Ian Coates (Francis Johnson) 1997-1999

First Regular Appearance: 1.15 (#15)  Tuesday 2nd December 1997

Last Regular Appearance: 2.76 (#140)  Thursday 20th May 1999

Duration: EP: 15 - 140 ½ SE: 1.15 – 2.76

Position: Manager (1997-1999) / Director of Football (1999)

Last Seen: Taken away by the police after threatening Luis in front of the team at Wembley with a glass bottle.

 

As a player, Ian Coates was talented enough to leave behind the English First Division and play in the much-sort Eredivisie League in the Netherlands. A strong-as-steel leader on the pitch, with his short-fuse temper making him a regular for the yellow, and more often than not red card, Ian hid away a dark secret: he was an alcoholic. Ian was guarded and intelligent enough to keep this hidden from his managers and team mates, but not his wife, Ingrid, who saw Ian at his worst in this state.

After his playing career was ended at still a young age, Ian remained in Holland where he obtained his coaching badges. Ian's son Peter was born in 1992, but it did nothing to convince him he needed to take control of his alcoholism. In fact this new responsibility pushed Ian's drinking to an all-time high. It was the birth of their second child, a daughter they named Leah, that really turned Ian's life around. Ingrid was later to believe it was Leah's birth that saved Ian's life, as it forced him to clean his act up.

Now a recovering alcoholic, he achieved his biggest job to date when appointed manager of PSV Eindhoven. In the autumn of 1997, Ian was presented with a new challenge - the chance of being a Premier League manager. Harchester United had been floating without a permanent manager since the departure of Ron Atkinson two months earlier, and in their first season back in the Premiership, Ian was determined to make sure they stayed there.

Ian feels comfortable under chairman Michael Jacobs, but when he dies and is replaced by ex-wife Stephanie, Ian can't stand her, believing she knows nothing about running a football club. The two constantly clash in the boardroom, and Ian is less than impressed with Stephanie's "Harchester Says No" drugs campaign. Continuing his judgement that women in football are not to be trusted, Ian sacks physio Trudi Payton after discovering she has been giving extra(!) curricular activities to Conor McCarthy - someone else Ian rushes into the first team with disastrous results.

Leading a strong squad boosted by Ian's signing of Dean Sturridge, plus the return of Dean Hocknell from Italy, Harchester avoid relegation at the end of the season, meaning Ian keeps his job. But he knows he is going to have to act even tougher, and dirtier, to keep his team this next season.

The man who would contribute to Ian's downfall in more ways than one arrives in Argentinian Luis Amor Rodriguez. Ian is distracted at this time by Helen Jensen, the youth team's educational officer, and the two embark on an affair. When Ingrid and the children arrive for Christmas with plans to stay in Harchester permanently, Ian tries to keep them hidden from Helen, who knew nothing about Ian having kids. But the whole thing is blown when Ingrid comes to see Helen as a friend, and susses their affair.

After Ian's temper gets the better of him again, he assaults a referee away at The Valley, and Jerry suspends Ian before demoting him to Director of Football. Luis takes over as caretaker manager, and in an attempt to get his job back, Ian withholds evidence that proves Luis is innocent of an allegation of assault. When Helen finds the proof, Ian chases her in front of Luis' car, but from her hospital bed Helen clears Luis' name and Ian is permanently out of the club. Having lost everything, Ian is left only with alcohol, which takes control of him once again. Gatecrashing the HUFC dressing room at Wembley and holding a broken bottle to Luis' throat, Ian is talked down and last seen being escorted out by the police.

In 2001 when the manager's position is vacant once more, the press speculate on the odds of a return from Ian Coates, and Stevie Shaw reveals he has heard Ian is drying out in a clinic.