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IT IS difficult to visualise the astonishment and excitement which greeted Coventry City's recruitment of Jesse Carver and George Raynor in those far off days of the mid-1950s.

Coventry, still recovering from the ravages of the Second World War, was very much a cosmopolitan car-building and engineering city which drew workers from all quarters, tempted by the big pay packets.

The green fields where Mount Nod, Wood End, Ernsford Grange and various other sprawling suburbs now stand did little to lighten the gloom.

Overall, it was a rather dour, smoky, working class environment which, like other industrial centres, was plagued by fog and gloom during the winter months - and rain during the mostly-wretched summers of that post- war decade.

Amazingly, Carver - who had coached Juventus to the Italian championship and re-built Torino after their entire team was lost in an air disaster - and his assistant Raynor - who had led Sweden to Olympic gold in 1948 and third place in the 1954 World Cup - decided to quit their sunnier climes to enter this environment.

Like many ex-pats they yearned for success at home and they chose Coventry City, then an average side in the old Division Three South, for their assault on English soccer.

Like Jimmy Hill a few years later, they saw the potential in a big city club that was the proverbial slumbering giant.

Unlike Hill they were unable to deliver - but, dominated by the board and chairman, they never enjoyed the support and freedom to develop their ideas that was afforded to the Bearded Wonder.

By the time that Hill arrived in 1961 the City fans were jaded to the point of disinterest and he had to work hard to regain their backing.

But that was far from the case with Carver - whose forthcoming appointment had been announced the previous January - and Raynor. Hope was high that City could climb out of the mire and when Carver (from Roma) and Raynor (from Lazio) signed the fans were agog.

There was an atmosphere of unparalleled expectation during the summer of 1955 as season ticket sales - fuelled by stories such as "Mystery moves at closed ground" and "The man who holds soccer's secrets" - soared to record levels.

Raynor was in charge of team training and match preparation and the Continental- style game was his idea.

Nearly 25,000 turned up at a sunny Highfield Road to see Bournemouth dumped 3-1 on the opening day and there was the heady scent of promotion in the air.

Sadly, it did not last. City played with style but a little more was required to progress in what was a very hurly-burly division and the away form was particularly disappointing.

More punch was needed up front and, in the December of 1955, Ken McPherson was signed from Middlesborough.

Five successive wins followed and the promotion bandwagon appeared back on track - but then came a bombshell. Carver resigned "for health reasons" on December 30 claiming that had not received any offer from abroad.

The following Tuesday Carver flew out to Rome and it was announced that he had signed a pounds 9,000 18-month contract as manager of Lazio. It emerged that Carver had entered in to negotiations with Inter Milan as far back as September.

Up stepped Raynor to take over as manager of City on January 2, hailed as the best coach in the world by Sweden and assuring Evening Telegraph correspondent Nemo that he would never again go abroad.

"My heart and soul is in England and I want to spend the rest of my days here," said Raynor.

Within a few days of Raynor taking charge, City became involved in a match which made English football history.

They met the Argentinian side San Lorenzo under the Highfield Road floodlights on January 30 and, two minutes from half-time, Halifax-based referee Arthur Ellis abandoned the game when 19-year-old inside-forward Sanfilippo refused to leave the pitch after being ordered off.

The fiery Argentinean had kicked Ellis at protest at a penalty decision and a crowd of 17,357 saw police called on to the pitch to protect the world class referee.

And things did not go well in the league. The side were unable to maintain their promotion challenge and gates tumbled as they finished eighth, nothing like good enough for the Board who were now pledging promotion virtually season.

And the Board reacted in the usual way - by appointing a new manager with chairman W Erle Shanks announcing the appointment of Harry Warren who made the switch from Southend United. Raynor was kept on as head coach- trainer, the position that he originally held under Carver.

Things had not been well between Raynor and the Board for some time. The first of his many disputes concerned a pounds 750 benefit paid to England international goalkeeper Reg Matthews while Roy Kirk, with more than 100 more games to his credit, received only pounds 500.

