Coventry Legend Keith Houchen Backs Sky Blues For Play-Off Final
Coventry are looking to secure a place in the Play-Off Final and we caught up with legendary Sky Blue Keith Houchen ahead of their semi-final.
Houchen scored an iconic goal for Coventry City that helped the team win the FA Cup Final in 1987 against Tottenham. The club legend is backing the team to make a return to Wembley by beating Middlesbrough over the two legged semi-final.
You can read all of Houchen’s thoughts below as he previews the semi-final against Middlesbrough, reflects on his memories at Wembley Stadium and that iconic goal in the 1987 FA Cup Final.
Sky Blues Can Soar Into Play-off Final
Middlesbrough is my hometown and I went to the Primary School right next door to Ayresome Park and that’s where my love of football came from.
I used to go into the dressing room and run errands for the players, so I have an affinity with them in that respect.
Since Michael Carrick took over, they’ve been an outstanding team, but they have gone off the boil in the last month whereas Coventry have snuck along this season and they’ve become the form team of late. They’ve hit their form at a good time, so I’d maybe lean with them.
The stadium has been full of people, full of colour and excitement and it was built for Coventry to be successful. They’ve started the ball rolling – Mark Robins has done the most incredible job and a bit like John Sillett in 1987, he’s doing something that is lifting the whole city. Cities and towns can get lifted by football and it will be the most incredible thing if they can achieve promotion.
We deserved what we got back in 1987 and I hope these lads get what they deserve because they’ve had a fantastic season.
It would be nice to see Middlesbrough back in the big league too, so it’s a tough one for me. I hope the team who doesn’t make it will be ready for next season for another big push.
The old Wembley Stadium was my stadium – it was where everyone wanted to play and it was a lot harder to get there in my day as you had to get to a Cup Final or play for your country.
I have been to the new one as I was invited as a Wembley legend for the first FA Cup Final there between Manchester United and Chelsea. It was a completely different stadium to the one I grew up with, with the twin towers and everything. But they’ve brought it kicking and screaming into the 21st century and it’s a great place to view football.
The rest of it hadn’t changed – you still walk down Wembley Way and get the same old feeling.
“We never felt like underdogs” – Houchen recalls ’87 Cup Final
Tottenham had world class players in 1987; Glenn Hoddle as my hero at the time – he was wearing number 10 and so was I.
But in our dressing room, there were great pros and we’d known each other for years, it was a journey for all of us to get through the leagues to the old First Division. I was at Chesterfield with Steve Ogrizovic when we were just apprentices and I’d played against the likes of Micky Ginn at Peterborough and Micky Adams at Gillingham.
It was that sort of team and we had real belief in ourselves, and we had a manager in John Sillett who was all about being larger than life and having self-belief.
We went on a run and we never felt like underdogs, I can honestly say that. We had a fantastic game against Spurs at Highfield Road earlier in the season where we won 4-3 and it took a very good side to beat us, we were never going to lie down easily. John Sillett said our name was on the Cup and we believed him.
Football can be so complicated now the way teams are setting up, but we’d served our apprenticeships and knew exactly where we were supposed to play and what was expected of us. We never left anything out there. It was the biggest game of our lives and the biggest game for Coventry as a city and the most important thing was to perform on the day.
We did go 1-0 down after about three minutes, but it was that sort of game, end-to-end, and we put on a great game of football which was the main thing.
We’re still thick as thieves, we get together at least once a year. It’s hard to believe we’ve lost Cryril Regis and we don’t meet up as much because he was the instigator. But we instantly go back to dressing room mode and we’re all really close.
I was quite close to missing the final; I was in bed sick the week before. Our reserve goalkeeper Jake Findlay used to go fishing – he brought me fish and he put me in bed for a week. Midweek it was touch-and-go whether I’d play, but such is fate.
I’ve spoken about my goal so many times I’m wondering whether I remember what happened or I’m just talking about something bigger.
The goal was perfect coaching in that we were all in the right positions at the right time…
but football is a game of instinct as well – you’re sprinting into the box, trying to lose your marker to get on the end of a cross, and then trying to get the header on target too.
If something special is going to happen for you, it will happen. I’d played in front of rubbish crowds in wintry conditions, but it was my time, and our time as club. Before you know it, you’ve walked away with the winning goal and an FA Cup – the trophy everyone wanted to win.
For a full preview of the first leg of Coventry’s Play-Off semi-final check out our Coventry v Middlesbrough preview post.
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