Book Review: Sky Blue Heroes

It’s a shame for me. Back in 1987 I was 3 years old. That’s no age to be alive when Coventry City win an FA Cup.

Take me back to when I was six and I can still recall the day I attended school’s fancy dress in a full-body dragon costume. Journey back a year earlier and I have just as strong memories of going to school on non-uniform day in little more than a vest.

You could even go back to the age of four and I still remember being in a state of confusion as no fewer than three classmates mistakenly whipped off all their clothes for our first ever PE lesson. These are all hazy but lingering memories involving various stages of primary school undress.

But ask me to go beyond that point, and I draw a blank – there’s no chance of remembering being three. None. And that’s the shame. Coventry City winning the FA Cup is the best thing to happen during my days on this earth, and I can’t remember a bloody thing about it.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s because I’ve just read a book that has made me feel a lot better about it.

You should all know Steve Phelps by now. He’s the man behind such Coventry City books as Sky Blue Miscellany and Coventry City On This Day. Books that would serve any hardy Sky Blues fan well during a Lamptey Show round of Only Covvect or Going for Gould.

His latest offering delves beyond the facts and trivia and investigates the real-life stories behind the most magical season in our history, directly from those who were in the thick of the action. Sky Blue Heroes brings together the crew of 1987 in a series of interviews with the players, media and fans who experienced the victorious cup run in all its lucid greatness.

For many the FA Cup victory is all about the final but Steve has done a phenomenal job of capturing the vibrancy and emotion of the entire run, bringing a perspective many younger fans will have no recognition of. What I found even more valuable however was the detail you gain about players that’s simply not given when we simply talk about the final.

Sure, we all know about Keith Houchen’s header and Gary Mabbutt’s deflection. From watching replays of the game you also get a decent feel for players like Dave Bennett and his ability on the wing. But that doesn’t get you very far in conversation with those who were actually there and knew the team inside out. With Sky Blue Heroes, you gain an additional perspective that most of the mainstream literature around the victory misses. From the sheer grit of Brian Kilcline, to the low-centre of gravity that aided Micky Gynn so well on wintry-pitches.

Starting at the beginning of the run with a potentially tricky but ultimately comprehensive win over Bolton in the 3rd round, I can imagine the book does fantastically well in rekindling fond memories for those who experienced the fairytale at the time, while providing a valuable history lesson for those who want to feel closer to the achievement like myself. Not only that though, I found it also offers timely insight about supporting a successful Coventry City team, something which so many supporters will have forgotten what it feels like to do, and many will have no concept of at all.

Given how things are looking with the team this season, it also provides useful mental preparation for when the success finally starts kicking off again for us in a few months time…

I know we’ve all heard the story of 1987, but Steve has expertly crafted the definitive behind-the-scenes account of the greatest moment in our club’s history and really does take the tale to a whole new level of realism for who have had to rely on a lifetime of Coventry Telegraph pull-outs and 10-minute Football Focus segments to garner knowledge of events.

To some of you youngsters this may seem like ancient history to you, but if you’re interested in knowing just why your Dad is so obsessed with Micky Gynn, exactly who Cyrille Regis was, or what it was like to be a mascot in the olden days, I’d thoroughly recommending picking up a copy of this book. Treat yourself to a quick education about a time when your football club was one of the best in the country, but also had the balls to make something of that talent too.

And if that’s not enough, Steve’s only gone and got John Motson to lead you in with a wonderfully genuine foreword by a man who continues to reference the 1987 final as one of his all-time favourites.

There are plenty of books about Coventry City knocking about but very few as authentic as this one. Get on it.

If you’re out and about in Cov you can pick one up at HMV I believe, but maybe the easiest thing you can do is grab one from Amazon by following the link below.

Sky Blues Blog is Neil Allison. When he's not moaning in this blog, you will also find him writing the occasional short piece for The Guardian and other football sites (when they ask him), rambling on the Nii Lamptey Show podcast, or fiddling about with stats as the official CCFC researcher for the award winning Football Manager series.