DUNLAVY:

Press­ley shouldn’t take blame

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

TOP-SIX bud­get. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But if top-six play­ers won’t touch you with a barge­pole, all that cash is about as much use as a So­mali Shilling. Re­mem­ber Hull’s sec­ond year in the Pre­mier League un­der Phil Brown? They yakked on about a trans­fer warch­est, made a song and dance of bid­ding for Michael Owen.

But while they had the money, they didn’t have the ku­dos. Owen was so des­per­ate not to join the Tigers he ac­tu­ally knocked up a glossy brochure ad­ver­tis­ing his wares.

The Eng­land striker even­tu­ally signed for Manch­ester United; Hull got a load of mer­ce­nar­ies and ended up in the Cham­pi­onship.

Pout­ing

So when Coven­try chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Wag­gott says manager Steven Press­ley was sacked for fail­ing to “make the most of a top­six bud­get”, we shouldn’t pay too much at­ten­tion.

Maybe Coven­try could pay big wages. But that didn’t stop them miss­ing out on the likes of Jac­ques Maghoma and Kris Boyd dur­ing the sum­mer. Nor did it pre­vent a host of oth­ers head­ing for the hills when a con­tract was waved their way.

Why? Six­fields of course. Back in the sum­mer, Coven­try were still play­ing 35 miles away in Northamp­ton. Their own­ers were still pout­ing and lit­i­gat­ing. Their fans re­mained ab­sent in protest. It wasn’t un­til Septem­ber that Wag­gott fi­nally knocked a few heads to­gether and en­gi­neered a re­turn to the Ri­coh. By def­i­ni­tion, a top-six player will have top-six op­tions. And who in their right mind would choose to spend their Satur­days pot­ter­ing about in front of 1,000 fans when they could play for, say, Rangers, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day or Bris­tol City?

Hav­ing lost the likes of Leon Clarke and Cal­lum Wil­son – who scored 40 goals be­tween them last term – Press­ley had lit­tle hope of re­plac­ing them with play­ers of even sim­i­lar qual­ity.

That’s not to say the 41-year-old is blame­less. Am­bi­tious tar­gets should al­ways be back­stopped by vi­able al­ter­na­tives and Press­ley him­self ad­mit­ted that those ini­tial fail­ures meant he didn’t go through the “cor­rect pro­ce­dure” (ie: back­ground checks) on the play­ers he did sign.

The re­sult­ing pro­ces­sion of loa­nees and in­jury-prone has-beens flopped badly and Press­ley’s scat­ter­gun ap­proach (he has signed 24 play­ers this sea­son alone) sug-

gested a man thrash­ing around for ideas.

You can also un­der­stand why Coven­try pulled the trig­ger. A new manager al­ways sparks a short-term re­ac­tion and, with just six wins from 28 games, that looks the only thing that can save the Sky Blues from League Two.

Nev­er­the­less, it is disin­gen­u­ous to sug­gest Press­ley wasted Coven­try’s cash. He was forced into that po­si­tion by a board so hell-bent on fleec­ing their land­lords that they up­rooted a club, alien­ated its sup­port and prompted po­ten­tial play­ers to run a mile.

The blame for Coven­try’s cur­rent plight goes far be­yond one young manager who had one bad sea­son in the trans­fer mar­ket.

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