Manager's old club Coventry will provide tough test for his first match
10 October ~ “You literally couldn’t make it up,” exclaimed the Coventry Telegraph on hearing Steven Pressley’s first game in charge at Fleetwood would be against his old club. The paper might be suffering from a slight lack of imagination, given there’s a roughly one-in-23 chance of it happening, but even so, it’s one of the highlights in League One this weekend.
Given his previous managerial luck, Pressley must be tentatively optimistic about joining Fleetwood, a club with some semblance of order, if not the league position to show for it. In his first interview since arriving at the club on Tuesday, he recalled having to slash the budget of his Falkirk team by 75 per cent, and his Coventry team by 60 per cent. He’ll be relieved to know that Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley has already done it for him, as Financial Fair Play puts a temporary break on our relentless rise up the football pyramid.
Pilley abandoned his high-spending ways last year, sinking £4.5 million into a new training ground in the hope of attracting the area’s best young players. It’s an approach that hasn’t worked for manager Graham Alexander, sacked after a 5-1 thumping at Gillingham. It was a defeat that epitomised Fleetwood’s season so far – flashes of promise from relatively untested players at League One level, ultimately outdone by defensive mishaps in an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation.
Alexander does, however, deserve some sympathy: it’s been widely rumoured that he lost control of transfers during the summer, with director of football Stewart Murdoch, technical director Gretar Steinsson – and, above all, Pilley – holding increasing sway.
Pressley, without a job since being sacked by Coventry in February, has been linked with a number of vacant roles, including Sheffield United, Peterborough and Dundee. He said this week he’d turned down a number of offers until he found a club that shared his outlook on the game – his reputation for youth-orientated, attacking football is a formula Pilley is desperate to replicate. Pilley, too, appears to be impressed with his ability to put together attractive (if not hugely successful) teams on modest budgets.
Given his patchy win ratio of just under a third at Coventry, Pressley’s appointment has not been met with great enthusiasm among supporters. Then again, he’ll probably be able to curry favour pretty quickly by abandoning a back three that has seen Northern Ireland international Conor McLaughlin – easily one of our best players last season – reduced to a quivering wreck every time the ball comes near him.
A return to applauding crowds at full-time – a modern footballing tradition shunned by Alexander, and in one memorable occasion, saw his wife take to the club’s Facebook group to defend him from irate fans – would also probably help. But if the Coventry game reverts to form, and league top scorer Adam Armstrong continues his recent run for the Sky Blues, expect it to be a (metaphorical, not literal) baptism of fire for Pressley. Alasdair Pal
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