Coventry mishandle Atkinson's switch

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The Independent Online
As baton handovers go, it was on a par with the mess into which Britain's male sprinters got themselves at the Olympics. Ron Atkinson passed the managership of Coventry City on to Gordon Strachan yesterday, but took up his new post as director of football complaining that he was upset about the way the change had been handled.

Atkinson, at 57 the oldest manager in the Premiership, said soon after taking over at Highfield Road 21 months ago that Strachan would succeed him next summer. In the wake of Coventry's draw at Everton on Monday, which left them third from bottom, the club confirmed they had brought forward the 39-year-old assistant manager's appointment with the consent of both parties.

It was the fact that the news was leaked to a newspaper which left Atkinson angry. "It annoyed me that it was leaked by someone who is a member of our board of directors. I cannot name that person but I know who it is. He has let down the club and the chairman," he said.

"I was so annoyed that I was of a mind to quit, but the chairman persuaded me to stay. We wanted to make the transition smoothly and without fuss. Gordon Strachan can be assured that I will not be looking over his shoulder. My new role appeals to me and I intend to be very active."

Bryan Richardson, the Coventry chairman, earlier rebutted reports that Atkinson had been dismissed. "He was not sacked at all. He came and approached me at the end of last week to discuss the idea of Gordon taking over the running of the team," he said.

"All we've done is bring forward exactly what we said before. It was Ron's original idea when Gordon came to us that there was this absolute and firm plan. It's in Gordon's contract and it's in Ron's that Gordon would take over."

It is clear Coventry's parlous position has prompted them effectively to end Atkinson's 22-year career as a League manager. Despite his lavish spending - pounds 15.6m - the Sky Blues, who have been members of the top flight since 1967, again face a fight against relegation.

Strachan, who continues to make cameo appearances as a substitute, had been widely expected to succeed Howard Wilkinson as manager of Leeds. When it became clear that Wilkinson was not ready to move "upstairs", the former Scottish international threw in his lot with Atkinson, under whom he played for Manchester United during the 1980s.

A colourful career, page 26