After only 16 weeks in the job, Steve Coppell quit as manager of Bristol City last Thursday in what has been one of the shocks of the season so far. For City fans so optimistic about what Coppell’s reign might bring to the club, it is a hammer blow and the confidence that surrounded the club at the start of the season has been shaken to its core. In an earlier article I argued that Steve Coppell, rather than David James, would be the best signing Bristol City made this summer. His record at Crystal Palace and Reading spoke volumes of his ability to get the best out of relatively small clubs and bring great success to them, and fans were hoping he could do similar things at Ashton Gate. His soujourn at Bristol City however, has been more reminescent of his brief spell at Manchester City in which he lasted only 33 days. Similarly to the end of his reign at Man City, his departure from Bristol City has been shrouded in mystery and no-one apart from Steve Coppell really knows the reasons behind his resignation.
At such an early stage in the season it is difficult to tell what the consequences of Coppell’s departure will mean for Bristol City. Assistant manager Keith Millen has been given the managers job on a three year contract; he has already had experience of managing the club on a caretaker basis. Millen will be hoping City can repeat the form they showed under him at the end of last season, after Gary Johnson’s departure Millen took over and the club enjoyed some good results, eventually finishing in the very respectable position of tenth. It will be Millen’s first full-time job in management so it remains to be seen how he performs as manager; his first result, a 1-1 draw away to Doncaster on Saturday, was a solid start. Millen will have to rebuild confidence in the side quickly, Coppell’s resignation would have come as a major shock to the players who would have been optimistic about the season with him at the helm. Players Coppell brought in, may also be feeling disillusioned, with marquee signing David James stating when he came to the club that he would not have come had Steve Coppell not been there. With last seasons top scorer Nicky Maynard out for three months along with a host of other injuries, Millen will face a difficult first few weeks as manager. The squad at Bristol City has not changed, but morale may have gone down a notch; if Millen can rebuild confidence and repeat the managerial performances he did last season, then Bristol City can still have a good campaign.
The reason Coppell gave for quitting Bristol City was he told the official club website,
“I found I could not become passionate about the role and give the commitment the position demands.”
He has always been an enigmatic individual. After a hugely successful spell at Crystal Palace, Coppell lasted just six games at Manchester City and to this day the reasons behind his resignation remain unclear. In his time at Reading he experienced mixed emotions. He enjoyed huge success with the club but after they were relegated from the Premier League he seemed to lose some of his appetite for the game, with Coppell also expressing concerns about the effects of management on his health in Reading’s subsequent season in the Championship. Reading reached the play-offs that season, but a loss against Burnley saw him resign, despite most fans being keen to see him stay. Bristol City fans may never know the true reasons behind Coppell’s resignation, and it is sad for English football as a whole that we will never see him manage again.