'Understands the game in great detail' - Oxford United lowdown on new Bristol City head coach Liam Manning

Get to know Bristol City's new head coach through the eyes of an Oxford United expert.
Liam Manning has had the experience of managing at Ashton Gate before. (Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)Liam Manning has had the experience of managing at Ashton Gate before. (Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Liam Manning has had the experience of managing at Ashton Gate before. (Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Bristol City begin life under their new head coach this weekend as Liam Manning continues his first week as head coach.

The 38-year-old was unveiled on Tuesday, and has had a couple of days with the squad. He will face QPR at Loftus Road this weekend, before being given the international break to get to know his squad. His appointment has been met with some excitement given the change of philosophy from Nigel Pearson, and at his unveiling on Tuesday, Jon Lansdown seemed delighted the club got their man.

It was revealed that Mannig was the first choice when they considered making a managerial change, and the decision to appoint him on a three-and-a-half-year deal shows that they back him. Ahead of his first game in charge, Liam Rice the Oxford United reporter for the Oxford Mail, gives us a bit of an insight as to what Robins fans can expect from the new man in the dugout.

His role at Oxford was head coach - and he's expected to have the same role at Bristol City - how does he work with a team above him? Did he have a say in any transfers and if so, what was the profile of player's he signed? 

Manning was well supported by those not just above him, but in particular, around him. He and Chris Hogg have a great relationship, while Manning also brought in the likes of goalkeeping coach Lewis Price (who he also worked with at MK Dons) and first team coach analyst James Krause, who previously spent eight years at Arsenal.  

When it came to transfers, Manning worked very closely with head of recruitment Ed Waldron, to bring in 11 fresh faces during the summer. A mixture of players arrived, with a definite emphasis on young talent. James Beadle, Fin Stevens and Stan Mills all joined on loan from Premier League sides, while players were also recruited from up and down the football pyramid.

Greg Leigh arrived after helping Ipswich Town win promotion from League One, while Ruben Rodrigues was a star of Notts County’s rise from the National League. Players with good ability on the ball, including Beadle in goal, were the hallmark of a Manning signing in the summer. 

During his time in charge of Oxford United, did he have a specific formation that he preferred? Did he have a particular brand of football? 

Initially, he used a 4-2-3-1 and made the U’s a tough side to beat last season. The remit was to stay in League One, and by tightening up at the back and having a solid foundation in the midfield, that was achieved. That formation was the one he continued with this campaign, until recent weeks when he switched to a 3-4-2-1.

It’s important to note though that in possession, that was the formation, and when the team didn’t have the ball, they would switch to a 4-2-3-1 set-up. Manning looks to dominate possession, and wear the opposition down with quick, incisive passing in the final third.

Like all coaches that prefer a possession-based approach, sometimes the lack of an alternative, direct way was Manning’s downfall in games, but that was only really on a couple of occasions this season. 

Liam Manning is departing just seven months into his tenure - how do you think the club and the fans will react to that? Will there be any understanding as to why he's leaving so soon? 

The reaction from fans in some quarters has been quite hostile towards the manner of his exit. Many quite rightly feel that something special was being built, with promotion very much on the cards.

When the dust settles, there’ll be an understanding that the opportunity to manage in the Championship was an enticing one, even if it has left a sour taste for now. 

What would you say are his strengths and weaknesses?  

Manning showed he has the ability to take players to the next level in a short space of time. Established first team players such as Elliott Moore, Marcus McGuane and Billy Bodin took their game to another level this season, and that’s mainly due to Manning’s coaching.

He understands the game in great detail, and has shown he can create a winning team. In terms of weaknesses, arguably he was on rare occasions, a little slow in making a substitution when momentum in a game was against them. 

Do you see him bringing any of his coaching staff with him, and do you envisage him making any moves for any Oxford players? 

The likes of Price and Krause would be the natural ones to potentially follow Manning and Hogg, with those sorts of things likely to be discussed between the clubs.

Whether he makes a move for any players remains to be seen, but United did include a clause in John Mousinho’s contract that he couldn’t sign players for Portsmouth, for 12 months after leaving to take charge at Fratton Park. The U’s may well do something similar to once again protect themselves.