John Ward takes over at Bristol Rovers
JOHN Ward becomes Bristol Rovers' fourth manager in a little under two years as the club have struggled to find any sense of stability following the departure of Paul Trollope in December 2010.
Chairman Nick Higgs has come under fire for his decisions in terms of filling the dugout since after the three men put in place since have all failed in their bids to bring success back to the club.
Mark McGhee became the latest casualty minutes after the final whistle at Bootham Crescent on Saturday – a first-half capitulation leading to a 4-1 defeat proving to be the catalyst for Higgs to act in order to try and turnaround a disappointing season, which has seen Rovers win just four times from their 22 league games to leave them one off the foot of League Two.
Few could have predicted how horrible this season has been so far after McGhee's engaging manner and experience in the game served to improve the teams fortunes in the aftermath of Paul Buckle's turbulent reign.
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The threat of relegation was averted and an unbeaten record at the Memorial Stadium between McGhee's arrival in January and the end of the season – a less than inspiring summer recruitment drive, the loss of key performer Mustapha Carayol and injuries to key performers saw Rovers wait nine games for their first win of the season.
Things improved slightly in the following weeks – but team selections considered 'bizarre' by supporters and continued decline in results saw McGhee removed and marked down as the latest failure in Higgs' management recruitment policy.
McGhee, however, had been heralded as the man to take the club forward in the aftermath of Paul Buckle six-month spell at the club – a reign that can only be described as an unmitigated disaster following his appointment at the end of May 2010.
Charged with overhauling the side following relegation to League Two, Buckle set about his task with verve in the weeks that followed by shipping out a number of those that had been mainstay under the stewardship of Paul Trollope.
Players with basement division know-how and experience, including a number from his former club Torquay United, who he had taken as far as the League Two play-off final weeks earlier, were drafted in as their replacements.
A promising pre-season campaign followed – but once the season got under way, stories started to emerge of how Buckle may have ruffled too many feathers inside the changing room and around the club in general.
Increasingly poor results and crazy rants in the press followed – the one where Buckle said supporters needed to 'lower their expectations' being particularly memorable – and a spat with fans favourite Stuart Campbell ensued as Buckle limped on before finally being removed at Christmas.
Buckle had arrived to steady the ship after a combination of interim player-manager Campbell and Dave Penney had failed to keep the club in League One.
Penney was somewhat of a strange choice to replace long-term boss Paul Trollope in January 2011. The club were languishing around the foot of League One when Higgs decided to bring Trollope's five-year stewardship to an end.
Penney immediately tried to change things by bringing in a host of players – most of which were considered good signings.
The problem Penney had, however, was that most of the ones the players that were already at the club appeared resistant to change.
One win in 13 games was a record that forced Higgs to act again.
By the start of March on the back of a 2-0 defeat at home to relegation rivals Dagenham & Redbridge, Penney was gone.
Campbell was subsequently unable to collect enough points in the remaining 12 games to save the club from relegation, which leads us all back to the question: Was Higgs right to get rid of Trollope?
Higgs still maintains that the decision was the correct one – even if Trollope managed to take Rovers out of the basement division after six years during his spell in charge.
Perhaps, the more pertinent question should be: Was the decision to part with director of football Lennie Lawrence as part of a cost-cutting exercise six months earlier the start of a spiralling downfall that sees Rovers where they are today?
We'll never know – and hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing. The club, however, will this morning be looking forward to a brighter future under Ward.
Rovers supporters will be hoping that, this time, Higgs has got it right.