Steve Coppell is a popular figure in football. Fondly remembered at every club he has either played for or managed, the former Manchester United man is about to embark on a new challenge.
Bristol City are the club fortunate enough to welcome Coppell, as the 54 year old looks to take the Robins back to previous heights, and City couldn’t have picked a better man for the job
In his previous job at Reading, Coppell guided the Royals to the Premier League, amassing 106 points, and scoring 99 goals. Reading were the entertainers of the Championship. The following season Coppell excelled once again, with Reading finishing in eighth place in the Premier League.
For this remarkable achievement Coppell was named Manager of the Year for the second year in a row. Speaking of Coppell’s achievements Sir Alex Ferguson said: “I think it’s totally deserved. It’s a marvellous contribution he’s made.”
But during this time Coppell remained as modest as ever saying: “It is testimony to what everyone is doing at the club. I get the prize but it is everyone else who is doing all the work I can assure you.”
And this is why Coppell is so popular in football. In an era of brash flamboyancy, it makes a refreshing change for a manager that doesn’t want to be in the limelight.
But Coppell has always been this way. After leaving Crystal Palace to take over at Manchester City in 1996, Coppell lasted just 33 days in charge citing the pressure of the job Maine Road as too much. Coppell would return to Selhurst Park the following year, and then eagles chairman Ron Knowles said: “I think he found the club [Manchester City] too enormous.”
While the pressure at Bristol City might not be quite what it was in Manchester, Coppell is well aware of the demands from his new employer: “I think every manager knows that promotion is his brief. This is a club who want to go forward, they want to progress and they want to be in the top division. I think every manager wants to ply his trade in the top flight, and I’m no different. The ambition is to go forward.”
One of the reasons why Coppell was so successful at Reading was togetherness he installed at the club. And Coppell knows that he will need everybody on board if he is to have an equally successful tenure at Ashton Gate: “Our challenge is to get the club in the top division. I’m just here to direct the ship. No one person can do it.
“What do we need? We need to win games. Football is a strange business, its a very much week to week industry, everybody is judged by results in football, myself and the players know this, but the challenge is very much there for next season.”
Football was more of a season to season industry for Coppell at Reading, After their incredible first season in the top flight, they struggled to reach the same standard the following year, and were eventually relegated on the last day of the season.
But testimony to his popularity at the Madjeski Stadium, Reading fans gave Coppell universal backing despite the relegation. Reading looked set for an immediate return to the top flight the following year, but poor end of season form saw them eventually miss out on automatic promotion before losing to Burnley in the playoffs.
Reading fans would have again wanted Coppell to stay on but typical of his character, the self critic that Coppell is, feeling he had failed in his job decided it was time to move on. Speaking at a press conference following his resignation Coppell said, “I apologise, we had more then enough opportunities and fire power to be promoted, and we haven’t done it, it is the managers fault.”
Coppell looked like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders that day. But he has taken time out from the game, and looks refreshed and ready for his new challenge: “I’m excited but I am also a little nervous, that shows you how excited I am.
“I want to do well for the people that employ me, it is a good place and I’m looking forward to the challenge both personally and collectively as a club. I feel this club has the potential to go forward. But potential is tomorrows word, you have got to make it happen. It is my job to help realise the huge ambitions that the chairman holds for the future of this club by producing a winning football team.”
The chairman referred to is Steve Lansdown, and Coppell admits the two have discussed a budget for next season: “There haven’t been any figures put on it, but looking at the chairman’s record in the past, he has obviously been very supportive of whoever has been in charge.
“I recognise there is a market for this club in terms of the players they are capable of bringing in.
I won’t make any stupid requests but I’m sure the chairman will be very supportive if there are players who need to come in”
The transfer market was an area where Coppell achieved some great success at Reading, with Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt some of the bargain buys he picked up. If Coppell is able to produce similar finds for Bristol City, then there is no doubt that Coppell he will become one of the most popular figures in yet another clubs history.