As we came to the end of the hour, I became acutely aware of time and the fact that I needed to get to Sainsbury’s to pick up some toilet roll. At the risk of coming across an incongruous maniac, I preceded to ask a variety of questions, following a vague pattern (but not really).
I used the final ten minutes of the chat to get a better feel for the work Chris Anderson will be doing for the club, and to try and understand how things will now differ in the wake of Steve Waggott’s departure.
Chris Anderson on… his role and his goals:
Q: Do you get close to the players?
I don’t get close to them at all. The only player I’ve had an extended conversation with is Sam, because of his role as captain I think we have to have a good relationship.
I try to stay away from it. It’s really not my business, I don’t want to get in anyone’s way. The manager has got that fully under control.
Q: Is it hard not to stick your head round the door, especially with your background in football analysis?
It isn’t hard at all. I love watching them when the whistle goes. I don’t need to hang around them when they’re doing their work. I feel like this is their place of work and I want to be respectful of that.
It would be weird if they were coming into my office and saying “hey, how’s it going?”- that’d be equally as weird. So they let me do my thing and I let them do their thing. I see them in the hallway and I say hello, and that’s pretty much the end of it and I think that’s how it should be.
Q: Is your role different to Steve Waggott’s?
Yeah, I think it’s significantly different actually. Obviously I wasn’t here but I believe he was much more focussed on football than I am. That’s changed because of Mark Venus coming into the football club. As you know Mark used to be the assistant manager to Tony Mowbray at clubs they’ve worked at and Mark very consciously decided to do something different this time around, working as part of a football club in a different set up, so the role as Technical Director is one where he’s not spending time in training with the manager. It’s much more of an office job administering on the football side.
Because of that there’s very little need for me to “do the football” and I think that’s healthy because he’s a very good judge of footballers. He’s a very straight, candid, honest guy with integrity. He’s very good at his job so he has all the qualities in a person who I would want to delegate responsible for football operations to.
There’s oversight by me so he reports in to me, and we have ongoing conversations about the football side of things, but it isn’t something I’m actively engaged in. We have to talk about the budget obviously, but beyond that I would never tell him who to sign or the manager who to play or how to play.
But I think it’s helpful that I care about football and I know a little bit about football. I’ve been around football clubs before, so I think that makes the conversation easier between.
Q: What are your individual goals for your time at the club?
I want to get us promoted. As many times as necessary. I think this club is one that deserves some really good news and deserves the good times we have right now. I think the supporters have suffered for a long, long time and I think just giving them something to shout about is part of my goal. We’re in a good situation so let’s keep it going and get promoted, hopefully this year or next year.
More philosophically, I want to leave it a better place than I found it. I think it’s a football club that has recovered somewhat from some of the difficulties but isn’t quite there yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done post-administration; post-moving back from Northampton; and I want to help make those improvements. I want to help change that side of the football club so when I walk out of the door I want to be able to say it’s a better club than when I found it. It’s a very simple ambition but I think that’s all there is to it.
There are a lot of things you don’t have control over and I think when you work in football you have to resign yourself to the fact that there’s only so much you have control over. I think managers live in fear of that all the time.
Q: Does that not conflict with your statistical view of things?
Actually – *points to his book* – it does and it doesn’t. I think you have to appreciate the element of luck and randomness in the game, and understand the game, and it helps me do my job to understand that there’s a lot of luck in football. Over the long run it all evens out, but we’re not here in the long run – in the long run we’re all dead. So there’s an element of “focus on the things you can control”.
What I can control is when I show up for work I make hopefully consistently good decisions for the club, and I hope that everyone else that I work with does the same thing and I hopefully can put people together that can achieve that together as a football club.
To me that’s the key. I want to have a team at Coventry City. I want to have a team of people: on the football staff, the commercial side, supporters, Sky Blues in the Community. A football club has to be a team and has to also then connect with the city it’s in – all those things. It all sounds wonderful but it’s actually a lot of hard work pulling people together to work for the football club.
You will lose football games. It happens. The key is to move forward and hold your nerve and try to do the right thing. Football clubs get into trouble when they don’t do the right thing. When the people in it are in it for the wrong reasons, when they’re spending money they don’t have. Those all sound like really simple things, but football is actually a hard thing to do. So as long as we keep on track and do the right thing, I think we’ll be fine as a football club whatever division we play in. I just want people to be proud of the club.
Q: How are you feeling about the attendances? Are we on track to meet our targets?
I’m never satisfied. I was talking to Mark Venus the other day and he looked at me and said “you know what I really want to see? I want sell that stadium out and I want to beat a really big team in that stadium.”
I think we’re higher [tickets sales] than last year. We’re working hard on just getting the ticketing right. I think there’s been a lot of frustration about the difficulties we’ve had with the ticketing system. We’re completely aware and we’re straightening those out as we speak. We’ve improved the internet connection at Butts Park, we’re working on making sure the software connects properly between systems. It’s the stuff that will bore you to tears but hopefully it will make life easier for supporters to have the opportunity to come. We’re also exploring other options with different providers to provide ticketing services going forward. We’re just trying to get it right to make it practical and serviceable for people.
So am I disappointed? No, I’m grateful for everyone who shows up.
Q: Do you have a message to fans for the Christmas period?
For the Christmas season I would say “bring a friend”. Bring that one person you’ve been talking to about the club and telling them what a great team it’s been this season. We’re playing the best football in the division at the lowest price. So if you bring one person along I think we’ll fill that thing before you know it.
We’re not entitled for people to show up. We’re entitled to work here, it’s actually a real privilege to work here. I feel that really strongly. I feel like the players need to feel that. I feel that everyone needs to feel like it’s a privilege to be here. It’s hard work, some people get paid really well, but it’s a privilege.
I have the privilege of working here, but I’m not entitled to expect people to show up and give me their money. It’s a privilege to then play at the Ricoh, and if people want to show and support us, awesome. That what I want.
I want people to support us. To come and enjoy the game.
Q: There is still a large resentment towards the Owners. How can we improve that?
Owners are generally not loved. Either people are neutral, or they don’t like them. I think the best an owner can hope for is neutrality, but I want people to understand that’s not the football club.
The football club is the people here; the people at the academy; Sky Blues in the Community; our supporters, our commercial partners. All of us, that’s the football club.
If you think about the football club in that way, it’s an easy thing to support. It’s also an easy thing for us to think about – those of us who work at the football club – that’s how we see our allegiance. Our allegiance is to the club.
As I said earlier, I want to leave it in a better place than when I found it. If we do that, then everyone’s happy, including the owner.
And some final thoughts on communicating with fans?
I don’t want people to feel like we’re not communicating at all. Sometimes there are things we will not talk about in public: a player we’re having talks with, or a contract extension, or stadium deal we’re working on. A few things we can’t talk about in the moment, but when there are things to be talk about, we’ll talk about them. I’m totally happy to talk about them when there’s things to be discussed.
I have a job to do so please respect that there are some things I can and cannot talk about. But it’s not because I don’t want to communicate. I’m happy to communicate, especially when it comes to football.
This interview took place on Thursday 17th December 2015 at Coventry City’s Ryton training ground. I’d like to thank Keiran Crowley and Chris Anderson at the club for allowing me to stop by for a yap.