Coventry City 1992/93 - Alive and Kicking (Part 2)
Vital Coventry's look back at the 1992/93 season. This series was originally intended for publication as an e-book. Thanks to Jim Brown's book 'Coventry City - The Elite Era' for reference.
Gould and Howe Reunited (Briefly)
The man in charge for the final months of the 1991/92 season had been Don Howe, promoted to the top job after the sacking of Butcher, ostensibly for refusing to renegotiate his contract to reflect the fact that he had retired as a player (City had paid a transfer fee to Glasgow Rangers for Butcher`s playing registration when he became Sillett`s successor).
A veteran football man and a key part of the England backroom staff under Bobby Robson during the 1990 World Cup, Howe's reputation as a good organiser of teams was borne out as he tightened City's defence via a succession of goalless draws which did little to excite supporters as the Sky Blues edged towards safety.
Chairman Peter Robins, having promised substantial money for transfers, was keen to marry Howe's tactical acumen with the passion and player-spotting ability of Bobby Gould, both a former player and manager at Highfield Road. The two men had teamed up before, most notably as Wimbledon followed in the Sky Blues` footsteps and won the FA Cup, against the odds, at Wembley in 1988.
Robins outlined his thinking when he said: 'Don is a brilliant coach and Bobby is a fine motivator. His record for finding talent is among the best. Their partnership was extremely successful at Wimbledon and they wanted to work together again.'
Coventry-born Gould was available having just been sacked by West Bromwich Albion (little lamented by Baggies fans who took coffins bearing his name to their final game of the 91/92 season at Shrewsbury) and ready to start work without delay. Regardless of how he was viewed at the Hawthorns he remained a popular figure in his home town where, as a combative striker he had come through the ranks under Jimmy Hill, scoring twice on his Division One debut in City`s second ever game in the top-flight against Nottingham Forest in 1967.
His first spell as manager had begun in the summer of 1983 when Gould inherited a squad that had been decimated by departures (fuelled ironically by the stewardship of his mentor Jimmy Hill who had been ousted as chairman earlier that summer).
He signed eleven new players before the start of the season, a mixture of top division cast-offs and lower league signings who helped City reach the dizzy heights of 4th in the First Division after a famous 4-0 win over champions Liverpool in December before a long, winless run almost ended in relegation. Inevitably it came down to the final game of the season and a nerve-racking 2-1 win against Norwich to keep the Sky Blues afloat.
Gould was sacked in December 1984. Just days earlier he had let his heart rule his head in entering the field of play as a struggling City side were losing heavily at Leicester. Wealthy businessman John Poynton had recently become chairman and although he had allowed the manager to step up the calibre of signings with the arrival of former England internationals Cyrille Regis and Peter Barnes he was impatient for improvement.
Under Poynton, City had broken their 104 year trophy drought but the chairman had left the club during the turbulent 1991/92 season to be replaced by Peter Robins. He got his man in Gould but as preparations for the 1992/93 season lost Howe as the veteran coach claimed that the daily commute from his Hertfordshire home was too much for a man of his age.
Former Bolton Wanderers boss Phil Neal was appointed as assistant manager and he and Gould began the task of improving on a dismal year in which only a few of the squad they inherited had managed to shine.
Part 1 - A Nervous Afternoon At Villa Park