"I won't be rushed into anything," said Steve Coppell back in June. Yesterday he walked out of his job at Bristol City after a tenure that lasted two games and 112 days – or rather six days of the season. It was nearly four times as long as he had remained in situ at Manchester City, but still represents a remarkably abrupt end to a management career that began 26 years ago.
Coppell was appointed on a one-year rolling contract at the end of last season and recruited David James in one of the most surprising transfer deals of the summer. But a 3-0 home defeat to Millwall in the season's opening Championship game on Saturday was followed three days later by another embarrassing loss at Southend in the Carling Cup and that was enough for Coppell.
When he became the youngest manager in the Football League in 1984 after being appointed at Crystal Palace, Alex Ferguson was still at Aberdeen and Liverpool had just won the championship. It began a career that spanned the top and bottom divisions of English football, including that ill-fated spell at Maine Road, where he remained for six games and 33 days.
Coppell, 55, has never explained his reasons for leaving Manchester so swiftly in 1996 and there was nothing to shed light on yesterday's equally unexpected action, apart from a statement issued via the League Managers' Association, a body whose chief executive he once was. Stress was widely suggested as his reason for quitting City, while he has also acquired a reputation for acting swiftly as soon as he becomes unhappy with a situation.
His statement read: "It is with the deepest regret that I confirm my departure from Bristol City. I have made my decision after very careful consideration and I believe that it is in the best interests of both the club and me personally that we go our separate ways.
"Whilst I was looking forward to the challenge of leading the players in this season's campaign, unfortunately, 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. I appreciate that the timing of my departure is not ideal, but I believe it is best for the club to appoint a new manager. I am retiring from football management but still feel I have a contribution to make to the game some time in the future."
Coppell had been signed up to deliver the dream of chairman Steve Lansdown and secure a return to the top flight for the first time in 30 years. "His footballing pedigree made him our prime target to manage the club," said Lansdown yesterday. "It is disappointing for any club to part company with its manager at this stage of the season. However, we respect Steve's decision."
Keith Millen, No 2 at Ashton Gate for the last six years, has been named to replace him. City play at Doncaster tomorrow. "I'm concentrating on doing my best for City. That's a little difficult at the moment as I'm still getting over the shock," said Millen.
Coppell's many moves
June 1984-May 1993: Crystal Palace
Appointed at age of 28. Led Eagles to FA Cup final and promotion to First Division.
Oct-Nov 1996: Manchester City
Lasted just 33 days before walking out.
Feb 1997-Mar 1998: Crystal Palace
Took Eagles up again in second spell.
Jan 1999-Aug 2000: Crystal Palace
Returned for final period in charge.
May 2001-Jun 2002: Brentford
Lost in Second Division play-off final.
Oct 2002-Oct 2003: Brighton
Unable to avoid relegation.
Oct 2003-May 2009: Reading
Led Royals to Premier League.
May-Aug 2010: Bristol City
In charge for just four matches.