LEROY ROSENIOR: John Ward's recognition takes the lid off Rovers' improvement
I THINK John Ward is probably the most deserving of the three candidates to claim the League Two manager-of-the-month award when the winner is announced today – but I just hope he doesn't get it!
I'm not one of those who believe in the so-called 'curse' that sparks a poor run of form in the immediate aftermath of the award – although I do think that having the achievement recognised does make the games that follow that bit more difficult.
It is understandable how the panel has come to the conclusion that John has been one of the top three managers throughout the month of January.
You only have to look at the results and performances over a four-week period of games, which you may have looked at beforehand wondering where any points were going to come from.
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To start that period at the bottom of the league and end it five points clear of the relegation zone was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes worthy of such an award.
But the fact John has been nominated will certainly make Rovers' upcoming opponents sit up and take notice, if they hadn't been doing so already.
Everybody will now know John's Bristol Rovers are not a side to be taken lightly anymore.
I expect John to do nothing less than to play down the fact he has been nominated – and, if he wins, it'll probably be dedicated to the players for all the hard work they have put in to get the results.
John, however, deserves tremendous credit for the way in which he has galvanised the players, which in turn has raised the hopes and spirits of supporters to inject a real feel-good factor around the club right now.
What has impressed me most is that you can tell John really cares about the club and has preached the importance of that to the players.
I think the passion he shows has rubbed off on the players and you can see that in their performances over recent weeks.
They'll need all that passion and plenty more if they are to extend their unbeaten run to six games against Wycombe Wanderers at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow.
This game would have had 'relegation scrap' written all over it about six or seven weeks ago, but Wycombe, much like Rovers, have been one of the in-form teams since Gareth Ainsworth took charge permanently in November.
I'd still back Rovers for a narrow victory to push themselves even further towards the guaranteed safety that looked very unlikely in the dark days of last November and December.
It's not only at the Memorial Stadium where the prospect of avoiding relegation has improved in recent weeks, however; Bristol City have also, slowly but surely, improved their own chances of avoiding the drop.
The transformation at Ashton Gate has not been as rapid as the one witnessed under John Ward at Rovers, but Sean O'Driscoll is slowly stamping his mark on a side who were seven points adrift at the foot of the table a month ago.
A solid victory over former club Nottingham Forest last weekend will have offered Sean an overwhelming sense of satisfaction after being sacked in bizarre circumstances on Boxing Day – but, more importantly, has put City right back in with a chance of getting themselves out of trouble.
What has been impressive about Sean's short spell in charge is the fact that he is mostly working with the same players who were at the club before he arrived – yet they are performing like a completely different team. They couldn't really have chosen a better time to find a bit of form because it is really starting to close up down at the wrong end of the Championship.
Four or five teams looked in danger of being cut adrift at the turn of the year, but I now think that every team between bottom-of-the-table Peterborough United and Birmingham City in 16th place will be looking over their shoulder.
Wolves have been dropping like a stone and the advantage that City will have over the likes of Bolton and Huddersfield is the experience of getting out of trouble on the run-in last year.
There is also less pressure and expectation at Ashton Gate then there is at somewhere like Molyneux. The league table, meanwhile, could look a lot different this time next week with a full programme of Championship games tomorrow and on Tuesday.
Six points up for grabs, then – although City have tough tasks with a trip to league leaders Cardiff City tomorrow before they are on the road again to Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.
The bookies won't be offering long odds on Cardiff to slip up on their own patch – although I'm not expecting them to roll City over by any stretch of the imagination.
Cardiff have struggled to deal with the so-called lesser teams on their own ground at times this season, and sometimes having a big lead at the top of the table brings with it a different pressure.
Getting out in front has been a great effort by Malky Mackay and his side – but getting over the line when the finish is in sight is often the most difficult part to achieve.
It's a massive ask for City to go there and get a win – but I'm a lot more confident that they are capable of upsetting the odds than I would have been had they been making the journey over the Severn Bridge this time last month.