OCT 01] THE STUART LINNELL
You may have thought that the
confirmation of Roland Nilsson’s appointment as manager of
Coventry City would result in the media being present at the
club’s Ryton training ground as usual – and you would be
right, but the only reporter there was me!
a statement issued by Sky Blues Chairman Bryan Richarsdon on
Tuesday morning that Roland had got the job, Sky Sports News
sent me to Ryton to interview the man they call 'The Legend'.
It was a nickname he earned as
player, because of his superb physical fitness, his absolute
professionalism and, of course, the quality of his football. All
concerned with the club now hope that he can add to that by
becoming a legendary manager.
I duly turned up at the appointed
hour, my cameraman arriving soon after, only to find that no
other press, radio or TV personnel were there. Surely this
wasn’t some kind of exclusive for Sky Sports News? Or was it
that no one else was bothered about reporting what had been an
inevitable consequence of Roland’s spell as caretaker manager?
The latter must have had some
bearing on it. I can only imagine that that was the reason why
no local radio reporter had bothered turning up nor the local
newspaper, though to be fair to the latter, the local press can
do its job quite satisfactorily over the phone.
However, Roland’s availability
for interview that day also happened to coincide with one of the
most bizarre news events I have ever witnessed – in sport,
politics or any other walk of life.
afternoon, at Birmingham City’s St Andrews ground, Trevor
Francis – dismissed as manager the day before – was holding
a farewell press conference sitting alongside the man who had
dispensed with his services, Birmingham City Chairman David
Both said what a great manager
Trevor Francis was – stressed particularly by Trevor himself
– and how he had been such a wonderful servant to the club.
Francis even promised, almost, that he would be back at the club
before too long!
They also both stressed that
Francis had left “by mutual consent” a phrase now trotted
out every time a manager leaves his post, leaving the observer
to reach his or her own conclusion about whether he was pushed
Given how fantastic all concerned
believed Francis to be, and that he made very clear himself just
how indispensable he had been, one does not have to think very
hard to make that judgement.
I saw all this at first hand
because – and here I will let you into the other side of the
satellite TV reporters job – once I had completed my filming
with Roland I had to go to St Andrews to “feed” my pictures
back to the Sky centre in London.
Often we are required to use a TV
studio – an ITV studio, or even the BBC on occasions – for
this purpose. However, Sky had sent one of their specially
equipped vans to St Andrews to transmit live pictures of the
Francis news conference and I was told to use this van for my
So, as I waited for my turn to
provide the nation with the latest words of wisdom from the new
manager of Coventry City, I watched as the man for whom ELO
wrote the hit song 'Mr Blue Sky' made his own, carefully
stage-managed farewell to the club that made him famous as a
It occurred to me that for
Francis and the thousands of Birmingham supporters, it would be
truly ironic if their club miss out yet again on promotion –
which, in my opinion, they will – while Coventry City go
straight back to the Premiership. I have always thought that
that would happen, too.
I have remarked before about
Nilsson’s cool, laid-back approach to life and to football and
that attitude is in marked contrast to the image portrayed by
Trevor Francis at almost every crunch fixture his team have been
involved in during the last five years. The pressure he clearly
felt in Cup Finals and play-off’s must have got through to his
Nilsson feels the pressure too.
He freely admits to that. But it’s just not his style to dance
up and down on the touchline, yelling and screaming. Nor can one
envisage him taking his players off the pitch prior to a penalty
shoot-out because he didn’t get his own way in a row with the
Coventry’s excellent run of
form under Nilsson continued this week with a win at Walsall and
a draw at Rotherham. The only anxiety being a lack of goals,
particularly from his strikers.
Thompson hit the spectacular 25-yard shot that rightly
claimed all three points at Walsall, while Lee
Hughes was the chief culprit of missed chances in the
goalless affair at Rotherham.
“It will come for Lee”,
Nilsson told me. “It can often take time for someone to
settle in when they switch clubs, particularly when there is
so much expectation on his shoulders, but he will find his
scoring form again and in the meantime he is contributing an
awful lot to the team.”
Given that we have not yet seen
anything of Julian
Joachim thanks to his prolonged ankle injury, and that Jairo
Martinez and young Jay
Bothroyd have shown such promise, there is every reason to
think that the best is yet to come.
Add the killer touch in front of
goal to the improved overall form of the team, and you have an
impressive formula for that swift return from whence we came.
That said, it would not surprise
me if Nilsson had a striker in his thoughts for his first
signing. With the club’s finances delicate to say the least,
its likely that someone will have to move out before he can
bring in a new player, but the size of the squad gives him room
for manoeuvre and if there’s one thing of which you can be
certain, it is that Roland will make his decision in a cool,
I have a feeling that when the
time comes – a long time hence, I hope – for him to say
“goodbye”, he won’t have to hold a news conference to
remind everyone how good he was. He will let his record speak
That is how real legends do it.