Bristol City have today announced that manager Steve Coppell has resigned as manager with immediate effect after just four months in the job. His former assistant, Keith Millen, has been appointed as manager on a three-year contract.
Coppell informed Chairman Steve Lansdown of his decision yesterday, and released a statement today through the League Managers Association. “It has become clear over recent weeks that I found I could not, for whatever reason, become passionate about the role and give the commitment the position demands,” he said.
The 55-year-old acknowledged that his resignation could have been better timed, but explained that he believes it was the best thing for the club, saying that the new manager could “make decisions on signing players before the window closes and work with the squad for the full campaign.”
It is not the first time Coppell has left a club so soon after joining – he retains the record for the shortest ever stewardship at Manchester City, who he left after just 33 days in 1996. Then he cited the pressure of the job as the driving factor behind his decision, but this is rather more depressing. It appears he has lost his love for the game as his statement confirms that not only is he quitting Bristol City but retiring from football management altogether.
Chairman Steve Lansdown said: “Steve’s footballing pedigree made him our prime target to manage the club early this year. It is disappointing to part company with a manager at this stage of the season. However, we respect his decision.”
It has been a poor start to the season for City, with early optimism over Coppell’s appointment and the signing of England goalkeeper David James soured by Saturday’s 3-0 reverse to newly-promoted Millwall and a Carling Cup defeat to League Two side Southend on Tuesday.
In addition, the Robins have a packed treatment room, with Millen telling A Different League last week that 10 players were out injured. With nine of last year’s squad having left the club player recruitment remains a priority, but that will be a harder task without a man of Coppell’s reputation at the helm.
Millen was caretaker manager for the final weeks of last season after Gary Johnson’s contract was terminated by mutual consent, so he knows the players well. He admitted he was still getting over the shock of Coppell’s resignation but said he did not hesitate when offered the position. “I knew I wanted to do the job and last season I enjoyed it. The players know from last year how I like things working,” he said. “Bristol City fans like to see entertaining football, I’ve been here long enough to know what their expectations are. I’ve got high expectations as well.”
Much was made in preseason about City’s chances of promotion with Coppell as manager, a willing Chairman in Steve Lansdown and the high-profile signing of David James, but Millen moved immediately to dampen expectations. “I’m not going to come in here talking promotion and play-offs,” he said. “We need to concentrate on getting players fit again, bringing in some new faces and preparing correctly for Saturday’s match at Doncaster.”
On Millen’s appointment, Lansdown said: “This was not a difficult decision. Keith has managed the team on previous occasions, he understands the football club and has great affection and ambition for it.
“I always expected Keith to become a manager one day and now he has the opportunity at Bristol City. I look forward to working with him and helping him succeed.”