Liam Manning explains the reason behind his decision to quit the role as head coach of high-flying Oxford United for Bristol City.
He has spoken out to the media this week after signing a three-and-a-half year contract with the Robins, who sit 11th in the Championship table with 21 points after 15 games, while Oxford are 2nd in League One with 32 points from 15 games.
This move has left a bitter taste for the U’s, but they’ve said they’ve just got to get on with it, and that they have, with a 5-0 win at home against Chelsea U21s in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy.
Liam Manning’s first game as Bristol City boss gets underway on Saturday, an away trip to Queens Park Rangers, and will be hoping to bag all three points to try and move closer to the playoff places.
He was asked in his press conference ‘what’s taken you from where you were to where you are now?’, as per Bristol Live, he replied:
“Extremely, full-on, intense 24 hours, to be fair. I was informed yesterday around the approach in the morning, I was in work at Oxford. We obviously had some discussions and meetings in the afternoon where we spoke around numerous aspects around the job, the project, what we’re working towards.
“And a bit of headspace, I think that was important for me, speaking with my wife, who I’ve dragged around the world in the last five or six years. Spoke to her about that. I’ve got some good people around me. Spoke to a few people in the game whose opinions I really trust and respect. Got that feedback and then informed the club at Oxford about my decision that I wanted to move on and join Bristol City. Up this morning and then straight down here for midday.”
On what were the determining factors to make the decision?
“First and foremost, short time at Oxford but it was a good time in terms of the progress we made. We’ve left the club in a better position than when we joined.
“And then ultimately in terms of looking here, I wouldn’t have left for any club. I think that was quite important. There were so many things in terms of alignment; definitely the playing group that are here currently, in terms of how I see the game, how I want teams to play, you need the players that are able to do that. What’s been put into the group, and what’s in the group currently, and how I see the game are very close. That was definitely a big attraction.
“And, of course, when you look at the set-up of the club, the training facility, the stadium, it screams high performance. It aligns with me; I’m driven, I’m hungry, I’m ambitious. I want to develop myself and this is a terrific place to do that.”
On how much of a wrench was it to leave Oxford and what did he have to say to the Oxford fans left gutted by his exit?
“It was a difficult decision but also a terrific opportunity and an exciting one. It was a short period but we had a good time there in that we achieved a lot in a short period of time, three months to save the club from relegation and then transition the team completely. Then obviously leave it in a position where they’ve got a healthy squad in a good position.
“The fans were great, it was a really enjoyable and good experience for me but I wouldn’t have left for any club, I’m quite calculated with the decisions I make in my career and I look at the club, the history, playing style, where the current team’s at and having had an experience this year of what the team’s capable of, in terms of alignment with me in how I see the game, how I want to play the game, but also the ambition, the drive, the high performance element, which the club screams. A real alignment.”
On first impressions of Bristol, the city and the club?
“To be totally honest, I got here at 12:30 today so I’ve not seen too much of the city, which I’m really looking forward to.
“The club, it’s a terrific set-up. When you’ve got such a fantastic facility here but also at the training centre, what it allows you to do is concentrate on the development side, the organisation. You don’t have to worry about that. I keep saying it, but it screams high performance and it’s our job to make the players understand what that looks like and how to do it.”
His message to the fans of Bristol City and what they can expect?
“First and foremost, when people are paying hard-earned money to watch, it has to start with the behaviours; has to start with people who are fully committed, that are willing to run, that are willing to compete, want to win duels and that side of it. On top of that, we’ll work really hard to be organised, with and without the ball. That means players are clear on what their jobs are in each phase of the game. We want to have the ball, we want to attack, we want to be hard to beat. Keeping it that simple sometimes helps.”
Regarding how much he knew of the current Bristol City squad?
“I actually watched the game [Bristol City 5-1 Oxford, Carabao Cup tie in August] last night. We did a huge amount of work for the cup game at the start of the season. In general, I’m a football fan so in terms of watching the game, studying the game, you tend to gravitate towards teams that you enjoy watching. In the last 24 hours, I’ve tried to accelerate that and get more up to speed with the group.
“Connections, obviously, some of the lads here who were previously at Oxford, having spoke to some of the staff there. You tend to know a lot of the players through the game anyway.
“When I look at the group I think there’s a really good blend of exciting prospects with really high levels of potential that are able to deliver. And then it’s also underpinned and supported by some really good senior pros as well. What that allows you to do is accelerate some of that development in the young players by leaning on that experience within the group.
“I do think there’s a good blend, a good mix and it’s our job to tap into that knowledge and pull it out of the lads.”
On what he can do to improve the team?
“Some of that will be on the ground looking at it. You can do so much video work. You can look at previous games – and I’m not privy to previous game plans or how the team was set up and how they were trained – all I can assess is what’s in front of me now and I have my ways of working and have real clarity.
