SEP 01] THE STUART LINNELL
A Week We'll Never Forget
It’s a week we’ll never
forget. Thousands dead in events too awful to have been
foreseen, with consequences for peace on our planet that could
be more frightening than anyone dare consider.
The shock of the incredible
attacks by hijacked planes in America make all concerns about
the future of Coventry City football club seem entirely
However, as the saying goes, life
goes on and this week will also be remembered by Sky Blues fans
as the week we said “goodbye” to Gordon Strachan as the club’s
I have commented before that I
regard Gordon as an excellent coach and, although there are many
who regard him as “the worst manager City’s ever had” and
point to the statistics
of his time in charge to support their case, I will state
unequivocally that I do not agree. Rather, I believe Gordon was
the right man at the wrong time.
Few managers would have done
better running a team regularly and consistently stripped of its
best players. In different circumstances, with a more settled
squad and the opportunity to build round the talents of people
like Robbie Keane, Gary McAllister, Dion Dublin, George Boateng,
Moustapha Hadji and Chris Kirkland, I have no doubt that Gordon
would have succeeded in taking Coventry City into Europe.
As it was, good players came
and went, particularly during the last three years of his
time in charge, with increasing and alarming regularity.
Many other managers would have
walked away in such circumstances, but that is not Gordon’s
way. His career in football has built on his passion for the
game and a remarkable self-belief. He is not the sort to ever
lie down and give up. No matter what the adversity, his natural
attitude is to breathe deeply and fight on.
Sometimes, indeed often, that
attitude has been misunderstood or has got him into hot water.
His touchline contretemps with match officials are an example of
the latter and some of his media quotes, particularly about
supporters, underscore the former. Too often Gordon’s words
were taken too literally, though there were instances when it
was hard to decide whether he meant them to be.
I wish Gordon well. He will
succeed as a manager, but obviously not here and not now.
GORDON STRACHAN AND
COVENTRY CITY v LEICESTER CITY 10 DEC 00 [photo empics]
His departure, however, is just
one chapter in the unfolding story of a club fallen on hard
times. Supporters continue to call for the resignation of the
Chairman, Bryan Richardson and the President, Geoffrey Robinson
Mr Richardson, in turn, has
launched a remarkable attack on the Coventry Evening Telegraph
newspaper, accusing it of orchestrating the protests. He also
claims that he is the victim of a personal crusade by the CET
editor Alan Kirby.
Relations between the club and
its local ‘paper have been strained, to say the least, for
some time but they have clearly now reached an all-time low.
While all this is going on,
former City vice-Chairman Ted Stocker is busy securing the
support he needs from shareholders for an Extraordinary General
Meeting, which he claims will take place “within weeks”.
Quite what such a meeting can
achieve, when Messrs Richardson and Robinson between them
control 60% of the shares, is not clear. Add a further 10%
holding owned by director Derek Higgs, and the board – or at
least three members of it – have total control.
Then there is a business
consortium, apparently forged round a sports investment company,
said to be interested in buying out the Chairman, if not his
fellow directors. Advising this group is Coventry-born
businessman John Clarke, who lost out to Bryan Richardson in a
previous attempt to take control of the club.
This group may have lost some
momentum because their existence was leaked to the Coventry
Evening Telegraph before they were ready to go public.
Whatever the status of their
interest, or that of Mr Stocker, one has to ask: who, in their
right mind, would want to take on a business said to be between
£30-million and £50-million in debt?
Like the vast majority of English
football clubs, Coventry City has deep financial troubles.
Forget all the talk of the “millions swilling around inside
the game”. Most of those millions are, in fact, in the pockets
of the top players and their agents with no more than a handful
of clubs operating on anything approaching an even keel,
The Sky Blues troubles may be
eased by new blood in the boardroom. There again, if those
proposing to take it over do not understand the complexity of a
modern football club, it might just be better off under its
Against this backdrop, acting
manager Roland Nilsson and acting head coach Richard Money are
working to improve the team’s fortunes on the pitch, with the
inevitable and entirely unfair comparisons between Nilsson and
fellow Swede Sven Goran-Eriksson already made by sections of the
Then again, there are thousands
of people in America who will never see their loved ones again
and one of the world’s most famous landmarks has been
viciously reduced to a pile of rubble.
Football? It’s just a game.