Date: 30th November 2006 at 10:38pm
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Approaching the 20th anniversary of the most famous day in Coventry City’s history, Jonathan Strange, chairman of the Sky Blues London Supporters’ Club and the author of ‘Coventry City FC: A History in 50 Matches’, has published a new book detailing the life in football of Keith Houchen, one of the heroes of that day at Wembley.

A Tenner and a Box of Kippers takes its name from a transfer fee reportedly once paid by Hartlepool United for a player and sums up the realities of life in the lower divisions of the game.

Hartlepool was where Houchen began and ended his career, which for the most part was spent outside the top-flight.

His main claim to fame before 1987 was as the man who knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup while with York City two years previously, slotting home a penalty to send the North London giants out of the competition.

After a short spell at Scunthorpe came the transfer to Coventry City and the chance to shine in the 1st Division as was.

Unlike today such a move did not secure Keith’s financial future and the book contains some surprising details about how little one of the heroes of that FA Cup run actually earned from it.

His goals in the cup run aside, John Sillett never seemed too convinced by Houchen, and as the Wembley side was gradually broken up a couple of years later he joined Hibernian, then Port Vale before returning to Hartlepool, firstly as a player then taking on the thankless task of managing a club who at the time almost seemed doomed to struggle in the lower leagues.

Thankfully the book is not merely a ghost-written autobiography, the type of which is filling up the shelves at present.

The story of Keith’s career and also of the clubs he played for and the towns he played in are told by the author, with Houchen himself providing memories and anecdotes.

Letters from fans, both complimentary and abusive (a decision to release a young left-back while manager at Hartlepool sees missives sent to the ground addressed to ‘Adolf Houchen’) provide another unusual viewpoint of the average footballer’s life.

Houchen remains involved in football, working for the Press Association and doing some coaching in schools and for his hometown club Middlesbrough.

He also a life outside the game though and perhaps the most extraordinary thing about his story is his ordinariness. This is not a player who earned unbelievable sums of money from the game, nor is it someone who ended up on skid row after they had finished playing.

It is the tale of the majority of footballers, even today perhaps outside of the Premiership, set apart of course by that never to be forgotten day at Wembley.

– A Tenner and a Box of Kippers is out now at booksellers, published by Stadia, an imprint of Tempus Publishing Limited. Visit www.tempus-publishing.com

 

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