Is Thorn the right man for the job?

17 April 2011 12:40
Why Coventry City should consider appointing Thorn as their next manager After Coventry City sacked their manager Aidy Boothroyd last month their chief scout Andy Thorn has been in charge of selecting the team and tactics.  Since taking over as caretaker boss of the Sky Blues, most fans will admit he has turned his side into a more exciting and dynamic attacking side from the dour, predictable long ball game as advocated at times by the previous incumbent. It is fair to say that Thorn initially had mixed results after being put in charge, drawing his first game in charge then losing the second at the then bottom placed club Preston. He now has a record of drawn 2, lost 1 and won 3, which translates at 11 points out of a possible 18. His start was not overly impressive, but and there is always a but, in his defence he was thrown in at the deep end and has a very threadbare squad that was low on confidence. It has since gained in confidence and is now putting in some exciting performances.  What has quickly become apparent is that under Thorn, Coventry City will now play a more attacking game and try to keep the ball on the floor. Whether Thorn and head coach Steve Harrison will be offered the jobs on a permanent, or what passes for permanent in football these days, basis is for the new look board to decide. It does look as if the pair will remain in charge until the end of the season and so, to some extent, their future is in their own hands. One of the biggest impediments to Thorn being appointed as manager is that he does not have the required FIFA coaching badges and this may preclude him from becoming the new full time manager.  The managerial pair of Thorn and Harrison have succeeded in keeping Coventry City in the Championship after the 2-1 win over Millwall yesterday. Although mathematically it is possible they could be overhauled on goal difference if they lose all of their remaining games by very heavy margins and Scunthorpe win all of their remain games by equally heavy margins. So the question everyone who supports Coventry City is asking is should Thorn be the next Sky Blues manager? In a poll run on this site last week a massive 89.5% of those who voted said yes he should, but the lack of coaching badges may go against him and the board may opt for an experienced manager instead. The decision is not just down to who is the best person for the job, it is down of financial considerations as well. Currently the club are effectively paying the wages of three former managers. It is understood that payments to Iain Dowie, who was sacked in 2008, will end later this year, but compensation payments to Chris Coleman are still being paid and a settlement with Aidy Boothroyd has yet to be reached. If the board elect to appoint another established manager there is no guarantee that he will be any more successful than the previous three managers and finding a manager that will stay at the club for the full term of his contract is vital to the long term stability of the club.  There is only a very small pool of experience football managers and those who are available at wages that the club could afford are all tainted with failure at some point. A few have experienced success, both Dowie, who led Crystal Palace to promotion to the Premier League in 2004, but then led them to relegation the following year. Aidy Boothroyd did a similar thing with Watford, so both managers have had success and failure.  All of the best managers are firmly contracted to a club and would not be easily prised away and if they could be tempted to go to Coventry City, could, or would the board be willing to pay the market price? Let's be honest, it is not a tempting proposition for a manager already comfortable where he is to want to manage a club that gets through managers as quickly as Coventry City have been doing in the last decade and has endured a total lack of success. It is simply not an attractive proposition. Only a manager who is out of work or managing in the lower leagues would be tempted to take on the job, but for their own reasons which are not necessarily in the best interests of Coventry City. Some would see the job as a way of paying the bills, while others would see it as a stepping stone.  Managers out of work are out of work for a reason and that is because they have failed to do what was required of them at their previous club. It may be because they have failed to win enough games, or they lost the confidence of the players or the board through their management style, maybe they refused to work in a way compatible with their board. Whatever the reason it is going to be extremely difficult for Coventry City to find a new manger that is available and willing to work for a salary the club could offer and who will be able to work with the current squad and within the strict budgetary restraints the club is having to operate under. Whenever a new manager is appointed to any club, the first thing he does is to try and stamp his mark and authority on the club and players. A new broom will quite often try to change the way a side plays. He will change tactics, formations. He will try playing players out of their preferred positions, generally he will tinker around trying to find the best balance. In short he will ask the players to play the game his way whether they are comfortable with it or not and that is a recipe for failure. Some players will leave, either on their own volition because they don't like the the new manager wants them to play, or even not play at all. There will undoubtedly be new faces brought in, quite often from the new managers previous clubs because he knows their style of play and temperament. A new manager invariably means new players and that in turn means a period of instability while the new faces settle in.  Whether the new manager is successful or not, more often than not the new look team has to first get used to the new style of management and to each other's style of play and abilities with varying degrees of success. Inevitably it will take time for the new management and players to get used to each other.  