Nilsson steps up for Strachan at Coventry

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The Independent Football

Sounds familiar? A quiet, well-organised Swede coming aboard an apparently sinking ship, with a remit to steady the boat? Roland Nilsson, the 37-year-old defender, stepped aboard at Coventry City yesterday following the departure of Gordon Strachan, and takes the team to Peterborough United in the Worthington Cup tonight with an opportunity to become full-time manager at Highfield Road.

Unlike England's Sven Goran Eriksson, of course, Nilsson does not possess an impressive managerial curriculum vitae. He was, however, the director of football in his latest stint at Helsingborg, from whom he rejoined Coventry in July. Bryan Richardson, the Coventry chairman, who also dispensed with the services of Strachan's coaches, Garry Pendrey and Jim Blyth, yesterday, has made it clear his choice of caretaker leads the running to take charge in the longer term. Richardson said: "The situation is that Roland has taken charge of the first team which Richard Money [the director of the club's academy] as his No 2 and Ray Clarke [chief scout] has also come in as part of the first-team management.

"We will see how they go and they have a perfectly good chance if they get things going and get the team winning games again. In that case, there is no reason at all why they shouldn't carry on. All we want is a winning team."

Nilsson said: "I'm just going to try and do the best I can. Then after a few weeks we will have to reassess it again and see how it's going. If everything works out well it might suit me."

Coventry, relegated in May after 34 years in the top flight, have lost three of their opening five fixtures in the Nationwide League First Division.

Strachan, 44, who took charge in November 1996 after a spell as player-assistant-manager under Ron Atkinson, leaves with a £1m settlement for the three years remaining on his contract.

Atkinson is said to be recommending Bryan Robson, the former Middlesbrough manager, to the Highfield Road board while Dave Bassett, Harry Redknapp and, more strongly, Joe Royle, would be among the contenders should Nilsson be overlooked.

Strachan was promptly offered odds of 5-2 to become the new Scotland coach should Craig Brown depart. "He'd be an absolutely fantastic choice for Scotland should Craig step down," Mark McGhee, Strachan's former Aberdeen team-mate and the current Millwall manager, said. "That's not to say he couldn't assist in the current set-up with a view to learning from Craig Brown before taking over. For the Scottish Football Association to have someone of Gordon's calibre, experience and European knowledge available at this juncture, it seems too good a chance for them to miss."

A former Coventry manager, Phil Neal, blamed supporters for the upheaval. "The fans have won again," he said. "It is virtually a repeat of what happened to me. I finished 11th in the table, and the supporters thought it was going to get better. Gordon did the same in 1997 but it has gone slowly downhill since."

The League Managers' Association expressed their disappointment, and their vice-chairman, Frank Clark, said the end to Strachan's tenure after less than a month of the new season was "symptomatic" of football today. "We're very disappointed when any manager leaves like this," he said. "It does seem very early in the season."

Mick Quinn, who played for Coventry in the early 1990s, called for Richardson to follow Strachan out of Highfield Road. He said: "I think it's time for changes upstairs as well as the management."

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