Special Feature
David Phillips - Togetherness was key to FA Cup success

By Steve Carpenter 26/04 Updated: 24/05 10:40

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Buy photos » David Phillps pictured with the 1987 FA Cup. (S)

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Coventry City’s famous FA Cup triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, the Observer has teamed up with Coventry City’s Former Players’ Association (CCFPA) to re-capture the memories of players, managers and fans from the club’s greatest day on May 16, 1987.

Our sports reporter Steve Carpenter caught up with former Wales international David Phillips who said an early taste of the FA Cup with Plymouth Argyle made him more eager to succeed with the Sky Blues.

Phillips and his Plymouth team mates defied all odds as a Third Division side and reached the semi final in 1984.

They lost 1-0 to Watford at Villa Park, so he was delighted to go one step further and enjoy FA Cup success for the first and only time in his career with the Sky Blues just three years later.

"We had an excellent run to the semi final," said Phillips, who now works as a TV pundit for Sky Sports.

"It was something unheard off for a Third Division team to make it to the semi final of the FA Cup. No-one gave us a chance.

"That was my first taste of what FA Cup football was all about and I loved every minute of it.

"Making my full debut for Wales against England was an honour, but winning a major cup with Coventry was too.

"If I was to go abroad I think 'David Phillips, FA Cup winner' represents who I am if I was to pick one over the other.

"I think playing at Hillsborough in the quarter final was a big help for us when we returned for the semi final because we were used to the atmosphere and the pitch too.

"Hillsborough was such a magical ground, with the fans so close to the action and when it was a full house there was nothing that could beat that.

"At Wembley the fans feel so far away but at Hillsborough it's like they're on top of you.

"As a footballer you can't wait to play in situations like that and it was always a ground I had a bit of luck at.

"I hadn't lost there in my career as a player and I think we got a bit of luck in the semi final that afternoon too to progress into the final.

"Winning the FA Cup is something I will never forget. People in Coventry will never forget that achievement and some of the players can live off the back of that cup success, but I'm not one of those."

Phillips could be considered one of Coventry's star players after signing from Manchester City at the start of the 1986/87 season.

But he recalled a strong togetherness in the side that year and said the famous trips to Bournemouth were the ideal way for the playets to bond.

"I was surprised to be moving to Coventry. I didn't want to leave Man City and move from a big club to a club smaller club in stature, but a deal had been agreed.

"And when I met John Sillett and George Curtis in Manchester they sold the club to me.

"They saw me as part of their jigsaw and that season all the pieces fitted together wonderfully.

"We had a team of players that worked so hard for each other. Every player would put their body on the line for the cause and we did lots of things together, both on and off the pitch. There was a real family atmosphere about the club at the time.

"The relationship between the players, the board, the kit man right down to the cleaners was that we were all in this together, and we were.

"We were doing well in the league and we also had our trips to Bournemouth too, which I don't think would have worked at other clubs.

"I remember George Curtis on one of our trips turned to the lads and said 'right, come on then kits off', and he ran into the sea!

"It was freezing but I just did the same and I think Steve Sedgley followed and it became a bit of a tradition."

Phillips also looked back on an visit from representatives from the FA which left the whole squad in tears of laughter just days before the final.

"I remember we had a visit from a couple of guys from the FA a couple of days before the final and they spoke to all of us about the etiquette of the FA Cup.

"They went through a list of traditions, like how to address the Queen, where our hands should be positioned etc.

"One of them said if you were to win the FA Cup, don't go up there in your stupid hats or scarves because you'd look back at all the pictures and think how stupid you look.

"They looked a bit embarrassed by what they had just said and as soon as they left the room all of us burst out laughing.

"I could talk about the stories all day, it was a wonderful time in my career."

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Buy photos» Phillips looks back on regular trips to Bournmouth with fond memories. (S)

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