Farewell to John Sillett, the man with nose for one of the biggest FA Cup shocks

Sillett has died aged 85.

Phil Blanche
Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:39
Former Coventry manager John Sillett has died at the age of 85 (Mike Egerton/PA)
Former Coventry manager John Sillett has died at the age of 85 (Mike Egerton/PA)

John Sillett, fondly known as ‘Snoz’ throughout the world of football because of his large nose, will forever be remembered for leading Coventry to FA Cup glory in 1987.

The nickname suited the larger than life Sillett as he certainly had a nose for drama during a career that began at Chelsea and reached its zenith when the unfancied Sky Blues won the cup by beating Tottenham 3-2 in thrilling fashion at Wembley.

It remains the only major honour in Coventry’s 138-year history.

Sillett, who has died at the age of 85, said his great pal and former Chelsea team-mate Jimmy Greaves coined him ‘Snoz’ during their time together at Stamford Bridge.

John Sillett was in charge when Coventry won the FA Cup in 1987 (PA)

“Jimmy had the worst car I have ever seen. It was shocking,” Sillett once said.

“The door fell off one day when we were in it. It was a really old car but in those days he must have been a rich man to have a car as a young man.

“He used to call me ‘Snoz’ because of my nose. He used to say ‘Snoz, I’ll take you home in the car’, and I’d say ‘No Jim, I’ll take the bus, it is less dangerous!'”

Sillett was born on July 20, 1936 in Normansland on the Hampshire-Wiltshire border.

He grew up at the Lamb Inn, a hostelry where his father Charles was the publican.

Sillett senior had been a full-back with Southampton from 1931-38 and football ran in the family as John and his brother Peter both became professionals.

John followed Peter, his senior by three years and who would go on to play for England, to Southampton but never played for the first team and joined Chelsea in 1954.

Silett made 102 appearances for Chelsea before switching in 1962 to Jimmy Hill’s Coventry, where he spent four years before ending his career at Plymouth.

He moved into management at Hereford in 1974 after being Alan Dicks’ assistant at Bristol City.

After guiding Hereford to the Third Division (now League One) title, Sillett returned to Coventry in 1979 as chief scout and later youth coach.

Another spell at Coventry brought his greatest moment as Sillett and managing director George Curtis took charge of team affairs and embarked on one of the greatest cup runs in FA Cup history.

Bolton, Manchester United – thanks to a Keith Houchen winner at Old Trafford – Stoke, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds were all beaten as Coventry reached their first ever domestic final.

Sillett led the Sky Blues out at Wembley and it was an enthralling affair as Coventry recovered from Clive Allen’s second-minute goal to win 3-2.

Keith Houchen’s spectacular diving header helped Coventry win the FA Cup in 1987 ( David Jones/PA)

Houchen’s second-half diving header was one of the great Wembley goals with Coventry’s win among the biggest shocks in FA Cup history.

“George and I believed they could climb Everest if they had a go at it,” Sillett said after his exuberant on-pitch celebrations with the trophy.

Sillett remained at Coventry until 1990 before a short managerial encore at Hereford.

He moved into television as a pundit with Central TV, did some scouting for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England and became a life president of Coventry.

Sillett is survived by his wife Jean and son Neil.

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