Coventry City FC: The Midlands Founding Member of the Premier League
Coventry City FC History and Highlights.
Coventry City FC was formed by an employee of Singer Cycle Company, William Stanley, in 1883. The meeting that informed the club’s inauguration was held with other factory employees in attendance. The founder of the Singer Cycle Company, George Singer, was made the club president, and the club was named Singers FC at the time.
The club soon joined the Birmingham County Football Association and played against fellow Midland teams from Small Heath, Hinckley, and Langley Green. The club’s transformation into a serious enterprise started with the employment of J.G Morgan as the Club Secretary in 1887. The club moved from its pitch at Dowell Fields to Stoke Road, an enclosed ground.
In the 1887/1888 season, the club used an organized fixture for its games and entered the Birmingham Junior Cup, where they got to the semifinals. The next five seasons would improve the quality of games, opponents, and attendances. During this era, the club formed a rivalry with Rudge FC, the football club owned by another cycle company, Rudge Cycle Company. The matches between these two clubs attracted lots of attendance.
Singers FC won its first trophy in the 1890/1891 season, winning the Birmingham Junior Cup by defeating Willenhall Pickwick 1-0 in the final. The next season brought more success to the club as it won its first treble defending the Birmingham Junior Cup and winning the Wednesbury and Walsall Cups.
Coventry City FC attempted to go professional in 1892. While this attempt was deemed successful, the professionalism was only ceremonial as the players only got paid match fees and expenses. The club also remained a shop club as only the employees of Singers Cycle Company were allowed to play in the club. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop the club from entering the FA Cup competition in 1892 and playing a structured fixture in the Birmingham and District League, facing off with the strong reserve teams of established clubs from the Midlands such as Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion. The club also changed its name from Singers FC to Coventry City FC, approved by the Football Association in 1898.
1898 to 1919
The first five years of the club as Coventry City FC was nothing to write home about. The club finished bottom of the Birmingham and District League three out of five times and had to apply for re-election back into the Birmingham and District League. The club had to undergo a restructuring and changed its management in 1905.
In 1907, Coventry City FC became registered as a limited company. More success followed in the 1907/1908 season as the club reached the proper first round of the FA Cup and finished fourth in the league. Banking on the season’s success, Coventry City FC applied to join the Southern League at the end of the season, an application accepted on May 27th, 1908.
Coventry City FC struggled in its first season in the Southern League until the middle of the second season when a new member was added to the board, and more funds were provided to sign new players. The club would go on to challenge for the Southern League title by Christmas in 1909 and reach the FA Cup quarterfinals. During this era, the club changed its nickname to Bantams referencing its lightweight nature amongst the experienced clubs of the Southern League. The club also finished third in the 1910-1911 season, winning the Birmingham Senior Cup in the same season.
Financial woes set in during the 1912/1913 season, and things started to turn bad for Coventry City FC. The club was relegated to the second division of the Southern League in the 1913/1914 season and became extinct in 1915 due to debts and more financial troubles. The club was saved by the decision to abandon football during the First World War. This gave the club some time to recuperate, reorganize itself, and have a member of the board, David Cooke, pay off the club’s debt.
By the 1918/1919 season, Coventry City FC was able to negotiate a place for itself in the wartime Football League Midlands Section. At the beginning of 1919, Coventry City could apply for league status and was placed in the second division when football started again after the war.
1919 to 1930
In its first twelve years of playing in the Football League, the club struggled despite signing new players and making increased investments on the home ground. The club was also indicted in an inquiry by the Football Association that showed that Coventry and Bury fixed the last match of the 1919/1920 season to allow Coventry City FC to avoid relegation. As a result, the club was fined, and several club officials, including David Cooke and Harry Pollitt, were given life bans from football.
The club continued in the same poor form in the following seasons and was finally relegated to the Third Division North in the 1924/1925 season. They spent only one season in the division before being asked to move to Division Three South. This is because Stockport County and Stoke City also got relegated, and Coventry had to move to keep the number of Midlands clubs even. Despite the move to the new league division, the team’s struggle continued up to the 1930s.
