Six Years Of Mark Robins At Coventry: No Manager In England Has Done A Better Job

The Coventry City manager has revived a club from the brink of ruin
16:00, 06 Mar 2023

When Mark Robins arrived for his second stint as Coventry City manager on this day in 2017, the club were in dire straits. They were bottom of League One and destined for the drop. Having already taken them to Northampton for a season, owners Sisu simply weren’t interested in investing and had given up all hope of rescuing the Sky Blues. 

The fans had fallen out of love with their team and, after four managers in one season, the club were heading to the fourth tier of English football for the first time since 1959. There was a complete disparity between those in the stands and the players on the pitch, many of whom were on loan or came from the club’s academy due to a lack of funds. 

But still Robins felt he had unfinished business in Coventry, having previously left the club for Huddersfield Town in 2013. His return has rescued a club not just from the lower tiers of English football, but potentially from going out of business altogether. The Sky Blues were in freefall, and nobody seemed to give a damn about the grey skies that had gathered over the former Premier League club. 

But Mark did.


The one ray of sunshine in that relegation season was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final. 45,000 Coventry fans went to Wembley for the first time since 1987 and, remarkably, with a cobbled together team that won nine league games out of 46, Coventry beat Oxford United 2-1. It was a day out in the sun and one that showed the huge potential of the football club, but the hard work lay ahead for Robins. 

He brought in Chelsea under-21 manager Adi Viveash as his assistant that summer and the pair haven’t looked back since, building the club back up from the brink of collapse. Getting back up at the first time of asking was imperative and it took another Wembley visit for them to achieve that via the play-offs. 

Since then, despite a lack of spending and two seasons at St Andrew’s in Birmingham after more stadium issues, the club have continued their meteoric rise. League One promotion during the curtailed 2019-20 season was the next step on the ladder, and since then the smart recruitment has somehow brought players such as Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer to the club. 


They are arguably the two best players Coventry fans have seen this millennium, and certainly two of the best since relegation from the top flight in 2001. The pair are now helping the Sky Blues trouble the play-off spots in the second tier. Robins is determined to manage the club in the Premier League, and now with a new owner in Doug King and a wonderful connection between the team and the fans, it could become a reality. 

Coventry fans wouldn’t swap him for any other manager. Not Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Erik ten Hag. 

There are not many managers who have overcome what Robins has while being severely restricted financially. Winning a League One title while playing away from your own city? Transforming a fanbase, taking a team from League Two to the Championship while making a profit in the transfer market and now knocking on the door of the play-offs with one of the lowest wage bills in the league? It’s absolutely astonishing. 

There are only a handful of managers who can possibly compete with him over that time span. Pep Guardiola at Manchester City may have dominated English football, but he’s done so with an unlimited budget and barely any challenges. Can you imagine them having to play at Goodison Park for two seasons?

Chris Wilder took Sheffield United from League One to the top half of the Premier League, but the Blades were then relegated and he endured a tricky spell at Middlesbrough. Nathan Jones guided Luton Town from League Two to the Championship, just like Robins with Coventry, but he left for both Stoke City and Southampton - two moves which have drastically and negatively impacted his reputation. 

Gareth Ainsworth deserves huge praise for his work at Wycombe Wanderers, but he couldn’t quite keep them in the Championship and has now moved on to Queens Park Rangers. John Coleman, meanwhile, continues to defy the odds at Accrington Stanley. But none of them have done what Mark Robins has in the face of such adversity. 

Six years on, he’s transformed an entire club on a shoestring budget. A promotion to the Premier League would cap off one of the most remarkable managerial tales.

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