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Once upon a time …

Occasionally those of us over a certain age hark back to the great sporting times of yesteryear – when men wore mullet or permed haircuts, moustaches and shorts so tight you could tell the wearer’s religion.

In footballing terms let us just name-check Nottingham Forest, Derby County and yes, even Coventry City – who won the FA Cup in 1987, beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-2; featured as an inaugural member of the Premier League in 1992; and in total spent 34 years in England’s top flight before being relegated from the Premier in 2001.

The Sky Blues then spent eleven years in Football League Championship before slipping into League One in 2012 … and later to League Two in 2017 – the first time they had been in the fourth tier since 1959.

Every walk of life has its ups and downs – many a sporting league has its system of promotion and relegation – and was it not Brutus who told Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune” (Act-IV, Scene-III)?

He might have continued “… or at the ebb, to the Vanarama National League*“.

[* as the Football Conference has been known since 2016].

My point is that, down the decades and generations, minnow sporting institutions can grow into global behemoths … and vice versa.

In one way, this fact is both a reminder that life is but a lottery and a ready means by which humanity appreciates and accepts the passage of time.

Lewis Carroll’s Walrus in his poem The Walrus and The Carpenter referenced the issue by talking “… – of cabbages – and kings”: one of the great pleasures of life is fond recounting (or even recalling) of the days of yore when today’s also-rans were once mighty gods.

Forget Henry Ford’s terse dismissal of it as “bunk” – that’s what history is really for. It’s why modern artificially-created franchises fail to satisfy in comparison to sporting institutions that have survived fifty years and more, whatever their current status – just ask the billions of ‘new’ football fans in the Far East and North America why they follow the fortunes of the Premier League in preference to all other national equivalents.

Ah, Coventry City.

Here’s a link to an article by Jack Pitt-Brooke that appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT



About Charles Thursby

After a lifetime in sports journalism, Charles Thursby continues his immersion in the world of sport by providing the National Rust with dispatches from all points of the compass. More Posts