Boss to lay down law, says de­fender

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Chris Dunlavy

COVEN­TRY de­fender Jor­dan Wil­lis has warned that new gaffer Mark Robins will pull no punches with slack­ers at the Ri­coh Arena.

Robins, 42, re­joined the Sky Blues on Mon­day, four years after leav­ing the club to be­come man­ager of Hud­der­s­field.

But while the team he left lay safely in mid-ta­ble, the one he in­her­its was 13 points adrift of safety at the foot of League One head­ing into the week­end, all but doomed to rel­e­ga­tion.

Yet Robins – who re­places the sacked Rus­sell Slade – has told his young side that they can achieve the im­pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially with six of their next eight games at home.


And Wil­lis, an 18-year-old scholar dur­ing Robins’ first stint, says that a squad re­cently de­scribed as “men­tally weak” by Sky Blues leg­end Gary McSh­ef­frey will get no sym­pa­thy from the for­mer Man United striker.

“I was a first year pro last time Mark was here,” said Wil­lis, Coven­try’s club cap­tain prior to the Jan­uary ar­rival of veteran cen­tre-half Nathan Clarke.

“In and around the team, on the bench most weeks, I’ve seen how he works. He’s stern. He’s firm. Those are the main words I’d use to de­scribe him.

“He tells you what he ex­pects and you know from his man­ner that any­thing less is totally un­ac­cept­able.

“That’s his way of get­ting the best out of play­ers – and you can tell from where he’s been and what he did here last time that it works.

“He’s only been here a few days but he’s al­ready laid down ex­actly what he wants. Ba­si­cally, he said that there’s no rea­son we can’t go eight games un­beaten, rise up the ta­ble and get out of the bot­tom four.”

Con­sid­er­ing Coven­try have only won five times all sea­son, Robins’ de­mands ap­pear rather op­ti­mistic.

For his part, Wil­lis is mys­ti­fied at Coven­try’s en­dur­ing in­ad­e­quacy. “I can’t put my fin­ger on what’s gone wrong,” he adds. “We’ve tried ev­ery for­ma­tion. Dif­fer­ent play­ers.

“We’ve had three man­agers now, four if you in­clude Mark Venus as care­taker. It’s just not clicked for one rea­son or an­other.

“But Mark’s a good man­ager. Our prob­lem this sea­son has been scor­ing goals and, as a for­mer striker, hope­fully he can pass some of that ex­pe­ri­ence on. Also, a big part of his tac­tics as a man­ager is struc­ture be­hind the ball which is some­thing we need.”

In re­al­ity, Coven­try con­tinue to be sab­o­taged by the long-term un­der­in­vest­ment of ab­sent own­ers Sisu, forc­ing fans to stay away – or protest – and young, in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers to carry an un­winnable fight. Wil­lis is one such vic­tim, but tows the party line.

“We’re the ones play­ing the football,” he says. “We try to take no no­tice of stuff hap­pen­ing off the pitch. We know as much as any­one else does, so we can’t put any blame on that.”

Robins, too, has at­tempted to de­flect at­ten­tion from the “po­lit­i­cal” is­sues that have crip­pled the club.


“The po­lit­i­cal side of what's hap­pen­ing makes this place dif­fer­ent,” he said. “It’s a unique set of chal­lenges but it can be done. I just want to steer clear of that and con­cen­trate on the football.” So does any­body gen­uinely believe that Robins won’t be manag­ing a League Two club next sea­son? “Yeah, I’d say so,” in­sists Wil­lis. “Re­sults haven’t gone our way. The league po­si­tion is dis­ap­point­ing to say the least. But we know the play­ers have got qual­ity. We’ve got a good man­ager who knows how to get the best out of peo­ple. It’s not math­e­mat­i­cally im­pos­si­ble and, un­til it is, we’ve got to keep be­liev­ing and keep fight­ing.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

LAST TIME AROUND: Mark Robins smiles dur­ing his first stint as Coven­try boss – but can be tough, too

DE­TER­MINED: Coven­try de­fender Jor­dan Wil­lis, left

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