As a proud Coventrian I would like to pay tribute to the most important person to grace our fine City since the Earl of Mercia, Lord Leofric’s wife the Lady Godiva rode naked though the streets of Coventry on her white horse in protest of her Husband’s oppressive taxation of his tenants…….. Jimmy Hill OBE.CBE
Jimmy was an inspirational man who many will know only as a presenter on Match of The Day. He was so much more than that.
His playing career spanned over 350 games, the majority for Fulham, where he became Chairman of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA). He campaigned for the abolition of the then £20 maximum wage that a footballer could earn. He was successful in 1961.
He came to us in 1961 at the age of just 33 and took over what then was a struggling 3rd Division club (League 2 now). Coventry in the 1960’s was an awesome place. After the City was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in November 1940, it was a time of redevelopment and transformation. A new Cathedral, a vibrant Motor Industry, we were turning out Iconic cars such as the E type Jaguar, Triumph TR4 and 5, The London “Black Cab” and the best Motorcycle ever made. The Triumph Bonneville. He harnessed this energy and transformed the club. Changing our kit to Sky Blue, adopting the nickname “The Sky Blues” and even wrote what became the club song to the tune of the old Eton Boating tune. “The Sky Blue Song” He also added visionary innovations such as pre match entertainment to encourage the fans to arrive early to build atmosphere. He created what was the first ever colour match day program. Arranged match day trains for the travelling fans to see away matches and oversaw the instillation of the games first electronic scoreboard.
Something not so well known was Jimmy’s “pop and crisp” nights. He got the players in to give out pop and crisps to 100’s of young fans and sign autographs. The forerunner to the community programs that clubs all run nowadays.
He oversaw a redevelopment of the ground which all helped City gain promotion from the old 3rd Division into the top division (Division 1) in 1967, He quit before the start of the clubs first season in the top flight.
He became a Director of Coventry City in 1975, before taking over as Chairman. Making Highfield Road England’s first all seater stadium in 1981.
Most will probably know Jimmy through his media work, his time on Match of The Day being the most notable. He was never afraid to be controversial and it was his idea to have a panel of pundits. Jimmy is also credited with persuading the FA to introduce 3 points for a win, which has been adopted all over the World. At a match between Liverpool and Arsenal in 1972 the linesman was injured. Jimmy stepped in to run the line. Incredible.
In terms of important changes to the way Football is played, managed and viewed in modern times, Jimmy was the guy who forced and innovated those changes. Jimmy Hill was the most important figure that the game has ever had.
My deepest condolences go to Jimmy’s family. To the people of Coventry he will always be “Our Jimmy”. We will miss him terribly. He was and always will be a Legend.