“I’ve been coaching 18 years now, so I’ve done it a long time, and it takes you quite a while where you get to a stage where you’re quite comfortable with one, how you want to be as a coach but also how you see the game. And that’s allowed me to create my game model of what it looks like, with the ball, without the ball. Transition. Working with the players to educate them in numerous ways of how this is what it looks like.”
On his principles and if they’ve stayed the same or changed throughout his coaching life?
“As a person you always learn, evolve and develop, right? There are fundamentals that don’t change, the behaviours of hard work, competing, winning duels, intensity – those bits never go out of the game, they never change.
“So there are certain bits that are non-negotiable, there are other bits that do evolve. So there’s topline stuff for me, I want a team to have the ball, attack, create, score goals. There are different ways of doing that depending on what personal you’ve got.
“I want us to be aggressive out of possession, I want us to be hard to beat, but depending on the opposition, depending on what personnel are available, part of the skill is being a little bit adaptable with what you’ve got at your disposal.”
His managerial experience is largely of that in League One, how will he adapt to the quality, speed, pressure, of the Championship?
“Football doesn’t change, right? That’s the biggest bit. I was fortunate when I was at West Ham, I spent the first seven, eight weeks working with the first team in the Europa League group, we’d have players across with us regularly and we’d train closely with the first team. So I’ve seen what it looks like in the Premier League as well.
“There are managers in the Championship, Kieran McKenna – who’s someone I speak to regularly – he’s a great example, you could throw a similar question at. He’s obviously done an extremely good job.
“I think what I have had is a really good grounding in the game, a really good education and foundation, under-pinned by some real hard graft. It’s taken me, like I said I’ve been coaching 18 years, and the biggest bit – the 18s great if you continually learn and develop. If you do the same thing over 18 years, you get good at the same thing. Whereas for me I’m the type of person, I want to progress, I do challenge myself to learn and evolve which hopefully allows me to improve.
“What we want here and what we need within the team is that culture where we’re driven by performance, we’re driven by development. So win or lose at the weekend, we go through the same process; what was good, because we want to repeat it. What was not so good, so we can learn to get better at it.”
How did he get his ideas across, considering the eight month transformation of Oxford who went from avoid the League One drop zone to promotion contenders?
“It’s two-fold, that. There’s an element of, how coachable are the players? There’s also me coming the other way which is, how adaptable am I to what they need?
“I do think there’s skill in that and moving sometimes gives you that ability so you can read situations, you can feel certain situations and that will be the big bit for me, getting a feel for it on the grass. We have to do it quickly. But that’s something you can accelerate if you’ve got good communication and you work closely with the players.
“There are various ways of getting them up to speed in terms of what it looks like, whether it be video, animations, walk-through on the grass, conversations – there are numerous ways of doing that.
“It’s on the group and how coachable they are and the information I’ve had from the staff that it’s a really strong group, the culture’s terrific, they’re craving coaching as well so they’re bits that we can come in and take advantage of, definitely.”
Here’s how fans reacted as Liam Manning explains the reason behind his decision to quit Oxford for Bristol City…
@Nigels73: He speaks well and I wish him well. Excited for the future 🙌🏾 🔴⚪️
@BristolcityT: Great interview, speaks well and has a clear plan and strategy in place! Can’t wait to see what the future holds.
@Dazyoung07: Great stuff. Really enthusiastic after listening to that. Good Luck Liam. We will be behind you all the way
@G_Lock75: Giving everything for the club (while we’re here)! Sounds about right, he’ll be off as soon as he gets a chance. Don’t believe a word he says about honesty, integrity, the right behaviours etc, it’s all just sound bites.
@hraarmstrong: “Really looking forward to meeting you all, then leaving when the first offer comes in”
@DaveMightKnow: “while we’re here” at least he’s being honest this time.
@Stevo_Palms: Until the next club comes calling #Judas
@DAVID1974F: Don’t trust anything this man says as he is not trustworthy
@realmarkweech: That’s what he told Oxford
@kieran_H94: Can’t ask for much more than that, welcome lads. Up the city 🔴⚪️🔴⚪️
@oufcbish: That’s word for word what he said to us 😂
@red_as_fcuk: I have to say, what an impressive interview. Looking forward to his brand of football down the gate! Also a big shout out to Jon who spoke really well too. Some of the childish, vile abuse he’s received lately is shameful. Onwards and upwards Liam Manning’s Cider Army
@danstockford: Speaks well. Can see him doing well here
@FordDean01: Exciting new direction it seems we’re heading. Looking forward to seeing it on the pitch. Been a hard watch at times recently, especially at home.
@giantoak1970: Love this, clarity of leadership ☑️ 😍👊
@UFD_OX: Liam Man up his own arse Manning. Hi insists on these kind of posts. It’s all about his own CV and ego.