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Coventry City's Managers :
Phil Neal
[OCTOBER 1993 - FEBRUARY 1995]

Phil Neal - after being sacked by Coventry City - 8 Aug 94  [empics]Looking back now at the events of the mid 1990s it is probably fair to say that Phil Neal should never have been appointed manager of Coventry City.

Neal was an honest man and a solid manager in the lower divisions with Bolton Wanderers and a good number 2 to both Bobby Gould at Coventry and Graham Taylor with England. However he never quite seemed to have what it takes to be a top manager.

Born in Irchester, Northamptonshire in 1951 Neal started his playing career with Northampton Town making his first team debut in August 1968. In his six years at the County Ground he played 209 games, scoring 30 goals. Although a natural full-back his versatility enabled him to play in many different positions for the Cobblers, including stand-in goalkeeper.

During he time with Northampton Neal played alongside former Coventry favourites Dietmar Bruck and Trevor Gould as well as current Villa manager John Gregory.

Phil Neal playing for Liverpool - 29 Sep 79  [empics]In October 1974 Neal became new Liverpool manager Bob Paisley’s first signing for £65,000. It was the start of a glittering career at Anfield and he went on to win many honours. Seven league championship medals, four European Cup winners medals (the only Liverpool player to achieve that feat), four League Cup winners, a UEFA Cup winners and 50 England caps.

Neal was an unspectacular but sound right back and in ten seasons missed only one league game. In total he made 635 first team appearances and scored 60 goals for Liverpool. His final appearance for the Merseyside giants was in fact against Coventry at Highfield Road in October 1985.

In 1985 after the disappointment of being overlooked for the Liverpool manager’s job he was appointed player-manager at Bolton. Neal took Bolton to the final of the Freight/Rover trophy at Wembley in his first season in charge but they lost to Bristol City.

After relegation in 1987 the Trotters bounced straight back, then made the Third Division play-offs in 1990 and 1991, in the latter year they lost a Wembley play-off final to Tranmere. Neal however lost his job in 1992 after six and a half years in charge.

Bobby Gould appointed Neal as his assistant soon after his arrival at Coventry in 1992 and the two men proved to be a good combination. In their first season the side were rarely out of the top eight and only finished 15th because of some slack performances at the end of the season.

After the dull Butcher and Howe eras Gould and Neal brought some fun back to the club with some thrilling performances with characters like Peter Ndlovu, Mick Quinn and Phil Babb coming to the fore.

When Gould suddenly resigned after a game at QPR in October 1993 Neal was made caretaker manager and within weeks was given the job on a full-time basis after substantial support from the players.

Neal steered the club unspectacularly to 11th place in his first season with a good end of the season culminating with a win over title-chasing Blackburn, and a 0-0 draw with the champions at Old Trafford. Money was not available for major transfers and his bargain basement buys of Julian Darby, Ally Pickering and Sandy Robertson were hardly classed as successful.

The following season started badly and when Babb was sold for a massive fee the pressure was on Neal to spend the money wisely. In one of the club’s shrewdest signings ever he bought Manchester United reserve Dion Dublin for £2 million, a fee that at the time looked exorbitant.

Dublin started paying dividends immediately but an injury kept him out for six weeks and when he returned City were sliding towards relegation. Other signings Paul Cook, Steven Pressley and Mike Marsh were not up to the battle and Neal was not helped by numerous injuries.

In February when the Sky Blues went out of the FA Cup to Norwich the knives were out for Neal. In other circumstances a win at Crystal Palace might have brought breathing space to the embattled manager when it was their first league win for twelve games. But, ominously, that win arrived on the same day that Ron Atkinson agreed his pay-off from Aston Villa, following his autumn sacking.

The following Tuesday Neal was sacked, pausing only to deliver a broadside at the local media and some of the fans.

Injuries and bad luck had conspired to dethrone him but for many of the fans he had never been the right man for the job.

Since leaving Coventry Neal has had short but unsuccessful stints as manager at Cardiff and Manchester City and as assistant at Peterborough. He currently works in the media.


APPOINTED October 1993
FIRST GAME Sheffield United (h) : drew 0-0 (Caretaker)
LEFT February 1995
LAST GAME Crystal Palace (a) : won 2-0
WORST SIGNING Sandy Robertson
SKY BLUES HIGHPOINT 2-1 win over Blackburn to end Rovers title hopes
SKY BLUES LOWPOINT 0-4 home defeat to Spurs (Christmas 1994)
MANAGERIAL RECORD played 58 : won 18, drew 18, lost 22
win ratio 31.0%


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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Jim Brown / 8 Oct 01
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