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More than 40 years have passed since he last kicked a ball at Highfield Road and the stadium has long been demolished, but Ron Farmer still has no difficulty recognising the place where he spent the best years of his footballing career.

"It looks a bit different these days but the moment I arrived, I knew where I was straight away," says the man who lined up in Coventry City's midfield on more than 300 occasions between 1958 and 1967.

A remarkable transformation is nearing completion at Highfield Road as the final few homes at The City, a development of houses and apartments from leading housebuilder George Wimpey, are finished off on the land where the stadium once stood.

Ron, now a 74-year-old grandfather, is being given a guided tour of his old stamping ground by George Wimpey site manager Keith Wigan - and there's a good reason why the new surroundings still look so familiar to the former player.

Because although more than 300 new homes have been built on the site over the last three years, the area of the Highfield Road pitch has been deliberately kept free from development and relaid with grass for use as a sports field for local youngsters, alongside a children's play area.

The new recreation area is surrounded by homes on all sides in an arrangement designed to be reminiscent of the stadium's four stands, while a specially commissioned sculpture commemorating Coventry's footballing and engineering heritage will be unveiled at the exact location of the stadium's centre spot once the final homes at The City have been completed.

"The way that it's been laid out is fantastic," Ron says. "It's amazing that you can stand where the centre circle used to be and still get a feel for how the old stadium was. Standing here, I can still picture the Spion Kop and the old terraces around me - it's almost as if they're still there and that's a lovely way to remember the heritage of Highfield Road."

During his nine years as a Coventry City player, Ron helped propel the Sky Blues from the old Fourth Division, where the club were languishing when he joined from Nottingham Forest as a 21-year-old in 1958, to the heady heights of the top flight.

The goalscoring wing-half spent just a single season in the First Division with Coventry before being sold to Notts County, and one of his biggest regrets to this day is that he never played in front of the Highfield Road crowd at the highest level of league competition.

But an abundance of happy memories of his City days, including playing in front of the stadium's biggest ever crowd of 51,000 people in a 3-1 victory against Wolves in 1967, more than makes up for that one disappointment.

Ron is remembered by many for his near-perfect record as a penalty taker - he only ever missed once from the spot - but it is one goal in particular that will live longest in his own memory.

"People always talk about my penalties but the goal I'll always remember as my best was a left-foot volley I scored from just inside the half-way line against Luton," he says.

"It was a cold and frosty day and the balls were heavy Ferguson at the end of his football career, which had also included a short spell in charge of City's youth team.

"I had some great times at Highfield Road - moments I'll never forget - and although the new stadium is fantastic, the atmosphere of the olden days will take some beating.

"It would have been heartbreaking if they had just pulled the stadium down and built factories or offices without paying any attention to its heritage. I'm really impressed with what George Wimpey has done with the new development, and happy that so much has been done to make sure the old ground is remembered.

"Highfield Road was at the heart of the city for more than 100 years and even though the club have moved on and it's now part of the past, I'm delighted that its memory is being kept alive in the right way."

back then - not like the ones you get today. It stung my foot and screamed into the top corner. The goal came from so far out that the crowd didn't even realise I'd scored at first. Their player John O'Rourke even came over and shook my hand."

Ron, who lives in the Tile Hill area of the city, still follows the Sky Blues and regularly attends matches at the Ricoh Arena with fellow members of the Coventry City Former Players Association.

He admits that he was sad to see the club leave Highfield Road in 2005, but is glad that the area has changed for the benefit of so many people since then.

"I spent by far the biggest part of my career at Coventry and the club has meant a lot to me ever since," says Ron, who enjoyed a successful 26 years working for Massey
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 26, 2010
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