In 1883 a group of workers from a bike factory in Coventry called Singer Cycle Company formed a football team named Singers FC. In 1898, the Football Association allowed the club to change its name to Coventry City and shortly after they moved from Stoke Road to Highfield Road, where they would play for over a century. For the next two decades they competed in non-league football before being voted into the Football League in 1919, where they have remained ever since. After some torrid times in the 1920s, Coventry enjoyed better form in the 1930s, recording their biggest ever victory in 1934 when they destroyed Bristol City 9-0 in the league, and winning the 1936 Third Division title.
Coventry were known by many different nicknames throughout their early history: the “Little Blackbirds” in reference to the black and red kits they wore during their Singers days, “The Bantams” a name supposedly given to them by a local newspaper upon realising the club didn’t have a nickname, and most interestingly of all the “Peeping Toms”. The story goes that a curfew was put in place when Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry and the city’s residents were told to remain indoors, but apparently “Peeping Tom” broke the curfew to go out and get a peak at her. Believe it or not, this famous tale inspired their nickname for many years. However, in 1962, legendary manager Jimmy Hill re-christened them the more orthodox “Sky Blues” as they changed kit to an all sky-blue strip, and this more traditional name is how City are commonly known today.
The most significant period of the post war era for Coventry came under the aforementioned Jimmy Hill. In addition to off-field changes, huge improvements were made on the pitch. Between 1964 and 1967, Hill achieved two promotions for the “Sky Blues” by winning the Third Division and then the Second Division, taking them into the top flight for the first time in their history and etching his name into club folklore forever. These feats were accomplished with the help of then record signing Bill Glazier in goal and local lad Bobby Gould up front, the latter was adored for his bravery. In 1907, under new manager Noel Cantwell the club earned their highest ever top flight placing when they finished sixth in Division One and qualified for European football. Unfortunately they were knocked out of the European Fairs Cup the following season in the second round by Bayern Munich.
The 1986-87 campaign was particularly memorable for bringing City’s only ever major trophy to date when the Sky Blues won the FA Cup, beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final. This 3-2 thriller ended when Spurs could not overcome an injury time own goal by defender Gary Mabbutt. Captain Brian Kilcline and his team celebrated a well deserved victory which topped off a largely positive campaign. They spent most of the season in the top half, finally finishing in 10th, which was a marked improvement on the relegation battle they had endured the year prior. Another player worthy of note is top scorer Cyrille Regis who netted 16 goals that season as part of a long spell of service at the club.
The modern era has been less kind to City fans. In 2001, after participating in the first nine seasons of the newly named Premier League the “Sky Blues” were relegated after a total of 34 years in the top flight of English football, a record at the time only equalled by giants Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton. A decade filled almost entirely with Championship/Division 1 relegation battles followed but some good news did come in 2005 when Coventry moved into their brand new 32,000 seater Ricoh Arena. Sadly, legal battles forced the club out of their home and in recent years they have endured the embarrassment of playing at various other stadiums including, much to the chagrin of fans, St Andrews - home to their local rivals Birmingham City. In 2012 they were relegated once more to League One, where they stayed for almost a decade, except for one season spent in League Two.
At the end of a truly historic 2019-20 season, ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, Coventry City were crowned League One champions when the campaign was cut short. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the “Sky Blues” are now back in the Championship, and better still they are in talks with Warwick University about building a new stadium back in the city they call home. Fans can be optimistic about their chances of consolidation and rebuilding, in the capable hands of manager Mark Robins and with the capable feet of last season’s top scorer Matt Godden.