I haven’t lived in the Coventry area since 2005 when I went to university. I’ve also never missed living there until this season - no, not the winter season, but the 2015-16 Football League season which sees Coventry City sitting proudly at the top of table, with Joe Cole cameoing in midfield, and fellow loanees Adam Armstrong & Jacob Murphy scoring for fun.
Being a Coventry City fan is a mostly joyless sporting affiliation - I was born two years after we upset Tottenham to win the 1987 FA cup, and the only semblance of success I ever bore witness to at Highfield Road was one incredible Premier League season when we finished 11th with a team containing Gary McAllister, Roland Nillson, Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin who scored 18 league goals and yet was still left out of Glenn Hoddle’s England squad for that summer’s World Cup. That he later went to play for Aston Villa did ease my feelings of sympathy towards Dublin, at least.
Fast-forward 17 years and we find ourselves in the third tier of English football, regularly playing teams we used to line up for Pre-seasion friendlies where we’d play our youth team and still win at a canter. We’ve been phenomenally unsuccessful since the turn of the century, never once finishing in the top six of any division. In that same period moved to Japan, New Zealand, and now the Netherlands - my ties to my home city all but gone, and my support of my football team taking place mostly via twitter, rare illicitly streamed mid-week league games and a fan podcast. And so with my connection to City at its most tenuous, it’s bittersweet to see my team top of the pile, with the best scoring record in the division, a manager who seems intent on playing attractive football, and with a crop of players who seem both motivated and talented enough to do something which we haven’t done since 1967 - Win a league.
That Jimmy Hill won’t be alive to see it makes it all the more bittersweet. It’s hard to overstate how important Hill was for Coventry City. Taking us from a position even worse than where we find ourselves now, to the first division of English Football, where we remained for over thirty years. Working at the club for a summer ten years ago, the mere mention of Jimmy Hill elicited the kind of affection you rarely see in our sport - universally liked & respected, Jimmy was the father of Coventry City, and his death will loom large over the club and the city for some time to come.
Whilst results in recent weeks have seen us drift away from the top position, I dearly hope that come May I will have a good reason to go home, for an open-top bus parade, or a trip to Wembley - the long-suffering family of Coventry City fans deserve a bit of joy.