Steve Coppell's managerial career: What does he bring to the Kerala Blasters and the ISL?
Kerala Blasters FC pulled a rabbit out of the hat as they named former Reading and Manchester City manager, Steve Coppell, as their new manager for the upcoming Indian Super League season. The 60-year-old will take over from Terry Phelan and will hope for a better end to next season when compared to last. The Blasters finished at the bottom of the league table and also had to sack Peter Taylor before bringing in Phelan.
Coppell is well-known for his stint in the Premier League with Reading and how he made them one of the toughest teams to beat with a limited budget. The former right-winger was well known for his work rate and speed but let us dig a little deeper to who Coppell is and what he would bring to the Kerala Blasters.
A bright career ended by injury
The Englishman was born in Liverpool and started his career for Tranmere Rovers, the other club from Merseyside. Although he was a talented winger, he decided to sign up for Tranmere solely for the purpose of studying at the University of Liverpool.
There were greater things calling for Coppell as Manchester United offered him a great deal to join the club in 1975 and he was able to complete his education while playing for the Red Devils. He was one of their better players and even won the FA Cup with the side as they defeated rivals Liverpool in 1977.
Glory for United was followed by a call-up to represent England and Coppell was a vital cog for the side as they looked to make it to the 1982 World Cup. Tragedy struck the Manchester United winger when he was injured by a horrific challenge by Hungary’s Jozsef Toth and even though Coppell nursed his knee injury for a number of years, he never was the same again.
Coppell retired from playing in 1983 but he still holds a few records, one being, he holds the record for the most consecutive appearances for an outfield player for Manchester United. His 207 appearances came between 1977 and 1981.
Palace calling for Coppell
The first job taken up by Coppell at just the age of 28 years was at Crystal Palace. The English winger took up the reins in 1984 and helped the side make it to the top division in England thanks to some shrewd signings.
Coppell also took the side, famously, to the FA Cup final in 1990 but his side lost to Manchester United. One of Palace’s highs under Coppell was when they finished third in the league in 1991. It wasn’t just a bed of roses for the manager at Palace and soon when they were relegated in 1993, Steve resigned from his role at the club.
It seems that the new Kerala Blasters manager had a special connect with Reading as he returned to the club in varying roles from 1995 to 2000. In between all this time at Palace, Coppell created some more history as he took the Manchester City job in 1996 and resigned after just six games, thus being the manager with the shortest reign at the club.
Success at Reading
While Coppell’s managerial career was best known for his first stint at Palace, his time with Reading was something that most Premier League fans would know about. The former Tranmere player took over in 2003, after a short spell with Brighton and Hove Albion.
Reading were incredible in the 2005-06 season and finished the Championship with an incredible 106 points and Coppell won the LMA’s Manager of the Year. In his first season in the Premier League, Reading finished a fantastic eighth place, just a point off a UEFA Cup spot.
Coppell picked up his second Manager of the Year award in succession, something which earned him a lot of praise from Sir Alex Ferguson as well. His second season with Reading ended with relegation though and the manager resigned from his role when he could not bring Reading back to the Premier League at the first time of asking from the Championship.
In 2010, Coppell was named as the new manager of Bristol City but resigned from the post after just a few months in charge. Stints at Crawley Town and Portsmouth were his last forays into the football scene and it will be interesting to see what he can bring to the Kerala Blasters.
How does he set the team up and what are his players like?
Coppell is an old-fashioned English manager and more often than not you would see his sides play out in a 4-4-2 formation with two proper strikers and two wide men. Keeping the shape seems to be the most important requirement for Steve and he expects his team to go out and give 110% every single time.
Speaking to the Guardian, his former captain at Reading, Graeme Murty, stated how Coppell demands the highest of performance levels from his players, “One of the gaffer's bugbears is people who think ‘doing enough’ is OK. You can't cruise here. He'll notice.”
Coppell is also someone who puts out a calm demeanour out on the pitch and you would not see him shouting constantly down the touchline. He is often believed to be one of the best in analysing the game and that has often been raved about by others in the footballing world.
Dick Knight, under whom Coppell worked with at Brighton also added his viewpoint on his former employee, “He is probably the most analytical mind brought to football management for many a year. His preparations are detailed to the point of fastidious. His briefings are second to none. He spent hours with the video in the afternoons breaking down moves in slow-mo to work out how the opposition operate.”
That sort of analysis should be a boon for Kerala and the ISL but Steve’s greatest ability was to bring in some incredible signings that flourished under his system. The ISL team would be expecting something similar from a manager that has often worked wonders with small teams.
Coppell himself seems charged up for the new appointed and was quoted by the Indian Express saying, “I believe in creating an environment for the players to win matches and am looking forward to working with the team and sharing my passion for the game with them.”
The Englishman could well lead Kerala to an unlikely title next season but that would not be a surprise, after all, Coppell’s astute insight to the game makes him one of the best around and it will be a real test to see how well he does in the Indian Super League.