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Coventry City Graham Rodger

 

The only thing I can ever remember wanting to do as I was growing up was to play football, whether it was at break time at school or a kick about. I'd get home from school and immediately be out in the garden or play in the street.

I came through grass roots football, playing for my school team, then Leamington Ajax, on to Bilton Ajax, then at fourteen, you could sign schoolboy forms. I was lucky enough to sign for Wolverhampton Wanderers. I'd head across to Molineaux once a week, by the second year I began to be introduced to the youth team. At half term you'd go across and stay for the week and train everyday with the youth team players. It was a really good time, I thoroughly enjoyed it and we were lucky to have a particularly good youth coach called Frank Upton, who is sadly no longer with us. Frank was real old school, a real task master. He set down values and was a disciplinarian, so you learned quickly right from wrong from an early age, which in hindsight is exactly what you need at that age.

We scored 5 against Walsall one Saturday morning, we were outstanding, after the game Frank got sacked for apparently turning us into a negative team! It was quite unreal, I'd been offered a three year professional contract, but with the management changes at the club, instead of fulfilling my dream of professional football I got released by Wolves.

In the meantime Frank had moved to work with Coventry City and I went there on trial for six weeks at the end of the season. I did okay and was offered a one year professional contract at the age of 18. I grew up in a little town outside of Coventry called Kenilworth and Coventry were my team. I used to go stand on the terraces as a kid watching Mick Ferguson, Tommy Hutchison, Brian King and Ian Wallace. Mick Ferguson's goal against Liverpool when he lobbed the keeper from about 25 yards out and we went on to beat them still stick in my mind today!

To sign for my boyhood club was an absolute dream. One minute I'm sat on my settee watching Cup Finals on the telly with my bag of cola cubes and the next, I'm actually out there playing at Wembley for my club!!

I didn't sleep all that well the night before, simply as I was sharing with Micky Ginn who was the biggest wind up merchant in the squad. But when I woke up the first thing I said to him I'd just seen us win 3-2. It was somewhat prophetic!

When we got there and walked out on to the pitch I didn't know if I would be playing. John Sillett was a great man manager, he turned a rag tag assortment of players into a squad that made it to Wembley. It was only when we walked back into the changing rooms that I saw my kit laid out as one of the subs.

I'd picked up a slight injury to my left foot a few games earlier and had to change my left boot and actually borrowed one from Cyril Regis. It had somehow felt right so I carried on wearing it, so there I was getting ready for the FA cup final wearing a pair of boots that didn't even match!

Walking out at Wembley was unreal, it was sensory overload, the fans can see you getting ready to come out of the tunnel and the noise starts to pick up, as more and more see you the noise level just keeps on rising. I think it was the last game at Wembley with a capacity of 100,000. The incredible sound is actually what really stands out in my memory of that day. First time Coventry City had got to the final, we were playing Spurs and we were massive underdogs. Everyone from Coventry was there.

Spurs were leading 2-1 at half time but Keith Houchen levelled the scores again with 62 minutes gone. With just two minutes remaining of normal time I took to the field to replace Brian Kilcline who had picked up a knock. Barely twenty years old and a kid from Coventry, I found myself now facing one of the finest players in the country running at full pelt down the wing at me. As Chris Waddle carried the ball towards the byline you could hear the tension in the air as we ran further towards our goal and fans, but then I got a tackle in and put the ball out for a throw and there was just this massive cheer went up. It gave me that extra bit of confidence.

In to extra time and usually my left foot was just for standing on, but on this occasion I used it and picked out a pass with Cyril's boot to Lloyd McGrath, who then scored the winner for us. Thanks for the boot Cyril!

I don't remember much about climbing up the steps but I do remember the most amazing cheer when we lifted the FA Cup. We celebrated long into the night and the following morning had an open top bus parade in the city. We were all a little worse for wear that morning, but the amount of people who came out to see us was incredible, I remember one little lad just running full pelt alongside the bus for about half a mile, everyone was just so excited.

It really was a dream come true.

Graham Rodger

 

3 Comments

Hey Graham, I remember tackling you on a few occasions at Abbey Fields lol. Great memeories for sure and seeing a school mate play on the winning side at Wembly was like a dream come true for me. I went to the Stoke quarter final game,and could only get an F.A Cup ticket by buying a season ticket for the following season. That outlay was soon to be rewarded though as i had put a tenner on city to win the cup at 200-1 after they beat Bolton in the third round. I live in Exeter now but still try to see the Sky Blues whenever time allows. PUSB

– Dave Blunt, September 1 2014 at 09:21

Hey Graham, I remember tackling you on a few occasions at Abbey Fields lol. Great memeories for sure and seeing a school mate play on the winning side at Wembly was like a dream come true for me. I went to the Stoke quarter final game,and could only get an F.A Cup ticket by buying a season ticket for the following season. That outlay was soon to be rewarded though as i had put a tenner on city to win the cup at 200-1 after they beat Bolton in the third round. I live in Exeter now but still try to see the Sky Blues whenever time allows. PUSB

– Dave Blunt, September 1 2014 at 09:26

Hey Graham, I remember tackling you on a few occasions at Abbey Fields lol. Great memeories for sure and seeing a school mate play on the winning side at Wembly was like a dream come true for me. I went to the Stoke quarter final game,and could only get an F.A Cup ticket by buying a season ticket for the following season. That outlay was soon to be rewarded though as i had put a tenner on city to win the cup at 200-1 after they beat Bolton in the third round. I live in Exeter now but still try to see the Sky Blues whenever time allows. PUSB

– Dave Blunt, September 1 2014 at 09:45

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