Of course the unpredictability of a team in transition can be difficult to play against as the coaches of the opposition have little idea of how the transitional team will play against their side, so they will have problems in setting up their side. This unpredictability can often lead to to a false optimism among the players and the fans, who will all expect the sudden change in fortune to continue. In reality it rarely does and a team in transition soon gets found out and the inexorable slide begins. How often have we, the Sky Blue faithful seen this happen? Only on the rare occasion have we witnessed any modicum of success. I am old enough to remember the heady days of the mid 1960's when that all too rare commodity, promotion happened. Like 1964 when a certain Jimmy Hill led his Sky Blues to the Division Three championship title and in 1967 when City won the Division Two title. These were the days long before the introduction of the premier League and when the Football League ruled over four divisions.  Looking back on my first visit to Highfield Road in 1960 and although I didn't realise it at the time, the manager of The Bantams was Billy Frith. For those who do not know their history of Coventry City, prior to Jimmy Hill taking over as manager in 1961, City were known as The Bantams and at that time they played in a white kit with royal blue trim. The story goes that they won the nickname of The Bantams because they were a small club that punched well above their weight. Despite what many fans might think today, the reality is that Coventry City is still a relatively small club, but right now they are not punching above their weight, they are struggling to keep pace in the second tier of English football.  Since those days 51 years ago Coventry City have had 31 managers or management teams including caretaker managers. The longest serving of these were Gordon Milne 1974-81, Jimmy Hill 1961-67 and Noel Cantwell 1967-72. The longest serving manager in more recent times was Gordon Strachan who took over in 1996 and left in 2001 and it was under his stewardship that the club was relegated after 34 years in the top flight. Only Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton could boast longer tenures in England's elite division. Whoever takes over as the next manager of Coventry City will be added to the long, most will say far too long list of managers who have tried and mostly failed to bring some modicum of success to the club. One day there will be another Jimmy Hill, Noel Cantwell or Gordon Milne who will stay at the club for longer than their initial contract and to do that he will have to have achieved some sort of success. That success would only be measured in terms of promotion and staying up, or turning the club into a profitable business which is capable of growing and improving on its own merit.  The board is trying to find outside investors to help with the running costs of the club, but until the club can stem the losses, said the be £500,000 a month, not only will that job be enormously difficult, all it would do would subsidise the club for a few more months. The bottom line is the club desperately needs to find a new and sustainable source of revenue and to reduce its costs. Appointing Thorn as the new manager might be a cheaper alternative to interviewing a plethora of unemployed, or indeed currently employed managers who may or may not have had some sort of success in their managerial careers. Some may even be suitable for the job as Coventry City manager, but just because giving Thorn the job might because it is a cheaper option does not necessarily mean it is the best option, or does it? Andy Thorn was the chief scout for the club before being thrust into the hot seat and it was he who was responsible for identifying may of the players now wearing the Sky Blue shirts. He was the one who identified the talent and in many case the one who persuaded them to join Coventry City. He probably knows more about many of the players than their managers did. To be a scout and Thorn is undoubtedly a good one, he has to be able to spot raw talent, character, personality, ability on and off the ball, in short he has to be a very good judge and then have the confidence of backing his own judgement.  To be a good judge of footballing skills a scout must also be able to see where a player will be most effective or even where he would be least effective. To judge whether Thorn has these attributes, one has to look at the players he has tried to attract to the club, regardless of whether he was successful.  After the player has signed on the dotted line, he now comes under the thrall of the manager who has his own ideas of how the game should be played and then tries to get the players to play the game his way and this often means a player will either be forced to play out of position or to play the game in a way that is not ideally suited to his talents and skills, the net result being an under achieving team. While it has to be admitted that a manager will have to juggle his players when injuries and bans occur and this inevitably means a player has to play out of his preferred position and that cannot be helped, but for a manager to permanently play someone out of position or to ask him to play a style of game not to his skill levels or liking is asking for trouble. Confidence will eventually be destroyed, attitudes will harden, fans will turn on the player even though it is not his fault and the team will not perform to its best. There can be little doubt that Thorn has been responsible for far more successes than failures with regard to those players now at Coventry City and now he has taken temporary charge of the team since the departure of Boothroyd, he has shown he has the ability to select a competitive team that is more than capable of competing in The Championship. His attacking tactics are far more to the liking of the long suffering Coventry City faithful and more to the point he has been getting the positive results that are now guiding his side back up the table. It is because Thorn has been a scout and knows probably better than most the abilities and weaknesses of most of the players he knows where and how to play each player to get the best out of them and it is this reason why I believe Thorn has been reasonably successful in his short and temporary managerial career and why he should be given serious consideration as the next manager of Coventry City. His partnership with head coach Steve Harrison is working well and it would be a shame if it were broken up to make way for yet another new broom with different ideas that probably won't work any better than the any of the previous  regimes. If Thorn is excluded from management because he is not a qualified coach the club should encourage him to take the FIFA coaching courses to earn his badges and consider appointing a temporary, but experienced manager who would mentor Thorn while he took his coaching courses so he could take over at a later date.