with Inter Milan. When we got back to Dublin, I flew out to Milan, I had the medical, failed the medical, and I still haven’t got over it.”

A knee injury was to blame and perhaps Inter were sensing what would ultimately happen in 2002-2003 to Breen. He was snapped up by West Ham United but injuries restricted him to just 18 appearances in all competitions. Glenn Roeder’s side were relegated and he became a free agent again.

Having knowledge of his tactically astute ways from the Republic of Ireland days, Mick McCarthy wasted no time in signing Breen for his Sunderland side in the summer of 2003 and made him club captain. He made over 100 appearances for the Black Cats’ and helped them win promotion in 2005 but that was followed by being part of a team that managed just 15 points in 2005-2006 and instant relegation back from the top-flight. Breen was signed again by McCarthy at Wolverhampton Wanderers but this time, their relationship turned sour. He left abruptly in 2008 after an altercation with McCarthy. He would finish his playing career at Barnet in 2010.

Gary Breen was a dependable defender for all the teams he played for. However, his story could have taken a completely different turn if only he’d passed that medical at the San Siro.

Premier League Rewind: 25th-27th November 1995

Results: Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Coventry City 3-3 Wimbledon, Everton 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City 1-0 Aston Villa, Middlesbrough 2-1 Liverpool FC, Newcastle United 2-1 Leeds United, Southampton 1-0 Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal 0-0 Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest 1-1 Manchester United

Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United had lost just one game all season and had a 100% record at St James’ Park for the season. Leeds United’s visit on the weekend of 25th-27th November 1995 was the standout fixture of a weekend which produced just 21 goals in 10 matches.

Leeds threatened to take that record when Brian Deane headed Howard Wilkinson’s side into the lead after 31 minutes. Newcastle responded brilliantly in the second half and two goals in two successive minutes from Rob Lee and Peter Beardsley turned the game around. The Magpies’ 2-1 win meant they would end November on top of the table and having extended their advantage over the chasing pack.

Manchester United lost ground on Keegan’s team after drawing 1-1 on the Monday Night Football game at Nottingham Forest. An Eric Cantona penalty ensured they left the City Ground with a point but it would start a worrying run of just two wins in their next nine matches that almost cost them a chance to regain the crown they’d lost the previous season to Blackburn Rovers.

The reigning champions hadn’t yet won on their travels in the season and had just returned from a painful defeat in Moscow in the Champions League which had seen the infamous clash on the field between Graeme Le Saux and David Batty. Blackburn played out an uneventful 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Super Sunday; moved to a lunchtime kick-off to make way for the Scottish League Cup Final (back in the days when Scottish football was just as important to the TV broadcasters!)

The most enterprising game of the weekend was played out between Coventry City and Wimbledon. Ron Atkinson’s side had won just once all season whilst Wimbledon were hovering just outside the drop zone. The Sky Blues’ ended with nine men as both Paul Williams and Richard Shaw were shown red cards. However, David Rennie scored a rare goal in the 83rd minute to rescue a 3-3 draw, having trailed 3-1 midway through the second half.

Atkinson’s team remained in the drop zone alongside Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers. The latter sides both lost 1-0 to Southampton and West Ham United respectively. Liverpool FC’s slide into mid-table continued. A 2-1 loss to Middlesbrough meant Roy Evans’ side collected just one point from four league matches and slid out of both the UEFA Cup and League Cup during a nightmare November.

Going in the right direction were Manchester City. Alan Ball had seen his side fail to win a match before November. Yet, 10 points from four games saw them climb out of the drop zone. The latest success came over Aston Villa. Georgi Kinkladze scored the only goal of the game with four minutes remaining.

Tottenham Hotspur ended the month in third spot after drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea but by this stage, it already looked like a two-horse race for the title between Newcastle United and Manchester United.

What else happened in November 1995?

