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John Sillett (born 20 July 1936 in Southamptonmarker) is a former football player and manager.

His father Charlie Sillett was a footballer (playing at full-back) with Southampton between 1931 and 1938. He is the younger brother of Peter Sillett, also a footballer.

Sillett played for Chelsea, Coventry City and Plymouth Argyle. He won the Championship with Chelsea in 1955, playing alongside his brother. Between 1954 and 1956 he did his National Service in the RAMC at the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, London.

He was manager of Coventry City from 1986 until 1990. He managed the Sky Blues to their finest moment on 16 May 1987, when they unexpectedly beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in the FA Cup final at Wembleymarker. It was the club's first appearance in an FA Cup final.

John was a larger than life character, well known in the footballing world. He played a large part in the history of both Hereford United and Coventry City, helping both teams to historic wins.

Playing career

Sillett’s playing days saw him and his elder-brother Peter, follow in his father’s footsteps, and sign for their hometown side, Southampton, although John never played for the first team. After their brief spells with the south coast team, they both moved on to Chelsea as teenagers, where John would enjoy the highlight of his playing career, winning the Championship title in 1955.

Whilst at Stamford Bridgemarker, Sillett played over 100 games but scored just the single goal. Sillett finally departed Chelsea after the arrival of Tommy Docherty, deciding to move on to Coventry City in June 1962 who were at the time being managed by Jimmy Hill.

During his spell at Highfield Roadmarker, Sillett played his part in winning the Third Division title in 1963-64, but his playing days were limited after suffering a back problem.

In July 1966 Sillett joined Plymouth Argyle, where he would eventually end his playing career.

Managerial career

Hereford United

After retirement John stayed with football and moved into coaching. Whilst a member of Bristol City's coaching staff, John applied for the vacant manager’s job at newly promoted Hereford United, and in June 1973, John took over from United’s outgoing, giantkilling-manager, Colin Addison.

Sillett’s first spell at Edgar Street started off brightly. During his first season he managed to guide his team into a respectable mid-table position, a vast improvement on the clubs 18th position the year previously.

It was the following season however, in 1975-76, that Sillett’s managerial skills really shone through. Helped by the inspirational signing of Dixie McNeil, Sillett soon guided Hereford to the Third Division title.

Promotion to Division 2 still remains as United’s highest achievement, and it happened during a glorious spell for the Bulls. Just four years previously, United had enjoyed their epic FA Cup victory over Newcastle United, and now the new breed of players and staff at Edgar Street had added further silverware to the club's trophy cabinet.

The glory years weren’t set to last for Sillett though, as he became the first manager in history to see his side promoted from Division Three into Division Two, and suffer relegation back to where they came from the following season (1976-77). United had won just eight Division Two matches all season, finishing rock bottom in 22nd place.

Sillett managed to hold on to the managerial reins despite the club's relegation from Division Two, but not for long, in February, mid-way through the 1977-78 season, Sillett resigned from his post at Edgar Street. Tony Ford was introduced as the club's caretaker manager, but he failed to put a halt to United’s decline, and eventually saw them relegated for the second successive season, dropping back down into Division Four.

Coventry City

After Sillett’s departure from Edgar Streetmarker his career went quiet, but he ended up back at the Highfield Roadmarker in 1983 after Bobby Gould - himself an ex-Hereford manager - invited ‘Snozz’ to join him on the coaching staff at Coventry. Sillett’s first spell at Coventry on the coaching side was brief though, with him lasting just a single year alongside Gould, before leaving due to a poor period of form.

Sillett wasn’t away from the Sky Blues for long however, with Don Mackay calling him back two years later in 1985. This time it was Mackay’s time that was limited and when Mackay departed in 1986 John Sillett was appointed chief coach alongside George Curtis.

It was under this regime that Coventry flourished after years of under-achievement, and with a side built under both the Gould and Mackay periods, the fresh input of Curtis and Sillett, and an improved style of football under their leadership led to some good times knocking on Coventry’s door.

On 16 May 1987 Coventry managed to secure a cup final showdown against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. It would be an understatement to say that Coventry were underdogs, but in true FA Cup tradition the underdogs shone through, winning the game 3-2.

Coventry’s celebrations along the touchline of Wembley, led by their chief coach, Sillett, will be an enduring piece of TV footage, and like the Radford/George celebrations of 1972 never fails to get an airing each time Cup fever hits the screens.

Sillett’s efforts in guiding Coventry to their first ever major cup win was rewarded with promotion to first team manager, and two months after the Wembley final Sillett made his first major signing of his Sky-Blue managerial career. David Speedie was signed from Chelsea for just under £800,000, and as if he didn’t want to disappoint, the occasion bought out a typical Sillett quote. “Coventry City have shopped at Woolworth’s for too long, from now on we’re shopping at Harrods”.

The following years saw Sillett manage a relatively successful Coventry side, with relegation battles seemingly a thing of the past for the Highfield Road faithful. But life was not all plain sailing, Coventry suffered famous FA Cup defeats of their own, with their defeat to Sutton United ranking as one of the all time cup upsets in English football.

In November 1990, Sillett was given his marching orders from Highfield Road, after he indicated his intention not to renew his contract beyond that season, but it was not a goodbye to football, or indeed Coventry, as he would soon return in the near future.

Return to Hereford United

In 1991 - with the United board looking to rekindle the glory years of the early 1970s - Sillett returned to Edgar Street, but his time was brief and unsuccessful, with him leaving at the end of his first full season (1991-92) after failing to lead Hereford to anything other than their customary 17th placing in the league.

His second stint as United manager was his last major involvement with football, and he later became a well known and popular part of Central TV’s weekly football coverage. Sillett has always kept his hand in with the competitive side of football however, mainly with numerous scouting duties, which has led to him having roles on the scouting team of England Sven-Göran Eriksson.

References

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