Steve Cotterill’s arrival at Bristol City will present a very different image to that of the departed head coach Sean O’Driscoll. The pair may have worked together for a spell at Nottingham Forest, but now the one succeeds the other as City try to install a manager who can drag them up the League 1 table.
It certainly won’t be for the lack of trying. I first met Cotterill in his days at Cheltenham. A stickler for basics like punctuality and discipline, he’d soon let you know if you were out of line. He also admitted that at times he’d put so much energy into preparing the team during the week that Saturday, when a manager needs to be sharp mentally as well, was a real struggle. He’s not a man to lean against the frame of the dug out or sit in the stand. Cotterill is very much “front of house”, in the technical area trying to actively influence what’s going on in front of him.
Since leaving Cheltenham, a lot of his work has been at Championship level, particularly at Burnley, Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest. City’s fan base may not match Forest’s but it could certainly run alongside the other two, so the attraction is clearly the potential to improve the club’s place in football’s pecking order from where it currently stands in the relegation zone in League One.
Apart from his brief spell at Notts County, where Cotterill took over a team heading for promotion and successfully delivered the League 2 Championship,
managers tend to get jobs because someone else has failed, and there’s no doubt Bristol City have had a bad 12 months.
I read a comment from a coach in another sport recently about how he used the “nobody likes us and we don’t care” angle extensively within his club. Cotterill was at Wimbledon in the Crazy Gang era until repeated knee problems forced him to cut short his playing career, and so he is very familiar with this external attitude.
It is interesting that his managerial career has also seen spells in at least two areas where the economy is difficult and where football is an escape for the fans. They take pride in their team and they are demanding of it. Cotterill is just the same. He is fiercely protective of players and treats them like an extended family.
Now 49, Steve Cotterill cannot be called an up and coming manager any more. Increasingly, vacancies are being filled by managers with experience at that level. The concept, for example, of a lower league manager getting a job in the Championship is rare now. Boards of directors look for men who have succeeded in their division, so don’t be surprised if Ian Holloway and Neil Warnock turn up at a Championship club in the near future.
Cotterill has never managed in League 1, but in Bristol City’s situation he’ll start with effort, organisation and making his team difficult to beat – just what a side threatened with a second relegation needs. It may not be pretty, but it ought to be enough to secure their status. At that stage, it’ll be time to take a deep breath and consider the longer term aim of rebuilding City’s team – and ground – in tandem.
Photograph : Copyright http://www.caughtoffside.com