A New Man at Coventry: Aidy Boothroyd
Aidy Boothroyd’s recruitment of Gary McSheffrey to the Coventry City ranks is one of those signings it’s tricky to assess. In the middle years of the last decade, the inside forward shone in sky blue, moving on to win a Championship promotion with Birmingham, before finding the Premier League to be a bit too elevated a platform. Nonetheless, turning to an old hero is a classic Boothroyd ploy. Well versed in the psychology of the game, this laying down of a marker so early in his Ricoh tenure will be met with approving nods.
The very definition of the word journeyman, Boothroyd himself described his playing career in even less glowing terms, employing the starker adjective poor. Spells amid the youths of final club Peterborough, Norwich and West Brom led to Aidy’s first big break, his appointment as first team coach at Leeds.
Mark Lawrenson among others expressed scepticism that such a stripling should be entrusted with a Number One role. Boothroyd would make a nonsense of that, first saving the Hornets from relegation and then improbably piloting them into the Premier League. Watford were a tough unit to prise open in their promotion year: the goals of Marlon King supplemented by a serious minded defence anchored by current ‘Orns boss Malky Mackay and the emergence of bona fide Three Lion Ashley Young, noticeably a cut above, even as a kid. I saw Watford deny Reading’s 106 point champions twice that year with a brace of goallessnesses. Aidy’s mate and mentor Kevin Blackwell was left indignant as the Golden Boys hammered Leeds in Cardiff.
Another premature spell up top would always end in sobbing, but Ben Foster’s excellence on loan from the Red Devils and an FA Cup semi final appearance lightened the gloom and Aidy’s overall balance was in credit. The Watford board agreed and rewarded the Yorkshireman with a new three year contract.
Back in the Championship, all was roseate for a time but a 3-0 bashing by chief rivals WBA at the Vicarage signalled the appearance of some wall scribblings. Watford limped into the play offs but lost 6-1 on aggregate to another golden shirted brigade in Hull. The next August, things became worse and Aidy was on his way in the November. Boothroyd deserves plaudits for his subsequent over achievement at Colchester, although another four team mini-tournament was narrowly missed out on last month.
A student of project management (kind of…errr…organising stuff) and having developed a keen interest in neorolinguistic programming, the still fresh faced Boothroyd has successfully portrayed himself as a modern manager, every soundbite carefully chosen, principles and mantra expounded and the media courted brightly. Regular Sky TV appearances will have interspersed trips to the income support offices and I think most Coventry fans will be delighted, particularly in the light of Chris Coleman’s mumbling, drivel strewn co-commentator stints in South Africa.
Any appraisal of Boothroyd must centre upon that Watford spell. That he left the club under a cloud and in almost precisely the same position as when he took over is telling. Indeed, Ray Lewington had quietly and methodically begun to get things moving when Boothroyd arrived. Nor were Watford in any better a state financially, despite the millions received for Young. Jobi McAnuff is a skills machine but £1.75 million will now make ‘Orns fans wince, Tamas Priskin and Will Hoskins did little to enhance the goals for column and Nathan Ellington, Steve Kabba and Adam Griffiths are names you should avoid mentioning down the Harlequin Centre. Of course, Boothroyd’s time at Watford was glory strewn, but he enhanced expectations to an almost unnecessary degree and there is evidence that his access to the larger cheques should be restricted. Low key acquisitions such as Tommy Smith and an ability to work with the materials available on arrival are what mark Boothroyd out as an able manager.
Now Boothroyd will bring his Sky Blue charges to Watford for the yellows’ first home match of the season. Get ready with your dictaphones for the quotes.