TONY Mowbray is deservedly taking most of the plaudits for producing a team that has got Sky Blues fans excited at the real prospect of a return to the Championship.
But one man who has also played a key role and been Mowbray’s second in command throughout his managerial career is Mark Venus.
After previously discussing his relationship with the owners and a desire to provide fans with success this season, in this third and final part of the interview, Venus provides more of an insight into the man behind the new technical director role.
It is a role that has become more and more popular with English clubs over the past 15 years with former players taking on a technical director role alongside the manager.
Venus took on such a role for the first time in his career last summer to link up with close friend Mowbray at a fifth successive club, and he is enjoying every minute of his new job at the Sky Blues.
“Tony kept the team in the league which was a great achievement at the time because it could have gone either way,” said Venus. “He then put a plan together and I bought into it really, I said I’d like to give it a go.
“I spoke regularly to Tony and I came to watch a few games. I wanted him to keep the club up so I was cheering from far away really.
“In the industry, why wouldn’t you have an ex-footballer working on this side of the business? It makes complete sense to me.
“I was wondering what sort of workload I would have and it’s surprisingly a lot.
“It’s doing all the things the manager finds hard and strenuous – admin, organising, helping with recruitment, budgets, just trying to help him.”
Sitting at his desk in the manager’s room at Ryton, Venus looks out onto the training pitch a number of times which leads to the question, does he miss being out there?
“This has been a role that I’ve engrossed myself in. Saturdays I do sometimes miss being on the bench, especially to begin with, but not so much now.
“I don’t’ miss getting my gear on everyday and coaching the lads, I think the step here was actually the right step.
“I do enjoy just watching them train sometimes and just having a look over a player or two that we’ve got in the football club.
“I don’t go out there all the time. I leave that to the manager and Jamie (Clapham) that’s their department really.”
Venus had previously worked as Mowbray’s assistant at Hibernian, West Brom, Celtic and Middlesborough. So where did this special relationship begin?
The pair played alongside each other at Ipswich Town and when Mowbray took the natural step into coaching, Venus was more than happy to go along for the ride.
“We respected each other really and when he left for Hibernian he invited me to go with him. I was really grateful,” continued the former Hartlepool, Leicester, Wolves, Ipswich and Hibernian player.
“We respected each other on the pitch. We had strong views about football. Tony respected my views and I respected his and that’s how we got to know each other really.
“I always wanted to stay in football – it was like a hobby as well as a profession. I always thought I’d like to try my luck at coaching really.
“At Ipswich I played at left-centre half. We were a small club but we built a team and we had some good players in the end.
“We managed to get to the Premier League and we did well in that first season. The second season was a disappointment although we did okay in Europe.
“We got beaten three times in the play-offs before we won at Wembley so I think we were doing consistently well in the Championship when I was at Ipswich but we just couldn’t get over the line. We finished third and fourth and then eventually got out through the play-offs.
“Tony gave me an opportunity, I got my qualifications while I was working with him because I virtually left football and went straight into that job.
“We’re two sort of social animals I’d suggest but when it comes to football we’re pretty much the same.
“A manager needs someone who tells him how he feels about some players. Invariably the bottle lies with the manager – he picks and chooses the team, he signs who he wants to sign.
“I’ve always liked looking at footballers and trying to see which ones might improve or could improve or could be better in a different team – all of those conundrums.
“From my point of view I give him my opinion, I give him the reasons why I have that opinion and then he has to break through all of that to try and get to the right solution.”
Mowbray and Venus guided Hibernian to the top four in two consecutive seasons and they also got a taste of European football before West Brom came calling in October 2006, where the task was to guide the Baggies back to the top flight of English football.
“We inherited a lot of experienced footballers who had good careers and the expectation was that they were going to get the club back into the Premier League.
“For whatever reason it didn’t happen so a lot of them wanted to leave and we had to sell to break the team up.
“We went out and bought some younger blood in James Morrison and Chris Brunt, younger players and tried to build a team again and we managed to win the league.
“The good part for me at West Brom was that we did have some funds to sign some footballers. It was probably the first time and may have been the only time we’ve consistently had some money to purchase footballers to try and improve the team.
“Like all investments, they don’t all work, but some of our investments were pretty good business for them.
“I really enjoyed West Brom, I really enjoyed the club it was fantastically well run. I think I learned some of the things here from there, the way they run a football club and then we went to Celtic.”
After guiding West Brom to the Premiership they were relegated in 2009 and Mowbray along with Venus was sacked.
An unsuccessful spell back in Scotland with Celtic followed before the pair found themselves back in the Championship, this time with Middlesbrough where they were aiming for the top flight again.
“We inherited the club at a pretty difficult time. They had just got relegated from the Premier League .
“The previous manager had spent a lot of money and they hadn’t struck for whatever reason and not hit form.
“Money had been spent but they were struggling down towards the bottom of the league so we tried to stabilise the club.
“Again we had degree of success and a lot of clubs when they’re in those positions fall away and go out of those leagues.
“We went through the playing staff then at the end we brought in a few players just before we lost our jobs really, some of which are still playing in the team.
“There are still some players there that are more than holding there own at the top end of the Championship so again that’s pleasing when you watch those teams and all of the other players they’ve signed, some of our players are still getting into the team and that’s really good.”
Looking back at the clubs he has worked at, it is clear to see that his most successful spell came at West Brom.
But Venus has very fond memories of his time north of the border in Scotland with Hibernian, and he draws similar links to the current Sky Blues team.
He added: “Hibernian was an amazing experience as well because we inherited a lot of young players and we blended them together with some younger players from England and some more experienced players.
“A lot of them have gone on to have a good career which is really pleasing for us that they’ve gone on and took the next step up into some higher leagues.
“We built a vibrant, young team with lots of energy and we played a great brand of football, a little bit similar to what we’re playing at Coventry at the moment.
“I think we’ve achieved something at all of the clubs we’ve been at and I really want to achieve something here and then from there I’ll analyse it and decide what I want to do.”
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