Better The Devils You Know?

Not only did Coventry City concedede three goals in 10 minutes to send us closer towards a relegation battle but it was also a week where the team had lost 3-0 in front of the Sky cameras with the under-21 and under-18 teams losing 7-0 and 8-2 respectively. Not only that, but crowds have fallen from 27,000 to barely 8,000 in the space of just over four months with many fans either in open boycott of the club’s owners or having lost interest altogether.

Something seems rotten to the core at this football club and there is an understandable need for change, with the manager and owners the most obvious targets. But how much better off would we be were wholesale changes to be made?

P:46, W:11, D:13, L:22, GF:46, GA:69
Past 12 Months – P:46, W:11, D:13, L:22, GF:46, GA:69

Steven Pressley is probably the easiest to remove from the picture. A record of 46 points from the previous 46 league games is poor, despite certain mitigating circumstances. But he does have what might be termed ‘a competitive budget’ for this level. We have seen that there is talent in the squad to be doing better than conceding three goals in ten minutes against Gillingham, the team appear to be set up with no clear idea of what they’re trying to achieve on the pitch.

The board are well within their rights to sack Pressley, it would be sad to see him leave because he has had some brilliant moments at this football club but it’s not working, onto the next guy.

Who steps into this job? What will they be asked to do?

My worry with sacking Pressley is that we fall back into the cycle that saw us spiral out of the Championship once again. The old manager leaves the club with the need to keep the team up by any means necessary and they usually did that. The problem was always that it was largely a short-term effect and with each passing manager standards slipped.

We went fairly quickly from a side that thought second-tier football was not good enough for us to one today that can only dream about getting back there. Should surviving in League One be an achievement at this football club? It is admittedly preferable the alternative, League Two football, but is it only delaying the inevitable if we make the next man a short-term appointment?

'There's a song about this'
Changing horses in midstream, not an easy thing to do.

It’s not so black-and-white of course, but a lot of what Steven Pressley’s development of the young players at this football club is unparalleled amongst Coventry City managers of recent times. He has also shown that when he has a summer to work with his squad, he can build a cohesive team-unit, unfortunately on both occasions he has had a pre-season, circumstances have completely changed over the course of the season. Pressley’s talent is clearly not in changing horses in midstream.

The four-year contract does change the nature of the debate slightly, might we be better off just giving the money we would have spent on paying Pressley’s contract off on players to improve the team? But this club is in a rough patch and it doesn’t feel like anyone with any long-term ambition would take this job other than as a stepping stone, a la Mark Robins. It feels to me that sacking Pressley now may well leave us in a similar position 18 months down the line.

The reason why it feels like the manager has such little impact on the medium-long-term fortunes of this football club is of course SISU. Their record at Coventry City is utterly indefensible, they have taken us from being a Championship club with aspirations of getting back into the Premier League in the not-too-distant future to one facing up to the prospect of League Two football.

It took them nearly four-and-a-half years to realise that this club is a financial black hole without ownership of its stadium and tried to bully the council into giving them the Ricoh Arena. It was a tactic that made an already fetid situation even more rancorous with the council feeling antagonised. That led to the decision to sell the stadium to Wasps and makes it even harder now for SISU to sell this football club to the next idiot willing to say goodbye to tens of millions of pounds of their own money.

With their current track record, it feels like their continued presence at this football club only stands to make things worse. It would be a brilliant day for this football club the day SISU leave town but when we wake up the following morning with the world’s worst hangover, who will be there with the ibuprofen and a fry-up?

Unless someone incredibly rich (who is also hopefully incredibly stupid) wants to make Coventry City into a European powerhouse, it’s hard to see anyone sensible wanting to buy this football club. With third-tier football, no assets, debt possibly in the region of £60 million and a fan-base rapidly losing interest, we aren’t exactly low-hanging fruit. It’s the same situation but worse as to when SISU first arrived here.

Vultures, all of them.
The vultures be circling.

If someone as atrocious as SISU was the only party genuinely interesting in buying this football club when there at least some hope back in 2007, I don’t want to even picture the kind of vultures who would be circling around to pick us up in this state. The examples of Portsmouth, Rangers and Leeds show that in the desperation to get rid of one monster, you might well just find yourself venerating the arrival of someone much worse.

The ‘dream’ scenario for many right now is Wasps buying this football club to unite the two sports teams at the Ricoh Arena into one organisation. Entertaining the prospect that Derek Richardson actually thinks that Coventry City is a worthwhile investment, is this a situation we really want to find ourselves in? Not only has Richardson shown that he doesn’t care about the fans of a sports team that he already owns, he would surely value the success of Wasps over Coventry City. I don’t want the potential of this football club to be capped by our owners (which is the exact same reason I want SISU to leave).

The final alternative to SISU is being wound-up altogether. It has been a painful process supporting Coventry City and it is perhaps inevitable if things don’t change. Maybe it would be best to just start things afresh with a clean slate. I am a firm believer though of when there’s life, there’s hope. Third-tier football is not the worst place to be and maybe we could use this time to clear debts, promote young talent and somehow make sure that when we do get back to a higher-level, we give ourselves the best chance of staying there.

I suppose the caveat to all of this defending of the currently indefensible is, who knows? Maybe the next change will be good for this football club, we seem, at best, to be moving in no direction and we are crying our for anything positive. But we have been in a cycle where we have constantly demanded change, whether that has been a short-term improvement in results from a new manager or in injection of money from different owners. But because this club has been built on such flimsy foundations, there hasn’t been the ability to sustain anything and we are living with the consequences.

If we can’t learn from the mistakes of the past, we will only wade deeper and deeper into the abyss. There are few signs right now that changing things this time around will be any different. So for now and hopefully not too long in the future, it is better the devils I know.

2 thoughts on “Better The Devils You Know?

  1. Absolutely excellent piece, which i whole – heartedly agree with. As a fan of 55 years now living in South Yorkshire i see the lads as often as i can. Interestingly i was just last night re -reading the prelude to Jim Brown’e superb book ‘The Sky Blue revolution’ which – having spent the whole of my senior school years from age 11 to 16 through the Jimmy Hill era – i can relate to so well! I had overlooked what an awful and torrid time the club had been through both pre and post WW2, and if you upped the financial figures in line with inflation they were in a lot of trouble (though maybe not equal to todays £60 million.) So really if you take out those Halcyon days and a few other flurries in old Div 1 /Premiership, (some of) the Hutchison years, Cup in 1987 and a few excellent teams, a la Keane/McAllister/Dublin era etc, theres has been virtually sod all to get excited about. The bottom line is that SISU AND Cov City Council (our Community ambassadors??) have let EVERYONE DOWN!! Personally i hope Steven P keeps his job, because who the hell would be able to do any better. At least he has passion and commitment and a superb youth policy (SISU s ‘puppy farm’ though) and for me yet another management change is not the priority. Riddance of SISU is our only real chance. but alas it plus a City fan winning The Euro millions and throwing most of it away (sorry!) on the club she/he loves. I must admit that now in my mid 60 s it really really hurts to say this, but if i had to decide between SISU staying and us being ‘wound up’ and starting again with AFC Coventry or whatever, its a tough call, but i would take us being wound – up. i realise not everyone would agree! Play up Sky Blues.


    1. A really fascinating comment, thanks for getting in touch. I suppose this piece in a nutshell is that in our current state, changing the manager, even the owners too, is only the start. In whatever guise, it feels that this football club is in need of re-boot.


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