Absolutely no apologies for another delve into the past today.
We’re going back to January 23rd, 1975, a season in which Graham Taylor’s Lincoln came oh-so-close to promotion from the Fourth Division. It was close, but no cigar, and even then, we were beset with loan player conundrums. The loan market was very different, with players often joining for no more than a month, and that was the case with Ade Coker.
Nigeria-born Coker had been with West Ham for four years and even scored on his First Division debut, but outings were few and far between at Upton Park. In the summer of 1974, he went over to America and spent time with the Boston Minutemen in the North American Soccer League before returning to England. He still couldn’t crack the West Ham team, and on December 20th, 1974, Coker joined the Imps on a month’s loan.
His first outing was a 2-0 victory against Stockport before appearing in away defeats at Northampton (1-0) and Reading (1-0). Sandwiched in between those was a 1-0 win against Scunthorpe before his finest moment in an Imps shirt – a goal at Sincil Bank as we beat Hartlepool United 2-0.
“Ade Coker had his best match for City,” wrote Maurice Burton as City picked up two points. “The Nigerian could so easily have had a hat trick with steadier finishing on his part and a more benign smile from Lady Luck.” Indeed, Coker had one ruled out early on against Hartlepool; his smart finish harshly chalked off for pushing by Percy Freeman. Freeman made amends not long after, shrugging off a foul as the referee saved play on and feeding Coker. “Coker’s ball control was immaculate as he took the ball in his stride,’ enthused Burton. “He went past Goad and steered a shot past Watling for his first goal for City.” He fired over the bar moments later from 10 yards and ‘beat the turf’ in anger at his miss.
The was January 20th, and Coker’s loan was up three days later, following a 0-0 draw with Stockport. 48 years ago today, he was asked whether he wanted to stay with the Imps, but the decision was a return to West Ham. Coker’s time as an Imp was up.
His decision could have been partly influenced by the offer from America, where the Minutemen were keen on him rejoining. He moved Stateside, and by the summer of 1975, he was testing himself in the NASL. He even shared a field with Pele and was a teammate of Portuguese great Eusebio. Coker finished his one season with the Minutemen as leading scorer, with 14 goals, but was sold off as bankruptcy had to be fended off. In an odd quirk of fate, not long after he left the team, Bert Bowery signed, also after a loan spell with the Imps.
He then had spells with the Minnesota Kicks, the San Diego Sockers and the Rochester Lancers. In 1980 he moved to the Major Indoor Soccer League club Baltimore Blast, before returning to San Deigo. When the NASL collapsed following the 1984 season, he remained with the Sockers, who moved to the MISL and became the league’s top team. He remained there until 1987, before a final season with the St. Louis Steamers.
He also represented the United States at international level, appearing five times in 1984. He appeared twice against Netherland Antilles, scoring twice in a 4-0 win. He then bagged against Colombia, who were originally scheduled to be hosting the World Cup two years later. He played his final match against the actual hosts of the 1986 tournament, Mexico, appearing in a 2-1 defeat.
Just to think, all of that, but on this day in 1975, he was toying with the notion of staying with City for the upcoming game against Torquay United! Oddly, after he left, City signed Philip O’Connor on loan from Luton, who also scored one goal for the Imps. He too emigrated straight after his time at Sincil Bank (to Australia) and also went on to represent the country he emigrated to. Odd world, isn’t it?