In the summer of 2013 my team Coventry City left the Ricoh Arena to go to play at Sixfields in Northampton. Sixfields is over 30 miles from my home in Coventry and the agreement to play there could potentially last for years. It simply wasn’t an option for me to continue with a season ticket supporting Coventry City. The problem for me was that I loved watching live football so what was I to do? That is where Coventry Sphinx Football Club entered my life and I’ve not looked back since.
It was August and the football season had begun. Like every football fan, I was desperate to see my first live competitive game of the season. I just didn’t know where to watch a game locally. Coventry Sphinx were actively trying to encourage more people to attend their matches so I thought I might go along to a game as a one off. It was August Bank Holiday Monday, the sun was shining and I wanted to watch football in my own City. The decision was made, I’m going to go up the Sphinx! The first task was to find out exactly where the ground was. I’ve lived in Coventry all my life but didn’t know where they played. It turned out the ground was just half an hours walk from my home which was a bonus because in my book you can’t beat walking to the football.
I left my home for a stroll up the Sphinx on a sunny summer afternoon with little expectations other than to enjoy the weather while watching a game of football. I arrived at Sphinx Drive and made my way into the clubhouse for a drink. The drinks were priced at a normal price which was something I wasn’t used to having watched most of my football in the top two divisions of English football. A good start but things got better on the money front. An entrance fee of £5, a programme for £1.50 and a pitch side coffee for a quid left me with change from a tenner after an afternoon at the football. I could get used to this!
I took my place at the side of the pitch near the dugouts. Coventry Sphinx lined up in their usual sky blue and white stripes against high flying Highgate. I had no idea what standard of football I was about to see. This was the Midland Alliance, a league in Step 5 of the Non League Pyramid and I was used to watching professional football. I was looking forward to this. It was likely I would never come here again so it would be an experience at least.
The match kicked off in front of a crowd of 209. There were waist high railings all the way round the pitch with a very small stand on the half way line. Behind the goal was the solitary turnstile and a kiosk serving drinks, burgers and chips. I could see the nearby houses across the fields and it struck me what a pleasant environment I was in to watch football. The football was of a far better standard than I expected at this level. There are some talented players in Non League but what stood out for me was the work ethic and team spirit of the players. Sphinx won the game 1-0 much to the delight of the crowd.
Time to walk home and something happened on the way out of the ground that will stay with me forever. The appreciation the players showed to the crowd just for being there to watch was immense. The players as they made their way off the pitch were applauding the crowd as they were leaving. They were not sent over to applaud us, they weren’t doing it out of duty, they just seemed to be genuinely grateful to the crowd for being there to watch them play. It was that moment that I decided I would be returning to watch Coventry Sphinx.
I enjoyed the whole afternoon more than I thought I would. I was already looking forward to my next visit and I wasn’t disappointed as I returned just five days later to watch Coventry Sphinx beat Lye Town 2-1 in a cup match. Since that first match I attended in August (which I expected to be a one off) I have not missed a single home game. The first match I watched I wanted Sphinx to win but it was no more than that. As I kept coming to the games the desire to see the Sphinx win increased. I was getting genuinely excited when they scored, I was urging the players on and I didn’t realise it at the time but I was developing a real passion for the club remarkably fast.
We have now got to early December and I’ve just left Coventry for a small village in Leicestershire. I’m on my first away trip to watch Coventry Sphinx. I actually feel like I’m a proper fan of the club. It was a cracking game at Heather St Johns that ended in a 3-3 draw. I was quite obviously a Sphinx fan but that was irrelevant. No segregation is required at this level and it was so refreshing to be watching football in such an environment. That was the first away game in the bag supporting Coventry Sphinx and I don’t expect it to be the last.
Another key moment happened at a home game in December. Coventry Sphinx were battling to score. Soon enough Sphinx got the goal and I celebrated as usual but it was different this time. I was buzzing. I felt the elation inside me just like I used to feel when Coventry City scored. I wasn’t expecting this to happen but happen it has. There is no going back from this now. I’m a fan of my local team Coventry Sphinx and I couldn’t be prouder of that. I’m in this for the long term now. I love going “Up the Sphinx” as much as I used to love going “Up the City”. I never in a million years thought I would feel this way when I was on my way to my first Sphinx game in August.
Huge credit for this must go to all the players, staff and volunteers. They are such are a dedicated, passionate and above all friendly group of people which for me sums up what a club should be about. I am proud to be a supporter of my local Coventry team and for anyone thinking about taking in a game I would urge you to do so. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose and you may just enjoy yourself!
UP THE SPHINX