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A Fresh Approach

It has happened countless times before and it will happen countless times more – a manager leaves a club, someone else takes the helm and the team’s fortunes change almost overnight.

Often the man who takes over is only in his post for a temporary period – the so-called “caretaker manager”. Even then, the same group of players that disappointed before respond differently after the change has taken place.

There are countless reasons why. It is not always because the new man in charge is a better coach or manager than the guy that went before, though, of course, that can be a reason.

It could be that the sudden jolt of their manager being sacked or otherwise removed from their midst gives the players the proverbial kick up the backside they needed. It may be that a different voice calling the shots, a fresh approach to their training routines and pre-match preparation.

ROLAND NILSSON - ENGLAND v SWEDEN -  5 June 1999  [empics]
ROLAND NILSSON - ENGLAND v SWEDEN -  5 June 1999  [empics]

Whatever it is, it appears that Roland Nilsson has got it. Roland can, at the time of writing, boast a 100% record from his time in charge. A Worthington Cup win at Peterborough, albeit by the nail-biting route of the penalty shoot-out, and an important League victory at Sheffield United, have steadied the good ship Sky Blue at a critical time.

As many wiser pundits than I have pointed out, it is still very early in this long, long season of ours, but it is also true that too many disappointing results, even at this stage, and the notion of a play-off place, let alone automatic promotion, can quickly become a lost cause.

As it is, Roland, aided by Richard Money and Ray Clarke, has put what he describes as “a smile on the player’s faces”. The results, no matter how they came, can only have contributed to the confidence building exercise that clearly had to be Roland’s priority in the wake of Gordon Strachan’s departure.

Roland’s quiet, likeable but efficient style might well prove to be just what Coventry City needs after two high-octane, high profile incumbents in the manager’s chair in Gordon and, before him, Ron Atkinson.

Now, it is entirely possible of course that Roland’s revival will run out of steam and that one of the many available “big names” touted by the newspapers in recent days will be appointed. Joe Royle, Dave Bassett and Bryan Robson appear to be the three front-runners, should Nilsson not get the job.

Chairman Bryan Richardson told me in a radio interview I did with him when Gordon left, that Roland “would be given time” to show what he could do.

"The job is his,” said the Chairman, “if he wants it and if he can show us that he can deliver.”

I hope that holds true. Big matches – and they are both big matches – against Manchester City and Portsmouth await this week.

Both are at Highfield Road and, despite the continuing public outcry and protests, it would be great to see the ground packed for both fixtures with a mass of sky blue on display from true supporters who just want to cheer their team on to do well.

The protests bother me. Not because I disagree with them. Whether I agree or not, I am keeping to myself – and that is not a case of sitting on the fence. It is because as a journalist looking on, I have to remain objective and distance myself from the arguments, even though I am as passionately interested as anyone calling themselves a City fan.

They bother me because there is so much being written and said that is either totally factually incorrect, or simply based on emotion and prejudice.

Of course it’s emotional. Of course people will feel strongly about their football club. Quite right too.

But if we are going to have public debate like this, let us at least do so on the basis of the facts and not simply because feelings are running high.

Ultimately we are talking about the future of Coventry City Football Club, an institution that matters a great deal to all of us. We cannot afford to risk that future just because you or I don’t like the way a particular individual speaks to us, or because actions have been taken that you or I didn’t agree with.

We must understand why those actions were taken and why certain things have been said and done. Then we can make a judgement; but please think before you yell and if you’re going to yell anyway, make sure you yell for the team first.

Roland Nilsson can do so much. Once they cross the white line its up to the players, and that’s where we come in. Let them know we are behind them in no uncertain way.

And while we’re on the subject..., before Birmingham City played at Maine Road recently, manager Trevor Francis warned that Manchester City had the equivalent of an extra man – their amazingly vocal supporters. They travel well too, so be prepared for a lot of noise from the visitors seats on Wednesday night – and be prepared to show them what Cov City fans can do when we really do “sing together”.

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Stuart Linnell / 18 Sep 01
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