Councillors in Coventry have decided to rename the A444 in honour of footballing legend Jimmy Hill. The A444, currently known as Phoenix Way, will be renamed Jimmy Hill Way in tribute to a man who changed football and who has a special place in the heart of many Coventrians. The campaign was launched by the Coventry Telegraph and was enthusiastically backed by the city council and the wider public – there is little doubt that it was a popular choice. Jimmy Hill was a man known for his tireless pursuit of excellence, an innovator who tried to think outside of the box and rip up the rule book. Some may say that this kind of vision and revolutionary thinking is exactly the kind of thing we need to see from our local political leaders. But this isn’t meant to be a judgement on them, and I suspect they’d argue that the pursuit of excellence defines what they do on a daily basis. Not my judgement to make. I will, however, make a judgement about the city council’s continuing neglect of key gateway routes in the north of the city, and this includes Jimmy Hill Way, and without wishing to be cynical, you do wonder if this appallingly neglected stretch of road is really a fitting tribute to such a great man. First impressions count. I don’t think there is anything particularly controversial about that statement. So what is the first impression of visitors to the city who arrive via the A444? Horror? Mild disappointment that everything they have heard about Coventry appears to be true? Take your pick. Those of us who travel along it daily have probably become somewhat immune to it, but to those seeing it for the first time, it isn’t a pretty sight. I’d go as far as to say its possibly the most bleak and depressing route into any major city in the UK. An exaggeration perhaps, but I defy anyone to name another that is as scruffy and unkempt. The A444 is the busiest route into in the city. I have no real evidence to support that, but I strongly suspect that it is. It is the gateway from the north, a route that carries visitors from their motorway exit right into the heart of the city. It is the definition of an arterial route, but it needs urgent attention. It is frequently litter-strewn, it is lined with unnecessary street furniture that often sits contorted and in a state of disrepair long after it has had an unfortunate collision with a car. The verges are allowed to grow wild with no programme of maintenance in place. The route is strewn with debris that is rarely, if ever, cleaned up. The weeds grow unattended and the road surface is poor in all but a few isolated stretches. Certain sections are worse than others, particularly the stretch from the Ricoh Arena to the Foleshill Road island. The Rowleys Green island remains in a chronic state, odd given that many traffic islands around the city have benefitted from landscaping and have been done well. This one however, one of the most visible in the city, receives little or no attention. There have been half-hearted attempts, however the current policy of planting wild flowers makes little sense. For five or six weeks a year it looks vaguely pleasant, but for the rest of the time, it looks like the annual Ricoh Arena weed convention has moved outdoors. As for the Ricoh Arena itself, perhaps it is time this self-proclaimed ‘world class’ events complex started acting like one, and paid some attention to the external areas which remain as bleak and windswept as they did when the builders rolled out of town ten years ago. People may point to the large number of planters sited at the entrance to the city. Again, this is window dressing, and although I perhaps use this analogy a little too often, it is like putting a lipstick on a bulldog. Several times during the summer I journeyed past this island when there were people attending the flowers, and yet all around them were waist-high weeds, twisted crash barriers and mountains of debris (unless all the broken wheel-trims are meant to be part of the display). It was vaguely comical. In the scheme of things this issue may not rank high on the list of priorities, especially given the budgetary pressures. However, when you consider that most of the other main traffic routes around the city are maintained to a much higher standard, you have to ask why it is the city council continue to neglect the northern entry points. First impressions do count, and I do not think that providing visitors to our city a pleasant welcome is too much to ask. I think Jimmy would agree.