1931 to 1946
While the 1920s were terrible for the club, the following decade spelled a great success for Coventry City FC. During this era, the club got the nickname “The Old Five” as a result of scoring five or more goals in many games. The club had shipped in 108 goals in the 1931/1932 season. The club finished second in the 1933/1934 season and finally won the Division Three South Championship to get promoted in the 1935/1936 season.
Back in the Second Division, the club made a solid start, finishing 8th in its first season back. The next season, 1937/1938, was even better, with the club finishing fourth and going unbeaten in the first fifteen matches. This was the form until the start of the Second World War, when football halted.
1946 to 1958
Football started again in 1946 after the end of the Second World War, and they finished 8th in the post-war season. Coventry City FC also managed another mid-table finish in the 1947/1948 season, which marked the beginning of another slump. A new manager had to come in to prevent the club from getting relegated in the following season. There was also a threat of relegation in the 1949/1950 season, but signing a new defender helped the team survive the relegation battle and manage a mid-table finish.
However, Coventry City FC was finally relegated in the 1951/1952 season to the Division Three South League. The club’s poor form continued in the Division Three South League. When the league reorganization in England occurred in 1958, Coventry City FC was placed in the Fourth Division, the lowest tier of English Football at the time.
1958 to 1967
This era marked the club’s rise back to the top as it got promoted to the Third Division in the 1958/1959 season. However, it wasn’t until the 1963/1964 season that the club won its promotion to Division Two. The club managed its promotion to the new division well and was already contesting for promotion to the First Division in the 1965/1966 season, missing a lone point. The team got lucky the next season and was promoted to the First Division.
1967 to 1975
In the First Division for the first time, Coventry City FC struggled in its first few seasons until the 1969/1970 season when the club pulled a surprise 6th place finish, earning a place in the European Fairs Cup for the next season. However, the club didn’t last long in the European competition, losing 6-1 to Bayern Munich in the second round. From that point, the form in the league also dropped.
1975 to 1995
This era continued the club’s poor form but saw its home ground, Highfield Road, converted to an all-seat stadium in 1981. Things also got worse for the club off the pitch, and by May 1983, most of the popular players in the club had been sold, and the club only had 14 players. There was a bit of rebuilding as the club had to sign new players from lower-tier clubs. The poor form continued till the 1986/1987 season when Coventry City FC won its first FA Cup trophy, beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final at Wembley. However, the club couldn’t defend the trophy, losing to Watford in the fourth round of the competition.
In 1992, when the clubs in the First Division decided to leave the Football League and launched the Premier League, Coventry was one of the First Division clubs and formed a founding member of the Premier League. The club would play for nine years in the Premier League before ending its 34-year run in the first tier of English Football in May 2001, when it got relegated.
Coventry City Today
In 2005, the club moved from Highfield Road to Ricoh Arena as its new home ground. The club was also lucky to avoid going into administration when SISU, a hedge fund company, and Ray Ranson completed a takeover in 2007. The club celebrated its 125th anniversary a year later by avoiding relegation to League One. However, the relegation to League One finally occurred in 2012. Still, in League One, Coventry City FC won the League Cup trophy in 2017 by beating Oxford United. However, the club later suffered relegation to League Two in the same season.
The club only spent a year in the lower league, gaining promotion back to League One using the Playoff matches. In 2020, Coventry won League One and got promoted to the EFL Championship in 2021, where it currently plays.
Coventry City Honors
Coventry City FC has won the following titles over its history:
- Winners, FA Cup in 1986/1987
- Winner, Football League Trophy in 2016/2017
- Winner, FA Youth Cup in 1986/1987
- Winner, Football League Second Division in 1966/1967
- Winner, Football League Third Division in 1963/1964 and 2019/2020
- Winner, Football League, Third Division South in 1935/1936
- Winner, Football League Fourth Division in 2017/2018