Coppell out; Millen in at the Gate
Steve Coppell’s untimely resignation from Bristol City after just two games has astounded Robins’ supporters. Defeats at home to Millwall in the league and Southend in the League Cup, preceded by a ghastly pre-season and accompanied by an injury list to deter even the most optimistic only go part of the way to explaining such a brisk departure. Immediately, Coppell’s previous rapid fire abandonment of Manchester City has been evoked – his 33 day spell at Maine Road cited as proof that today’s events are no surprise – but, I would argue that there have been more recent signs of Coppell losing patience with the game, even if I myself heralded his appointment as a superb one back in April.
For the fact remains that Coppell’s last six months at Reading were horrid. The club failed to win a home game from January onwards (including a Brizzle waltz that February) and long ball tactics failed time and again as the Royal’s comparatively expensive squad were caught on the break in perpetuity. The panicky re-recruitment of Glen Little and David Kitson on loan was a disaster and Coppell ended up throwing Simon Church in for a league debut as Reading fell to Burnley in the play-offs – this seemed to be the last dice fling of a desperate man who had run out of ideas.
All this was forgivable and understandable of course. Having overachieved dramatically and taken Reading to an eighth place finish in the Premier League, it must have been frustrating (but inevitable) that players like Joleon Lescott, Matty Taylor and John Mensah still didn’t want to come to the club. Stars who had been previously loyal lieutenants started to gripe and this seemingly quiet and introverted personality, who only ever signed rolling one year contracts in his early days at the Mad Stad, just didn’t seem to want to be there any more.
So it seems is the case at Ashton Gate – initial conditions appeared to be promising and the capture of David James a massive coup, but the effort needed to build a club up again must suddenly have seemed too daunting. City fans are speculating as to the reasons, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know them. Good luck to Keith Millen who, some comparisons to Brian Tinnion notwithstanding, did creditably at the back end of last season.