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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 20

3 January 2013

Although Plymouth are now only two points clear of the relegation places after their 2-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers on New Year's Day, I still think the club were hasty in their decision to sack Carl Fletcher after the match. It's not unusual for a club to panic at this time of the year if they find themselves in the wrong half of the table but changing managers is not always the answer and I genuinely believe Carl should have been given more time.

It's certainly sad to see such a young manager discarded at this stage of his career. At 32, Carl was the second youngest manager in The Football League and for him to only be given 16 months in the job is a real shame. He was on a steep learning curve in difficult circumstances but personally I thought he showed plenty of promise in the way he kept Plymouth Argyle up last season after replacing Peter Reid.

I hope his experiences at Home Park haven't scarred Carl because it would be terrible to lose such a young manager to the game. I don't know how he sees his future but my advice would be take stock before he makes any decisions. Unfortunately getting the sack is an occupational hazard in football management and I hope he doesn't begin to doubt his own ability after what has happened. He's still got plenty to learn of course and I hope he gets another job sooner rather than later so he can continue his education.

I was writing last week how Edgar Davids had surprised me with the impact he has made at Barnet and the Dutchman has the opportunity to make an even bigger impression at Underhill now that Mark Robson has left his role as joint head coach.

There was a sense of inevitability about Mark's departure and you always felt that if Barnet did abandon their two coach experiment, it wasn't going to be Davids who made way. I was never convinced about the long-term effectiveness of the Bees' set-up because I suspected having two voices in the dressing room would confuse the players, and the club have now reverted to the more traditional system.

Davids still has his work cut out to keep the club in npower League 2 but it's refreshing to see a superstar like him willing to learn his trade at this level.

I'd like to wish Bradford City the best of luck in their Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Aston Villa next Tuesday. The Bantams have enjoyed a fantastic run in the competition this season and it really would be a fairytale if they could make it all the way to Wembley.

There's no doubt their cup run has had an impact on results - they've only won once in five since they beat Arsenal in the quarter-finals - but I think you can forgive the Bradford players for becoming a little distracted.

Can the Bantams actually beat Villa? It's going to be tough of course but there's no doubt in my mind they have a chance. A slim chance perhaps but Villa are hardly brimming with confidence at the moment and the Arsenal result has removed a lot of the aura of invincibility a Premier League side would expect to have going into the two games.

Having the first leg at Valley Parade is certainly good news for Phil Parkinson's side. Some people argue it's an advantage to play at home in the second game but in this situation I think Bradford's best chance is to get a good result at home and give themselves something to defend at Villa Park. It would also sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of the Villa players, who have to be mentally fragile at the moment anyway.

I'm sure it's going to be a busy month in terms of transfers and we'll have to see how many managers manage to sign the reinforcements they want and how many fall into the trap of panic buying.

It's a difficult four weeks. Your phone never stops ringing, news is breaking of other teams strengthening their squads and it is very easy to get caught up in the whole drama of it. The clock is constantly ticking and I don't think any manager who's been around for a few years could honestly say they hadn't made one or two poor decisions in January. I know I did.

The trick is to be sure you're making a signing for the right reasons. For example, it's very tempting to bring in a new player to send a message to the dressing room, to try and appease the fans or simply because you haven't done any other deals but what you've got to ask yourself is one simple question - will this player help me win more matches?

If, in your opinion, the answer is yes, then that's the time to get them into the office and sign on the dotted line.

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