Shanks was adamant about the payment because of Matthews' international status but Raynor said: "Favouritism leads to bitterness and a worsening of club spirit. And Coventry could afford none of these because team spirit left a lot to be desired."

There was another upset at the beginning of the 1956-57 season. Some City players worked for Shanks during the summer and Raynor insisted on a July 3 deadline for finishing work. Unknown to him, Shanks had given certain players permission to continue.

The appointment of Warren, like Carver on the top wage in the division and who freely admitted that he came for the money, was a body blow to Raynor who said: "I had taken Sweden to third place in the World Cup but the City directors preferred to appoint someone else.

"Many directors are businessmen with no knowledge of the game. I admire football-minded businessmen who climb the social ladder but I detest thos people who use football purely as a ladder."

Warren threw out the continental tactics and employed bustle and rush tactics. The outcome was familiar with good start which saw gates of 20,000 being followed by a slump.

It was obvious that Raynor would not stay at Highfield Road despite claims to the contrary. Many considered him one of the best coaches in the world yet here he was No 2 at a Division Three South club!

The parting of the ways finally came on November 7, 1956. Raynor left "by mutual consent" after earlier saying that he disagreed with Warren's policy, no longer had any influence on coaching and merely carried out orders.

Raynor, who had turned down a pounds 2,000-a-year offer to coach Sweden when he joined City, went back to Sweden and coached them to runners-up spot in the 1958 World Cup.

At the same time Coventry City were preparing for their first season in the Fourth Division the formation of which, ironically, had been supported by Shanks at a meeting of Division Three North and South clubs at Coventry's Leofric Hotel!

City obviously never realised just what a gem they had - but then, if they had, then there would probably never have been JH and the Sky Blue revolution. The years have a mysterious way of unfolding!


Born: Hoyland, near Wombwell, Yorkshire January 15 1907.

Died: 1990s.

Details: Outside-right, 5ft 6in; 10st 6lb (1930).

Career: Barnsley Grammar School; Elsecay Bible Class; Wombwell; Mexborough Athletic trial; Sheffield Town, June 1932; Rotherham United, July 1933; Bury, February 1935; Aldershot, July 1938, retired in World War Two.

Aldershot reserve-team trainer, 1945-46; Sweden national team coach, 1946-1954; manager of Juventus (Italy) and Lazio (Italy), 1954-1956; Coventry City coach, June 1955, then manager January-June 1956; Lincolnsire Education Committee coach, 1956-1957; Sweden national team coach, 1957-1960; Skegness Town manager, c.1960 and stores job at Butlins; Doncaster Rovers, manager May 1967-December 1968. Coach at AIK Stockholm and Alviaaberg.

Honours: World Cup runners-up 1958; Olympic Gold Medal 1948, Bronze Medal 1952, Knight of the Order of Vasa (Sweden).


CULTURED COACH: But George Raynor never really settled at Highfield Road; RAYNOR'S BOYS: The Sky Blues 1956-57 squad: Back row (left-right): Meadows, Harvey, Proverbs, Walters. Standing: Churms, Timmins, Matthews, McPherson, Bentley, Sambrook, Kirk. Seated: Raynor (chief trainer-coach), Uphill, Austin, Simpson, Hill, Johnson, Regan, Wood (assistant trainer coach). Front: Wassall, Patrick, Moore, Curtis, Newman. TO ENGLAND VIA ROME: Sven Goran Eriksson THOSE who protested about the appointment of Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson as England coach might not be aware that an Englishman once coached Sweden. Yorkshireman George Raynor led Sweden to Olympic gold in 1948 and World Cup runners-up spot in 1958 - and, in between, he had a spell as manager of Coventry City! Here PHIL HORSFALL and City statistician JIM BROWN look back at his turbulent period at Highfield Road
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 7, 2000
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