Fol­low­ing Sky Blues for 80 years and as hope­ful as ever

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

LIFE-LONG City sup­porter Den­nis Hoff­man cel­e­brated his 89th birth­day with fam­ily and friends at the Peter­bor­ough United match.

One of the Sky Blues old­est fans, Den­nis has been fol­low­ing the club for 80 years and re­mains as pos­i­tive and hope­ful about his beloved team to­day as he did when he was a lad. Few can say they lived through Jimmy Hill’s Sky Blue Rev­o­lu­tion in the six­ties, City’s top flight years and three trips to Wem­b­ley. Born in Coven­try in 1929, he grew up at Bean­field Av­enue, Green Lane, go­ing to his first match aged nine years old.

“My fa­ther worked on the rail­ways but he never took me to the foot­ball,” said the for­mer train driver, who started on steam en­gines and even drove the Queen to the city dur­ing his ca­reer,” Den­nis said.

“I don’t think he was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested. It wasn’t a sub­ject we talked about so my in­ter­est in foot­ball came from the lads I knocked about with, kick­ing a ball of some sort about in the road. They were a cou­ple of years older than me and they asked if I wanted to go up the City, to High­field Road. I said, ‘I don’t know about that,’ be­cause my par­ents wouldn’t have been able to af­ford it.

“But one of the lads said I didn’t need any money to get in be­cause back in those days they used to open the gates at half time be­cause if there was any­one who was a bit bored if they were two or three goals down they could get out and go home. They opened them for the early leavers and we used to get in. I would have been eight or nine at the time.”

He added: “My early mem­o­ries are of play­ers who are no longer with us, of course, but I re­mem­ber de­fend­ers like Tom Craw­ley and a cen­tre-half, a proper No.5 back in the days when you could recog­nise play­ers by their num­bers, which you can’t al­ways do now.” “I’ve al­ways en­joyed it when they have had a good run but I think ‘87 was my best sea­son,” said Den­nis, who is the fa­ther of for­mer Sky Blues vice chair­man Gary Hoff­man, who has launched sev­eral bids to take over the club. “I have al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated goal­keep­ers, like Steve Ogri­zovic who is still con­nected with the club, and goal scor­ers like Ge­orge Lowrie who was a No.9. “He was a cen­tre-for­ward who had a habit of when he scored a goal – and he scored many – he ran to the near­est cor­ner flag and shook hands with ev­ery­one. That was his cel­e­bra­tion.” Den­nis fol­lowed his fa­ther in work­ing on the rail­ways from De­cem­ber 4, 1944 un­til he re­tired on March 20, 1993, after 48 years and four months of ser­vice.“I was 15 when I first started out, work­ing firstly as a cleaner, then fire­man and pro­gressed to a driver in 1952,” he said. Asked if he feels Mark Robins’s cur­rent team can be suc­cess­ful this sea­son, he said: “I have al­ways had high hopes and ev­ery time I come to a game peo­ple al­ways ask me how we are go­ing to do and I al­ways say, ‘I hope they will win.’ I am al­ways full of en­thu­si­asm at kick-off time, although some­times at ten to five on a Satur­day af­ter­noon I am a bit dis­ap­pointed. “But I still think that in the next match we’ll over­come the dis­ap­point­ment and put it be­hind us. And I think we’re good enough to do well in this di­vi­sion.”

They asked if I wanted to go up the City. I said ‘I don’t know about that’ be­cause my par­ents wouldn’t have been able to af­ford it.

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