RETURNING Sky Blues boss Mark Robins has told the Coventry Observer he is hoping for a ‘long association’ with the club this time round.
And he revealed he has not been brought in solely or specifically with a strict ‘remit’ of achieving what most fans believe would be a highly improbable escape from League One relegation, with just 11 games to go and the club rooted to the foot of the table 13 points adrift of safety.
But, while he has been brought in with a view to the future on a ‘rolling annual contract’ with no clause relating to the end of this season, the 47-year-old insisted the team will be battling for every point to beat the drop, and “will not throw the towel in”.
We exclusively revealed yesterday the Robins’ return, after earlier revealing the departure of his predecessor Russell Slade after his 13 League games in charge brought only a solitary win, despite the forthcoming historic return to Wembley after 30 years, in the Checkatrade Trophy on April 2.
It marks a return to the Coventry managerial job for the former Manchester United and Norwich City striker. He left Coventry City in February 2013 for then Championship side Huddersfield Town, having transformed the struggling Sky Blues within a short five-month spell to become League One promotion contenders, having been relegated under Andy Thorn the previous year. He has the highest win rate of all Coventry City managers while at the club – at 52 percent.
He was a fans’ favourite at the Ricoh Arena but was equally quickly resented for leaving for the Yorkshire club, given his aborted three-year deal had been so full of promise – and after reportedly saying Coventry City was “in my blood”.
Asked about his return in light of his controversial decision to quit last time, he told us: “I’m coming in with eyes wide open and I want it to be a long association. The supporters were magnificent last time and I appreciated their support.
“It was the most difficult professional decision I’ve had to make. It was a difficult decision to leave. I’m coming in to try and put things right. And to try to arrest the things that are happening now and build for the future.”
Asked if he had been given a ‘remit’ by the club to stay up in what many would regard as a ‘mission impossible’, he told us: “Keeping the Sky Blues up is not in the remit, no. But there are 11 games left, and we have to be positive.
“Of those 11 games, seven are at home and there is a cup final in the middle of that. It’s very difficult, but we have to have a go. We have to be under no illusions but expectations have to be tempered a little bit. There are not many games to go.
“Performances have been okay at times. There are some good things. There are good young lads and the academy is a positive. It’s done a terrific job in producing players.”
Asked if that meant potentially blooding young talent this season with a view to next season, he said: “Everything we do will be to get the best team on the pitch that we possibly can.
“We have to make sure we try and win as many games as we possibly can do, not throw the towel in.
“There is pride to play for, new contracts to play for. We’re going to Wembley. Our supporters have supported the club. We have to work as hard as we can do to pull everything in the right direction.
“The arrangement is for longer than the end of the season. I intend to do the job to the best of my ability. We have to make sure the team has good players and there are people coming through the academy.
“For me, it’s exciting. I know the club’s in a difficult situation but I embrace that challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”
Robins – who had left Coventry City in 2013 with a parting shot at Coventry City Council regarding the club’s need for more revenues amid the Ricoh Arena dispute, and who was widely rumoured to be departing to a better paid job – parted company with Huddersfield Town the following year. He later had a stint at fellow League One club Scunthorpe, where he was sacked in January last year.
He said his time since then out of the game had “not been pleasant” but he had spent as much time as he could watching games, and doing media work including for Manchester United TV. He paid tribute to departing manager Slade, adding he was a “nice guy” and that it was “always difficult when anybody loses his job”.
A much improved performance in the 0-0 draw at Shrewsbury on Saturday followed two crushing blows for the Sky Blues’ League One survival hopes – the 3-1 reverse at home to relegation rivals Swindon and a 2-1 defeat at Bury last Tuesday.
Many fans have felt relegation is now all but a forgone conclusion. The team, which began the season under Tony Mowbray without a win in the first ten games, have only won five league games all season, and might now require a minimum eight wins from 11 games for what would be the greatest of ‘great escapes’.
Robins, who has also managed Rotherham and Barnsley, added: “We’re in a predicament. All the supporters will be fearing the worst. We’ve got to take every game as it comes. That’s the only way to go about it.
“There is one goal and one priority. I am coming back in because it’s something that needs to be done. It will be my remit to get a team that’s going to win, and having everybody pulling together.
“Everybody at Coventry City Football Club needs to be more positive. Everybody knows I’ve got an affinity for the club. I enjoyed my time with the club last time. Looking from the outside it’s been difficult to watch. Last season they looked like going up. Tony Mowbray had everybody playing good football, but that fell away towards the end. This season’s been difficult to watch.
“Everybody knows it’s a good club. It’s time to bring everybody back together.”