Sacked manager appreciated by fans for steering Sky Blues through difficult times
26 February ~ News of Steven Pressley’s sacking on Monday was accompanied by a sense of inevitability. A dire spell for Coventry City culminated in a familiar psychological capitulation at Bramall Lane at the weekend, and a feeling that Pressley was incapable of stopping the rot. After the game, he said: “When you're desperate to win there's a nervousness that sets in.” The problem is, that nervousness has afflicted the team for over a year, and the club now occupy the League One relegation zone.
The difficulties began in January 2014, when Leon Clarke was sold to Wolves. Goals dried up and summer saw the core of last season’s squad – Joe Murphy, Cyrus Christie, Franck Moussa, Carl Baker and Callum Wilson – either sold off or released to free up wages. Replacements have been plentiful, but sub-standard (and temporary, in many cases).
Some supporters believe that Pressley was hamstrung by a lack of investment by universally unpopular owners Sisu, but doubts remain over his utilisation of the resources that were available to him. The club maintain that a “top-six budget” was at his disposal.
Defensive frailty was an issue throughout Pressley’s tenure, regardless of personnel. The naivety of a youthful squad can be justifiably blamed to an extent, but it should be acknowledged that the likes of Jordan Clarke (now at Scunthorpe) and Jordan Willis have racked up nearly 200 senior appearances between them.
Pressley is also guilty of tactical flip-flopping, constructing a squad over the summer with 5-3-2 in mind, only to abandon the formation after a few fruitless months. The midfield has suffered from long-term impotence, lacking both bite and guile, and providing no goalscoring threat. It is a damning indictment of Pressley’s managerial skills that both Conor Thomas and John Fleck appear to have gone backwards under his mentorship.
Pressley deserves credit for steering the club through an unspeakably tough period last season at Sixfields, eliminating a ten-point deduction in emphatic fashion at the start of 2013-14. He has done important work in streamlining the overall set-up, and attempting to implement a consistent footballing philosophy against a backdrop of instability.
Fans desperately wanted Pressley to succeed, and the outcome of his tenure is semi-tragic. He will be remembered as a likeable, passionate manager, but ultimately an ineffective one, undone by his inability to successfully balance youth and experience. That Pressley has managed to preside over just nine league victories since the beginning of 2014 is unacceptable.
That said, the suspicion that he may yet go on to succeed elsewhere suggests that the root cause of Coventry’s failure transcends the man tasked with overseeing the first team. The aim for the next 15 games is to secure survival; but bigger, wider issues need addressing in the summer. Tom Furnival-Adams