TRIBUTES have been paid to Coventry City’s legendary FA Cup winning manager John Sillett who sadly passed away at the age of 85 earlier this morning.
Sillett will be best remembered for guiding the Sky Blues to their only FA Cup triumph with a famous 3-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in 1987.
He also played more than 100 times for the club as a player – winning the Third Division title with City in 1963/64 – and was later made Life President in 2011.
John’s family released a statement on social media which read: “Obviously today the family are really saddened by dad’s passing but we are all so very proud of him and what he achieved.
“His ability to spot things, tactically change them during a game and enhance the abilities of players was top class, the respect he had from top people in the game and the kind words we have received already underline the high regard in which he was held by the football world.
“Dad will be remembered for his FA Cup win but he also guided Coventry and Hereford to their highest league positions as well as taking Coventry to a League Cup semi-final, he had the ability to galvanise and gel teams – a skill quite rare.
“He lifted people with his smile and wit, he always looked at life with a happiness which was highly contagious.
“The smile he put on everyone’s faces was never false, he loved Jean his wife, all his children and grandchildren and though he will be desperately missed, his spirit will stay with us forever.”
And current Sky Blues manager Mark Robins also paid tribute to Sillett.
Robins told ccfc.co.uk: “I am deeply saddened by the news of John’s death,” said Robins.
“He had a huge impact at this football club and will be remembered by everyone for his achievements here, winning the FA Cup and leading the club in the top-flight, and for the man that he was.
“John was and will remain a great inspiration to me and to many others, and no doubt for those who will have the honour of managing this club in the future.
“He was a top guy, he was full of support and full of wisdom, and he will be sadly missed by not only by myself but everyone at Coventry City Football Club.
“Our thoughts and condolences go to Jean and family.”
Sillett was born in Southampton on July 20, 1936, and grew up at his father’s pub the ‘Lamb Inn’ – his father Charles and brother Peter both played for the Saints with John joining as an amateur before moving to Chelsea.
He made his debut for the capital club as a 20-year-old on New Year’s Day in 1957 and would go to make 102 appearances for the Blues scoring once as well as representing The Football League.
Sillett became Jimmy Hill’s first signing as Coventry manager when he moved to Highfield Road in April 1962 and made his Sky Blues debut later that same month in a Division Three clash with Hull City on home turf.
He scored his first goal for the club in the final game of the following season – producing an unstoppable free-kick in a 3-1 win away at Queens Park Rangers.
And Sillett made 41 appearances in the 1963/64 campaign as City were promoted from Division Three as champions before injury led to the full-back becoming a fringe player over the next two seasons.
He made his final appearance for the club on April 26, 1966, when the Sky Blues were beaten 2-0 at Charlton Athletic.
Sillett departed to fellow Second Division side Plymouth Argyle in July 1966 and would spend the remainder of his playing career at Home Park making his 240th and final appearance on April 13, 1968.
However, Sillett made the move into coaching the same year he retired as a player.
He was appointed as a youth coach at Bristol City under then manager Alan Dicks and was eventually promoted to first team coach between 1970 and 1974 – helping to develop the side that earned promotion to the top-flight in 1976.
Sillett began his first managerial role with Hereford United in June 1974 and guided the club to the Third Division title in 1976 only to be relegated the following campaign.
And after leaving Edgar Street in February 1978 he returned to Highfield Road as Chief Scout under the management of Gordon Milne before later becoming a youth coach.
He left City again in 1984 but returned in the capacity of youth coach under Don Mackay before eventually replacing the Scot in the Highfield Road dugout for the final three games of the 1985/86 campaign.
Alongside Managing Director George Curtis – Sillett, known as ‘Snoz’, secured crucial wins against Luton Town and Queens Park Rangers to ensure the Sky Blues remained in the First Division on the final day of the season.
Sillett was given the title of Chief Coach ahead of the 1986/87 campaign – once again working with Curtis – and the double act would guide City to a memorable FA Cup win against Tottenham at Wembley which remains the only time Coventry have lifted the trophy in the club’s history.
City beat Bolton Wanderers, Manchester United, Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday before Coventry saw off Leeds United 3-2 in the semi-final at Hillsborough in front of 27,000 Sky Blues supporters.
Sillett led out the Sky Blues in the showpiece at Wembley on May 16, 1987, and what followed was the greatest day in the club’s history.
Clive Allen opened the scoring only for Dave Bennett to equalise before Gary Mabbutt restored Tottenham’s lead with Keith Houchen’s superb diving header once again bringing the Sky Blues level.
That goal took the game to extra-time where Mabbutt’s own goal from Lloyd McGrath’s cross secured a famous 3-2 win for City and led to jubilant scenes of celebration as Sillett and his players paraded the trophy around the pitch.
The following day – the Sky Blues brought the trophy back to their home city with an open top bus parade through the streets of Coventry.
He took sole charge of the club as manager ahead of the 1987/88 season and brought in David Speedie from former club Chelsea with Sillett quipping: “For too long this Club has shopped at Woolworth’s, from now on we’ll be shopping at Harrods.”
Despite losing in the Charity Shield to Everton – Sillett guided the club to a 10th place finish in the league with City enjoying their highest average attendance for eight years.
He then secured a seventh place finish the following season which included a first win against Aston Villa since 1937 and victory over champions-elect Arsenal.
Sillett continued to impress when he took Coventry to the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1990 where they were narrowly beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Nottingham Forest – also winning for the first time at Anfield that same season.
He was relieved of his duties in November 1990 after a poor start to the season following four years in charge.
However, Sillett would return to the club alongside Jimmy Hill to lead a post-match rendition of the Sky Blue song after the final game at Highfield Road as supporters gathered on the pitch.
After forming part of the selection committee that appointed Micky Adams as Sky Blues boss in 2005 he was also asked to scout for England by then national manager Sven Goran Eriksson.
He remained a regular at Sky Blues games following the move to the Ricoh Arena that same year and was made Life President of Coventry in August 2011.
Sillett spoke on the pitch at Wembley prior to the start of the 2017 Checkatrade Trophy Final and brought the trophy onto the pitch at City’s next home game after rousing Robins’ side to victory.
He also watched City’s League Two play-off final win from the Royal Box the following year.
Sillett was invited to be part of the club’s online Promotion Party last year and was interviewed with current City boss Robins by former player Harry Roberts.
And he attended the Sky Blues first game back in their home city as he watched Coventry beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 on the opening day of the season which would be his last appearance at a Sky Blues fixture.
Sillett’s death was announced on November 30, 2021, at the age of 85 and is regarded as one of the biggest and most popular characters in the club’s history.
John is survived by his wife Jean, children and grandchildren.