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The sad loss of a hero; MEMORIES.

The recent death of former Sky Blue striker George Kirby brought memories flooding back for Coventry exile PAUL LETHBRIDGE, a one-time Highfield Road stalwart who now lives in Blackpool

I DIDN'T go into Coventry much in those days. I'd never owned a pair of jeans either. Or seen a Bond movie, or had anything other than a crew cut.

And I'd certainly never represented my home town in any way.

The recent death of George Kirby was both poignant and nostalgic to me. George made only 18 appearances for Coventry City, picking up a Third Division Champions medal half way through them. Signed by Jimmy Hill purely to do a short-term job, his medal proves that he did it, and his Highfield Road spell of 1964 makes him one of the first players I ever saw.

Strong recollections spring to mind about happenings in Coventry during the six months - most of it close season that he was with City.

It was a time of celebration. Older people had despaired of City being able to reclaim their rightful place in the old Second Division. But the Blues had been banished in some considerable style.

Warwick University was soon to open it's academic doors. People would go there and read nuclear physics.

In 1964, I went to Edgwick School and read the Beano. Like most junior schools we had student teachers gaining experience.

Mr Reynolds, a West Indian, taught history at this time. As football euphoria gradually subsided he took over our school's summer game, rounders.

Having played baseball in the States, he was the perfect coach.

Soon our team, which had nearly as many non-English in it as the current Sky Blues side, was in the area finals and winning them on what was becoming an average Wednesday afternoon.

Then on to the grand finals in the Memorial Park in June which we didn't realise was important until we'd won.

Group matches, three knock-outs and we never conceded a rounder.

The defensive field of Edgewick has proved impossible to penetrate, said somebody important who compered the tournament.

All Mr Reynolds' technique, actually, and then along with two other Edgwick boys I was invited to play for Coventry in Birmingham.

Where we scraped a heroic, defensively disciplined victory - and through it, like my Beano hero Roger the Dodger, I was able to evade the school swimming gala, which I hated.

I scored a hat-trick in one of those final matches. George Kirby got one, too, on his home debut, Easter Saturday, 1964, all the summer Bank Holidays occurred during his time at City.

Then, Bank Holidays didn't mean motorway tailbacks, they showcased Mods and Rockers. Reels of Pathe News were devoted to their antics at Brighton, Clacton and all points around the coast.

Angry of Tunbridge Wells went apoplectic over the despoilation of rural England by cavalry columns of ton-up boys.

You didn't need to look that far - the Precinct would do - Rockers, anyway, which I suppose Coventry's engineering history would encourage.

I went into town with my mum and thought City's promotion celebrations were still going on there was so much sky blue around.

But it was faded denim. Hundreds of lads - and girls - occupied the steps and upper levels of the Precinct, leathers glistening and hair flowing.

Their uniform and demeanour cool and immaculate. There seemed nobody but us and them there.

In my khaki shorts and Ladybird tee-shirt I felt like one of the Beach Boys on the average Ready Steady Go! bill.

There was no trouble. I don't recall any in Coventry, although the famous Jill Hanson's record shop would become a Mecca for both sides.

I never witnessed a youth phenomenon more vivid than that one. I never represented my home town again either. But I saw George Kirby in sky blue doing his bit to give us all a sparing and summer lift in 1964.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lethbridge, Paul
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 13, 2000
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