  • The Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish extremist who opposed peace with the Palestinians.
  • Piers Brosnan stars as James Bond for the first time in “Goldeneye.”
  • Diana, Princess of Wales admits to infidelity in an explosive TV interview for “Panorama” with Martin Bashir.
  • Rosemary West is found guilty at Winchester Crown Court of killing 10 women.
  • “Toy Story” is released as the first feature-length film created completely using computer-generated imagery.
  • The Today newspaper ceases publication, becoming the first long-running national UK newspaper title to close since the Daily Sketch in 1971.
  • The Queen Mother undergoes a hip replacement operation at the age of 95.

Memorable Matches: Everton 1-1 Coventry City (May 1998)

Goalscorers: Gareth Farrelly 6, Dion Dublin 88


Everton: Thomas Myhre, Craig Short, Dave Watson, Michael Ball, John O’Kane, Carl Tiler, Don Hutchinson, Gareth Farrelly (Gavin McCann 88), Nick Barmby, Duncan Ferguson, Mikael Madar (Danny Cadamarteri 46)

Coventry City: Magnus Hedman, Roland Nilsson, Gary Breen (Paul Williams 51), David Burrows, Richard Shaw, Paul Telfer (Marcus Hall 89), George Boateng, Trond Egil Soltvedt, Dion Dublin, Darren Huckerby (Simon Haworth 69), Noel Whelan

Referee: Paul Alcock, Attendance: 40,109

For Everton fans, the 1997-1998 season had been extremely disappointing. Howard Kendall had failed to revive the sparkle he’d shown in his previous spells with the Toffees’ and they went into the final day of the season in the bottom three. One point behind Bolton Wanderers, they needed to better Bolton’s result or face the prospect of playing Division One football in the last full season of the 20th century.

For the game against Coventry City, Kendall made two changes from the side that wilted 4-0 at Highbury the previous weekend. Peter Beagrie and Slaven Bilic were dropped and in came Mikael Madar and Gareth Farrelly. One of these alterations was to have an early desired impact.

In the 7th minute, Duncan Ferguson won a header in the air. He nodded the ball back to Farrelly. The midfielder controlled the ball and unleashed a spectacular shot with his right-foot. The ball evaded Magnus Hedman’s dive and rippled the back of the net via the post. Goodison Park erupted with a sense of delirium and joy. The goal had come from the most unexpected of sources and it was just the start they were looking for.

From the outset, Everton pressed high and harried a Coventry side that were comfortably in mid-table but could finish in the top half with a win. The formidable Coventry striking partnership of Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin were marked out of the match completely in the first 45 minutes. Despite their high intensity, chances were still at a premium for Everton but they nearly doubled their lead just short of the interval. Hedman had to show fantastic acrobatics to tip a shot around the post from a scrambled corner when Dave Watson’s miscued shot took a deflection off his own teammate, Madar.

Coventry had to improve in the second half and they gave Everton much more to think about in the second half. Roland Nilsson was the first to try his luck and he hit a post through a deflection off the youngster John O’Kane. Then, the home supporters started to dream that survival was likely as Gianluca Vialli had put Chelsea infront at Stamford Bridge against Bolton.

With five minutes left, Everton had the chance to seal the three points. Half-time substitute Danny Cadamarteri won a rather fortuitous penalty. Replays showed that Paul Williams had made a clean tackle on the forward. Referee Paul Alcock believed he hadn’t and awarded the spot-kick. Justice was done though as Hedman saved Nick Barmby’s penalty. Then, Coventry added to the drama. David Burrows’ swung in a cross. Dublin won a header against his marker and the ball squirmed past Thomas Myhre who tried to catch the ball, but only succeeded in palming the ball into his own net.

The Sky Blues pushed for a winner but Everton completed a second ‘Great Escape’ in four seasons. Bolton’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea meant the point here was enough for the Evertonian faithful, who spilled onto the pitch with a mixture of relief and delight. Howard Kendall resigned in the summer of 1998 but at least he had kept Everton in the top-flight…just!