With most in the stand blaming the manager I think that people need to open there eyes a little more and see that we have more problems that just the gaffer. The way I see it we have 3 problems right now: The Board, The Management Team and The Players. Here is why:
The Board – Now nobody can deny the unbelievable work they have done in getting us to this point and the tireless work they have done is above and beyond the duty of any fan but is it a case of them now getting too big for their boots and/or the job being too big for them? I know many fans are behind them in the stance over O’Neill’s wage demands but I felt then and I still feel now that we were very naïve in our dealings. The boards approach of take what you’re offered and we won’t break our budget for anybody was foolish. Yes he was looking for too much but that’s what negotiations are for and I’m sure we could have met him somewhere in the middle. After all continuity is so important and we had the chance to offer him another 3 year deal to ensure we had that stability. O’Neill also had great plans for the schoolboy structure and other facets of the club, this extra work would have earned him a wage increase and in turn brought in bigger profits in the long run. This was all overlooked and I feel the different priorities between the two parties were the big problem, I for one was and still am a big O’Neill fan and was very sad to see him go.
The fact the board then wanted rid of all MONs backroom staff and allowed Kenny to just give jobs to all his mates is a disgrace. We had the best backroom staff in the country and one which the players respected but by allowing our Goalkeeping Coach, Physio and Sports Scientist to all join our former assistant manager on the Pats backroom staff we started the process of losing the dressing room. I’ve already mentioned continuity and stability and we just decided we can start from scratch completely and expect it to work. Now that can happen at a team who hasn’t won anything and needs a fresh start but a team who are on the up and on the crest of a wave after the success of the past 3 seasons needed continuity, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. The board should not have allowed this to happen and it should have been part of the negotiations with any potential new manager.
I also feel that the board have let us down by not looking for new blood in the club staff. It is my opinion that all season ticket holders and members should be surveyed each year through a simple online set-up and we should be getting ideas from our broad range of fans who have very different professional backgrounds and many will not have the time to go on the board or will not be allowed due to other business interests or career conflicts but can give ideas and help progress. Not once have we been asked what we would like to see happen and the AGM is not the time and place to do this, the AGM should just be where votes on these new ideas should happen but they should be planned out long in advance. I also feel that being asked to just re-elect board members who have sent us no material on their plans for the future and no mandate is just ridiculous. In essence we are just being told “vote for me because I have worked to get us here”. With no alternatives they will be re-elected and maybe they are the right people for the job but we should at least have been given an idea of why we should vote for them and what their plans are. The lack of communication is disgraceful and unacceptable, why was the AGM two months late as well? I still don’t know because nobody gives us any information.
The above needs to be rectified ASAP and this year I will expect a better and more professional performance from our board. They need to find out the skill set of others around the club and open up their little clique to more people, many of whom who have a lot to offer but are not being utilized. I know the response will always be that these "people should put themselves forward if they want to be involved" but similarly to a manager needing to improve his squad, he doesn’t wait for players to come to him, he goes out does he research and recruits them to improve his team. The same approach should be taken at board level.
The Management Team – As I said above the decision to allow our backroom staff from last year to leave is a disgrace. We had the best goalkeeping coach in the league and allowed him to leave to our rivals when he wanted to stay just because Kenny wanted to give a job to his mate, who in my opinion not good enough to be at this club. Don’t take my word for it, just speak to goalkeepers around the league and you will see I am right.
We had a fantastic young and enthusiastic physio who was excellent at his job and the players trusted and we let him go to our rivals as well only to replace him with another of Kenny’s mates who will also be disappearing with Ireland when the Euros come about as he is one of their 3 physio’s and we will need another physio to take his place.
MON brought in a sports scientist last year which was a great addition and again Kenny deemed his services unnecessary and let him go to our rivals also as he opted for 2 assitant coaches instead of the one assistant that MON had. Now in this day in age where managers are head coaches and should be coaching on the field there should be no need for two assistant coaches and it’s a sign of real weakness that Kenny needed to get rid of all the links to the old regime and surround himself with mates.
