Coventry City have been rocked by the departure of Craig Nicholls, the manager who led them to three trophies in two years.
Nicholls and his assistant, Joe Robinson, have quit after steering the club to the brink of another title this season, narrowly missing out on the Premier League Northern championship – and a place in the play-off for the Super League – to Sheffield FC.
And on a day of managerial comings and goings, Chichester City have confirmed the appointment of Liam Greenfield as their new first-team manager and unveiled former Havant & Waterlooville Ladies boss Dick Semark as the new development team manager, while Lee Hurrell has left Portsmouth after a fine season in charge of the Premier League champions’ development side.
But it is the news from the Midlands that will raise a few eyebrows after a highly successful period under Nicholls’ management.
In his first season Coventry won the FAW Premier League Southern and Birmingham County Cup and last season they repeated the county cup success but fell agonisingly short of a unique Premier League double after finishing runners-up in the Northern division following the FA’s decision to switch them from the South.
They were docked six points for fielding ineligible players at a time when they were still well in the running for the championship, eventually losing ground to champions Sheffield but finishing eight points clear of third-place Blackburn Rovers.
Nicholls told Sent Her Forward he was looking for a new challenge after taking Coventry as far as he could. He hinted at differences between him and the club but declined to go into details.
“I feel it’s time for a change,” he said, adding: “I’ll be looking to get back into football soon. I’ll get bored otherwise.”
Coventry said in a statement that they thanked Nicholls and Robinson for all they had achieved and wished them success for the future.
They added: “The club has processes in place to find experienced replacements and have already received a number of applications.”
Meanwhile FAW Premier League Division 1 South West side Chichester have confirmed that assistant manager Liam Greenfield has stepped up to replace Matt Wright as manager.
Greenfield was Wright’s choice to succeed him following his decision to take a back seat in the next chapter of the West Sussex club’s development.
Wright told Sent Her Forward in March: “There’s nobody in the country I would rather have in that post than him.”
More of a surprise is the appointment of Dick Semark as the new development team manager. Semark, a man of vast experience in the men’s and women’s game, has been helping the club in an advisory role – including as scout – in recent years.
He has got to know the Chichester players at both levels well, but it had seemed that in his 70s, his managerial days were well behind him before tonight’s announcement.
Announcing the news on their website, the club said development squad coach Rhys Griffiths would remain in the role and be Semark’s assistant following Caroline Henry-Evans’ decision to also step away from the front line to focus on behind-the-scenes work.
Greenfield has appointed Clive Stubbs, a long-serving clubman, as his assistant, as well as a number of other backroom staff.
He said: “I couldn’t be happier with the people we’ve brought in.”
Hurrell leaves Pompey
Meanwhile, along the A27 at Portsmouth, development squad head coach Lee Hurrell has quit. He, too, cited a thirst for a new challenge, although he said the hour commute to games and training played a part.
He told Sent Her Forward: “It wasn’t an easy decision, though. I’ve loved working with everyone there. [They’re a] really amazing group of people.”
First-team manager Perry Northeast paid tribute to Hurrell via the club website, saying: “Lee has been a huge asset to the club during his two-year spell and has given many young players a terrific platform to learn and develop under his guidance.”
Under his tutelage, the development team produced a number of first-team players and yet still finished in the top half of the FAW Premier Reserve League last season, winning exactly half their games and playing an attractive brand of football.
Again, he is replaced from within – his former assistant, Ben Pinnington, stepping up.
Pompey, who are planning to run a third team next season, are now looking for a new assistant for Pinnington.
The club are holding open trials for all three teams on July 7 and 9 (contact the club for details).