No pride in having last laugh with Coventry gloaters

Portsmouth's John Utaka is stopped from confronting Coventry City's Lee Carsley by team mate Marc Wilson and Coventry's Gary McSheffrey (left)
Portsmouth's John Utaka is stopped from confronting Coventry City's Lee Carsley by team mate Marc Wilson and Coventry's Gary McSheffrey (left)

It was a long time ago now but some Pompey fans will never forget.

Not that the jibes and chants emanating from the home fans particularly pierced, more a glancing blow.

They chimed: ‘Pay up Pompey’. And they chorused: ‘You’re going bust in the morning’. A standard song-list to play any Blues follower.

A bit of good-natured banter, merry japes by baying hyenas, chortling and guffawing away at their antics. Oh, what a wheeze.

And there’s more – it was topped off by the waving of £10 and £20 notes skywards.

Admittedly, the reception was based on an element of truth, no question about that.

You can’t fault opposition fans for having a pop after being delivered such mouthwatering material.

Still, there are those Pompey fans who vividly recall that reaction from Coventry City supporters – especially in the current climate.

The occasion was August 7, 2010 – the Blues’ first game outside of the Premier League for seven seasons.

The Ricoh Arena provided the setting for new boss Steve Cotterill and a 15-man squad restricted by the club in administration.

There was a fresh chief executive in place, too, in David Lampitt, while prospective owner Balram Chainrai was also present.

And how those chipper Sky Blues supporters gloated, how loudly they sung, how their money jigged and danced hyperactively in the air.

Today, they are in administration, reside in League One, play in Northampton and fans are demonstrating against owners SISU.

Bob Beech, he of SOS Pompey influence and present that day, describes it as ‘karma’. No doubt others agree.

I would describe what has happened to the Sky Blues as disgusting and another despicable example of foreign owners destroying a football club through an agenda not centred on benefiting the community.

Their wretched plight can provide me no pleasure.

As a football fan it saddens me and stirs anger towards those who have made this plummet possible.

And believe me, no Pompey fan can possibly dislike Coventry City Football Club more than I.

Having grown up loathing their very existence due to the city’s proximity with my Nuneaton home, my repugnance is ingrained.

Regardless, I can take no joy out of another club’s demise to the point of going out of business. No, not even Coventry. It still pains me being made to sing in assembly at school the ‘Go For It City’ FA Cup final anthem for the Sky Blues in 1987, albeit with words inevitably doctored.

On the big day my dad elected to play golf to escape the madness, only to be repeatedly disturbed by those inhabiting the 19th hole gathered around the television.

Trevor Peake – a Nuneaton lad (how could he?) – was a key member of the cup-winning side that beat Spurs and was still residing in the area at the time.

In latter years, Dave Bennett – he of the delicious cross for Keith Houchen’s diving header – would frequent Nuneaton’s sole nightclub, Millennium, sighted regularly patrolling the dance floor.

Still, it was by remarkable good luck I was with a Sky Blues-supporting friend on January 7, 1989, when they were humiliated 2-1 by non-league Sutton United.

The names of Matthew Hanlan and Tony Rains trip off the tongue even now, as does the timeless fact Hanlan was a bricklayer. On a different note, I actually still bear the scars of waking up one morning to hear the Brazilian national anthem played on Mercia FM.

That was down to Brazilian Isaias, as he was always known by local media trademark, scoring the night before in a 2-2 draw at Chelsea.

Incidentally, he played only 12 league games over a two-season stay and that was one of just two goals.

Moving on, Aston Villa beat Coventry 3-2 in the penultimate match of the 2000-01 campaign to relegate them and I had a long-standing invite to attend a party that night.

That result was made even more sweet considering Villa came back from 2-0 down – with two goals in the final nine minutes.

A glorious evening in Harrow was spent, with plenty of phone calls made to Coventry folk.

Incidentally, Coventry have not been back to the Premier League since their 34-year stay ended.

These days it’s different, this is no longer about football and scorelines.

The fans are embroiled in a battle for the club’s soul, a fight for a future against owners who don’t care or listen.

It could infect any of the clubs we love, truly nobody is safe from the plague of modern-day football.

Perhaps it is the onset of supposed maturity, maybe it is because I have felt death’s breath in my face through my Pompey experiences. I should still hate them but I can’t.

And that is why my heart goes out to Sky Blues fans, among them my uncle and cousins who sadly never saw the light.

I can take no pleasure seeing a club brought to its knees, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies.

And, growing up, Coventry and their irritating fans really were my worst enemies.