APR 01] THE STUART LINNELL
Gordon In The Spotlight
Whatever happens with yet another
Coventry City battle to survive in the top division of English
football, no-one will be able to say that the club or its
manager kept a low profile through this tough time.
as ever to the football press for the regular pre-match and
post-match interviews, Gordon Strachan has also, in the past
week, been under the spotlight like never before.
On Thursday 5 April, five days
after that fine win against Derby County, Gordon and Sky Blues'
Chairman Bryan Richardson faced after-dinner questions at
Highfield Road from an audience paying £40 a head for the
privilege. On Monday 9 April, two days after BBC TV's 'Match Of
The Day' had labelled the 3-1 win at Leicester City as
"excellent", Gordon was top of the bill on the last in
the current series of the late night 'Onside' programme, also on
Questioned by 'Onside' host John
Inverdale, Gordon's repartee and one-line quips had the studio
audience rolling with laughter and did more than enough to
persuade TV producers that he should be invited back for more.
For those that missed it, two
examples from the Strachan joke-book: asked whether the seaweed
diet he embarked on at one stage of his playing career had made
him fitter, he said "it made me a better swimmer!"
When fellow guest and self-confessed 'lapsed' Coventry City
supporter, impressionist Alistair McGowan, was part way through
his routine of football personality impersonations, Gordon asked
him if he could do Thierry Henry. "No", admitted
McGowan. "That's a pity," Gordon shot back, "I
was going to ask you to play on Saturday."
As the TV show developed you
sensed that Gordon was enjoying himself, and well he might,
after two good, vital back-to-back victories. However, in his
post-match comments at Filbert Street the Saturday before, he
said that the question and answer session with his Chairman at
Highfield Road had been "the toughest night of my
I took some professional pride in
that. The club had recruited me to MC and chair the evening with
question slips distributed on the tables throughout the room for
the diners to write down and submit their questions. When I
announced during dinner that this was to help the timing and
efficiency of the night, I was greeted with the odd jeer from
one or two quarters.
People obviously thought that I
was there to ensure that Gordon and Bryan got an easy ride and
filter out the hard questions. In fact, the opposite was the
case. I had already agreed with Bryan Richardson that no subject
was off-limits, as long as I discarded the deliberately stupid
questions that often come up at these events.
As it happens, there were none,
other than one or two deliberately sent up as personal jokes for
Bryan and Gordon and not intended for public dissemination.
However, one or two issues were covered in questions from
several tables so I put those together rather than ask the same
topic more than once.
Questioners were also invited to
put a supplementary question and debate directly with the
manager and chairman after hearing their initial response.
As I said, nothing was ruled out,
so we had - from several quarters - the question; "why was
Gary McAllister allowed to leave?"
The answer was that despite an
offer of a contract that would have made him easily the highest
paid player at the club, Gary arranged his own move to Liverpool
telling Gordon and Bryan that he wanted to leave Coventry for
entirely personal reasons.
Pressed by the audience to say
what those reasons were, Gordon said: "I know the reason,
the Chairman knows the reason and Gary McAllister knows the
reason, but Gary has asked that no-one else should know and
unless and until he ever changes his mind on that, no-one will
ever know, but it was personal to him and nothing to do with
In answer to another question,
Bryan Richardson said that "none" of our players have
a "get-out" clause in their contracts allowing them to
leave if we are relegated. He added that if we go down we may
have to sell one or two to bring in necessary finance to
compensate for what we lose from no longer being in the
Premiership, but they would only be deals that fitted the club's
overall strategy in that situation.
He stressed that "not
one" of the players has an "I'm off if we go
Gordon Strachan said that Gary
Pendry is his Number 2, which I think is the first time that he
has actually assigned that role formally to anyone.
He added that when Alex Miller
left suddenly to return to Scotland and the fitness coach left a
couple of days later, all that was left was the two of them
(Gordon and Gary). They got stuck in and took the club on a
7-match unbeaten run. He said that Gary Pendry may not be
everyone's idea of a coach or a number 2, but he said that few,
if any, of those that criticised Gary had ever seen him
Bryan Richardson was very
critical of the coverage given to Coventry City by the Coventry
Evening Telegraph, describing it as "disgraceful".
He said he had copies of
newspapers from Middlesbrough, Manchester and Sheffield where
the local coverage was 100% supportive of their struggling
That is just a flavour of what
many people who were there came up to me afterwards and said was
a very fair, interesting and enjoyable evening. If Gordon found
it "tough" I can tell you he didn't show it and he
emerged from that and his TV appearance with John Inverdale with
flying colours - just as we all hope City will from yet another