The vote for Coventry City Manager of the Decade wasn’t so much a matter of opinion as a question of fact. Mark Robins has not only been the club’s best manager over the past 10 years, but you probably have to go back to 1987 to find another Coventry City manager who has made as positive an impact on the club as our current manager.
In both instances of Mark Robins’ appointments, he has been exactly the manager the club needed. From the steadying hand he provided to turn around a horrendously underperforming side in 2012 into promotion contenders, to the vision and purpose he has instilled at a club that had been spiralling towards League Two.
Mark Robins’ first stint at the club was coloured in the years following by his hasty exit just five months into the job and subsequent underwhelming spells at Huddersfield Town and Scunthorpe United. While he made an immediate impact, it was simply too short a period of time in charge to convince that he was anything more than a typical short-term impact manager.
This second spell has, largely, answered those doubts about his first spell, with sustained progress in each year. From imprinting a structure onto a youthful side bound for relegation, to building a more experienced promotion-winning side the following year, gradually evolving the team in League One a year later, before, seemingly, taking things up another level this season in making the team more serious promotion-challengers.
Mark Robins’ way can be ruthless. From pushing out the key players of that Checkatrade Trophy victory in order to secure the necessary experience that won us promotion the next year, to the examples of Abu Ogogo and Jonson Clarke-Harris last season, who were allowed to leave for free because they didn’t fit into what the manager wanted from his players. While this has led to a fairly high level of player turnover over the past three seasons, it hasn’t been change for change’s sake, with each transfer window, the team has evolved.
Unlike other managers who have taken the job over the years, Mark Robins has not only had a clear sense of purpose in what he wants from his players and staff but he has known how to attain it. Some managers have arrived with grand plans but been unable to implement them, others have arrived with an initial idea of how to get results out of the available players but not known what to do next, Robins has been able to keep both short and long-term progress in mind at the same time.
The past summer has perhaps been the best example of Mark Robins’ clarity of vision in charge of the club. While other managers would have let the uncertainty around the stadium situation fester into inaction which could have engendered a sense of a crisis, Robins took a business-as-usual approach. Although the situation the club finds itself in at St Andrew’s is clearly farcical, Robins’ calm approach has made things seem as normal as possible.
As ever with managers, you can never be certain just how quickly they may lose their mojo. While it has been typical of Mark Robins to be able to reinvent the team as and when required, there are still shortcomings in his style that mean that continual progress isn’t necessarily assured.
Even if the worst was to happen with Mark Robins, his achievements and record during both stints at the club would rank him as one of the very best in the modern history of Coventry City.