Every manager will have an assistant that they trust and will bring them with them and I have no problem with this but when we had such a good backroom team that everything should have been done to keep them in place to make the transition between managers a lot smoother than it has been.
The fact that Pats have hovered them all up shows how highly in demand and how highly taught of they are and I’d say Liam Buckley couldn’t believe his luck when they became available. All this hasn’t helped Kenny settle in and hasn’t helped his reputation in the dressing room. He caused himself undue problems that will be hard to recover from.
The Players – On the pitch we aren’t covering ourselves in glory either and although the players are undoubtedly unhappy with how things have been going so far they also need to stand up and take responsibility. On many occasions this season we have been in winning positions and with professional and experienced players in our squad we should have been able to see out games but we seem to feel sorry for ourselves and end up dropping points and losing games that last year we would have not.
In goal I have no doubt that we should have kept Ryan Thompson and although he was eccentric and little wild he made some of the most unbelievable saves I have ever seen a Rovers keeper make. People used to give out about him but I can guarantee you that had he been in goal this year we would have not conceded half of the goals we have. Doesn’t mean he would have saved all the shots that ended up in the back of the end but good keepers make less saves because they organize and command their back four which Ryan did really well and the inexperienced Oscar Jansson is struggling and although I was initially impressed with him in pre-season he has really struggled since the real stuff began. Bring back Ryan!
At the back we lost the best two full backs in the league and unfortunately failed to replace them with Powell struggling and Gilbert not getting enough games yet to judge him but his replacements during his injury haven’t stepped up to the mark and now the best two full backs in the league are Keane and Davorean at Sligo and we need to sort this area of the pitch out soon as we are ineffective going forward and dismal defending.
Centre back partnership of Sives and Gartland is our best in my opinion and Omans injury has allowed this to happen in the last two games, I hope they get a run of games together because they will be our best partnership in the long term.
Up front we have finally found our partnership as well. We definitely need a front two if Twiggy plays because he needs a partner and Kavanagh is the man for that job. Since Bray he has been excellent and they complement each other very well. Twigg will do his thing and continue to score goals when we create the chances for him and although he is already in double figures he would have more if we moved the ball quicker in midfield because his movement is excellent and it’s just a pity we haven’t the ability to create more chances for him.
Now for the real problems – midfield – right across the midfield we have been a disgrace. A pet hate of mine last year was how deep our central midfield players were going to receive the ball and this year that has got worse. Rice, Turner, Finn all dropping in on top of our back four and inviting teams to press us high is creating massive problems. Only Dundalk so far this season have sat off and we punished them, everybody else particularly Pats, Bray and Drogheda have pressed us and forced us into mistakes but all them sides have played with one central striker and we need to use our centre half as the extra man to carry the ball into midfield. Midfielders need to push up and find space, we need to receive the ball higher up the pitch and learn to play forward rather than sideways and back. It baffles me that the manager can’t see this! When we do break into the opposition half we really need to play to the front mans feet and look for combinations. At the minute we constantly get 30 yards from goal and instead of having the ability to slip players in to create chances or even shoot from distance we constantly play the ball wide and then look to get crosses in and we are so predictable its east for teams to defend. Teams just play narrow and let us play wide then when we do they press and double up on our wingers who are the most predictable wingers in the league, first touch down the line, head for the end line and try cross, only McCabe ever attempts anything different and this is another area we definitely need to strengthen. In the middle I think in McCormack, Turner, O’Donnell and Finn we have quality but the problem is the set-up, the coaching they receive and game plan we have.
The good news is it’s easily fixed the bad news is I don’t see this management team fixing it! In the meantime our players need to show some pride and stop sulking, stop locking managers out of the dressing room at half-time and start taking the game by the scruff of the neck. They won’t ever play for a better club in this country so if they want to stay and be apart of something special like a possible 3, 4 or even 5 in a row title winning team then they need to stand up and be counted. Its time to earn their wages and get on with the job at hand and not look to blame the manager for everything.
Keep on Hooping!