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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 9

17 October 2012

Every new manager needs to lay down a few markers, put some lines in the sand, and it appears Mark Robins is doing that with Coventry City right now.

I must confess that I haven't heard of managers threatening their players with a fine if the man they're supposed to be marking scores from a set piece, but if it works, each to their own. It sounds a bit harsh to me, but as long as the punishment wasn't too heavy I think it could have the desired effect at the Ricoh Arena. It will give his players a gee-up that's for sure, because no one likes to be hit in the pocket.

I've always been a bit funny about player fines and bonuses. For example, when I was a manager I'd never let my strikers have a goal bonus. As a former front man myself, that may surprise you but my logic was simple; strikers are paid to score goals, so why reward them with extra cash just for doing their job? If I paid the scorer a bonus, then why shouldn't I pay the creator an assist bonus, or the defenders a clean sheet bonus, too? Then, it's hard to know when to stop.

On the pitch it's clear that Robins has got a positive reaction. Two wins, two draws and a thumping victory in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy suggest that the side are making good strides under his leadership and I'm pleased for him. I know Mark quite well and he's a good lad. It's been suggested in some quarters that he's a 'firefighter' who fixes clubs in bother but that's unfair, as I believe he's a very good manager that's capable of succeeding long term given the opportunity.

He had to make a tough decision this week too, by asking Coventry to relieve club legend and former caretaker manager Richard Shaw of his duties. That couldn't have been an easy choice to make but if it's going to help him and his staff succeed to go in with one less coach then it has to be the right call.

I always feel sorry for caretaker managers because if they don't get the job they are extremely vulnerable. We've seen many come out and say they don't want to be a boss - and that often saves them- but if like Richard they express an interest and then have to step down to an assistant role, you're walking a tightrope that often ends up with the sack. Personally, I can understand Mark's decision because as manager you need to know you can fully trust everyone 100 per cent, and knowing that one of your team is upset at you taking the job can cause issues.

Coventry let slip a two-goal lead at Swindon Town last weekend, and it sounds like Paolo Di Canio is a bit miffed that the club are now under a transfer embargo.

To be honest, there isn't too much you can complain about if you've broken the rules on the use of your budget. It's the same for everyone, so if as a club you're over spending on wages then there is no choice these days but to cut your cloth accordingly, and do some wheeling and dealing to get players out before you can bring others in. I like the npower Football League budgetary rulings.

Different managers have varying degrees of control, too. If Di Canio doesn't have much say on his budget then I can understand his frustration but a lot of bosses control the purse strings themselves.

I did at Barnsley and Huddersfield Town, where it was down to me to get my sums right, but at Oldham it was a different story. There, I'd have to go to the chairman and ask him for cash. If he said no, that was that, if he said maybe, I knew I had a chance of persuading him to part with a little more.

Another reason behind the Italian's perceived unhappiness is probably the departure of former chairman Jeremy Wray, who was his biggest ally at the club. At Oldham, I got on famously with my first two chairmen Ian Stott and Dave Briley, but when they left it just wasn't the same, and that might be something he's worried about at Swindon.

Manager-chairman relationships don't exist at some clubs but where they do, they can be critically important. Hopefully, newcomer Sir William Patey will be able to reassure his manager that he has nothing to worry about.

It was also fascinating to see Bournemouth bring back their old gaffer Eddie Howe this week. I know it cost them a few quid in compensation but if Eddie Mitchell believes he's the right man to take them forward it could be good business.

Eddie Howe did fantastically at the club in his first stint and is incredibly popular in the area, so it's all set up for him to do well. He'll have money to throw around and before long I do expect the Cherries to be competing much higher in the npower League 1 table.

They say you should never go back, but I hope Eddie will not be feeling that way this time next year. Good luck to him.


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