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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 18

19 December 2012

I can't say I was surprised when I heard the news that Bristol Rovers had sacked Mark McGhee in the wake of the side's 4-1 defeat at York City on Saturday. The Pirates had a decent spell earlier in the season but nine defeats in their last 11 games left Mark in a very vulnerable position and for once I don't think you could accuse the club of acting too hastily.

I wasn't shocked by Rovers' decision but I really am baffled why it didn't work out for Mark at the Memorial Stadium. With his experience and with a squad that on paper at least looks strong, I genuinely thought Mark would be able turn things around.

It is one of the game's great mysteries why managers with good track records still fail. It was the same for Mark's predecessor Paul Buckle, who was successful at Torquay United but couldn't replicate that success at Rovers. It just doesn't make sense and is a stark reminder that reputations can count for very little in our sport.

Rovers have appointed John Ward as their new manager and we will all have to wait and see whether he can avoid the fate of the two men to have gone before him. It's John's second stint at the club after managing the Pirates in the early 1990s and he's certainly got the necessary experience for the role.

At this time of year, you can usually rely on at least one club to make the news by cancelling their Christmas party and Oxford United got there first when they announced both the player and the separate staff parties were on hold.

The official line is United want to concentrate on their games between now and the New Year and manager Chris Wilder has said it would be unprofessional for the squad to be celebrating when there were important matches coming up.

I can understand where Oxford and Chris are coming from but I never went that far when I was a manager. Obviously there is a danger of players having a bit too much festive fun but I decided to trust my players and let them have their party.

I would have a little word with them beforehand, though. I didn't exactly read them the riot act but I did remind them about their responsibilities, told them not to be stupid and that I definitely didn't want anyone ending up in jail. We'd then have a hard session in the morning and they'd go off to wherever for their fun. I always let them have the next day off because it was inevitable there'd be a few sore heads and thankfully, I never had any trouble with any of my boys.

Another manager in the news this week was John Coleman, who reacted to Rochdale's 4-2 defeat at Aldershot TOwn on Saturday by inviting a few of the fans into his office on Monday morning to discuss the team's performance and get the views of the supporters.

I know John very well. He's a big and brave character and it speaks volumes about him that he was prepared to face the fans on the back of a heavy defeat. It's easy to show your face when things are going well but it's probably more constructive to face the music in times of adversity and I hope the Rochdale supporters appreciate his gesture.

An interesting story this week was Paul Tisdale's decision to go public and ask the Exeter City fans to turn out in bigger numbers for home games at St James Park. Most managers think twice before making comments that can be interpreted as being critical of supporters but in this case, I can understand where Paul is coming off.

It was probably inevitable that Exeter's attendances would drop off a little following the team's relegation to npower League 2. It's also the side's job to put bums on seats on the strength of their results and performances but I still think Paul is well within his rights to ask the fans to get behind the players.

The old clich? of the crowd being a 12th man is as true today as it was in my playing days and with Exeter perched in the play-off places, Paul obviously wants to get as much support as possible as they head into the New Year and the business end of the season.

Exeter have been pretty average at St James this season, winning three in the league at home compared to their seven victories on the road. It's a statistic that must be worrying Paul as he plans a push for promotion and I hope the fans understand his message isn't intended to be critical.

I'll be updating the blog next week after the Boxing Day games, so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you, and your team, a very happy Christmas.

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