Sunday, 23 September 2012

Jim's Column 22.9.12

Mark Robins became the eleventh Coventry City manager in 12 seasons (excluding caretakers) this week and without doubt he has walked into a tough job. It is hard to imagine City’s position in the league getting any worse so the new manager has little to lose – it surely can only be up from here – and a couple of wins will make him a hero with the fans.

Older fans will remember Robins, a predatory striker, for the goal he scored for Manchester United in a third-round FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest in 1990, which allegedly saved Alex Ferguson from the sack after three trophy-less years at Old Trafford. United went on to win the FA Cup that year with Robins as a substitute against a Crystal Palace team that included Richard Shaw and Andy Thorn. Robins could never win a regular first team place at Old Trafford but did make two substitute appearances against the Sky Blues, scoring in a 3-0 United victory at Old Trafford in March 1990.

Mark left United for Norwich City in 1992 and later joined Leicester. He played twice for the Canaries against City and then once for Leicester City in a three year spell at Filbert Street. He failed to score in any of those three games and again in two appearances for his final club, Rotherham, against City in 2001-02. One of his claims to fame is that he once scored five goals for England under 21s in a 7-3 victory over France.

His managerial career consists of a reasonably successful spell at Rotherham where he had virtually no money to spend at a club in administration. Later he moved to Barnsley where he took over a club in the relegation zone and guided them to mid-table safety before a falling out with the board in 2011.

His ability to work within a limited budget would appear to make him ideal for the Sky Blues, who whilst having one of the biggest playing budgets in League One, are unlikely to sanction more spending when they are apparently still losing £250,000 a month. His only hope of getting some funds would appear to be to unload some of the higher paid, under performing players and persuade the board to use all or part of the savings achieved.

He is the fourth post-war Coventry City manager to take over the club in a relegation position, and the good news is that the other three all kept City up. In November 1948 the great Harry Storer returned to a club languishing in 21st position in Division Two but won his first five matches in charge and the team finished 16th, well clear of relegation. In December 1984 Don Mackay was handed the reins when Bobby Gould was sacked with City 21st in Division One. Mackay steered City to safety courtesy of a final day victory over champions Everton. Finally in November 1996 Gordon Strachan took over from Ron Atkinson with the Sky Blues languishing in 18th place in the Premier League. He failed to win any of his first four games but managed to avoid relegation thanks to that memorable last day win at Tottenham.

Several people have asked me whether this seven-game start is City’s worst ever and I can confirm that it is not. In City’s first season in the Football League in 1919 City lost their first nine games and didn’t win a game until Christmas Day (nineteen games without a win). The worst start of the modern era was in 1974-75 when after seven games City had failed to win a game and had three points. Then, with manager Gordon Milne under intense pressure, the team won three on the bounce and went unbeaten in six and comfortably avoided relegation. A mini-run like that would be very nice now.

It is sad to report the death last week of former Coventry City coach Jimmy Andrews. Jimmy, who was 85, joined City in December 1967 as Noel Cantwell was building his own backroom team after taking over from Jimmy Hill in the October.  Noel and Jimmy had played together at West Ham in the 1950s and Andrews made 120 appearances for the Hammers as a dribbling left winger following a big money move from Dundee in 1951. He later played for Leyton Orient before taking a coaching role at QPR, where in 1965 he was briefly caretaker manager. There followed a spell as coach at Chelsea under Tommy Docherty. Jimmy stayed at Highfield Road until early 1969 at which time Cantwell admitted that Jimmy’s time at the club had not worked. He went on to coach at Luton Town, Tottenham and Cardiff City and became manager at Ninian Park for four years between 1974-78.

Today is another special day at the Ricoh Arena when a host of former City players will gather for a mini-Legends Day specifically to celebrate the life of Ernie Machin who passed away in July. Around 30 former players are expected to attend including many from Ernie’s time at the football club from 1962-72 and the traditional half-time pitch parade of former players should not be missed. The Memorial Service for Ernie Machin has been re-arranged and will now take place at Coventry Cathedral on Wednesday 3rd October 2012 commencing at 3pm.  All Ernie’s friends and City fans are welcome.

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