Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry City: 10 years since leaving Highfield Road

Highfield Road
Image caption On their last day at Highfield Road, Coventry City put six past Derby County

Ten years ago, Coventry City played their last match at Highfield Road - the ground that had been their home for 106 years.

The club beat Derby County 6-2 in a memorable Championship clash on 30 April 2005.

"The buzz in the pubs that night was brilliant," says Dave Kaczur, who has supported the club for 50 years.

"Even though you were apprehensive about moving to a new ground, the result gave you a real sense of optimism.

"Unfortunately though, we haven't had much to cheer about since then."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Following the match, there was a pitch invasion

Coventry's Highfield Road years are now regarded by many fans as the club's golden era.

The ground was the first all-seater stadium in English football and its position, on the fringe of the city centre, meant it was always at the heart of Coventry life.

"You used to walk up the hill and you were there," said Mr Kaczur.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The memory of Coventry's FA Cup win has sustained fans through the subsequent barren years

The club's greatest achievement - a cup run which saw them beat Tottenham Hotspur in the 1987 FA Cup Final - was the highlight of that era.

"That was the best weekend of my footballing history," says Mr Kaczur.

"Six of us hired a stretch limo and drove down to Wembley on the Friday night because we wanted to see the sun over the twin towers.

"The next day, thousands of fans were dancing and singing on Wembley Way - and that was before the match even kicked off."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jimmy Hill managed Coventry to promotion to Division One, where they would stay for 34 seasons

Through the Highfield Road years, Coventry had many heroes. The main one - Jimmy Hill - achieved promotion to the old Division One in 1967.

The club remained in the top tier for the next 34 seasons - one of the longest serving top-flight clubs - until their relegation in 2001.

As a mark of their gratitude to Mr Hill, fans raised £100,000 for a 7ft bronze statue of their former manager at the Ricoh Arena.

Image copyright Getty Images

However, the club's move to the Ricoh Arena has not brought the success many fans hoped for.

The Sky Blues faced further relegation in 2012 and may yet be relegated to League Two for the first time in their history.

Mr Kaczur says the move from Highfield Road has "torn the heart out of the city".

Image caption Fans look on as Highfield Road is demolished

"The trouble was, we only moved to the Ricoh Arena. We didn't own the ground," he says.

The failure of the club's current owners, Sisu, to secure ownership of a new site has seen a succession of legal battles between them and the ground's former owners, Arena Coventry Limited.

During the 2013/14 season, Coventry played their matches at Northampton Town's Sixfields Stadium.

Image copyright @KeepCCFCinCov
Image caption Coventry City supporters never stopped protesting at the club's move to Sixfields

"There was a big drop in support," said Mr Kaczur. "We used to get 30,000 fans - suddenly, it was down to 1,000.

"I didn't bother going - not even to sit on the hill outside as a protest.

"The passion and excitement has gone."

Image caption Today, the site of Highfield Road is a housing development

Today, the site where Highfield Road stood has been developed as housing.

"What surprised me was how quickly it was developed," said Mr Kaczur, who has kept part of Highfield Road's brickwork "as a memory".

"In the part of town where you used to see the Spion Kop all those years, now all you can see is a housing estate.

"It's just weird."

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