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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!

Roland NilssonFollowing 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.

Trevor FrancisThat 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 Gold.

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 or jumped.

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 tape, too.

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 brilliant teenager.

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 players.

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 referee.

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.

Midfielder David 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, careful manner.

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 for itself.

That is how real legends do it.

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Stuart Linnell / 19 Oct 01
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