Date: 29th October 2017 at 8:34pm
Written by:

Steve Phelps’ new book – 29 Minutes From Wembley – tells the story of Coventry City’s 1980/81 season, the first time in which the club reached a major semi-final, from the perspective of those involved in a dramatic campaign which played out against a backdrop of economic turmoil in the city.

And the author has done a sterling job in pulling together almost all of the key players, from near and far, to tell the tale of how, what started out as another low-key season in the Sky Blues top-flight tale ignited in unprecedented fashion and saw over 35,000 cram into Highfield Road for the League Cup semi-final first leg against West Ham United.

The range of voices that we hear from means the story of the campaign never becomes repetitive and what is interesting is how much the players and coaching staff have similar recollections even though 35 years have elapsed, as if the togetherness and team spirit they talk about has remained in place over all of that period despite everyone going their separate ways.

There is warmth in all of the stories told that comes, perhaps, from the fact that youth is a theme that runs throughout the book.

Not only was the author himself just setting out on his journey of supporting the City but the team he was watching were growing up together, the majority of them having come through the ranks at Ryton and shared digs together around Highfield Road and their enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on the older heads around them.

And that enthusiasm seems to have remained with most of the protagonists today.

There’s little criticism, or even talk, of the modern game and the players seem genuinely satisfied to have played at the time they did, achieved what they did and get the occasional bit of hero-worship from supporters on Legends Day.

It wouldn’t be Coventry City, of course, if there wasn’t an air of disappointment about the story but it isn’t necessarily the semi-final defeat to the Hammers that provides that.

The final chapter of the book is entitled ‘Just How Good Could That Team Have Been’ and there is a genuine sadness in how so many of the players were allowed to leave at the end of their contracts and a feeling from many that they never had it so good in their careers again.

One thing Sky Blues supporters are blessed with is a wealth of good reading about their club, from Jim Brown’s peerless histories through Rick Gekoski’s excellent behind the scenes book about the 1997/98 season and Simon Gilbert’s detailed account of the club`s demise over the past decade.

This is a welcome addition to that list and a great read.

29 Minutes From Wembley is published by Pitch Publishing