Jimmy Hill

Football’s Pioneering Managers: Jimmy Hill

With a focus on pioneering and innovative football managers who did much to change the game, Dr Andy Dawes from DeMontfort University’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture recalls Jimmy Hill’s Sky Blue Revolution at Coventry City.
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Jimmy Hill was Coventry City manager between 1961 and 1967; a period known as the ‘Sky Blue Revolution’. On the pitch, he transformed the side from struggling towards the bottom of Division Three to getting promotion to Division One. He also transformed the club off the pitch with visionary ideas. 

Fresh from leading the Professional Footballers’ Association to victory in their maximum wage battle in 1961, Hill understood the power of the media. Pathé News were invited to the club and players were encouraged to talk to the press.

Hill also wanted the club to be welcoming to the local community and was pioneering in putting supporters first. Local children were invited to the club for pop and crisps whilst all sections of the local society were catered to, from the terraces to the Vice-Presidents’ Club. Entertainment kept supporters happy before the game and at half time too.

After a refreshing new Sky Blue kit was introduced in 1962, everything at the club would become Sky Blue. Further developments included the Sky Blue Club, the Sky Blue Stand, the Sky Blue Song, the Sky Blue Special train, the money-making Sky Blue Pool, Sky Blue Rose (who delivered club news on a phone line), the Sky Blue programme, Radio Sky Blue, the Sky Blue Executive Club and the mascot, Sky Blue Sam.

Following World War II, Coventry itself was modernised. Hill’s progressive ideas, which were well supported by chairman Derrick Robins and the Supporters’ Club, were in tune with the city. Coventry was a prosperous place to live so locals rallied behind the side as it progressed. Attendance averages doubled.

On the pitch, progress was seen firstly with a run to the quarter finals of the FA Cup in 1963. Then, Coventry City won the Third Division championship in 1964. The Second Division championship, featuring Highfield Road’s record ever attendance of 51,455 for the vital game against Wolves, was then achieved in 1967.

Hill succeeded through having a great rapport with his players who he treated with respect. Players enjoyed his proactive training methods whilst Hill was astute in the transfer market. The city and club were working in unison. Remarkably, when the team performed well, car production rose.

Such is the affinity Jimmy Hill has with the city, a memorial service was held at a packed Coventry Cathedral following his death in December 2015. A memorial garden and statue at Coventry City’s new ground serve as a lasting reminder of the great times he brought to the city.

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