Sunday, 17 February 2013

Jim's column 16.2.2013

At the end of another tumultuous week in the history of Coventry City the Sky Blues have lost their 11th manager in 12 years with Mark Robins, 146 days into the job, leaving to join Huddersfield Town. Many fans are understandably upset and annoyed that Robins has walked out on the club, especially as he has been instrumental in a big turnaround in the club's fortunes since arriving in late September.

In those 146 days his team have played 25 league games, winning 13, drawing five and losing seven. In cup competitions they have played eight, winning five and losing three. His win ratio in league games is 52% , the best in the club's history, even emulating Jimmy Hill's record in the Sky Blue era, although to be fair JH's career spanned six years.

Robins' team has lifted the fans' spirits after the depressing relegation season and a woeful start to this campaign. The away form especially has been phenomenal, setting a club record of six consecutive league wins and losing only twice in 12 games and the club record of 10 away wins in a season stands a fair chance of being broken. The goals have flowed in especially in November and December when McGoldrick was on fire and the goals per game of 1.80 is the best under modern managers. 

Not everyone has been totally convinced about Robins however. One blogger this week didn't think Robins was the Messiah and pointed out that the home form under him has been very poor, five league defeats since he arrived and only five wins in 13. The critic also pointed out that with City's salary budget (allegedly one of the three largest in the division) they should be winning this many games and be in a top six position. He went on to say that the two home defeats last week highlighted the shortcomings in defence, and the lack of punch in attack and a feeling that maybe we have been rumbled. On several occasions Robins' team has shown little idea how to break down a hard-working, defence-minded team of which there are many in this league and who all seem to raise their game at the Ricoh.

The irony is that the club have for the first time in years lost a manager to another club after sacking nine of their previous managers, the exception being Gary McAllister who resigned to support his dying wife. Some have argued this week that the club have treated some of their managers so badly that they deserve being shafted by Robins.

The last man to walk out on Coventry City to join another club was Jesse Carver in 1956 after six months in charge. It was a major shock in the football world when City unveiled Carver as their new manager. The Liverpudlian Carver was a highly rated coach in Italy at the time and many wondered why he chose to manage an English Third Division side. Chairman Erle Shanks made him one of the highest paid managers in the English game with a salary close to £100 per week (at a time when most players were earning £15). 
 Carver arrived with a tan that complemented his man about town personality and with his tailored light grey suits and camel coat he looked more like a Hollywood film mogul than a football manager. He warned supporters not too expect too much but his words went unheeded – promotion talk was, as always, in the air.
 His innovations were far-reaching, from wooden shoes and bathrobes for the players to prevent them catching cold whilst getting out of the showers to made to measure lightweight continental boots for all the players. He also bought 40 footballs, one for each player on the staff as he expected them to practice their ball skills at all times. He also brought from Italy former Swedish national coach George Raynor as his number two, another man with an outstanding reputation on the continent.
Over 24,000 fans were at the opening day win over Bournemouth and the football was slick and exciting. At home Carver’s team were unbeatable but away from home they struggled for results and promotion hopes looked slim. Throughout the autumn rumours persisted of a move back to Italy but these were quashed by Shanks.
 By now it had become apparent that Carver and Raynor’s continental style was not quite enough to win promotion amidst the hurly-burly of the Third Division and Carver re-shaped his approach. In December he bought Ken McPherson from Middlesbrough, a big bustling centre-forward and the team won five games on the trot culminating in a 5-1 thrashing of Millwall in front of a crowd of 30,000.
 But there was another major story brewing. Behind the scenes Carver had made it clear to Shanks – he wanted to leave. The Midlands didn’t suit his wife’s health and he made an urgent request to be released from his three-year contract. The board reluctantly agreed and Carver left the club on New Years Eve. He denied that there were any other offers for his services but within hours of him returning to Italy on 3rd January 1956 Internazionale announced he would be their new manager.
 City released him on the understanding that he didn’t work in England during the remaining period of his Coventry contract. He did return to a coaching job at Tottenham in 1958 but failed to settle and later he moved to Portugal. After a spell in the USA he retired to England in the late 1960s.
 Between Carver and Robins Coventry had 26 permanent managers and 19 have been given their P45s. The seven not sacked include four who moved upstairs (George Curtis, Joe Mercer, Gordon Milne and Ron Atkinson), one who walked out (Bobby Gould), Gary McAllister and one, Jimmy Hill, who left football for a plum job in television. Now JH was a true messiah!

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