ROYLE STANDARD TOO LOW FOR CITY
By Rupert Webster
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
City's incredible six-year yo-yo period, which has now included three relegations and two promotions, is well documented. But the fact that Royle had steered the club to successive promotions, before the disappointment of this term, was expected to ensure his job at Maine Road for another campaign.
Royle has certainly enjoyed plenty of public support from the fans since his appointment in 1998. But, this term, even the City faithful had begun to question his decisions in what has been a disastrous season for The Citizens. The former Oldham boss failed to get the best out of his flair players such as Mark Kennedy and record signing Paulo Wanchope, while former World Footballer of the Year George Weah was discarded after just two months at the club.
This inability to make the most of City's attacking talent has cost them dearly. Their passing has lacked quality, a fact which is highlighted by their passing accuracy of 64% - the third worst in the Premiership. And as a result, they have created comparatively few goalscoring chances, firing in just 366 shots in the 2000-01 campaign - the fourth-lowest total in the division - and scoring a meagre total of 41 goals.
But arguably the biggest mistake that Royle made was to stick by keeper Nicky Weaver, despite the obvious difficulties the youngster has endured in trying to cope with the rigours of the Premiership. The England Under-21 shot-stopper saved only 64% of the shots that he faced - the worst proportion in the Premiership - but was still retained in City's starting XI until recent weeks.
As a consequence, City conceded 65 goals this term, which is the second highest total in the top flight and all but condemned them to Division One football next season.
But although City have clearly lacked the quality needed to thrive at Premiership level, perhaps the most worrying aspect of this term for the club's board of directors has been Royle's waning motivational skills that have been his trademark for so long.
Indeed, Royle has not managed to inspire City into a single comeback victory all season, while they have been defeated after taking the lead six times - more than any other side in the division.
City clearly need to rebuild their squad before the start of the 2001-02 campaign, and a new manager may be what is needed to provide the club with a fresh start and some new ideas. One can only hope that ditching a manager with a proven track record in terms of promotions is not a mistake that comes back to haunt them in the future.