FOOTBALL: RUSSELL Slade has defended his managerial abilities despite the Sky Blues being firmly rooted at the bottom of League One and has hinted that a more productive January transfer window could have turned the club’s season around.
The former Leyton Orient, Cardiff City and Charlton boss has come under heavy criticism this week following back-to-back defeats against Swindon Town and Bury.
It leaves his struggling Sky Blues side 14 points away from safety with just 12 league games remaining, making relegation almost a foregone conclusion.
Slade turned Leyton Orient from relegation candidates into promotion contenders and earned a move to Cardiff City because of his success.
He spent two years with the Welsh club in the Championship and spent a short spell at League One rivals Charlton before replacing interim boss Mark Venus at Coventry.
“Just because I’m finding it difficult to win a game now it doesn’t mean I’m a bad manager,” an emotional Slade told the Observer. “It’s the circumstances and we have to deal with those at the minute.
“We’re all hugely disappointed. I played Coventry City when they came to Charlton and although they lost 3-0, I thought they were fantastic in both boxes that day.
“I thought in terms of some of the players they had, they appeared to be well capable of climbing the table. So from that point of view you think you can affect it and help for the better.
“I’ll keep myself going because I’m not mentally weak. I will keep myself going, that’s just the way I am. I’ve never given up fighting in my life. I’ll rock up and I’ll still be positive.”
There is no hiding away from the fact that it was a frustrating January transfer window for Slade.
Although the club staved off interest and bids for the likes of Jordan Willis, Ben Stevenson and Ryan Haynes, and despite drafting in seven players in January, Slade ultimately missed out on several attacking targets.
“In any given window, and certainly the shortest window January and with us already down there, it was tough to get in the players necessary,” Slade continued.
“We managed to make some really good signings that have been positive for the club.
“It wouldn’t be right to say Callum Reilly hasn’t improved us, that Stuart Beavon hasn’t improved us, that Nathan Clarke hasn’t improved us, and there are others of course that have come in, but it hasn’t been enough and we’re falling short of where we need to be.
“To do any job you need your tools. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the commercial department, the fitness department, the administrative department – you need your tools.
“If you haven’t got the tools in the box, you’re going to find it hard to fix the job. It’s difficult for me when I haven’t got all of the tools.”
A trip to Wembley remains the one positive to come out of a deeply depressing season for the club’s supporters, and Slade feels a lack of consistency in all aspects of the pitch is to blame for the club’s dismal league form.
“At least we’ve had a cup run and got to Wembley, but that apart, it’s been a real struggle to find that consistency, not only from game-to-game, but sometimes from one half to the next half and sometimes even periods within the half.
“That lies the problem – the consistency in what we do. The good players or the strong players can repeat what they do over a number of games.
“It’s not changed. We talked about it the other night. It’s not the shape, it’s not the system of the team. This club has tried every single system and shape from day one.
“We’ve played them all. We’ve played three at the back, we’ve played 4-3-3, we’ve played 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1. That’s why I go back to the question – are you as good as the tools you’ve got?”
Slade does not have any regrets about taking the job back in December, but after confirming this week that he feels he can benefit the club both in the short term and looking ahead to the future, the 56-year-old stressed the importance of finding out where all of the problems lie.
He added: “The huge thing is that the football club and I have to sit down and review.
“That time is not now but there will be a time to review and reflect everything, every department – everything.
“We’ve got to look at the game plan and the strategy going forward – the whole lot. We have to look under every stone. That process has to happen.
“Quite clearly what we have been doing, and I’m talking about the club, hasn’t worked.”